INTERVIEW: 'I Have Come To Realise That The Essence Of Living And Holding Political Office Is To Serve The People' – Hon. Sikiru Ayedun
Hon Adetona Sikiru Ayedun is the Honourable Commissioner for Home Affairs, Culture and Tourism in the State of Osun, the Osun.gov.ng team met with him recently and he had a lot to share about his experiences so far holding his office and also his thoughts on the future of projects in the State. Find excerpts below…
Can we know you Sir?
My name is Omo’ba Adetona Sikiru Ayedun. I’m in my late forties, an indigene of the ancient City of Ile-Ife, State of Osun, Nigeria.
I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree from the prestigious University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in 1992, and acquired a Masters’ Degree in Public Administration in 1996. In 2002, I obtained another Masters’ Degree in Transport Management from Olabisi Onabanjo University. I am a Chartered Member of the Institute of Logistics and Transport Studies, which qualifies me as a Logistic Specialist. I worked in the sub-sector of the Maritime industry with SAPID Agencies Limited, an organisation into shipping, freight forwarding and bonded ware-housing. After spending ten years in that firm, I became the Managing Director.
As an activist, I was a member of Student Union Representative Council and the Welfare Officer of the Student Union Government of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, which prepared me for politics and governance. As a politician, I was a member of SDP and Secretary of Moore Ward, now in Ife East LGA. I was appointed as Information Officer to the first Speaker of the Osun State House of Assembly, (who is now the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice of the State) before Gen. Sani Abacha sacked the Second Republic of the country.
While growing my career in the maritime industry as a Chartered logistics and maritime practitioner, I was still involved however, in political activities, though silently, before I returned to fore-front of political party activities in 2010, to vie for the of Federal House of Representatives ticket under the Action Congress of Nigeria platforn, which not successful.
I was appointed as the Honourable Commissioner for Home Affairs, Culture and Tourism in the State of Osunin August 2011.
Can you compare the performance of your ministry before you began heading it to its performance now?
Where we are today as a Ministry is quite incomparable to where we met the Ministry when we came into government in 2010.
But before going into details, let me explain the responsibilities of this Ministry in line with the vision and mission of this administration. The core responsibilities of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Culture and Tourism, is to boost the economic and social standard of the State through tourism development and culture promotion in; sustain capacity building for tourism sub-sector of the economy; revive historical spots and buildings for cultural relaxation and educational tours; and to use renaissance of culture, the rebirth of tourism and the reconstruction of societal cultural values for revenue generation, job creation, positive wealth evolution and rural development. We are committed to making this a reality and this is why we work so hard.
Mr. Governor is ensuring infrastructural development is ongoing in all nooks and crannies of the State. This has allowed economic stakeholders, tourists and culture enthusiasts move easily around the State of Osun.
We have renovated our cultural sites such as the Osun Osogbo World Heritage at Osogbo; Oke Agbomiregun at Oke-Itase; Opa Oranmiyan Shrine at Arubidi; Oduduwa House at Oduduwa Street, all in Ile-Ife. Olumirin Waterfall at Erin-Ijesa is been worked upon. Our hospitality sector is also growing because we know that for tourism to develop, you have to successfully work on three areas; you must have good roads, a thriving hospitality industry and extraordinary security. These are the things the state government is really working on.
If you have gone round the State, you will see the level of influx of hotels, guest houses, restaurants, leisure joints and so on. We are upgrading the standard of our hotels and we are working on the hygiene of all eateries. On the issue of security; we are working round the clock to make sure we have a peaceful and accommodating environment. We are also working on our fire services, and a cleaner environment through periodic monitoring.
These are the things that compliment tourism development and culture promotion. Most of these things were not in place when we came into office, and between then and now; we have gone far in putting them in place.
Sir, can you mention some things you have done to change the Ministry?
A lot has been done to change the face of the Ministry. We have restructured the entire ministry to prepare it for great changes ahead. We have renovated part of our office building and erected replica of some of our artefacts; we have trained and retrained our staffers, especially the professionals among them to enhance their skills and abilities for optimal performance.
Also, we have set in motion modality that will ensure monitoring of services and security of our hospitality industry which is growing at a faster rate than ever before; we have improved our pilgrimage services, which has earned us commendation from home and abroad.
We have procured and installed modern fire protection and fighting equipment for our fire stations.
We have also introduced the official celebration of more festivals, across the towns in the State of Osun. We have set a new agenda for the promotion of our culture and the development of tourism that we believe will positively change our fortune in the nearest future.
Tourism is a big industry in the World, what are you doing to improve this industry in the State?
Tourism is a big sell and fortunately, we are endowed naturally with all it takes to explore, and invest in tourism for the welfare and wealth of our nation. The government of the State of Osun is investing close to N5.7billion in tourism. Our investment target is N5.7billion, and this is such a huge sum to take out of State fund or revenue, so what we are doing is entering into public-private partnership with serious-minded investors. This is the trend across the globe and we are moving with the 21st century.
How many tourist spots do we have in the State and what are the plans of government to upgrade or improve the infrastructure?
There are sixty-two historical and monumental sites also referred to as tourist sites spread across the six zones in the State of Osun. The six zones are: Osogbo, Ilesa, Ife, Iwo, Ede and Ikirun. Incidentally, six of these have been upgraded and improved upon. Plans are on ground to do the same to others depending on funds available and as soon as other plans enumerated earlier become a reality.
