Sunday, August 31, 2014

Old Oyo Park: Where history blends with nature

By Jimoh Babatunde
People come here with a   mindset to see some big animals like Roan Antelope, Buffon, Buffalo, Bushbuck and a variety of birdlife. But this is not often the case as this park is more than fauna and flora.”


These were the startling words from one of the staff at the Old Oyo National Park’s office in Oyo town, Oyo state.
I had travelled from Lagos to the park that morning to experience the preserved culture, historical and archaeological features in the abandoned sites of the then capital city of the ancient Oyo empire at Oyo-Ile, Bara and Koso.
Old Oyo national park is a unique park among the others in the country. It is so in the sense that apart from the preservation of flora and fauna resources the park is highly blessed with historical features.
Before the almost two hours journey from Oyo town to Oyo-Ile, Adeniyi Bola prepared my mind on what to see at the site. “The ancient Oyo empire was one of the first states to emerge in the forest and coastal region in West Africa and one of the most culturally advanced. The empire reached its peak between the 17th and 18th centuries.
“Several ancient histories, political sites both within and outside the park are associated with Oyo Ile. Among these are Igboho, Ipapo-Ile and Koso. At one time, these sites served as the capital of the empire,” she stated.
Listening as she conducted me round the mini-museum at the Park’s headquarters, I was eager to commence the trip when the tour guide, Ajadi said the vehicle was ready.
As we made to depart, Bola said, “In this park, we blend our history with nature”. This stuck in my mind as I traversed the park in search of history and nature.
Having driven for a long distance, we got to Akoto tourist camp, near a village called Sepeteri, where the camp accommodation is available. The facility is well furnished with good beddings, portable water and satellite television service. We set out for the central and southern sector of the park where more of game viewing tracks have been opened up.
At the entrance of the Ibuya Base camp immediately after the buffer zone, we were welcomed by rangers stationed to wade off poachers. As we were joined by some heavily armed rangers, I was forced to ask why they needed such arms and ammunition.
“The area has suffered indiscriminate and uninhibited destructive human activities including hunting. As a result, the animal species have been greatly depleted and some species have either become locally extinct or rare,”  the ranger said.
“Game viewing is always good in the morning and during the dry season,” Ajadi, my tour guide explained.
We drove through the trails that have been mapped out in the park towards the river for a boat ride on the Ogun River.  At the river side, Ajadi pointed out some foot marks of animals that had come to the river to drink water.
The journey back to the Akoto base was an educative one as  Ajadi became my botany teacher, disclosing that there are four sub types of vegetation at the park, “dense woodland and forests; mixed open savannah woodland ; outcrop vegetation and riparian grassland and fringing woodland.”
We left Akoto Tourist camp very early in the morning for the trip to Oyo –Ile. The trip took us first to Igboho, the sites of the royal cemeteries, “four Obas reigned here among them a lady,” Said Ajadi, my tour guide.
As we drove from Igboho through Igbeti, the tour guide disclosed  that the name of the park is coined from the ruin of old Oyo empire , the park had been in existence in the past as two game reserves- the upper Ogun games reserve and the Oyo Ile games reserve.
The Oyo Ile game reserve was the abandoned site of old Oyo Empire where the present day Oyo came from. The Oyo people settled down in so many places before they got to the present Oyo town.
“One of those places is Oyo ile which falls within the park today.  Before we arrived Oyo –Ile, we stopped over at Ikoyi – Ile where there is the Antete shrine . Inside the shrine is a pot that contains swarm of honey bees which used to fight for the people of the town by stinging enemies to death. “Truly , he has been doing that whenever they call on him at the hill of Antete where the bees will rise to sting their enemies to death.  If there is  problem among two groups and they go before this hill, the group that is at fault will be stung by the bees.”
We soon arrived Oyo –Ile legendary sites, the largest concentration of archaeological and cultural sites that contain more than twenty of the identified relics.
I was struck by the hosts of cultural artefacts that litter the sites like grinding stones; earthen pots potsherds; snags, snail shells; mud walls; mound of ashes and charcoals that are still discernible with the abandoned old settlement till date.
The walls called the Koso defence wall, according to my tour guide ,  was built round the city of old Oyo-Ile; it is about 6.5ft high and they made holes on it where  they spy  on those coming in . The wall made with mud is still standing till date right from  16th c.


