The outgoing Governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode has taken giant strides in Arts, Tourism and Entertainment, here are some of his key achivements:
· During the electioneering in 2014/2015, the then Governorship candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode promised to make Tourism one of the key sectors his administration would focus on and when he eventually took over the mantle of leadership as the 14th Governor of the Centre of Excellence, Mr Ambode immediately commenced work and launched PROJECT T.H.E.S.E, which stands for Tourism, Hospitality, Entertainment and Sports to achieve Excellence.
· After that, the first thing the Governor did was to be specific as to what he wanted government to do as an enabler, policy maker and the organ for intervention in tourism promotions.
· He then created a Ministry that is wholly dedicated to matters of Tourism, Arts and Culture. The Governor met a Ministry that was hibernating with Inter-Governmental Affairs, while Culture was with Home Affairs. So, the Governor pulled Tourism out of Inter-Governmental and Culture from Home Affairs and made it a whole Ministry with a Commissioner and Special Adviser, a deft move that was crucial in driving the vision that he had for the sector.
· He then set out basically in three key areas of intervention which are Policy & Law, Infrastructural Development and Activities Galvanizing the Creative Economy.
· In the area of Policy and Law, for the first time in the history of the State, the Lagos State Tourism Promotions Agency Bill, an Executive Bill, was passed by the Lagos State House of Assembly. The Agency is designed to put Lagos on the same pedestal as any other entity, be it a State or country, by intervening in promoting Tourism and Culture in the State. There is also a Tourism Board that is specifically saddled with promoting the sector. Already, the Bill has been signed into law by the Governor.
· Still on that, the Lagos State Tourism Master Plan has also been completed. It took more than a year to do a thorough job on the Master Plan and discussions at the Tourism Summit held in 2018 also formed part of the Master Plan. The document, in a nutshell, defines what needs to be done to grow the tourism economy, the creative economy and the key areas where investments are needed which are built on six pillars including Heritage, Arts and Entertainment, Medical And Wellness, among other areas of tourism promotion. Also, the Tourism Promotions Agency, together with the Ministry, will further play a crucial role in driving the next four years in promoting tourism.
· In the area of Infrastructural Development, it is gratifying to report that the State Government will soon unveil four out of the five Theatres that Governor Ambode promised to build across the State. The multi-purpose Theatres that can each comfortably accommodate 500 people were built across the State to spread development as part of promise to run government of inclusion. The theatres are in Oregun, Igando, Badagry and Epe, while land has been provided for the fifth one in Ikorodu.
· Still on infrastructure, the government of Governor Ambode has also transformed Glover Memorial Hall, the oldest cultural space in Lagos which in 1903 was where the first film screening in Nigeria by the Colonial Film Unit was done. The government has restored the edifice to its glory with a total refurbishment and upgrade without distorting the value and the essence of what it stood for. It will soon be commissioned.
· The government also commenced the redevelopment of JK Randle Centre for Yoruba Culture and History. The Centre, which is billed to be completed by October 2019, consists of an Exhibition Centre, a Library, a Multi-Purpose Hall, Learning Spaces, Restaurant and Lounges. The Centre will retain its swimming pool and sports facilities and also have a pavilion for stage performances. The initiative to redevelop the Centre was part of a grand plan to turn the Onikan axis into a critical tourist hub, not just in the country but in the continent.
· In addition to the J.K Randle redevelopment, the present administration is also developing the EkoPark which comprises of the Lagos Heritage Centre for Leadership at the former Presidential Lodge Marina, the Lagos Historical Center at the former State House Marina and a Lagos Museum, as well as erection of the tallest monument in Nigeria, a 55-feet Eyo Statue at the Lagos History Centre. Other developments within the Onikan–Marina axis include the upgrading of the Onikan Stadium to a standard sports arena which is also on-going, regeneration of CMS Marina and Multi-Layer Car Parks around Onikan, all geared to serve as a catalyst for the rest of the regeneration of Lagos Island, restoring it to its former glory, while reinforcing the position of Lagos State as one of the world’s most vibrant, cosmopolitan and exciting places to experience.
· In area of activities galvanizing the creative economy, the government started the initiative of releasing annually the Calendar of Arts and Culture Events published digitally and in prints so that any visitor who is planning to visit Lagos will have an idea of what is happening in time all across the city.
· The government created what has now become Africa’s biggest end of the year concert – the One Lagos Fiesta. The fiesta is an improvement on Lagos Countdown created by the administration of Governor Babatunde Fashola, which is an eloquent confirmation of the government of continuity with improvement promised by Governor Ambode. The countdown, which started in 2013, was a one day event and at one venue, the Bar Beach. Again as part of government of inclusion, Governor Ambode extended it to five locations in the State specifically in Agege, Badagry, Epe, Ikorodu and Lagos Island. The event held first across five days in 2015 and from 2016, it has been holding at the end of every year for eight days and it is free to the public with its attendant massive contribution to the local economy of areas where the concerts take place.
· The government hosted All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA) back to back in 2017 and 2018. Also, the government hosted the African Movie Academy Awards (AMA) in 2017.
· The government supported Felabration when the late Fela clocked 80 and it is on record that Governor Ambode is the first sitting Governor to go to the Afrikan Shrine. The government also assisted in finishing the Kalakuta Museum in Fela’s House.
· The administration of Governor Ambode also embarked on initiative to massively change the landscape of the State by building arts installations including statues and monuments across the State using local artistes. Such include Fela’s statue on Awolowo Road, the Big Foot at Ojodu, the Freedom Park in Ikorodu, Awolowo’s statue, MKO Abiola’s statue, Gani Fawehinmi’s statue, Tunji Braithwaite’s statue, upgrade of Tinubu Square, Fish monument, Fibre Boat, Ojuloge Monument at Iganmu that celebrates womanhood and educates the public on how to discourage violence against womanhood; the Youth Empowerment statue at Yaba which emphasizes the importance of education; the statue of King Ado, the first crowned king of Lagos at Ijora Olopa; the statue of the legendary Prince Olofin Atekoye, referred to as the first migrants from Ile- Ife, the cradle of Yorubas to settle in Lagos at Moloney Roundabout; Johnson, Jakande, Tinubu (JJT) Park in Alausa, Megapipe Monument on CMS Walkway, Ma’mi Monument at the Muri Okunola Park, Igunonoko at CMS Road Junction, the Drummer Statue at Ebute-Ipakodo, the Fisherman monument at Badagry, among many others.
· Lagos@50 celebration was also culturally driven with Lagos wholly celebrated. The story and history of Lagos was properly documented in print and documentaries during the celebration.
· As a result of the massive investment in tourism, available data revealed that as at 2017, the contribution of the entire tourism ecosystem to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Lagos is $2billion.
No doubt, the administration of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has raised the bar as far as Tourism Sector is concerned and with the clear roadmap already designed and being implemented, things can only continue to get better.