Next Stage of Development in Ogun State Is Culture, Tourism – Rt. Hon. Muyiwa Oladipo
Going by the revelations of the Ogun State Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Rt. Hon. Muyiwa Oladipo, the state government is now placing emphasis on culture and tourism.
Oladipo was at home with all the questions put to him by the crew Movietainment Magazine and www.movietainmentmagazine.com crew, led by the Publisher, Mr. Olawale Adegbuyi with the Editor, Oladipupo Awojobi.
The interview session took place at the office of the Commissioner in Oke Mosan, Abeokuta, the state capital, in a relaxed mood on a cool Thursday afternoon.
The lawyer-cum politician and culture enthusiast spoke extensively on the issue and other matters of interest for one solid hour.
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My name is Rt. Hon. Muyiwa Oladipo aka BMO Bashorun Muyiwa Oladipo. I am an indigene of Sagamu in Ogun East Senatorial District of the state. I attended Adeola Odutola College for my secondary schooling and HSC. I bagged Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of Lagos. I worked briefly during my service year with the Customs and Excise. I then worked briefly with HFP Engineering. After that, I went back to school, Obafemi Awolowo University, where I read law and was later called to bar in 1991. I worked briefly with some law firms before floating my own law firm, Muyiwa Oladipo and Associates. We were in Lagos, but by 1999, when I joined partisan politics, we moved the chamber to Ogun State. I contested election into the state house of Assembly in 1999 and I won. I was later sworn-in as the Speaker of the Ogun State House of Assembly on June 4, 1999. I was there till 2003, while Chief Olusegun Osoba was the Governor of the state before he was voted out in 2003. Our successors were in government till 2011. In 2011, Senator Ibikunle Amosun got to power as Governor and I was appointed as the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs.
But, I was re-appointed as Commissioner into the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in 2015. We have since moved the ministry from non-performing ministry to a performing one. From April 19 to 22, 2016, we organized the first Drum Festival in the country and in the state. It has now metamorphosed into African Drum Festival.
What is the vision of Ogun State on culture and tourism generally?
Culture and tourism is that low hanging area, it has been largely abandoned in Nigeria. So many countries across the world live on tourism. In this part of the country, you cannot divorce tourism from culture, they are interwoven. They have been there for long, successive governments have failed to appreciate the potentials of tourism in the state in terms of revenue generation. To that extent, many things have been left undone, not only in the Ogun State, but across the country. Many tourism potentials across the country have been left untouched.
But since the coming of this government few years ago, efforts have been made to look towards tourism as an alternative. Thank God, the government and even the government at the federal level have looked at the possibility of diversifying. If well harnessed, tourism can earn Nigeria more than what she earns from crude oil. We have everything it takes to live on tourism if it is well harnessed. There is virtually no state in Nigeria that does not have a particular site that can turn around the fortune of the state and that of the federation at large. So many things are wrong, imagine Nigeria, the big brother of Africa cannot boast of tourist visa. If you don’t have a visa to Kenya from Nigeria, at the point of entry in Nairobi, they would issue you visa on the spot at the airport. Imagine at 50 dollars per head for visa, imagine 1000 people entering Kenya daily afresh that is 50,000 dollars multiply that by 30, you are talking about 1,500,000 dollars in a month, and convert that to naira or Kenyan currency. If we do that in Nigeria it would go a long way, but all of us are over-dependent on crude oil. I am one of the happiest Nigerians today that the crude oil is drying up, I wish it could dry up quickly. If it dries up, we would be forced to look inward and thank God, the price is fluctuating, so we are being forced to look inward. Looking inward today is more of agriculture, it’s good, but tourism is still there. A few weeks ago, when the Federal Ministry of Culture hosted the WNTO Summit, so many things were discussed there. Of note is the issuance of visa on arrival, even if you are a visitor you would be issued visa on arrival. Coming to Ogun State, so many things are going on concerning culture and tourism under our able Governor.
“I am a Christian to the core, I believe in the Trinity, God of the father, the son and the Holy Spirit. But that would not stop me from appreciating the fact that there is Ifa. A genuine Ifa priest would not ask you to go and kill a human being or go into rituals in quote. Meanwhile, there are some Muslims and Christians that still do rituals. No religion stops you from practicing your culture”.
What are those things that you have put in place on culture and tourism in the state in practical terms?
Yes, the government has shifted focus to culture and tourism. Before we came onboard, the ministry of culture and tourism were two departments. They were separate. We had the Department of Culture at the cultural centre and Tourism Department separately. On coming on board efforts are being made to improve on what we met on ground. If you go to Olumo Rock today there is an improvement, more people are visiting the place. We also have other sites that people visit. One thing we have also made people to realize is that no government can handle tourism alone, there should be private sector participation. That is why we started the flagship of tourism and culture in Ogun State with the African Drum Festival. We started the festival in 2016. It is meant to revive our dying culture. You would agree with me that our culture is dying and unless a conscious effort is made, our culture would go into extinction. We need to revive our culture. The festival was privately sponsored, we contacted and contracted some private companies, which supported us through their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and we have had two editions now and some African countries have continued to participate. Some people even wanted to come, but they could not because they were not issued visa. Imagine these people being giving visa at the airport. There was one woman that came in from the United States of America, she spent 14 hours at the airport before she could be issued visa on arrival. We don’t need all these, we need to relax some stringent measures in the country.