To show that people really inhabited the town, there are relics of mejiro industrial sites that consisted of black smiting, iron forgery sites and grain milling sites. Next to this site is the Akesan market.
The large water reservoir is another great site.  “This is the ancient well where water is stored in the olden days . The town was located in a rocky area and we know it is difficult to dig well and get water in rocky area, so that made them dig underground reservoir where they stored rain water during the raining season and made use of it during the dry season,” the tour guide revealed.
Old Oyo national Park is not only about historical sites, there are beautiful and marvellous sceneries of fascinating rock formations like the Oke Agbele looking as though  they would topple over the next minute.
“The story behind Oke Agbele is that a woman with a baby on her back stole cassava flavour  , so this is the stolen property on her head and the baby  as she turned to a stone.”
Others like Agbaku, Idi Are and Mejiro, have formed large caves that served as  good shelters in the olden days during the war.
The Kosomo hill is another rock inside the park. This is situated in the central part of Oyo Ile . In the olden days they believe this rock has the power to find their lost one.  “The great Agbaku cave. The cave was a hide out  during the Yoruba wars in the olden days , the cave has  significance , something like power of back to sender.
Any opponent that met the Oyos at this point  will fight and destroy themselves instead of  fighting the Oyos. The cave can accommodate up to 1000 people at a time . One of the mysteries contained in the park is the mysterious iron which   was said to have been  used by Alafin Sango, called Ogun Joko.  “If you look at it as a very small thing and try lifting it , you will not be able to do that, but just  thinking that they said this iron is heavy and try lifting it you will be surprise to lift it. So there is mystery under the iron truly.
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Friday, August 29, 2014

ABTA to drive improved Travel Agent and Airline partnerships in Angola

The African Business Travel Association (ABTA) will be encouraging Angolan business travel professionals to work together towards improving their relationships with potential Travel Agency, Airline and Hotel Partners.
ABTA's next event in Luanda on 11 September at The Talatona Convention Hotel will provide a platform for these industry sectors to come together to share their current challenges in developing strong partnerships, encouraging improved communication, and brainstorming solutions that will benefit Travel Agents, Airlines, Hotels, and the Clients they service.
Says Monique Swart, ABTA Founder "For the business travel industry in any region to thrive, strong relationships and partnerships are required between all industry sectors which will see mutually benefitical outcomes.  In Angola, we see that there is often an environment of competition between Travel Agents and Airlines (and sometimes hotels) who are all trying to win and 'own' the same clients.  This unfortunately leads to a lot mistrust and miscommunication in the industry, with the clients often being caught in the middle."
The ABTA Forum - which is open to all business travel industry professionals - will feature a panel of experts discussing the current competitive environment, addressing the reasons behind this, and potential solutions.  There will also be a session focusing on the value of Travel Agents and how they can better communicate this value to their clients so that they are not just seen as a travel booking channel, easily replaced by internet or direct bookings.  Finally, the event will end with an industry discussion where all delegates can participate in sharing their challenges and brainstorming workable solutions to improve partnerships.
Says Swart: "We are under no illusion that this challenge is one that will be easy to fix.  Airlines and hotels have very definite issues and goals when it comes to reaching volume targets and the requirement for Travel Agents to make a positive impact on these goals is of vital importance.  At the same time though, Travel Agents can't be ignored as a valuable distribution channel.  This event will serve to open the lines of communication between these sectors as a first step, so that sectors can better understand each others challenges, which will enable us as an industry to start seeking solutions for improving these vital partnerships."

