Tourism is perceived by practitioners in the field and stakeholders alike as possessing viable potentialities in terms of internally generated revenue in order to boost the economic revenue of the three tiers of government—the federal, state and local governments. However, has there been a serious move towards the realization of this lofty objective? What proactive measures have been put in place by the stakeholders themselves? Have our policy makers been able to really integrate tourism into the system? What have the various tiers of government been able to do in this regard? So many posers begging for answers.
Using the Osun Osogbo cultural fiesta within the precincts of the Osun Osogbo sacred grove’s perimeter as an example, there are myriads of tourists who troop into the grove in their hundreds and thousands before, during and after the internationally acclaimed festival. Statistics show that tourists of different shapes and sizes visit the grove either as visitors or as scholars on academic research. Information available to this writer from the educational unit of the National Museum, Osogbo, indicates that from 2013 to 2015, a total number of 78,000 tourists, both indigenes and foreigners alike, came to the grove. There is an avalanche of opportunities to harness revenue for the state and local governments, with the Federal Government getting the lion share.
The issue of a car park during Osun Osogbo festival remains the core issue. The buffer zone can be put into effective use by creating a special area as parking venue. Apart from controlling the human and vehicular movement, it would also gear up revenue realisation and mobilisation for all the stakeholders concerned. Talks are under way to tame the tide of this social or cultural issue in the not too distant future. Again, the creation of new local government within the existing ones is a right step in the right direction. In Osogbo local Government, we now have Osogbo Local Government Central at Oke Baale, Osogbo Local Government ( South) tentatively at Oja-Oba within the ambience of Ataoja’s palace and Osogbo Local Government (North) at Awosuru area. The recent reconstruction and renovation ongoing within the palace enhanced the looks of the two storey block formerly put together by the late Ataoja of Osogbo, Oba Samuel Adedeji Adenle.
The museum kitchen where local delicacies could be savoured by tourists, students as well as stakeholders is a sure way to pump up revenue for government. Even private partnership is allowed to thrive within the buffer zone. The door is thrown wide open for interested private companies and individuals to make effective use of the buffer zone of the grove.
People from all walks of life troop to the grove on a daily basis for one thing or the other, spiritual consultation topping the list. The grove is lying fallow as a virgin area waiting to be tapped and made effective and judicious use of. Amid these glaring opportunities, we must reiterate one fact: that we must be awake to our social responsibilities that tourism has been and will remain a viable vehicle and a tool to move us forward and bail us out from the current economic recession. There must be collaborative efforts among stakeholders such as the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, Arts and Culture, Nigerian Institute For Hospitality and Tourism and the National Commission For Museums and Monuments. They must remain proactive towards the growth and development of the grove. The ongoing renovation and restoration on the grove by the Adunni Olorisa Trust (AOT) must be commended. This will in no doubt go a long way in attracting more and more tourists to the grove.
A plethora of brisk businesses are explored during the Osun Osogbo festival. But the missing link is the coordinating factor among the stakeholders to form a proactive and business-oriented idea in order to effectively harness both the human and natural resources starring us in the face, year in year out. We need to have an economic equilibrium where stakeholders, especially the state and the local governments which are closer to the people, collaborate efficiently well in promoting tourism.
The usual frenzied atmosphere during the festival, where everybody belongs to none and God is for all, should be put behind us. The time to begin to approach issues proactively as strong and united stakeholders in the realm of tourism in Osun State is now!
Temitope wrote in from the National Museum, Osogbo.