The above title will remind lovers of James Hadley Chase of two of his novels: Mission to Venice and Mission to Siena. They are fiction stories about a millionaire American playboy, Don Micklem, his secretary Marian Rigby, a pompous butler, Cherry and Henry, his driver. Don Micklem planned to have a “four lazy weeks in Venice” vacation after months of work. However, the vacation was far from one as he had to fight a ruthless political organisation and narrowly escaped his own violent death.
On the 26th of December, 2019, Dr. Wasiu Olatubosun, Oyo State Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, travelled to Lagos, the state of aquatic splendour. The visit was neither a vacation nor an attempt to fight. No, it was not the first time Dr. Olatubosun will be coming to Lagos. He schooled in Lagos. He is an alumnus of University of Lagos where he bagged two degrees in Mass Communication. He knows Lagos. He lived there and he visits regularly. His mission to Lagos was in furtherance of the partnership between his ministry – Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism – and the management of La Campagne Tropicana Resort in Lagos to develop tourism in Oyo State.
When Engineer Seyi Makinde became the Governor of Oyo State on May 29, 2019, one of his cardinal programmes is the development tourism in the state. The state has many historical tourist sites that are suffering neglect. Oyo State itself is historical. It is the third largest state in Nigeria by population and its capital – Ibadan – is the third largest city in the country and former capital of Western Region. Its size, both in population and land mass, and history combine to make it an interesting destination to visit.
Beyond Ibadan, however, every town in Oyo State has tourism potentials. Due to lack of vision by past administrations, coupled with lack of investment in the sector, the state and its people could not benefit from the inherent potentials. There is a steady and sustained demand for destinations across the world. According to the 2018 report by United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), a total of 1,326 million international tourist arrivals were recorded in destinations around the world in 2017, 86 million more than what was recorded in 2016. By region, Africa, with 8.6% and Europe, with 8.4% grew above average. Of this growth, North Africa led the 2017 results.
The report shows further that international tourism generated US$1,340 billion in 2017 with another US$240 billion from international passenger transport services rendered to non-residents. Although no African country was among the top 10 international tourist arrivals in 2017, the growth recorded in the region suggests that if any country, and by extension, state, can make deliberate efforts to develop its tourism potentials to international standards through adequate financial investment, it will attract patronage and take a chunk of the money tourists are ready to pay for visiting. The global oil price is dwindling. Nigeria is currently struggling under cash crunch and money coming to states from the federation account is no longer enough to run their affairs, the wisest thing to do is to develop other sources of income.
When Dr. Olatubosun visited La Campagne Tropicana Resort a day after Christmas, his mission was not to have a “four lazy weeks in Lagos” like Don Micklem in James Hadley Chase’s novels. He did not have to visit with his family. This was a working visit. The visit was the second leg of the recently consummated partnership between the management of La Campagne Tropicana Resort and Oyo State Government. La Campagne is a 65-acre land resort at Ibeju-Lekki Lagos.
It features a unique blend of natural environments which include a fresh water lake, accessible mangrove forest, a savannah, extensive sandy beach, and the warm Atlantic sea. The first leg of the visit saw the management of La Campagne Tropicana, led by its owner and President, Dr. Wanle Akinboboye, visit the state to inspect these tourist sites. Dr. Akinboboye’s profile fits the seriousness the Engr. Seyi Makinde’s administration attaches to this project. Apart from establishing the world’s first African theme beach resort, Dr. Akinboboye currently serves as the chief tourism adviser and consultant to His Imperial Majesty, the Ooni of Ile-Ife and the Tourism Ambassador for the Conference of World Mayors.
He has commissioned other resorts in other places such as in Grand-Bassam, Côte d’Ivoire and in Koton-Karfe in Kogi State, Nigeria. In addition, he is the creator and producer of the popular Mare Festival for Ondo State government. It therefore becomes a case of whatever Dr. Akinboboye can do in Lagos, Côte d’Ivoire and Kogi, he can do in Oyo State.
Dr. Olatubosun’s mission, therefore, was to join Dr. Akinboboye to inspect the entire landscape and facilities of La Campagne, go through what has been proposed by Dr. Akinboboye’s team, compare notes, discuss what is doable, reach agreement on what to do and when to do it. The question that will agitate the minds of critics of the current administration is whether Oyo State can recreate a La Campagne Tropicana in a state without water and beaches like Lagos.
While Oyo State does not have the aquatic potentials of Lagos with several complimentary beaches for fun –seekers and tourists, the state is not a barren land. There are over 150 tourist sites in the state, which, if developed, have potential to generate revenue for the state. The number notwithstanding, the partnership will prioritise the sites to start with before spreading to the entire state.
From the discussion between Dr. Olatubosun and Akinboboye, the tourism development programme will start from Ado Awaye. The town is blessed with mountains and the popular Iyake “Suspended” Lake. Dr. Akinboboye and his team had visited where they inspected some important tourist attractions in the town.
They discovered some tourist attractions in the town that will attract tourists. There is Iyake Lake, which is a suspended lake. There are only two suspended lakes in the world. One is Hanging Lake in Colorado, USA and the second is the Iyake Lake in Ado Awaye. It is an interesting site. It is a bottomless stagnant water on Ado Awaye Mountain. This lake is unique because it is the only natural lake in the world. Other attractions are Agbomofunyake hole, Iya Alaro Lake, Oke Ishage, Ese Awon Agba, The Elephant Tree and Ese Kan Aiye, Ese Kan Orun.
While welcoming Dr. Akinboboye and his team to Ado Awaye, the Alado of Ado Awaye, Alayeluwa Oba (Rev’d) Ademola Olugbile Folakanmi (Makuledoye II. Iludero I) commended the government of Engr. Seyi Makinde for the foresight to develop tourism in the state. He urged the team to develop the tourism potentials of Ado Awaye during his reign. Dr. Akinboboye promised him that with the help of the state government, Ado Awaye will witness a turnaround.
Dr. Akinboboye said his team has already designed many concepts for the project. There would be a five start hotel to accommodate tourists. There would be helicopter landing bay for VIPs, a cinema hall, a concert arena, swimming pool, online media live transmission substation, regular resting place while climbing mountain, elevators (lifts) for those who cannot climb the mountain and 15 other yet-to-be-disclosed facilities. One of the side attractions to be provided is “Iyan Inu Apata” where tourists will not eat pounded yam prepared with mortar and pestle. Rather, they will eat pounded yam pounded on the rock. It is an interesting period Oyo State is entering.