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‘Why We Must Harness Edo Tourism Potential’

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor
14 February 2016   |   1:00 am
NO doubt, Edo State is very rich in culture and tradition. And these are materials that stimulate rapid growth in tourism. But the present administration seems to be engrossed with building infrastructures needed to put the state on the pedestal of development, thereby paying little or no attention to promoting rich cultural and artistic goldmine…
Edo culture on parade

Edo culture on parade

NO doubt, Edo State is very rich in culture and tradition. And these are materials that stimulate rapid growth in tourism. But the present administration seems to be engrossed with building infrastructures needed to put the state on the pedestal of development, thereby paying little or no attention to promoting rich cultural and artistic goldmine of the state.

The good news is that some of the aspirants wanting to take over from Governor Adams Oshiohmole have identified tourism as key area to turnaround the fortunes of the state economically. Specifically, Kenneth Imansuangbon believes strongly in using the rich cultural heritage of the state to drive the tourism and entertainment sector.

“We must take advantage of our very rich culture. Edo State is very rich in culture and tourism. With due respect to the successive government, they’ve not really tapped into it. Look at the Ughoton sea-port for example. We will open the Ughoton sea port up, we will partner with the corporate world, and with my links with the international world, I will attract investors to open up the sea port and make it the next tourist destination centre. Tourism is one big business that we have neglected in Edo state and even in Nigeria. We will invest in tourism sector. But to open up the tourism potentials of Edo State, we will need security in Edo state, to get security, we will create jobs, to create jobs you need a man from the private sector. So I’m the best candidate for Edo 2016 because I’m the man from the private sector.”

Imansuangbon cherished the place of Oba of Benin as the unifying factor that can be explored to mobilise the traditional stool for social harmony and engagement in governance. He said, “we are very traditional people in Edo State. We pick our source from one source, the Oba of Benin. Wherever any man from Edo is, the Oba of Benin own us. So nothing can divide us nothing can separate us. When I become Governor this year, traditional rulers will be given emphasis. My administration will respect them, give them the honour they deserve and cater for them. We’ll treat them with respect and with honour.”

For years, Kenneth Imansuangbon has distinguished himself as a man of many parts: a lawyer, politician, businessman, philanthropist and the chairman of Abuja-based Pace Setters Group of Schools. Born on May 4, 1966, into a humble background in Edo State, he rose to fame by dint of diligence, transparency and open-mindedness. The thing that impresses you about Imansuangbon is his simple nature.

Last Christmas and New Year celebrations, he was in all the three senatorial zones of Edo State, distributing bags of rice. He equally visited orphanages in the state with gift items. His last port of call was the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH), where he celebrated with the patients. He also picked the bill of surgery operation for a kidney patient.

According to him, “what defines me is not what I have. The way I give love to those my eyes can see, those my hand can touch and those my legs can walk to, are what make me what I am. When those people are happy, I am happy. Conversely, each time I am able to help people, I feel very happy. When I give jobs to people at Pace Setters Schools, I get satisfied. When I share rice on the streets of Benin every Christmas, I am very happy. When I do essay competition, each time I give out 500 computers to university students, I am very happy. When I do the Ken Imansuangbon Essay Competition and students win and are happy, I am very happy. Each time trophies are being given to elated winners of Ken Imansuangbon Secondary Schools Soccer Competition in Abuja, I feel very happy.”

Born in Ewohimi, Edo State, he grew up in Ijebu-Ode, where his father worked as a rubber plantation manager. “He managed a group of people at a rubber plantation. And then, we were living a communal life,” he says. “I had my primary school there and proceeded to Ago-Iwoye Secondary School, where I had my secondary education.”

Though, he passed out in flying colours in 1981, owing to poverty, the young Imansuangbon had to take to menial job as a technical assistant with the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) Abuja.

He says, “I went to Abuja, where I worked for four-five years. I was a technical assistant in training. Of course, I was there, because I didn’t have money to go to the university. I had to work for four years to save money to go to the university.”

He worked with some great expatriates, who spotted his exceptional brilliance and talent and advised him strongly to return to school. Ken did not dismiss that idea with a wave of the hand. While at FCDA, he gained admission to study law at the University of Ife (Obafemi Awolowo University) Ile-Ife.

Ken is not happy with the way African values have been lost. “I remember that when we were young, we were free people. We were not in bonds. We didn’t live in fear. You could leave your village for the next village, play soccer, and play matches. Everybody was one another’s keeper. You could enter the next house and eat without fear of harm. But today, it’s not so. Those noble values of yesterday are lost.”

You wonder how he went to study law, from being a technical hand. Why not engineering or something else?

“I felt law was a tool for social change, a social engineering instrument. I wanted to practice law, to fight for humanity, defend the poor and to use law to bring about change. That was what I wanted to do until I visited the US about 20 years ago and saw the huge development that had taken place there,” he says.

Ken asked the first white man he spoke with why Africa was not as developed? And the answer he got was that developed people are highly read, people that take their education serious.

“So, I made up my mind that I was going to open schools. I sat with my wife and told her, there’s a need for us to make a change and the way to start the change is to educate the minds of the Nigerian people. That was what gave birth to Pace Setters Group of Schools. I am proud to say that with the great support of my wife, Kate, we have been able to make that change in education sector in Abuja, and even in Nigeria at large,” he confesses.

Coming from a very poor home shaped his philanthropic disposition. “All that I have benefited was from my widowed mother and neighbours. Those who were our neighbours never made us lack. They all supported. So, I made up my mind that if God blesses me, I would give back to God and to humanity.”