Ile-Ife, the ancient town which is believed to have given birth to other Yoruba towns and communities, is set to embrace true development that befits its historical status. The town is famous for its historical significance and housing the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), an institution built with the resources of the defunct Western Region Government. OAU or ‘Great Ife’ as is fondly called, is considered the Nigerian university with arguably the most beautiful campus going by its collection of buildings often described as architectural masterpieces, and its outstanding landscape.
Outside the university community, however, the town has a rustic look. Ife residents, like other Nigerians in all parts of the nation, are largely poor. With a large population of peasant farmers and petty traders, local economy is the same as other towns in Nigeria. This makes the poor infrastructural development and army of jobless youths look more prominent than the vast fertile land that produces millions of tonnes of cocoa, kola nuts, maize and cassava yearly. The peasants and poor are more prominent than the large deposit of gold and other precious ornaments that lay under Ife-Ife’s soil. They are more noticeable than the thousands of indigenes who are excelling in their careers, business and other callings. They look more prominent than the multiple historical sites that can be developed into international tourist attraction sites that can elevate Ife-Ife in the global tourism map and deliver more resources into the hands of the locals and other stakeholders.
But Ife elites seem to be tired of the inability of the ancient town to rise above its current level of success. Backed by the monarch, they have come together to develop a new vision for the town christened Ife Vision 2030. The idea outlines how the natural resources can be utilised to promote development, create jobs, elevate tourism and develop agriculture by year 2030. This year’s Ife Day celebration, slated for December 9 and 10, will partly be used to galvanise support for the project. Ife Day is a unique idea introduced by the town’s community development elite group, the Ife Development Board (IDB). It operates under the supervision of the Ooni who gives his blessing to major projects to be embarked on.
During the two-day event, the vision will be introduced to indigenes and other stakeholders that may include investors and government representatives. Youths will participate in workshops and other empowerment programmes slated for the first day. “Ife Day is the special occasion in the annual calendar of lle-Ife when all sons, daughters and friends come together to observe and proudly celebrate their citizenship and commitment to the development of the cradle of the Yoruba nation. On this particular day notwithstanding wherever they may be in the world; whether within the city itself, its outlying outskirts or in the Diaspora, these individual indigenes, club members, township associations and their friends can be found celebrating Ife Day with music, food, drinks and cultural merriments… in pomp and pageantry. Ife Day is designed as a ‘glo-cal” event driven by multi-media resources to achieve a simulcast and simultaneous activations across the world,” said the chairman, planning committee, Dr Yomi Layinka.
Explaining its essence, Layinka said: “The essence and focus of this annual event is to consciously turn sons and daughters away from frivolities and wastefulness towards a sustainable culture of collaboration and commitment to community and human capital development. To achieve this lofty objective of rapid urbanisaton of Ife-Ife, we must consciously and rigorously design and solemnly commit to some irreducible minimum and measurable goals as enshrined in the proposed Ife Development Agenda
“In order to truly become a place of pride to its people (here and abroad) and to secure its place as a destination of choice for tourists and investors, lle-Ife must urgently modernise itself by updating its thinking tools and significantly improving the quality of its decision-making processes so that it can create an enabling and competitive environment – within a specific time-frame! The first Ife Day celebration during the reign of Oonirisa Adeyeye Ogunwusi will be anchored on a number of themes that are crucial to celebrating Ife and its people as well as articulating strategies for the attainment of the lofty modernisation goals and sustainable development agenda of lle-Ife.”
According to Layinka, indigenes and other stakeholders will not just gather for only the above; it would also be a time to “showcase the historical values, cultural and traditional resources of the ancient city and its people to the world through music, dance, entertainment and other idioms; conscientise and facilitate the commitment of citizens to the development of lle-Ife through mentoring outreaches and workshops among different demographic groups, including political, cultural, religious, trade and youth groups and other formations; promote and inculcate a culture of innovative thinking among the teeming youths of the Ife community by creating innovation hubs in carefully selected centres including secondary schools spread across the zone; popularise community development thinking and efforts by stimulating regular competitive programmes and projects among wards, quarters, alumni, social clubs, trade associations and such networks.”
