Whatever lingering doubts that still existed about the emerging profile of the state’s flagship tourism event – the Osun Osogbo festival – on the global tourism calendar, this year’s celebrations, surely ought to have dispelled them. If only for the fact that no fewer than 300,000 visitors drawn from across the globe attended the upscale events that is increasingly remarkable for its diversity, the festival can truly claim to have come to its own. The organizers certainly did well to make the events not just colourful, but a world-class event that citizens can justly be proud of.
Although global awareness in the festival is still growing and its impact the state economy still relatively limited, what is no longer open to debate is its potentials to help transform the state. All thanks to the Aregbesola administration, there is a sense of recognition today – or better still – a new imperative to make tourism assume its pride of place in the state’s socio-economic matrix. To its credit, the administration continues to invest heavily in tourism and allied infrastructure not just to give sense to its mission but to underscore the urgency of its quest to make the state numero uno tourist destination.
And to imagine that the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) had as far back as July 15, 2005 at its World Heritage Committee meeting in Durban, South Africa adopted Osun Grove as a World Heritage Site. The truth of course was that the ruling PDP administration neither understood the import of that declaration nor the sense of appreciation of what was required in terms of appropriate infrastructures to concretise the step taken by the global body. The then helmsman, Olagunsoye Oyinlola did nothing to make visiting the site a pleasurable experience. The best his administration did was to support the community with N1 million to host the event! Worse was that the administration was too blind to see the need to lend logistical support to the emerging world event.
The difference between then and now obviously goes beyond styles and approach. It lies in the profundity of thought and the efforts made to translate them into action. While the investments are visible for all to see, so has been the ideas behind them discernable. Remarkably too, the Aregbesola administration has resisted the tendency to treat tourism as an enclave economy but rather as a section that requires careful integration with the whole.
Whether it is the roads being opened up, or the rehabilitation of the existing ones going on apace; or even the brand new airport project in the works, or still, the countless rural development initiatives designed to give the rural economy fillip, they come together in the whole – in the mission of the Aregbesola government to ensure balanced development.
The projects, of course provides a window to gauge the hunger of the state’s helmsman to open the state to the world, to ensure that its potentials in all sectors are fully maximised and to ensure that their benefits are harnessed for the people.
Only the blind will fail to appreciate that the momentum derives from the vision to leapfrog the state into development in record time.
If we are any enthused by the template adopted by the government in the last Osun Osogbo festival, particularly its partnership with the private sector players like the telecommunications giant – MTN, Nigerian Breweries and Micom – the cable manufacturing company, it is because we recognise, like the state government, that such partnerships are inescapable; they are the way to go. One area we expect to see the direct impact of the state’s educational reforms in the nearest future is in the supply of artefacts and other tourism memorabilia to visitors. Hopefully by that time, the state would have been well positioned to harness the full benefits of its tourism.
(culled from OSUN DEFENDER)