Nigerian Tribune’s Tunde Busari , after a recent visit to Oke-Ogun in Oyo State, reports the immense potential of the area to the South West and the headaches endured by the people.
A trip to Oke-Ogun area of Oyo State will offer a traveller an opportunity to see and indeed appreciate better the size of the pace-setter state currently governed by Senator Abiola Ajimobi.
From Ibadan through Iseyin, Okeho, Iganna, Iwere-Ile, Ilero, Saki, Ogboro, Igboho, Ago-Amodu, Ago-Are, Baasi, Okaka and back to Iseyin, any caller would find the landscape and ambiance alluring.
Tourism-inclined and nature enthusiasts have much to take in from the grassy plain on which different sizes and shapes of rocks are comfortably seated, making the zone a potential site for bitumen investment.
In terms of geography, Oke-Ogun zone ranks as the second largest in the state, with Ibadan/Ibarapa coming first. This status on Oke Ogun makes it imperative to any politician who desires to govern the state.
The region has always been classified as the food basket of the state on account of its arable land which makes farming a major vocation with which the people of the area are reputed from time immemorial.
Crops—yam, maize, cassava, yam flour, cashew, watermelon, among other cash crops from which majority of the populace eke out a living—are grown in commercial quantity.
Samuel Omuregbe, who hails from Oju Local Government Area of Benue State but resides in Ago-Are, said since his arrival in 1987, he had had no reason to relocate because the area provided enough opportunity for him to farm and make good harvest and ultimately money to sustain his family.
“We grow yam, maize and other crops and manage ourselves with what we make. Our customers come from Ibadan to buy from us and it has been a good business. We thank our host, especially the Aare of Ago-Are for his love for the non-indigenes in his domain,” he stated.
Tobacco, an important raw material for cigarette, has the largest concentration of growers in Oke-Ogun. Against this backdrop, the British American Tobacco (BAT) has over the years explored this advantage and invested in tobacco production in the region.
The company’s first settlement was Ago-Are in 1938. Sitting on 42 hectares of land, BAT has since impacted positively on the indigenes and non-indigenes of the town in employment opportunities as well as community service schemes. It was gathered that the company constructed the first dispensary for the town in 1952 after which it also facilitated its electrification in 1975. In addition, a scholarship scheme was reportedly in place for indigent students, an offer that, as the Nigerian Tribune gathered, has produced many graduates who are today holding significant positions in different sectors.
The Aare of Ago-Are, Oba Abodunrin Kofoworola, said the town had sustained a cordial work relationship with the company since inception and commended his subjects for exploring the transaction to improve their life. He noted that the infrastructural facilities the company brought to the town elevated it from what it used to be before the advent of the company.
“Of course, the dispensary provided health care services to the people even though at a small scale level. Also, the electricity brought light to our homes and brought in its company other elements of civilisation,” he stated.
In addition, Oke-Ogun is the home of Aso-Ofi fabric. This has remained one of its strengths in all Yoruba towns of the South West. Known for its cultural value, Iseyin can safely be said to be the headquarters where the fabric is mass-weaved and traders from different places converge for trade.
Apparently appreciating this economic strength, the Governor Abiola Ajimobi administration has invested resources into expanding the Aso-Ofi industry as evident in its successful hosting of Aso-Ofi carnival in Iseyin.
The first edition, held on World Tourism Day on September 27, 2016, attracted a good number of stakeholders including the weavers and retailers from Lagos and other important markets. The 2017 edition two months ago was equally successful and indeed a consolidation to the inaugural outing, in terms of organisation as well as attendance.
The region is also proud of some tourism sites notable of which are the Old Oyo National Park located between Saki and Ogbooro and the suspended lake in Ado-Awaye.
The Oyo State Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Toye Arulogun told this reporter the effort of the government to turn the wonder lake on the rock around to be tourists’ choice. To that effect, he was a member of the delegate that travelled to Colorado where the second suspended lake could be found in the world.
Arulogun stated that the upgrade of the site would involve private partnership with a view to achieving the desired result on record time and making it additional internally generated income for the government.
However, one potent threat to all the resources deposited in Oke-Ogun is bad road, which is a major minus for the area.
For instance, driving from Ibadan through Moniya, Ijaye, Alabameta to Iseyin was not a smooth experience any road user should encounter. The long stretch has remained every traveler’s nightmare.
A middle aged man (name withheld) who drove this reporter on the journey was full of lamentation on the state of roads in the region, narrating how much he, like other commercial drivers, spend in maintaining their vehicles.
While the journey lasted, no Federal Road Safety Corps patrol team was spotted, a contrast to the police, customs, the immigration and soldiers. At five-kilometer distance, a stop-and-search team comes in sight, not carrying out any serious search but collecting money from motor drivers.
Arriving Iseyin offers a big relief as the entry point is an equivalence of the facility in Ibadan and other big cities. The Governor Abiola Ajimobi administration has dualised the former one-lane road that passes through the palace of the Aseyin of Iseyin and the central mosque.
Although the expressway, completed with street-lights, does not extend beyond the junction leading to Okeho and other communities, it has boosted commercial activities with different outlets springing up by the day on the two sides of the road.
Also, the Iseyin-Okeho road has lately been rehabilitated but work has stopped just a few kilometers to Okeho. The Onjo of Okeho, Oba Rafiu Mustapha in an interview with this reporter expressed surprise on the suspension of work near his town.
The traditional ruler, therefore, called on the authorities to complete the work for the sake of fairness, adding that the road is important for the movement of passengers and goods from his town to Iseyin. “The state of our General Hospital also needs attention. After many years, the place remains uncompleted,” he said.
If Ibadan-Iseyin road is regarded as nightmare to drivers, the Okeho-Iganna road is a tragedy having suffered erosion which makes the use of vehicles an unpleasant venture. The nine-kilometer road was said to have been rehabilitated by a former senator who served between 2007 and 2011. His failed second term bid was reportedly responsible for the total collapse of the road.
Besides, the escapades of armed robbers have also formed part of the experiences of Oke-Ogun people. Travelers, farmers and others have one time or the other, suffered a cruel fate in the hands of men of the underworld.
The end of the era of deplorable roads may be in sight with Governor Ajimobi’s declaration at the last state executive council meeting, saying the Ibadan-Iseyin road rehabilitation should be advertised to prospective contractors.
“Apart from Ibadan-Iseyin road, about 125 roads are also going to be done in all local government areas and local council development areas across the state. I should not forget to mention the Saki-Ibariba road too. Without doubt, Oke-Ogun is strategic to Oyo State and this fact cannot be underestimated,” Arulogun said.