Of neophyte and tin god of Nigeria tourism
ABUJA, Nigeria (eTN) - By now, one would have thought that this period should be ushering in a new beginning for the tourism industry, having enjoyed favorable mention in the parlance of power in two successive regimes.
It is supposed to open a new chapter in the fortunes of an industry that could possibly change the image and help generate thousands of jobs.
Time past, many had argued that the Nigerian government had no political will to develop the sector as echoed by Nigerian Tourism, Culture and National Orientation the Minister Prince Kayode Adetokunbo, that the bane of the sector was the of lack of attention to issues by people in authority, under funding, poor infrastructure and a rise in the level of corruption and crime in Nigeria. Also, that at this time, all the aforementioned have been provided for and that the sky will be the limit.
With the promises in the mind of many, good tiding has been expected in the area of proper articulations of tourism issues, events execution and harmonization of priorities.
Confident that the country’s tourism potential in creating jobs, earning significant foreign exchange and inducing the development of some of Nigeria’s major attractions, as well as faith in the federal government in its wisdom of continuous experimentation, the present minister and the director general of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation [NTDC], Otunba Segun Runsewe, found themselves in the driving seat of the Nigerian government drives to create opportunities for millions on Nigerians.
At different forum, both had argued their cases that the country needs and requires a new approach that would be different from the shenanigans of the past ministers and director generals of both the ministry and the NTDC that would raised the operational discipline of the tourism sector at the federal, state and local levels across the country.
With such vows, one expects the two tourism czars to lead by example. Regrettably, that is not what is playing out at the moment. The two men in their condescending understanding of their roles and functions, both had deployed the media in ethical and unethical ways in their use of the media in sounding and disseminating or propagating neophyte ideas of what tourism and how it should be run in Nigeria.
To convince the nascent Nigerian tourism sector of who is the “tin god” among them, the director general of the NTDC has appeared on television and pages of newspapers selling his ideas of what tourism should be, while the minister on his part too had also cornered some government agencies in some wild geese
programs as well as meeting with some tourism stakeholders who speak from both sides of their mouths.
Already on ground is a controversial “Tourism Master Plan,” as its implementation is still generating hot debate among some dissatisfied public and private sectors respectively.
The tasks of the ministry and the NTDC of ensuring that Nigeria is promoted and marketed as a positive destination globally is being sacrificed because of the unending feud between the minister and the NTDC boss, a situation that kept practitioners asking if they are working for themselves or for the tourism industry in the country.
Because of the unending fight, Nigeria has missed several opportunities that it would have used in making cases for why tourism investments and tourists should visit Nigeria at both local and international arenas.
The fourth edition of Abuja Carnival, held between November 20-23, would have been a huge success if the organizers, the ministry and NTDC have worked alongside other relevant organizations at seeing that no stone was left unturned at achieving the desired success for Nigeria tourism.
Unfortunately, this didn’t happen which begs the question: Do we still leave same people who fight for their personal and dumping the interest of the nation in charge of our tourism? The answer should be no.
The director-general of Abuja Carnival 2008, Professor Ahmed Yerima, had told this reporter that money was not released for marketing, publicity and other essential tasks that are very crucial to the success of any tourism event like the Abuja Carnival.
The other issue is the mystery behind the unaccounted almost N400 million naira (approximately US$34,000) budgeted for the carnival in the 2008 budget. This is just one of the many questions begging for answer.
This year alone, Nigeria participated in three of the world's most important travel and tourism fairs, no single brochures or promotional materials on Abuja Carnival was on display. From FITUR International Exhibition in Madrid, Spain (held every January and February), to ITB-Berlin International Travel Exchange in Germany (held every March) to the World Travel Market (held every November in London), nothing on the carnival was also on display.
The minister made a brief appearance as most of them had always done except Ambassador Frank Ogbuewu when he was the minister at the just concluded WTM for a tourism minister's summit, but never set foot in the actual Nigerian stand, which was located just a few minutes away from the ministers’ summit. Hence, showing the level of dissonance between the NTDC boss and the minister.
While the battle is still ranging, Nigeria’s tourism sector remains largely undeveloped and rated far lower than any emerging destination in West Africa; behind Ghana, Benin, Gambia, Cameroon, among others. Though, one must still acknowledge the feeble achievements of the NTDC, the pace at which things are moving remain unacceptable.
As for the minister, a total commitment is expected of him and from all his tourism agencies. Otherwise, why is he still in office?