A journey to Oke-Ila in Ifedayo Local Government Council of Osun State would be more memorable and indeed fulfilling with a visit to the Ayaankunugba Waterfall flowing at its backyard. However beautiful the waterfall is, TUNDE BUSARI, after a visit to the site, reports its current state of neglect.
Tourists who visit the historic Osun grove in Osogbo often round off their leisure trip at Olumirin waterfall at Erin-Ijesa. This trend is so regular that hardly can any public holiday go by without drawing tourists to the ijesha community located about one hour drive from Ilesa.
Erin-Ijesa is, thus, regarded as a synonym of the incredible waterfall, which, to some extent, is a revenue-generating source for the Osun State government.
Nigerian Tribune findings, however, reveal that there is another waterfall in the state running in Oke-Ila at Ifedayo Local Government Council. It is named Ayinkunugba Waterfall. But this rare sight is not enjoying the same prominence and, by extension, the same patronage experienced by Erin-Ijesa Waterfall.
Although further finding reveal that the Osun State government had officially listed the over 80-metre high waterfall as a viable tourist destination with a view to developing it and turning it to revenue source, its current state is a sharp contrast to the recognition.
Accessing it from the town almost shares affinity with a journey of no return. The beginning of a voyage to the site offers no fascination as the bushy footpath is scarcely motorable.
It was gathered that oftentimes, the bad road had turned some enthusiastic tourists to the waterfall back because their vehicles could not navigate the bushy, bumpy road surface. They reportedly terminated their journey in disappointment and accused the state government of negligence.
Olasehinde Ade, a resident, decried the plight of some visitors who attempted to view the waterfall but ended up not reaching the site due to the same reason. Ade, whose farm is located enroute the waterfall, recalled a particular incident in which some visitors were divided on the adventure.
“I saw some visitors arguing among themselves on whether to continue or returne home. But we are used to the road, more so we don’t go there with vehicles. We trek and some of us go with motorcycles and bicycles. We are praying that one day the government would look at this place and develop it. If the government expands this road today, the problem of the place will be solved,” he said.
Ade’s prayer may take a long time to see fruition going by the submission of the Osun State Director of Bureau of Communication and Strategy, Alhaji Semiu Okanlawon, who categorised the project as futuristic owing largely to the current lean treasury of the state.
Okanlawon reaffirmed the government’s recognition of the waterfall as a viable tourists’ attraction of which the state is blessed with. This is more evident in the signboard erected some metres to the site. Inscribed on the signboard is Osun State Ministry of Culture and Tourism, thereby announcing the government’s presence there.
“Ayinkunungba Waterfall is on the list of the state tourists’ destinations. It is recognised as a viable revenue source and the government is not abandoning it. The issue at hand is what everybody knows is happening, in terms of the state of the economy.
“When the economy was not like what we have now, the government paid some appreciable attention to the Erin-Ijesa Waterfall and opened it up to more tourists. The government has no reason not to do same for Ayinkunnugba.
“But the current economic challenge must end for such a meaningful attention to be given to the waterfall. The government will also not rule out the possibility of public private partnership in realising its dream of developing it to a standard that will make it an attractive tourist destination,” Okanlawon stated.
Orangun of Oke-Ila, Oba Dokun Abolarin is on the same page with Okanlawon, dismissing insinuations that the Osun State government has abandoned the waterfall.
The Orangun rather appreciated the government’s recognition of the site, an indication, according to him, of future development of the site.
He reasoned that the inclement economic weather could be a distraction to the development of such project at a time much pressure was on the government as regards meeting its many financial obligations.
“At a time like this when even the federal government is serious in diversifying the economy following the fall of oil prices, states too are working towards expanding their revenue base. Developing the tourism sector is one of them. But this involves money.
“I am sure at the right time, everything will be okay and the waterfall will also get the attention it requires. I am very positive because I know the government is working,” he said.
The Orangun is proud to have Ayinkunnugba in his domain. The highly exposed traditional ruler believes that the future of his town lies in the waterfall considering the productive role the tourism sector is playing in the economy of other countries.
“This is what I have here and I must be the first person to sell it to the world. I must at all times encourage my guests who come by taking them to have a look at the work of God in my town. It is high time we took our leisure time serious. We can take it serious by coming to a place like this to interact with nature and enjoy uninterrupted serenity.
“Some people go on holiday from work, but they hardly abandon the chaotic environment in which they work. How do they refresh themselves? The essence of holiday is to take time off your regular space and relax. I am very positive that the Ayinkunnugba Waterfall will place the name of my town on a better pedestal,” he said.
Currently running a tuition- free school in his town, Oba Abolarin’s vision for Ayankunnugba Waterfall is indeed ambitious and inspiring. Having enjoyed the splendor of some tourist destinations around the globe, the Orangun knows what it takes to elevate the waterfall to international standard.
Having beautiful hotels around the waterfall, he stressed, is part of his blueprint to boost Ayankunnugba. Already he is looking at the possibility of talking to his friends and associates to share his vision and invest in the hospitality industry to serve tourists.
This, according to the monarch, is what obtains in the developed world where tourism is a serious business.
“I am sure one day we shall achieve it. I will not relent in speaking out because that is why I am here as the Orangun. An Oba must not fold his arm and wait for opportunities to descend from heaven down to his lap. An Oba must engage in serious thinking and also reach out to people, speak with them, convince them of the short, medium and long term benefits of their investment.
“The topography of this place also makes an international golf course appropriate. This is also my dream. It is my vision which I believe will come to reality. Holiday in a place like this is better than expending the scarce foreign exchange on foreign trips,” he said.