There is sufficient information in the public space on various controversial positions and platforms that tend to dress tourism in a garb not too pleasant and supportive to morals and best human expectations. For instance, there has been global outcry against some negative aspects of Eurocentric tourism traffic and also the highly debatable global village vision promoted by very crafty businessmen and powerful nations out to exploit the very simplistic third world economies, which beg for anything in white skin.
Indeed, the global ethics on tourism, which the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has struggled over the years to promote, remains the most controversial tourism letter of intent on a new tourism world order as member states, particularly the big tourism spending and high networth visitation ranking associates always find a way to undercut and appropriate huge tourism gains to themselves, to the detriment of upcoming, yet more competitive, tourism destination partners.
The ethics on tourism, such as unhindered access to free border travel, less rigorous passport control measures, penalties/advocacy against child sex and prostitution, pollution of the environment, cross-border crime in indigenous art and crafts, tourism workers’ welfare, best hospitality expectations and grading/classification, general information, branding and reportage of the sector and such like are steeped in huge unexplainable controversy.
Back home, our tourism has failed and disappointed on various fronts since 2013. Though, as a journalist, I must confess, largely guided by the ethics on tourism journalism, that Nigerian tourism was born controversial with our attempt on institutional frameworks padded in confusion from Independence till date.
However, our tourism evolution over the years, particularly under military regimes, brought some ray of hope, yet the human factor and capacity to manage our very unique endowment proved and remained a major challenge to our dream to ply our tourism trade in the octopus global tourism market.
I boast today, not as men of little minds do but to the glory of God, that I am privileged to know some of the few great tourism minds in Nigeria, who shared their dreams on how to make tourism the epicentre of our economic future.
That we lost a parent and standalone ministry of tourism was the making of self-centred latter-day apostles of tourism in our midst. They looted our gains, embellished Bermuda tourism projects across Nigeria, stole the nation blind and embarrassed our nation in Brazil, Germany and London, which reduced our notable participation at global tourism markets of the past to kwashiorkor appearance.
Our tourism institutions have become prison yards, where collective tourism dreams are locked up. These places are in darkness with no new tourism initiatives, banana republics, with director-generals as “presidents” who report to themselves and can’t be questioned to account for their poor management of our tourism assets.
To these demigods, our tourism budgets are meant for their pockets, families and cronies. Their inexperience and bloated ego have ruined our tourism institutions, making such places inconsequential to our socio-economic and political aspirations.
Nigerian tourism is now a place of noisy controversy locally and outside our shores. The nation now exports tourism controversy and our good friends want us to keep quiet and applaud shame and disgrace at our doorstep.
To those who know me closely and have associated with my desire for a new, enduring and sustainable tourism dawn for a dear country, I would rather tell the truth than fan the embers of mediocrity with embellished half-truth, propaganda and deliberate deceit for any gain.
Let me share some secrets today on one of such temptations to which I have a senior journalist as a veritable witness. When the immediate past administrator of the NTDC came on board, I had advised and counselled her to beware of eating the apple of corruption with then officials of ministry of tourism.
Regrettably, she misconstrued my intentions and, goaded then by the former minister and some elements in the tourism media, she went “bananas” and declared me an enemy of her progress. For over a year and half, NTDC became so oppressive under her watch and the management incapable of meeting Nigeria’s tourism expectations.
I was sad, very sad, at the turn of events, particularly compared to the huge gains the tourism media and Nigerian tourism attained during the administration of NTDC under Olusegun Runsewe, who is now at the National Council of Arts and Culture (NCAC), replicating the same media agenda that brought fame and glory to tourism.
Patience is a virtue and, before the end of 2014, cracks within the controversial community against tourism became noticeable as the then DG of NTDC came asking for help. I had told my friend and senior colleague, whom she sought help to reach me, that I would only offer assistance if she would put a stop to the fouling of the tourism environment, not limited to sorting out differences with her predecessors.
We met at Planet One Hotel in Maryland, Lagos, with a junior colleague to bear witness to the truth to power and my avowed determination not to betray the national tourism dream. The fallout of the meeting, where she admitted failings vindicated my prophetic and timely counsel to her to avoid the demons of corruption.
Through she was booted out of office months later and sadly became a jest in Nigeria’s tourism community till date, the same controversial failings are being replicated today at NTDC. Let those who egg on the mistakes of our tourism find time to flip through the pages of history and discover damning facts that nothing lasts forever and the truth to friends, foes and power remains the path to peace and justice on earth and in heaven. Nigerian tourism must not die in controversy.