On this beat for over two decades, one has come to appreciate the need to remain steadfast and patient to our collective national desire and aspiration to make tourism gains. In course of this quest, one had seen Nigeria take some critical steps such as giving tourism a space at economic and political discussion table during the time of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as President of Nigeria between 1999 and 2008.
Consequently and remarkably, certain vision statements on national tourism blue print projected to guide our future tourism dream came to fore and the follow-up process did challenge this feverish reality.
Sadly, we lost the initiative to that ever destructive metaphor known as the Nigerian factor as we picked the worst in our midst to destroy the tourism gains achieved from 2006 to 2013, under the watch of Runsewe at the turbo charged Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) which he aggressively coordinated and mentored to help our national tourism rebirth and growth to the surprise of competing and competitive tourism destinations in the world.
And just as President Buhari rightly noted in his New Year address, the Nigerian response to processes and fulcrums of national development surely highlights most depressing draw backs to the need to speed up our arrival to tourism uhuru land.
In this attempt to possibly give us a picture into how tourism activities in Nigeria may play out in 2018, one is challenged to keep hope in view yet determined to say it as it is, not for the sake of encouraging the growth of pessimistic tourism community in Nigeria but to help the presidency and the national assembly to quickly address the noticeable failed national tourism frame works in order to quicken the processes of the accelerated tourism development across Nigeria.
Indeed, it is important to put a critical knife to the globally accepted reality that tourism is a private sector driven business to which the infamous Nigerian factor has into built into a factory of deceit and lies which gave birth to a systematic and carefully packaged conduct pipe to fret away government tourism funding. In other words, the structures or processes that drive tourism development were converted and manipulated by our national economic planners to private pocket money and the crumbs there from, channeled to sustain deceptive swan song that tourism is private sector driven.
The truth elsewhere captures deliberate state managed support and encouragement in infrastructural windfall, easy access to fund, assurances on adequate security, open border initiatives and an appreciation of tourism education and awareness to flower a deliberate buy-in by the citizens to help power gains on job creation and development of local economics through culture and tradition.
The templates of national tourism development all over the world therefore revolves around a strong partnership and collaboration across all frontier of economic players as all concerned that’s- the government, citizenry and investors dutifully playing their parts.
In looking at 2018, one is convinced that time has come for Nigeria to take a second look at some of institutional drivers and enablers of tourism to either reorganize or merge them. The prodigal and wasteful national tourism institutions or processes that need urgent and critical attention to either remove the leadership or merge their activities include but not limited to Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), National Museum and Monument (NMM), Centre for Black and African Civilization (CEBAAC) Gallery of Arts, National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO).
Revisit Orosanyo Report, Scrap the overloads
The Buhari game changing initiative for tourism in 2018 must begin with a well founded Ministry of Tourism and not the current confusing merger initiative that has brought more troubles than solution to the sector. The President should also consult more to pick the minister of tourism to avoid the looming implosion in the industry due to tourism workers restiveness encouraged by the poor leadership which has become the face of the industry in recent times. The activities and poor management relationship between the current Permanent Secretary and workers will embarrass this government in 2018 if the changes are not quickly effected. CEBAAC, NICO and Gallery of Arts should be scrapped and the wastages be recouped to enhance the poor budget allocation to the sector.
National Council for Arts and Culture
This once moribund national enabler of cultural tourism is back on strong since Otunba Runsewe took over the place. For the greater part of last year, it has been good news, work, work and work to reinvent and reposition Nigeria’s cultural products and also rebrand Nigeria tourism. A waiting and expectant nation has seen President Buhari’s heartfelt desire to use culture to create jobs and gave the people a sense of national unity through the diversity of our culture fully interpreted and presented to the populace for a buy-in.
The period under review also showcased a strong NCAC with clear understanding of its mandate not only to organize the private sector culture entrepreneurs into formidable providers of jobs but to also assist them to access fund to expand their businesses. It was an enduring intervention to which no government tourism institution has ever achieved and to which clearly set NCAC on the part for more glorious interventions for tourism 2018.
It is very clear that NCAC under Runsewe is set to break new frontiers and market President Buhari policies to the teeming lovers of Nigerian cultural offerings. A strong and better African Arts and Culture festival (AFAC) will bring Nigeria more global gains on tourism visits and investments. The National Festival of Arts and Culture will birth in Rivers State in 2018 and Governor Nyesome Wike will possible leverage on it to put the state on local and international tourism map.
There is a propose farm trip for Nigerian Commissioners of Culture and Tourism to South- Africa, China or Indonesia, a learning curve that will sustain government vision statements and expectations for the future. That is not all, a recent retreat for NCAC top directors to help shape them up to competition, stands the nation on a stronghold, just as a critical reappraisal of media, publicity and promotion content in the culture and Arts sector forms part of the Runsewe’s NCAC agenda for 2018.
A critical government tourism institution enslaved by poor leadership since 2013 may still have nothing to offer tourism in 2018. As far NTDC is concerned, except there a change to the leadership and management, which sadly stunted the growth of the sector and affected private sector contribution and investment, Nigeria will continue laughing stock in Africa.