WTM 2014: Keystone Bank to partner with NTDC

By NTDC Press 
THE participation of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) in the 2013 edition of the World Travel Market (WTM), London was described by participants at the event as great. This was because NTDC successfully made Nigeria a major focus of attention as the nation with outstanding performances in cultural and business scouting display, putting up enviable shows and drawing hundreds of potential investors in both tourism and other business ventures to the negotiating tables.

There are strong indications that the corporation's participation in this year edition of the travel market will be grand, as the management of NTDC is leaving no stone unturned to ensure this.

Following this, Keystone Bank has signified interest to partner with NTDC to ensure an historic outing at the event.

The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Keystone Bank, Mr Philip Ikeazor, who paid a courtesy visit on the Director-General of NTDC, Dr (Mrs) Sally Mbanefo, gave the assurance of the bank's readiness to partner with the corporation for the event.

Mr Ikeazor in his speech lauded the progressive and laudable strides of the NTDC boss at ensuring that Nigeria, which is endowed with innumerable natural and man-made tourist sites, benefit immensely from the money-spinning sector.

"The appointment of Dr Mbanefo as the Director General of NTDC is divinely orchestrated to reposition the nation's tourism industry, and make Nigeria stand tall in the comity of tourism nations," Ikeazor disclosed.

The Keystone Bank boss lauded the domestic tourism promotion initiative of the NTDC boss, saying that "domestic tourism remains a viable catalyst to developing tourism in any nation, and Dr. Mbanefo is getting it quite right."

Ikeazor also assured that the bank will build a befitting Information Desk for NTDC at the spaces which the Minister of Aviation, Mr Osita Chidoka, recently approved for the corporation at the Dr Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja and Murtala International Airport, Lagos.

"We are willing to ensure that NTDC has a befitting Information Desk at the airports in Lagos and Abuja to enable the corporation further promote Nigeria and her tourist sites. NTDC has been doing wonderfully well in this course, and we are ready to support the course," Ikeazor assured.

Dr Mbanefo while enlightening the Keystone Bank boss on her achievement in the past one year that she assumed office, pointed out that "Our cultural tourism assets are our strength and therefore must be promoted effectively to attract those that are interested in what we have to sell."

She added that NTDC will explore the opportunity provided by the World Travel Market to market Nigeria's domestic tourism potentials, thereby wooing foreigners to appreciate Nigeria's tourist sites and crowd-pulling festivals, which according to her in turns, will empower people at the grassroot level, as well as create jobs and wealth for them.

Dr Mbanefo reiterated her commitment to promoting domestic tourism in Nigeria, while making NTDC generate good revenue for the government.

The Director General,  Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation  (NTDC) Dr.(Mrs) Sally Mbanefo franked by the Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer (MD/CEO), Keystone Bank, Mr. Philip Ikeazor( Left) and Deputy General Manager, Commercial Banking, Keystone Bank, Aisha Mohammed during a courtesy call on the Director General  at the Corporate Headquarters of the Corporation in Abuja.

Left-Right : Director ,  Marketing & Promotions Department, Mrs Fibi Ikilam, Director,  Administration & Supply Department, Mr Boniface Chukwuekwu Eboka; Director General, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation  (NTDC) Dr.(Mrs) Sally Mbanefo; Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer (MD/CEO), Keystone  Bank, Mr. Philip Ikeazor and Deputy General Manager, Commercial Banking, Keystone Bank,  Aisha Mohammed, during the presentation of Souvenir by the Director General to the  MD/CEO  during a courtesy call on the Director General  at the Corporate Headquarters of the Corporation in Abuja.

