The sun rises in the east and sets in the west, its sprawling horizon is dotted with hills that sit magnificently accentuated by lush greenery indicating unusual potential for fruitfulness. What and where are we talking about? It is the Sunshine state, Ondo, a land flowing with an abundance of the biblical ‘milk and honey’ blessed with both human and natural capital waiting to be harnessed for the benefit of its people primarily and for the Nigerian nation.
Large deposits of crude oil, gas and the gargantuan bitumen deposit are amongst the many treasures in the belly of its land. Its hard working and nearly tireless people are plugged into agriculture with State being the leading producer of Cocoa, Rubber, Timber and a host of agricultural products. Its tourism potential has yet to be initiated with Idanre Hills being the only known highlight.
Ondo State was created in February 1976 out of the former Western State and it originally included what is now Ekiti State, which was carved out in 1996. Located in south-west geopolitical zone of Nigeria, Akure is the Capital City of the State. Akure is renowned for its warmth and hospitality and is very cosmopolitan with people from all over the country living harmoniously. Akure boasts of a newly revitalized airport with daily flights coming in from Lagos and new routes to be added in the very near future. Its hotels are of great standard and only cost a fraction of what Hotels cost in Lagos.
The geographical location of Ondo State positions it as a pivotal gateway to the rest of Nigeria as she sits astride the Akoko – Lokoja – Abuja Road and the Benin – Ore Expressway both of which are vital to the economy of the rest of Nigeria. This heavy pass – through of human and vehicular traffic is served by many rest points, hotels and resorts creating some economic activity for the local populace.
Yet again there is a lot more that can be done around this opportunity and the current government has indicated its willingness to work with investors to harness these endless streams of potentials. The administration of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu has commissioned the construction of a 50km road project from Araromi area in Ilaje Local Government, Ondo State to Akodo in Ibeju-Lekki Local Government in Lagos State that would open up the villages and settlements along that corridor and connect Ondo State directly to the huge development spinning off from Lekki Free Trade Zone.
Ondo State is richly blessed with varied and favorable ecological and climatic conditions with vegetation ranging from mangrove swamps in its southern coastal riverine areas through the rainforest of the midlands to derived savannah in the northern part of the state suitable for cattle grazing.The State has a land mass of about 14,788.723 Square Kilometers (km2) and it geographically lies entirely in the tropical belt.
The tropical climate of the state is broadly of two seasons which are the rainy season between April and October and dry season between November and March. A temperature throughout the year ranges between 21 °C to 29 °C and humidity is relatively high. The annual rainfall varies from 2,000mm in the southern areas to 1,150mm in the northern areas. The state enjoys luxuriant vegetation with high forest zone (rain forest) in the south and sub-savannah forest in the northern fringe.
Idanre Hills listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, is one of the most picturesque natural landscapes in Nigeria. Located in Idanre Town, about 24 Kilometers southwest of Akure, the topography of the place is a great gift from nature to mankind! Views from the top of the hill are simply spectacular! Igbokoda Water Front, Iponle-Iloro Waterfalls, Oko Marie Hills at Oka-Akoko, Ebomi Lake at Epinmi-Akoko are other interesting places to visit in the state.
By and large, Ondo State and its people present a relatively peaceful environment and an enabling ambience for development when compared to other Niger-Delta states. The state has made a total departure from its violent political past and has gone through smooth transitionof power from one party to another without rancor or breakdown of law and order showing how civil and enlightened the people of the state are. This reputation for peace and political stability further buttresses the attraction of the state to investors and settlers alike.
Hence it is safe to assert that Ondo State is quite easily the most viable investment destination for agriculture especially for the establishment of agro allied industries. These industries will enjoy direct access to raw materials produced and semi processed locally as well as have a vantage location for interstate distribution of their finished products.Aside from the all rear round cultivation of arable and fruit crops such as cassava, rice, maize, sugar cane, cashew, maize, mango, tomatoes, cocoa, oil-palm produce and rubber; the State is the largest producer of Cocoa in Nigeria, responsible for about 40 percent of the country’s production.
Uniquely in my view, Ondo State has the longest untapped coast line in Nigeria about 180km, bigger and larger than that of Lagos that can birth substantial revenue for both the State and the nation as a whole. Along this coast line lies a natural location for a deep-sea port which sooner than later will be built for the benefit of all. This will help connect the oil fields offshore Ondo to refineries as they crop up nationwide and with a Sea port strategically located, it may eventually take some traffic of the terminals operated by the IOCs in the South – South. Ondo also has one of the largest gas reserves in Nigeria. Bitumen deposit in the state is the largest in Africa and 2nd largest in the world.
As the crude oil era commences the last chapter of its dominance of the economy of Nigeria (and the world at least from the Nigerian Standpoint) Ondo State will be the next best thing to Lagos and with insightful leadership it will catch up with Lagos and may overtake it if all of its potentials as a state are well subscribed to by investors from within and without who are looking for the next viable investment hub in Nigeria.
To further position the state for investors and to ensure it plays a crucial role in the efforts of the Federal Government to diversify the economy of the nation,it intends to encourage both human and cargo traffic to come through the newly re- invigorated Akure Airport which has the potential of being a major cargo hub in West Africa.
It will be highly beneficial for foreign and private investors to look inward and see the enormous potential the Sunshine State presents.