By Dayo Johnson
The Director General of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Mr Funsho Adedayo, who is the Director of Monuments Heritage and Sites disclosed that the process of putting Oke Idanre on the World Heritage List started about four years ago and praised the state government for its commitment towards the realization of the dream.
The state governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko who noted that there is no place in the entire world like Idanre hills saying that the lovely rock formation is a special gift to Ondo State and Nigeria in general. He assured that no effort would be spared to make Idanre the best tourist centre in the country and attract tourist to the State.
Vast preparations for this year’s event follow the success stories of last year’s edition in which a ten_year old boy, Sunday Akinwunmi climbed the 2000 feet above ground level mountain during the grand finale of the festival.
Akinwumi, his tender age not withstanding climbed the mountain with bare hands even when professional mountaineers were using ropes and spikes.
Akinwunmi, an indigent JSS student of Methodist High School, Odode, Idanre and for his bravery the state governor Dr Olusegun Mimiko awarded him a state_sponsored scholarship to university level
The second edition of the Mare Festival a world class Mountain Climbing Expedition Festival organized by the Ondo State government and in which Mountain climbers from all over the world are participating starts this morning. It is expected to end on Saturday
Climbers will converge at Idanre Hills in Idanre Council area of Ondo State
Before now the tourism industry in the State got a global boost as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced plans to enlist Oke Idanre Hills in Idanre local government area of the state into the World Heritage list.
This development makes the ancient Hills the third World Tourists Centre in Nigeria following the earlier enlistment of Osun Oshogbo in Osun State and Suku cultural heritage in Adamawa State. The development would also act as catalyst for the efforts of the State government to turn the State into a tourists’ haven and a must visit place in Nigeria.
Also, the world body had already approved the Idanre Hills nomination dossier and consequently dispatched an independent inspector to carry out a comprehensive assessment of the facilities on the site as contained in the dossier.
During a recent visit to the State Governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko at the end of the inspection tour of the hills, the UNESCO_accredited assessor and a renowned international Archaeologist, Dr John Sutton told the Governor that from his findings, the dossier actually met the technical criteria for the listing.
In his comment, the representative of the Director General of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Mr Funsho Adedayo, who is the Director of Monuments Heritage and Sites disclosed that the process of putting Oke Idanre on the World Heritage List started about four years ago and praised the state government for its commitment towards the realization of the dream.
Dr Mimiko who noted that there is no place in the entire world like Idanre hills saying that the lovely rock formation was a special gift to Ondo State and Nigeria in general. He assured that no effort would be spared to make Idanre the best tourist centre in the country and attract tourist to the State.
According to him, “Our administration is leaving no stone unturned to make Idanre Hills the best tourist centre in Nigeria. By next year, the on_going Golf Course at Atosin will be completed. We are also planning to build a housing estate that will not tamper with the ecology of the area”.
That as it may, following the success stories of last years December edition of Mare in which a ten_year old boy, Sunday Akinwunmi climbed the 2000 feet above ground level during the grand finale of the Mare mountain climbing festival.
Akinwumi feat, apart from his tender age climbed the mountain with bare hands even when professional mountaineers were using ropes and spikes.
Akinwunmi, an indigent JSS student of Methodist High School, Odode, Idanre and for his bravery the state governor Dr Olusegun Mimiko awarded him a state-sponsored scholarship to university level, a trip abroad to prepare him for participation in international mountain-climbing competitions but that did not materialized as he was denied visa but the state government has appealed the refusal and if it did not go through he is billed to visit Kilimanjaro hill soon also an arrangement had been perfected with an advertising agency towards making him a role model for other youngsters in the state.
The state commissioner for culture and tourism, Mr. Tola Wewe told Vanguard that the scholarship was awarded to Sunday to enable him realize his potentials by first providing him free education up to university level.
He also said that the sponsored trip to Europe was aimed at expanding the horizon of the young climber in order to make proper choice of career in life.
The commissioner said the festival had opened various opportunities for Idanre people apart from being a rallying point for the celebration of mountain climbing.
Wewe noted that the era of oil was gradually fading_off and that the World was now investing on tourism and that Ondo state cannot be left out.
“This is the time for Ondo State to invest on tourism. What we are seeing today is a part of investment. As a matter of fact, it is like a farmer sowing some seeds.”.
The Culture Commissioner said that as a fall of the international mountain climbing competition ‘Mare Festival’ held last year, an American Investor has expressed willingness to invest $5billion into tourism related businesses in the state.
The commissioner said tourists are not coming to the state due to lack of conscious effort to develop the sector saying that the state is now determined than ever to make tourism a high revenue generation sector for the state.
He said the project which would be on Build Transfer and Operate arrangement, would involve building of the structures and operating it for about 20 years after which it would be transferred to the state.
He said this is exclusive of what the state would have realized in form of profit within the period of operation.
Speaking on the rationale for the festival, the Commissioner explained that the current administration was investing heavily in the tourism and entertainment industry in order to woo local and international investors.
Wewe said that the State Governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, believed that developing the entertainment and tourism industry would expose the natural resources that abound in the state to foreigners.
He said the clarifications became necessary following allegations in some quarters that the state government was wasting resources to host tourism and entertainment events including a new logo for the state.
Speaking on this year’s festival, Wewe said over 7, 000 International mountain climbers will participate.
According to him, the participants, both within and outside the country will win various prices worth N15m while arrangements would be put in place to ensure their safety.
Towards this end, he said two helicopters would be provided to monitor the climbers on the various hills in the town.
He also explained that about 60 Landover jeeps had been donated to the state by a private firm to ease the movements of the participants and other visitors during the festival.
“We want to showcase the rich natural endowment to the whole World since the town has been designated as a World Heritage Centre by UNESCO”.
Wewe said the state government is pioneering mountain climbing as a sporting activity in the Country adding that this years MARE festival would include marathon race.
The Commissioner “We are lifting sporting activities with cultural activities to promote tourism. We are giving this years festival more creative meaning which include M for marathon, A for Arts and Culture, R for Rock climbing, E for exhibition and entertainment.
He said that the second edition “promises to be grand with the expected participation of other states of the Federation, professional climbers and blacks in Diaspora. It is going to be entertainment and fun galore.
Performing artists expected include Opalemo, Ara, Dare Art Alade, Francis Akintade, Lord of Ajasa, Weird MC, Seun Kuti, Pappy Luwe, Boy Alinco any many others young talents.