The celebration will also be used to facilitate exchange of ideas, experiences and networking opportunities by creating regular (even compulsory) town hall/stakeholder engagement sessions using effective tools, processes and best global practices and standards. This year’s celebration also plans to implement an inclusive and participatory set of activities aimed at rallying stakeholders behind the common goal of building the lle-Ife that is worthy of this and future generations. “Consequently, the overriding goal is to foster the spirit of commitment in all indigenes, citizens and groups to the imperatives of community development and our respective individual roles in the process.” Layinka said.
A session on technological innovation will also hold to create the opportunity for young tech experts to ventilate their ideas for the development of the city.Striking the significance of Ife Day celebration to the new goals of developing Ife, Layinka further explained: “The fact that the periodic organisation of Ife Day is one of the most important activities in the calendar of the Ife Development Board indicates its centrality to the community’s strategic development agenda. Unlike other communal ceremonies like the sacred Olojo festival, etc, Ife Day is a secular gathering of all sons, daughters, citizens and friends of Ile Ife who usually come together to celebrate their common ancestry in an atmosphere of fun and camaraderie. It offers the community an opportunity to focus attention on its development needs as well as to discuss strategies on how best to meet those objectives, including the implementation of fundraising activities to support project development.
“The theme of this year’s edition is ‘Homecoming: A Gathering of the People.’ As the very first edition of Ife Day since the ascension of Oba Enitan Ogunwusi as the 51st Ooni of Ife, the objective for this year is simply to mobilise and bring together all sons and daughters of Ife (both home and in the diaspora) to proudly celebrate their common heritage wherever the day finds then. The other purpose is to announce the design and implementation of the long-awaited Ife Development Agenda as well as the inauguration of the Ife Trust Fund. This is to build upon a series of workshops and expert panels earlier carried out under the auspices of IDB (Ife Vision 2030).”
When asked about his position on the new development, Oba Ogunwusi, who spoke through his Director of Media & Public Affairs, Mr Moses Olafare, said: “In line with his avowed commitment to the peace and development of Ife land, the Ooni continues to encourage every initiative that helps to focus attention on the imperatives for the urgent modernisation of the community’s decision-making processes as well as the revamp of its decaying infrastructure. As an ancestral land with vast but untapped historical, cultural, mineral and agricultural resources, the Ooni is desirous of nurturing the design and implementation of a road map that will transform Ile Ife into a contemporary global city brand that not only attracts huge investments in tourism, agro-allied industries but also catalyses the abundant creative and entrepreneurial energies of its burgeoning youth population.”
Commenting on the development plan and Ife Day 2022, IDB Chairman, Mr Lawrence Awowoyin, said engagements with stakeholders are going on well, adding that implementation of the project may officially take off in the first quarter of 2023.He emphasised the importance of the Ife Day celebration to the overall goal of developing Ife, stressing that people are the most important resources in any plan. “The people are those that will gather and participate in the ceremony on December 9 and 10. They need to come together first, network and bring their ideas to the table to enable IDB officially kick-start the process of achieving the new goals. We can’t wait for this to materialise,” Awowoyin said.
The IDB, which was constituted during the reign of the immediate past Ooni Okunade Sijuwade, is championing the course of Vision 2030 with huge commitment. It assembled indigenes who are professionals in different areas of business, academic, politics, governance, among others to drive the vision. The project has three thematic areas – mining, agro-industrial development and cultural tourism. Under agriculture, the Ife Vision 2030 is aiming at developing agro-industrial enterprises, integrating industrialists and farmers, promoting export, forestry and herbal medicine, among others. Under mining, the board is working hard to participate and supervise mining activities in Ife land to reduce environmental degradation, create jobs and empower community dwellers. Tourism development plans to upgrade existing sites to global standards and promote them accordingly along with Ife delicacies. All the activities, when coordinated, are expected to accelerate the development of Ife-Ife, empower residents and elevate the status of the town economically.
(Culled from The Nation)