I have read about the ‘seven wonders of the ancient world’. One of them, the Great Pyramid of Giza, at 146.5 metres (481 feet), was the tallest human-made structure in the world for over 3,800 years. Most accepted construction hypotheses are based on the idea that it was built by moving huge stones from a quarry and dragging and lifting them into place.
Another, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, is described by Philo of Byzantium, “the paradoxographer,” as having its plants cultivated in the air, with the roots of the trees above the (normal) tilled earth, forming a roof. The five other ‘wonders’, Lighthouse of Alexandria, Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, Mausoleum at Halicarnassus and Colossus of Rhodes are no less amazing.
I have also been to Akure where, in place of the Great Pyramid of Giza, you have the dome. I have been to Ondo town where in place of the Hanging Gardens, you have the Medical Tourist Village that is second to none in the West African sub-region. I have traversed the length and breadth of Ondo State where all I see around are mega schools just like the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus. Oda Cocoa Plantation stands like the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.
A fountain inside a roundabout on a well-constructed road in the state capital shoots water into the sky like the Lighthouse of Alexandria. The water comes down with a thousand bubbles. The well-lit road, complete with the state-of-the-art bus stop sheds, is a symbol of the latest urban renewal and reminiscent of virtually all major roads in the state.
Another symbol of urban renewal – the neighborhood market – adorns the environment in many major towns like the Statue of Zeus at Olympia. The Auto International Market on Akure-Owo Road reminds one of the Colossus of Rhodes. You cannot mistake the seven wonders of Ondo State.
The International Cultural and Event Centre, christened ‘The Dome’, and sited on a large expanse of about 34,000 hectares of land in Akure, is a product of great thinking. The initiative is as a result of the drive to reposition the state for core investments and tourism attraction. It has been described as a three-in- one dome with a 6,000 capacity hall, a gallery for art, and a discothèque.
A complementary facility in The Dome is a five-star hotel. It is the first of its type in the country. Nearby is Africa Village also coming on stream where culture iconoclasts can procure artefact.
The Dome, on completion soon, according to Governor Olusegun Mimiko, will put Ondo State among the states in the country that can hold any international conference without hassles about the venue.
The Medical Tourist Village, sited in Ondo town, cannot be a project of coincidence. It is a deliberate effort to provide the best medical facilities to a people that had been deprived of healthcare for a long time prior to the coming of Mimiko. And the governor himself, being a medical doctor, cannot be unaware of the health needs of his people.
The tourist angle to the project is the capacity to attract people from far and near simply because it parades the very best in health facilities. The Medical Village is made up of a 100-bed Mother and Child Hospital and a Diagnostic Centre named after the late activist-lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi.
A high profile politician, who is not known to be frivolous, described the project as a miracle after a visit to the state recently. His words: “When I got to what they have called the Medical Village, which is, in fact, a sprawling new self-contained town and massive community in itself and which is a star attraction for all those that are interested in medical tourism, I was very impressed. I went into the wards of some of the hospitals, saw the patients, saw the ‘’mother and child centre’’, saw the equipment, saw the tiny premature-born babies (some only 6 inches long) safely closeted in the most expensive life-saving incubators, saw the burns centres with all their sophisticated equipment and machinery, saw the surgery rooms and all the facilities, saw the beautiful homes of the doctors and surgeons and most important of all, I saw and felt the clean and fresh ambiance of the whole village and community.”
He went further to say: “I also saw the looks of pride and joy on the faces of the hundreds of patients and workers there who clearly appreciated the fact that they were getting and providing the very best of health care there, with a full supply of all the necessary drugs, medication and everything else that they needed – all completely free of charge. So good was the deal that I saw people that came from a number of other states just to benefit from and take advantage of these excellent facilities and services that the Ondo State government is providing. I have never seen the poorest people getting the best quality of free healthcare in this way anywhere else in the Third World. I have never been to a state hospital that is so fresh and clean and in which you cannot smell that frightful and depressing clinical aroma that is associated with most hospitals until I got to Ondo State”.
The diagnostic segment of the Medical Village seemed well thought out given that proper treatment of any ailment can hardly take place without adequate diagnosis. On the mega schools, the Mimiko administration has made a statement that everybody irrespective of social or economic status has a right to quality education. It is not only the monstrous structures that are mind-boggling; the standard of teaching is also high; there is quality control while the service is literally free.
It is not for nothing that even the well-to-do in the society are said to be withdrawing their children from the so-called high profile private schools and putting them in public schools. With about 44 of the schools already built across the state and more in the pipeline, every community is soon to have one.
Oda Cocoa Plantation symbolises the silent revolution that is on-going in Ondo State. This should surprise no one going by the background of the state as a top cocoa producing one. The revolution is premised on the bid by the administration to retain Ondo State in the number one spot in cocoa production in the country. Farmers get high-yielding cocoa seedlings from the plantation to increase their produce. On top of this is the value-addition initiative that will put cocoa farmers in the state in the position to process their produce into chocolate and cocoa butter. The state government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a United States consortium, SPAGnVOLA Chocolatie LLC, on the establishment of Cocoa Academy where farmers will be trained on the value added initiative.
The partnership is aimed at enhancing the wealth of farmers by transforming them from mere producers of cocoa beans to manufacturers of end-product. The Mimiko administration is equally boosting cassava production across Ondo State and has put in place the machinery for high scale production of rice in Ogbese area of the state in order to put food on the table of the people while also empowering farmers. Roads have from day one been an integral part of the urban renewal programme of the Mimiko administration. While old roads are being reconstructed to make the communities accessible, new ones are constructed to open new areas to promote commerce and agriculture. The testimony of a former administrator of the state who missed his way during a visit several years after his tenure to Akure lends credence to the gargantuan network of roads that stand to the credit of Governor Mimiko.
One feature of the roads that is difficult to miss is that they are well asphalted, fitted with durable street lights, walkways, roundabouts and fountain where necessary, state-of-the-art bus stop sheds, etc. And road construction in the state comes with the milk of human kindness. Work does not commence on any road until everybody whose structure will be affected by way of demolition has been adequately compensated and relocated, as it happened in the case of Arakale Road reconstruction/dualisation and Hospital Road in Akure. Perhaps Ondo is the only state where the innovation is in place.
Commerce takes its pride of place under the Mimiko administration. All categories of the people involved in commerce are taken care of. Courtesy of the neighborhood markets in Akure, Ondo, Ikare, Okitipupa, Owo and other major towns of the state, traders have been moved away from the roadside and scotching sun to ply their trades in an atmosphere conducive to trading. The markets have variously been described as comparing with those found in the advanced world.
The human face of the project is that the markets are affordable as traders pay only a token for the maintenance. The traders in the markets also serve the urban renewal purpose of Governor Mimiko, as the roadsides where they formerly sold their wares are now clean while vehicles ply the roads without hindrances. The same result of urban renewal has been achieved with the movement of vehicle sellers from Akure roadsides to the ultra- modern Auto International Market on Akure-Owo Road. With well paved lawns for vehicles display, adequate lighting systems, offices for car sellers, car wash, this project has no rival not even in Lagos State where most vehicles in the country are sold. Rather than go to Lagos, people from Ondo and neighbouring states now have a place where vehicles are ‘localised’ to make their procurement.
Yes, we can today talk about the ‘seven wonders of the world’ because of the monumental structures they are. But we can also talk about the seven wonders of Ondo State which is a statement by the Mimiko administration that government can work in the overall interest of the people in a society where poor governance has been the rule rather than the exception.