Can you mention some tourism sites in Ogun State?
We have the Olumo Rock, Chief Obafemi Awolowo Musoleum in Ikenne, Hubert Ogunde Museum in Ososa, and Bilikisu Sugbo Site. There are some that are not even known. There is a particular one called Mount Apehin in Ogun West axis of the state. If you get there, you would not only praise God, you would thank God for His marvelous works. This is a rock that has human faces embedded naturally. We also have a place, where water came out of the rock and it can be treated just like the Ikogosi Water in Ondo State that is now being packed into bottles. I see Ogun State doing same in the area very soon. We are looking for investors to partner with us on this.
What efforts have the state government made to attract people to these tourist centres?
We have made some documentaries of all our sites and we have played them at different fora. We played them during the drum festival and at the WNTO Summit in Abuja and some of them are online. We want to bring out something TINAPA in Calabar, Cross Rivers State from Ogun State. The next stage of development in Ogun State would be on culture and tourism. I mean the next massive development in the state.
Can you tell us some of the major festivals the state government recognizes and partners with the people to organize?
You know we have three senatorial districts in the state, and each has a common cultural festival that the state government recognizes and supports. In Ogun East, which is Remo and Ijebu axis, we have the Ojude Oba Festival, the government supports them to organize it. In Ogun Central, which is Egba Area, we have the Lisabi Festival, which the government also supports. In Ogun West, which is the Egbado Area, we have the Oronna Festival. It is a festival of the lIaro people and we support it.
Where avoidable, we would avoid it, where it is unavoidable, we will not. For instance, in a city like London, the founding fathers have foresight. So, road expansion would not affect residential areas. In Nigeria, you would see people building houses where roads would be constructed. If people had obeyed the rule of building with about 50 metres off the roads, the expansion we have today would not affect some of these monuments. But the government has tried to take this into consideration. For example, if you get to Itoku market, the government did not demolish the cenotaph there to the extent that the surrounding was not affected. If you go towards Olumo Rock today, you would see Sodeke Cenotaph, the government avoided it so as to preserve the place. That is why I said, where avoidable we will avoid it, but where unavoidable, we will not. Of course, some people will condemn because they don’t think beyond their noses.
The issue of religion also comes in as people worship Ifa, Obatala and so on. We will like to know if the state government support these festivals despite the fact that most of us are Christians and Muslims
“Ogun State has the highest number of holders of GCFR in the country”
We are mixing things up, there is a difference between religion and culture and I am a proponent of the two. I don’t hide my feelings. I am a Christian to the core, I believe in the Trinity, God of the father, the son and the Holy Spirit. But that would not stop me from appreciating the fact that there is Ifa. A genuine Ifa priest would not ask you to go and kill a human being or go into rituals in quote. Meanwhile, there are some Muslims and Christians that still do rituals. No religion stops you from practicing your culture. For instance, the government supports Agemo Festival in Ijebu. But we need to involve the government if you want us to support you. We have resolved issues and conflicts among factions of Ifa worshippers as a government. We are on top of the situation.
Do you also relate with the traditional rulers on culture?
Perfectly and absolutely. Don’t forget that I am the immediate past commissioner for local government and Chieftaincy Affairs in Ogun State. So, I relate with all our obas and traditional rulers very well.
We heard that drama has its roots in Ogun State, what are you doing to properly place the state in the area of drama?
Our own is to create an enabling environment. We are not going to commit our hard earned money into it. That is why the corporate world is there. It is not everything that the American government does for the people.
We have a lot of cultural heroes and heroines in Ogun State such as Hubert Ogunde, Akin Ogungbe, Professor Wole Soyinka, Charles Olumo aka Agbako, Tunde Kelani aka TK amongst others. What is the state doing to honour these people?
What else do we want, so many of our people have been recognized and immortalized. The family the late Chief Ogunde has done some things and we supported them, we also named the main bowl of the cultural center after him. We don’t joke with our heroes till tomorrow. Tunde Kelani is the Chairman of the Nigerian Video Censors Board and we recognize and appreciate him.