British Airways Unveils Bumper Reward for Travel Consultants

British Airways Unveils Bumper Reward for Travel Consultants

Lagos, Nigeria; Aug 29 2014: British mega carrier, British Airways and its sister Airline Iberia has announced plans to give its Travel Consultants in Nigeria a special Yuletide with bumper rewards of elite shopping experience. The company will be rewarding travel consultants at their travel agencies across Nigeria with gifts up to one million naira from October through December 2014.
According to the airline, the offer is in partnership with Shoprite in Nigeria and it is a way of encouraging and saying a big thank you to the highly valued travel consultants because they are the ones that actually book customers in the different Travel Agencies in Nigeria.
British Airways Regional General Manager, West Africa, Mr Kola Olayinka, disclosed that the travel consultants are encouraged to book British Airways and win the shopping vouchers which are available in three major cities in Nigeria, namely Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt.
According to Mr. Olayinka This offer is our way of saying thank you to our partners. We thought of a better way to show our appreciation to these valuable consultants, so we went into a strong partnership with one of the national biggest outlets, Shoprite who have outlets all over Nigeria and stock a good range of household items. With this, we are giving our partners the opportunity of early preparations for the yuletide season.
To enjoy the offer, all the British Airways partners need to do is continue to book British Airways and Iberia Airlines tickets for their customers and win the shopping vouchers as they do.
The airline further disclosed that the rest of the year 2014 will be an opportunity for British Airways to give back to different segments of the society.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Qatar Airways Gears Up To Receive New Aircraft Type into the Fleet

TOULOUSE, France - Qatar Airways, the launch customer of the Airbus A350 Xtra Wide Body aircraft is set to receive its first delivery before the end of this year.
The airline has ordered 80 of the widebody A350 XWB which will be deployed on a wide variety of routes served by the Qatar Airways network.

The airline is the launch customer of the Airbus A350 programme and is set to receive its first A350 before the end of this year.

The A350 MSN005 development aircraft recently concluded a world tour, touching down in 14 cities, demonstrating its readiness for airline operations on a global scale.
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Officer, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker said that the airline is currently in the midst of a massive fleet expansion programme and the incoming delivery of the Airbus A350 XWB type into the fleet will be a significant milestone for the airline.
“We take pride in introducing the latest products and services available to the industry and this new aircraft is a prime example of that. We look forward to offering to our passengers even more choice and variety in the young and modern fleet which we operate to more than 140 destinations across the world.”

Qatar Airways’ freshly painted Airbus A350 on the factory lines in Toulouse, France.
Qatar Airways’ freshly painted Airbus A350 on the factory lines in Toulouse, France.
Photo copyright Airbus



As part of the efforts to promote domestic tourism, the Director-General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) Mrs. Sally Mbanefo has included the Osun Children’s Cultural Fiesta as a major component of the annual Osun Osogbo Festival.
At the just concluded Osun Osogbo Festival in Osun State, Mrs. Mbanefo noted that there must be an inclusion of culture/tourism in the school curriculum to enable children grasps the basics of same as they grow.
“The children’s cultural fiesta has come to stay as part of NTDC’s promotion of the cultural festival; according to her, we are reaching out to schools and talking to them to make tourism part of their curriculum. As part of subjects that they must pass, let the children grow with the culture, proud to speak their languages anywhere in the world. if you are fluent in  English and unable to speak your mother tongue, you seem lost”.
The NTDC boss made these comments in a speech delivered at  the Osun Children Cultural Fiesta held at the Ataoja’s palace in Osogbo on the 21st day of August, 2014.
She extolled the rich Yoruba culture saying that the Corporation is determined to ensure that all the cultural festivals in Nigeria would be promoted and marketed to the outside world as part of Federal Government’s effort to make tourism a major revenue spinner for the Nigerian economy.
On the children’s fiesta, NTDC organized competitions to encourage the children. They came in four category viz drumming, dancing, cultural fashion parade and Yoruba spelling and a total sum of two hundred thousand naira only (N200,000.00) was expended as prize money to the winners of the various competitions. She said the festival is a veritable platform for cultural exchange in the country.
“It is a channel at which culture is being exhibited and exchanged to the world”
“South West Culture is the richest because civilization came early and was properly documented and handed down to generations”
“Osogbo Festival is unique to the Corporation and included in our calendar of cultural events. Osun cultural festival is very unique to NTDC because it is one of the numerous festivals of international recognition, enlisted as the World Heritage Site by UNESCO including Sango Festival that has been exported to over forty countries of the world, she said.