Ekiti State has turned Ikogosi Warm Springs into a major hospitality spot in the country. What are the plans of the State to do the same with our tourist spots?
In the State of Osun, we have a similar attraction, the Olumirin Waterfalls. This is a major eco-tourism site with which the State of Osun is naturally gifted. According to a custodian of the fall, the site was discovered by Akinla, a grand-daughter of Oduduwa, the Progenitor of the Yoruba, through her hunters in 1140AD, during her migration from Ile-Ife.
Before the advent of the present government in the State of Osun, tourists and excursionists usually found it extremely difficult to ascend the next fall as they would crawl, fall and rise. However, when Ogbeni Adesoji Rauf Aragbesola, the Executive Governor of the State of Osun came on board, he approved the commencement of the development of the hitherto moribund natural site, thereby breaking the age long jinx. This has therefore made it easier for the tourists and researchers to ascend the next fall with ease. The premises of the Olumirin Waterfalls has equally been landscaped with beautiful flowers, ornamentals shrubs and many cultural waterproofed banners, strategically installed along the fall sides. The seven-layer waterfall, besides being a veritable tourists’ site, also serves as a mountaineering exercise for sporting enthusiasts.
Your Ministry is in charge of Home Affairs and Culture too? What does this entail?
The ministry is actually called Ministry of Home Affairs, Culture and Tourism. I think we have dealt with the Culture and Tourism responsibilities aspect of the Ministry. Left untouched is the Home Affairs, which is in the two folds. Through Home Affairs, we are responsible for Fire Services in the State. The other responsibility has to do with the religious pilgrimages to the holy lands. We have the Christian and Muslim pilgrimage boards with the sole responsibility to register, collate and administer the prospective pilgrimage to holy lands.
We have had three sessions of these for the two holy lands, and it has been very successful. The government of Saudi Arabia commended us at the last outing and gave a dinner in honour of State of Osun pilgrims. In fact, people from other states are now coming to us to fly to the holy lands because of the way we package our programmes, and the level of welfare we exhibit.
We owe this success and honour to the amiable Governor of the State, Ogbeni Adesoji Rauf Aregbesola. He is been our pillar of support.
How much is the state targeting from Tourism, where are we in line with the target and what are you doing to meet and surpass this target?
In addition to what I explained earlier on the investment target of N5.7billion and the investment strategy of public-private partnership, we envisaged that with the investment, we are looking at influx of tourist in the state, to any part of the State, we need a lot of facilities to cope with the influx, which we are already experiencing, and we are working to meet up.
Part of what we are doing to meet up with the target and surpass it; are in three folds; One, we are upgrading our hotels and in general the hospitality business within the State of Osun. This implies that if anyone wants to build a hotel, you must meet the standard we have set. Even after you are done with your construction, your services are still under the scrutiny of the State, so with this, we all know there are standard rules and regulations to be followed in attending to guests, securing the lives and property of the guests in ho, and also in terms of culinary services provided. We are working around these.
There are no recreation parks like Ibadan Amusement Park. Is there any plan for that in the State, knowing it is a source of revenue generation for the State?
Yes, there is a well-structured plan on ground. The old railway station is being renovated and transformed into a modern park serving as a railway station, a recreation park and an amusement park to serve as a transportation hub, event centre and tourist site respectively.
We have invested heavily on the transportation and recreation part of it; and very soon, the on-going work on the amusement park will be concluded and it will be opened to the public. By the way, the park is been named after the great icon of Africa Leadership and Governance; Dr. Nelson Mandela.
Pilgrimage is also under your purview and Osun’s performance, like you mentioned, has been excellent since this administration came on board, what made the difference?
First, is the concern and commitment of the Executive Governor of the State of Osun; Ogbeni Adesoji Rauf Aregbesola, he has been the pillar of support for the past three pilgrimage sessions we have had. Number two is the experience and expertise of our staff at the two pilgrimage boards, and those we worked with at home and in Saudi Arabia and Israel. Third is the comportment of our pilgrimages.
People are saying government should stop funding pilgrimage, what is your own view, sir?
No, I do not think government should stop funding pilgrimage. Rather, they should seek for more funds to increase participation. These pilgrimages are beneficial to our people; it helps in fulfilling spiritual or religious injunction and help in widening their spiritual knowledge. Hence, positively improve their spiritual life and moral status. The eventual effect is that the society gets better for it.
Elections are some months away, what is your opinion about Ogbeni’s re-election?
Ogbeni Adesoji Rauf Aregbesola has performed credibly well over same period of time, compared with all the past governors and sole administrators in the state. He started by stating his plans for the State, he has executed many of these plans and this is visible to everyone, hence his re-election, Insha Allah, is more certain than his opponents. These opponents cannot point to any tangible contribution to people’s welfare and needs, in whatever capacity, they have worked.
His re-election will sustain good democratic governance, economic development, broaden prosperity, justice, equality, moral purpose, and humanity all of which are symbols personified in what Mr Governor, represents in our state.
What has your experience been so far in politics?
I have come to realise that the essence of living and holding political office is to serve the people. The vocation affords you the opportunity to be in charge of resources and deploy it to the benefit of mankind. Anything contrary to this is apolitical. Though, it has its own dirty aspect; the good out-ways it. However, it is always good to get trained for it and better to be strategic about one’s involvement in politics. That is what helps us stand out among the politicians in this terrain.