It is a gradual process, I look forward to the day we will have the real hall of fame in Ogun State. Ogun State is where we have everything. We are virtually number in everything in Nigeria. This is the state that has produced a military president, democratic presidents and an interim president. The best president Nigeria never had and the president that we elected that was not allowed to rule were from Ogun State. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo from the state was both a military and civilian president at different occasions, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, also from the state, was described as the best president Nigeria never had. More so, the late Chief MKO Abiola, who won the June 12, 1993 presidential election and was not allowed to rule, was from Ogun State. The former Interim President, Chief Ernest Shonekan was from Ogun State. Ogun State has the highest number of holders of GCFR in the country, we have three of them, Obasanjo, Shonekan and post-humously, Chief MKO Abiola.
It is the only state in Nigeria that produced the first medical professor in Africa and many more. We are blessed in Nigeria, but we are more blessed in Ogun State, which is why we have problems.
“we are in trouble, we are in a very big shit. No country in Africa will survive without its culture. Our culture has been greatly eroded, but it is not over”.
What is your next political move in 2019?
I have sought the face of the lord and by the grace of God, I would succeed the incumbent Governor Ibikunle Amosun of the state in 2019 as Governor to consolidate on his achievements and continue with the mission to rebuild Ogun State.
What has been the relationship of the ministry with international donors on culture and tourism?
We are in touch with them, we are just trying to put finishing touches to this. You know I said that the next stage of development in the state is culture and tourism. We cannot do it alone, it is still these international donors and others that would come in to assist us in achieving this.
What would the state benefit with Tunde Kelani being the Chairman of the Nigerian Video Censors Board?
I think he would be in the best position to answer this question. But the fact is that the government has put a round peg in the right hole with his appointment. He is a video producer, a film producer and a cinematographer. So, if you put him there, he will perform. I think Eddy Ugbomah was once there. I know that Uncle TK would do his best and the industry would be better for it.
Today, it is pathetic that we have a beautiful culture that is being eroded by western culture. I could remember some of the things we were taught in schools. What is your ministry doing with the Ministry of Education to ensure that our culture is promoted in schools?
I will say we are in trouble, we are in a very big shit. No country in Africa will survive without its culture. Our culture has been greatly eroded, but it is not over. God, in his infinite mercies, does certain things and He sends somebody at every point in time to save people. God knows that the Yoruba culture was being eroded, so he sent us a man that could revive it, the person is culture itself and since he came to the fore, he has been doing his best on our culture. That person is the Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi.
He is an embodiment of our culture and not forgetting the likes of the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi. We are in trouble because certain things have gone wrong and we should look inward and revive them. People don’t even know about our leaders. About two or three years ago, we were having a democracy walk from MKO Abiola Stadium to Abiola’s house in Abeokuta and the Governor accosted a young chap and asked him if he knew who Abiola was, he said yes, he was the owner of MKO Abiola Stadium.
Many of our youth don’t know MKO Abiola or Chief Obafemi Awolowo. They only know former president Olusegun Obasanjo because he is still alive.
These were people we knew in our younger days. History and Civic Education have been removed from our school curriculum. The age bracket of 17 to 32 is a wasted generation, they want to make money quick, and they don’t care about studying. If they are online, it is okay, they are into money rituals. You would see a university graduate today who cannot construct one correct sentence in English Language. What this government is doing is to revive our culture through different programmes as many private organizations partner with us to promote our culture. We are here to partner with any organization that is ready to do that.
Our language is going extinct, what is your ministry doing to change this?
You are directing it at the government, what efforts are you making as parents to promote our culture. I am sure, your children greeted you in English Language this morning. They understand Yoruba Language, but they don’t speak it. Nobody should be punished for speaking Yoruba in the school or anywhere. What is vernacular, woe betides anybody that calls Yoruba Language vernacular. My daughter, every morning, she must greet her mother and I in Yoruba Language though she speaks English Language always. We should not put all the blames on the government. The government has a role to play, the school has a role to play and the parents have a role to play. Don’t expect the government to do everything.
“Nobody should be punished for speaking Yoruba in the school or anywhere. What is vernacular, woe betides anybody that calls Yoruba Language vernacular”.
Is it possible for your ministry to present a Bill to the State House of Assembly that schools, both government and private, should teach Yoruba Language?
We don’t need to talk much on that, any responsible government in this part of the country should encourage the teaching of Yoruba Language as well as Civic Education in primary schools and History in secondary schools. When we were in secondary schools, we were taught about Mansa Musa and others in history classes. The Lagos State Government once canvassed that Yoruba Language should be our Linqua Franca. Just as they speak Yoruba during plenary at the Lagos State House of Assembly on Thursdays, we speak Yoruba Language in our state Assembly on Wednesdays here. We have to start from somewhere or else there would be trouble. I was with Professor Wole Soyinka, where he was being interviewed in English Language and then they asked if he could do it in Yoruba, he said there was no problem and he shifted to Yoruba, but he later changed to English Language because he said some of his audience might not understand Yoruba Language. But he spoke Yoruba for long and at the last Drum Festival, he spoke in Yoruba Language after Alaafin of Oyo spoke in Yoruba. I pray a time would not come that the white men would be the one to preserve the language for us.