It is exactly two years ago today that the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) wrote to inform the Nigerian government that one of Nigeria’s illustrious son and Nigeria’s foremost tourism administrator, the late Ignatius Amaduwa Atigbi was to be honored in December 2006.
The post-humus recognition was to come 35 years after then, but now 37 years that the late Nigerian tourism czar, Atigbi proposed the creation of the World Tourism Day at the 22nd General Assembly of the International Union of Official Travel Organizations (IUOTO) in 1971 in Ankara, Turkey, the precursor of the World Tourism Organization (WTO) and now United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a United Nations specialized agency in the field of travel and tourism, the body has failed to make good its word.
The cheery news was contained in a letter-dated Madrid, 29 of September
2006 sent to Femi Fani-Kayode, then Nigeria tourism and culture minister, by the UNWTO and signed by its secretary general, Francisco Frangialli, with reference SG/140/2006.
The letter states in parts “I would like to commemorate the late Ignatius Amaduwa Atigbi, former director general of the Nigeria Tourists Association (NTA), now Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) and then also the chairman of the African Travel commission,” for proposing the most celebrated tourism event globally.
Since Atigbi’s proposal, September 27 of every year has been internationally recognized as World Tourism Day; to celebrate the industry that has become a key resource for sustainable economic and social development in the world today.
Frangialli, in his letter said, “we are planning to honor him at the commemorative exhibition on the theme: 1946-2006, IUOTO-UNWTO Sixty Years of Institutionalization for world Tourism and Thirty Years Headquartered in Madrid, Spain. The exhibition kicks off, in Madrid on Wednesday, December 13, 2006”.
Two years after the UNWTO made the promise; it has failed to honor Atigbi. Also worrisome was the failure of the Nigerian government to accord him a place in history.
Whereas, prior to this years celebration, precisely on Saturday, 27th of September 2008, the minister of tourism, culture and national orientation, the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), a parastatal under the ministry dusted their abandoned fight in the media to the disbelief of all. What they are fighting for, only the president can unravel.
Meanwhile, the finding and the letter came as a result of this writer then with a Nigeria based media, BusinessDay Newspaper who traveled to Madrid where his investigations brought out Atigbi’s contributions to the notice of the UNWTO.
The man Atigbi Ignatius Amaduwa Atigbi was born on May 24, 1930 in Warri, Delta State, Nigeria. After his primary and post-primary education, he preceded to the Literary then the Ibadan campus of the University of London, now fully University of Ibadan, where he graduated in Applied Mathematics and English Language in 1955.
Shortly after graduation, his first formal job was teaching at Ibadan Grammar School from where he played a part in the formation of lives of distinguished Nigerians.
It was from this bus that he later moved to become the pioneer Lagos Desk Head of the French News Agency, Reuters.
While in England, he was quite a sight on Fleet Street, and once told of how the cream of English and international journalists, mostly white, would come to the bar, an after hours tradition on Fleet Street, on listening to the worldly pontifications of this black African journalist who spoke English like the best from Oxford.
He was a marvel. And he took himself seriously. He was to become the first African manager and editor at Reuters and the youngest all over the world at that time. In fact, Atigbi’s role as West African manager for Reuters enabled him to cover and report the constitutional conference in London in 1958 leading to Nigeria’s independence constitution.
His role will only be left to historians. Atigbi participated in the making of history, and in the typical form of his career, was a magnificent chronicler of events of that moment. As a young intern with Reuters in 1958, his unmistakable excellent streak manifested only weeks into his employment when he was quickly seconded to cover the then on-going constitutional talks on Nigeria in Lancaster House, London.
From here it was a quick rise with the Reuters Organization as at the end of the conference, the barely 29-year-old Atigbi had his responsibilities expanded to over all of West Africa.
Success in journalism for the young Atigbi was not with his Parisian bosses, he was also esteemed among his Nigerian colleagues. At the formation of the Nigeria pioneer press organization, the precursor of today’s Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in 1960. He was unanimously elected secretary general of that body.
One final example of his resourcefulness and excellence came in a 1964 letter from the then president of Nigeria, the late Nnamdi Azikwe, to the Nigerian High Commission in Sierra Leone where he was then serving as head of the chancery.
In an apparent reference to Atigbi’s brilliant effort at inviting major players (government and opposition alike) to regular informal lunch sessions, as part of a strategy to foster good neighborliness and international concord between both nations and people, the Great Zik of Africa had written a public commendation, praying that Nigeria would have more of the likes of “our own Atigbi.”