The driver filled our ears with the popular ‘America Versace ‘98’ lyrics of the king of fuji music, Wasiu Ayinde, as we journeyed to Olumirin waterfall, located at Erin-Ijesha, Osun State. We experienced a smooth road all the way from Akure, Ondo State, where the trip began, and the wheels of the car floated effortlessly along.
The narrative, however, changed as the driver turned to the road leading to the waterfall located in Oriade local government area of Osun.
Another dilapidated shed at Erin-Ijesha
The inscription at the entrance reads “Welcome to Olumirin Waterfall” but all we saw in the village was a metaphorical graveyard with no cars, no market, no school, no hospital and even though it was high noon, there were no people.
After about a three-minute drive, we were welcomed to a bumpy road, abandoned for several years by the state government and here, we could sight humans living in ancient buildings, including dilapidated ones.
“I expected that the road to this waterfall would have been fixed by now. It is a shame that the government closed its eyes against what is capable of bringing economic and social impact to the state,” the young man who served as our tour guide lamented.
A tourist washing his face at Erin-Ijesha waterfall
“You will have to pay N1,000 each to gain entrance to the waterfall,” Esther Adebayo, the state government revenue officer at the waterfall said. Asked why it cost that much, she responded saying “the government just changed the fee. It used to be N500 per head before.”
The Olumirin waterfall
The ridge of the waterfall is an eye-catcher for travellers who ply the Ilesha-Akure expressway. The waterfall known as Olumirin is two kilometres off Erin-Ijesha town, with an assemblage of seven distinct cascades.
It has a point where cold and hot water meets. According to research, its atmospheric temperatures range from 30 to 34 degrees Celsius, while annual rainfall averages 1500cm.
A tourist returning to from the waterfall
Some indigenes told our correspondent that apart from serving as a tourism centre, the waterfall has healing powers, a claim that PREMIUM TIMES could not independently verify as of the time of filing this piece.
“There was a woman who had been carrying a pregnancy for three years, she visited different hospitals and traditionalists for help but all proved abortive. The woman drank the water and gave birth weeks after.
“This and many other narratives are what we hear about the healing powers of the waterfall. The water has popularised Erin-Ijesha as people visit from all over the world,” Ronke Ajadi, a resident, said.
Stairs leading to Erin-Ijesha water
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that there are different versions of stories on how the waterfall was discovered but the most widely accepted narrative, according to historians, is that in the year 1140 AD, Akinla, founder of Erin-Ijesha town and granddaughter of Oduduwa, discovered the falls during the migration of Ife people to Erin- Ijesha.
While some historians argue that the water falls from a big pot located at the top of the ridge, the fact remains sacred and that Erin-Ijesha waterfalls, like those in other parts of the world, is a work of nature beyond human imagination.
This reporter observed that the waterfall also serves a mountaineering purpose for tourists with evergreen vegetation around. The view was pleasing and this reporter would always love to return there if time and chances permit.
Mojeed Alabi, a member of PREMIUM TIMES team at Erin-Ijesha
Though difficult to climb, the view at all the levels kept this reporter and his team going. At the top of every ridge, we were able to see the true natural beauty of the Nigerian landmass. This reporter learnt that if one climbs for two hours, we could get to Abake settlement, a village that is said to be in Efon Alaaye local government of Ekiti State.
Other activities that could interest tourists at the water fall are swimming, bird and game watching, reading, base jumping and many more.
Left to ruin
Despite all its uniqueness, it is worrisome that the Osun State government is sitting on such a goldmine without making efforts to explore the gold.
The community which hosts the waterfall has been left to ruin. They lack good road, stable electricity supply and other basic amenities.
The ground at the waterfalls is overgrown with tall grasses, and the handrails are yearning for maintenance.
This reporter also observed that most of the sheds, ordinarily designed to serve as relaxation centres, are worn out and have been surrounded by tall grasses, denying tourists the opportunity to have a short rest after climbing the rocks.
