About four or five years ago, a good friend of mine and top-line tourism administrator, Dr. Mubo Andrew Eniola, had ringed me up to investigate the brains behind Institute of Tourism Professionals (ITP). Dr. Eniola provided me their Osborne Road address and the contact in the person of Abiodun Odusanwo.
ITP, the address and the founder in Abiodun Odusanwo were strange to me and I told the amiable tourism expert, Dr. Eniola, to be wary, in fact. Dr. Eniola confided in me that he took the wisdom of clearing the true face of ITP from me because he believed that nothing happens in the sector without my knowledge and to add to the burden of reporting the sector, that I must expose such efforts in case it is not for the general good of sector. ITP then had written Dr. Eniola as one of the industry professionals deserving its award.
To those who know Dr. Eniola very intimately, he is a committed tourism advocate and even though he worked and retired in government tourism establishment, Dr. Eniola is a known mouthpiece of private sector advancement and growth in tourism which often pit him against pretentious and misleading official chest beating on Nigerian tourism.
Dr. Eniola, who recently retired as Permanent Secretary Ministry of Tourism in Kogi, and credited to reviving and breathing life to Kogi tourism, insisted weeks and days that ITP must be seen to belong to what it claims to inspire and advocate. Possibly, he knew back then that I may not be interested in ITP with hindsight to the vexatious growing invasion of the sector by portfolio operators and syndicate swindlers.
Anyway, I got across to Odusanwo and requested for an interview, which was never to be, not because he was not willing but our mutual dates for such an engagement never materialized. I had dutifully told Dr. Eniola of my engagement with ITP’s flag-bearer but advised on the side of caution to wait until the cobwebs of the organization and the owners are cleared and sorted out.
The ITP president soon left Lagos and relocated to Abuja, putting my interest on his operations on hold but again he tried over the years to reach out to me and we spoke often concerning the future of the sector and, to me, the perception is that ITP has come to join the struggle to give tourism some help.
The “help” to tourism and Odusanwo’s aggressive involvement in tourism politics and the affairs of Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN) brought to the open suspicions on the true intent of ITP and its founder. Indeed, the flagging of awards and free will induction of all manner of practitioners as ITP fellows or associates further deepened the negative perception of the organisation in the minds of discerning tourism operators in Nigeria, the tourism media not left out.
Significantly, the uncanny timing of National Institute of Tourism Studies (NIHOTOURS) public hearing at the National Assembly and the election of new executives for FTAN found Odusanwo and his ITP baby on the wrong footing. Indeed, the strong opposition by the private sector trade associations to the NIHOTOUR bill was blamed rightly or wrongly on Odusanwo who struggled during one of the FTAN meetings to clear his name on the alleged betrayal of NIHOTOUR.
Last week Odusanwo was in Lagos to meet the organised tourism media and for the first time since coming back to Nigeria after 34 years in Britain and as the first black principal of a tourism college in the UK, explained why ITP must be embraced and not misunderstood.
According to Odusanwo, the ITP dream is to help professionalise the sector and not run a school of tourism and, therefore, is mandated to carry out a quality assure certification of practitioners and accredit courses in approved training centres across Nigeria.
He noted that ITP has the right to approve training institutions to deliver trainings approved by it and in the same breathe, monitor the continuous professional development of the industry practitioners from levels 1 to 6 and catchment levels under the National Board for Technical Education.
On ITP bill before the National Assembly, Odusanwo could not hide his disappointment with perceived interference from industry trade groups and, in particular, FTAN for putting the cart before the horse. He sees the whole scenario as “bad belle” even though admitting that other groups have a right to protect and legalise their operations.
At the end of the three-hour encounter, Odusanwo might have succeeded in winning some sympathy to the ITP project, how he, however, sustains the tempo to clear the hard-line doubts on ITP remains to be seen in an industry where there is so much talk and little action in pursuing tourism goals to fruition.