There is no denying the fact that a regular re-examination of the history of our tourism administration would do the country a lot of good, particularly in view of recent negative tendencies that has threatened to rubbish legacies of progressive administrative templates.
Indeed, a life which cannot be examined is surely not worth a kobo. All the so called feverish debates on restructuring or devolution of powers can only make sense if all our governance structures, particularly the local governments are freed from the shackles of state governments’ strong holds.
In our tourism political journey, two key subjects in the department of our tourism evolution remains germane. They are the consensus and consciousness of developmental parameters that could engender effective tourism growth, its various factored beneficial acceptations and it’s often undervalued benefit as a lubricator of peace among nations, diverse cultures and entrepreneur enablers.
Before we draw key examples of progressive thoughts from the past, it is important to refresh us with the fact that the call for a separate Ministry for Culture and Tourism began as far back as 1995 when Kogi state represented by Dr. Mubo Eniola presented to National Council on Commerce and Tourism a memo on “Domestic and International Tourism; The way forward and a separate ministry”.
That event on 26 september 1995, held in Daula hotel Kano triggered off the benefits of a standalone Tourism Ministry and to which former President Olusegun Obasanjo gave full nod to its practical implementation in 1999. This gain also brought a strong wind of change and a deliberate agenda to power all structures of governance as key enablers and influencers of tourism growth and development to which administrators such as Aiyegboyin Alabi, Olusegun Runsewe and Dr. Andrew Mubo Eniola remained till date proponents of exemplary inoculators of progressive and all inclusive tourism administration.
While Dr. Mubo Eniola, then as General-Manager of Kogi state tourism board mesmerized Nigeria with out of the box tourism development initiatives in Kogi state and effectively partnering with the federal government Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Aiyegboyin Alabi and Olusegun Runsewe at their various engagements as Director Generals of NTDC, gave accurate interpretations to the letters of authority setting NTDC and made the agency loved and respected by all stakeholders including the states and local governments in Nigeria.
Before the Supreme Court gave its judgment in 2013 in a Lagos state government championed initiative to seek a break from any federal government led agenda to foster national tourism growth process, particularly but not limited to hospitality and hotel registration regulation, Runsewe, Alabi and Eniola had shown through their patriotic and consensus engagements that Nigerian tourism can benefit from a nationalistic enduring administrative template where all structures of government could be treated as equals.
Though the Lagos 2013 “victory” brought a new thinking in our tourism evolution and would be fully treated on this page soon, the currency of thought today domain on what and how these enigmas of tourism administration brought about changes to the industry in their time.
Unknown to many people, Dr. Mubo Eniola is one of Nigeria’s gifted tourism mind who held key tourism positions in Kwara, later Kogi state where he retired as permanent secretary of the state Ministry of Culture and Tourism. During Aiyegboyin Alabi’s era at NTDC, Dr. Eniola partnered with NTDC to enthrone a creative partnership by organizing the hotel and hospitably operators as the face of tourism in Kogi. In fact, it was Eniola as GM, Kogi State tourism board that practically put to work the true meaning of NTDC regulatory framework in this critical sector by pushing through a domesticated hospitality engagement framework that was later sold to the Lagos tourism zone of NTDC which comprised then of Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Lagos, Kwara later Kogi and Osun.
There was deliberate strategy to first identify, educate and promote investors and owners of hospitality and related enterprises to thrive. Incidentally, Dr. Eniola was also chairman of the Lagos zone and brought his time tested administrative collaborative idea to push tourism to the front burner in the zone, no wonder tourism became the fulcrum of administrative outreach within these areas.
I toured the entire region for their zonal meetings with Dr. Eniola sharing his Kogi developmental exposure and NTDC zonal structures led by Late Ms Helen Igbene and Bade Aderalegbe coordinating as observers and not like the pharaoh look alike of our new tourism times at NTDC.
For history and records, Kogi state mentored the first hospitality regulation framework without rancour or protest from NTDC and to the bargain, showcased a community of hospitality investors and entrepreneurs with the best hospitality practice exposure and to the glory of Kogi then as Nigeria’s tourism investment haven. That Kogi state initiative became a practical work plan for consensus and conscious tourism evolution.
Aiyegbonyin Alabi and Segun Runsewe share an uncommon human and God fearing tendencies in humility and treated private sector operators, the state and local government administrators as veritable partners. The duo also treated the tourism press as respected partners and would deliberately court their input in all their tourism operational plans.
I would recommend that the new drivers of our tourism expectations if any should go back to history and dust up the realities and management templates of these enigmas. While Alabi’s times were mentoring and empowering, Runsewe breezing practical tourism mantra shoved aside tourism workshop and seminar sermons, of the past and replaced it with reverberating conscious tourism evangelism with visible frameworks that repositioned tourism as the economy to watch.
Though Nigeria tourism is virgin and un-spoilt, Runsewe took our message to the world, to Nigerians and our leaders, a process yet unequaled and to which we seek a sustainable restoration. So let those with tourism learners permit, seek the face of living legends in our midst as he who fails to seek, fails to find.