In 2013, a former governor of the state, Rauf Aregbesola, announced his plan to make the waterfall meet international standards. He constructed steps from the entrance up to the second layer and built tourist chalets.
Erin-Ijesha waterfall signpost
Four years after, he approved the construction of the access road to the waterfall. The flag off took on Thursday, November 2, 2017. His Special Adviser on Tourism and Culture at the time, Taiwo Oluga, said the government’s effort was to make tourism a veritable source of revenue.
But PREMIUM TIMES’ last visit to Erin-Ijesha in mid-April revealed the decrepit state of the waterfall. The road is marred with portholes and the site, itself, is in a sorry state.
This is despite several comments by the current administration under the leadership of Governor Gboyega Oyetola that he will take advantage of tourism to unleash the state’s economic potentials to the world for the purpose of shoring up her Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
A report by BudgIT, a civic advocacy society that uses technology to intersect Citizen-engagement with improved governance in 2020 listed Osun State as one of the 13 states that were unable to fund their recurrent expenditure obligations together with their loan repayment schedules due in 2019 with their respective total revenues.
The worst-hit of these 13 states are – Oyo, Kogi, Osun and Ekiti States while the other states on this pendulum are Plateau, Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Cross River. Benue, Taraba and Abia.
A tourism expert and economist who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES said Osun has failed to harness the full potential of the waterfall due to lack of commitment from government.
Kingsley Ndimele said if properly developed, Erin-Ijesha could accelerate economic growth and equally generate substantial employment, thus reducing the burden of unemployment in the state.
“The government first need to invest in the social infrastructures in that axis to give them a face lift befitting the status of a tourism community. This is what other countries of the world are doing.”
Dilapidated shed at Erin-Ijesha waterfall
“Our leaders lack the political will to sustain tourism development efforts. There’s need for good infrastructures that will make leisure and business travel grow at Erin-Ijesha waterfall. If we have all of these, it will attract traffic and boost the economy of the state.”
Why our effort to develop Erin-Ijesha waterfall is yet to yield – Osun govt.
This newspaper reached out to the state’s commissioner for tourism and culture, Wale Adebisi, on the poor state of the waterfall. He said Governor Oyetola’s administration has partnered Sterling Bank towards expanding the economic base of the state and their commitment towards exploring Osun tourism potential.
During the launch of the ‘Osun State Tourism Master Plan: Culture and Tourism for Sustainable Economy’ in Osogbo, in collaboration with Sterling Bank Plc, in November 2020, Mr Oyetola said “as tourism progressively raises its profile in national economic planning, there is a clear need to ensure that attention is paid to its long-term development potential.
“Such an approach demands comprehensive strategic planning for the industry’s future. As a government, we are keying into that by laying a solid foundation for a better tourism sector in Nigeria.”
Asked if all Mr Oyetola said about tourism was a mere speech, considering PREMIUM TIMES’ findings at Erin-Ijesha waterfall, Mr Adebisi defended his principal.
“We want to rely on tourism but we need huge money to put tourism centres into normal shape. We have to be strategic about the development, we have to partner private sectors to develop our tourist centres and we have made this public.
“Sterling bank was excited with our plans and they offer to collaborate with us. However, the investors are sceptical at the moment because of COVID-19 and insecurity. We have listed the road to the waterfall as part of what we will develop to enhance traffic. What we are trying to achieve is a blend of concept that we appeal to people within and outside the country. Our investors are being monitored.”
Also, Mrs Adebayo, the revenue collector at the waterfall, said insecurity has contributed to the decline in numbers of people who visit the tourism centre.
“Before the incessant kidnappings on Akure-Ilesha expressway, we used to have up to 200 people on week days and on weekends, the waterfall used to look like a market place. That has, however, changed as we now have reduction in number of visitors and there are some weekends that we don’t even have up to 50 people.
Corroborating this, Mr Adebisi said the security challenges are not limited to Osun and have really affected the economic growth of the waterfall.
“Even as an individual, we are being cautioned to travel less and ignored some joints because of insecurity.”