Alaafin lauds NTDC boss on promotion of culture and tourism in Nigeria

Alaafin lauds NTDC boss on promotion of culture and tourism in Nigeria
*As Mbanefo laud Oyo people for promoting Sango Festival
THE Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, has described the role of the Director-General of the Nigeria Tourism Development Commission, Dr (Mrs.) Sally Mbanefo, in  the promotion of culture and tourism in the country as historic and a model for public office holders.

Oba Adeyemi made this observation while welcoming Mrs Mbanefo and her entourage to the 2014 World Sango Festival held in his palace, in Oyo town, recently.

The monarch said: "I have keenly observed your activities since you assumed office as the Director General of NTDC over a year ago, and I can say unequivocally that you have done so well. Having followed your strides and acts as the NTDC boss, I realized that you are a passionate lady who is determined to achieve where your predecessors had failed. You are on the right frame."

Oba Adeyemi added that: "It is very commendable that Mbanefo matches her words with deeds. She envisioned domestic tourism and here she is, attending Sango Festival. She was in Ile-Ife for Olokun Festival and in Idanre for Mare Festival and she will be leaving for Osun Osogbo Festival. Thus, so far, she has displayed a robust sense of responsibility at her duty post. I commend you, Sally Mbanefo, on behalf of the Oyo Mesi and the entire people of Oyo."

While assuring the NTDC boss of his supports, the Monarch said that Oyo town will like to partner with the NTDC to market the numerous traditional festivals in the town, most importantly, Sango Festivals, to attract both local and foreign tourists, and create wealth for the people in the state and the country at large.

Mbanefo in her response during the opening ceremony of this year's edition of World Sango Festival commended the Alaafin of Oyo and the people of the town for receiving her with a warm hand, while noting that the landscape of Oyo State is dotted with a good number of tourism potentials, saying that "Oyo State has so much to offer in terms of tourism. The state has so many historical sites and monuments. I must say that there are so many tourist attractions in Ibadan, Oyo town, Ogbomoso and Ibarapa, just to mention a few."

The NTDC boss who noted that Sango Festival has been exported to over 47 countries, appreciated the Alaafin of Oyo and the people of the town for keeping the festival alive against all odds, while enjoining them to keep the flag of the Sango Festival flying.

"Festivals brings back our past history and celebrate our culture and tradition, boosts our knowledge in history, while creating wealth and employment for the people. Therefore, it is high time Nigerians woke up and appreciate our tourist potentials, culture and traditions, and explore them, to enable us benefit from the goodies of tourism like many other nations of the world," Mbanefo said.
Mbanefo, who expressed her joy for being part of this year's World Sango Festival assured the Monarch of her continuous support in ensuring the success of Sango festival and other cultural events in the town.

The NTDC boss then officially declared the 2014 World Sango Festival opened. This was greeted with a resonant of applause, jubilation and palpable joy from participants in the festival.

Nigeria, Our Heritage project to sell Nigeria’s tourism — Jonathan

Photo Caption:
(L-R) Ambassador Adebowale Adefuye, Nigerian Ambassador to the United States; President Goodluck Jonathan; High Chief Edem Duke, Minister of Culture and Tourism of  Nigeria  and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson, member  US House of Representatives from Texas during the launch of the International leg of Nigeria, Our Heritage Project at the John F.
Kennedy Centre for Performing Arts, Washington DC recently.

By Jimoh Babatunde
President Goodluck Jonathan has said that the ‘Nigeria, Our Heritage Project’ will overhauls the country’s image globally and promote the country’s tourism and cultural heritage.
Speaking at the launch of the project in Washington D.C recently, the President said the project would celebrate the rich cultural inheritance and vast economic endowment of Nigeria, he regretted that Nigeria had come under global media conspiracy that brought humiliation for the country.
President Jonathan said “The project is a message to every Nigerian that we have a duty to ensure that Nigeria is not only what it should be but what others see it as. We have to be holistic in the way we look at things, especially our culture”.
The ‘Nigeria, Our Heritage Project’ meant to convey some form of positive news about the nation to the international community is being championed by the Ministry of Tourism & Culture and a group of Nigerian private and corporate individuals.
The project was first unveiled in Abuja last month with support from over fifteen private companies, states and the foreign Affairs ministry before it was taken to the international stage last week in Washington D.
The Minister of Tourism, Edem Duke, expressed optimism that the project would support and uphold the cardinal principles of his ministry as he called for an increased partnership with Nigerian companies, the media and government in a bid to lead the race towards revamping Nigeria as an investment destination in the world.
“We, therefore, seek for the partnership of companies which are proud of Nigeria, the media, local and international agencies, Nigerians in Diaspora, institutions of government and state governments to be part of this project by identifying with our avowed commitment to lead the race towards revamping the global dignity of Nigeria as an investment destination.
“We believe that time has come for the private sector and notable Nigerians from all walks of life to take the front row in shaping the future of Nigeria economically, socially and otherwise because all over the world, government makes policies and create enabling environment for growth but the private sector is the substructure that shapes the economy, “ Duke stated.
The Washington D.C. event, dubbed ‘an evening of entertainment’, which marked the first plank of a novel approach to the country’s holistic national branding project, had in attendance Nigeria’s Ambassador to USA, and several Nigerian celebrities, notably Don Jazzy, Rita Dominic, Ali Nuhu, Davido, Flavour, Tiwa Savage, Tee Billz, Masterkraft, Tola Odunsi, Leslie Kasumba, Di’Ja, Lola Ogunnaike, Obi Asika, Hakeem Kae-Kazim and Ubi Franklin, among others.
The Chairman of the Project’s Governing Board, Professor George Obiozor, said “Nigeria: Our Heritage Project is conceived as an enduring movement to engender a positive global perception change for Nigeria, such that Nigeria would be enabled internally and externally, to realize her full potentials.”
The project, he added “will be activated by 100 proudly Nigerian public and private organizations that will catalyze the strategic repositioning of Nigeria as a nation.” And this seems to be paying off already, judging by the number and caliber of the individuals and organisations that have already lined up behind the project.
Jim O’Neil, who coined the acronym ‘BRICS,’ for emerging markets economies, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, has projected that Nigeria may be one of the 13 biggest world economies by 2050.
Obiozor and his group hope Nigeria’s economy would rank in the top five by 2114, when Nigeria would be celebrating its second centenary. It’s good that a private initiative like the NOHP is planning big for Nigeria’s future. If you aim for the skies, you might hit the treetop.
The spirit of Nigeria’s centenary, swirling in the air, should galvanize and give hope to the people of Nigeria. It should put cynical Nigerians back to work again. One good way to get Nigerians mobilized is to tie the national branding cause to things that appeal to and define the uniqueness of the peoples that make up the Nigerian nation state.
This is not talking about ‘stomach infrastructure,’ but creating enabling environments for every Nigerian to use as leverage for individual economic prosperity and cultural or nationalistic pride. After all, the home front is important. If this project is handled in a non partisan way, it could mobilize the entire country for peace, prosperity and the good life.
A compendium of Nigeria’s heritage that will include music, dance, costumes, food and natural sites will be put in hardcopy of 100 limited copies as part of the next plant of the project.
It was also revealed that there will be a road show that will take Nigeria’s ancient and contemporary arts abroad for appreciation by the international community as well as a video documentary series, ‘Fascinating Nigeria’ that will visually convey, in motion, Nigeria’s rich heritage and scenic sites to the international audience.

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