Monday, October 30, 2017, was a day I wanted to stay off issues that trouble our dear country and so the need to meditate in prayers, particularly on poor state of tourism and recreation administration in Nigeria, filled my mind. It was also a day that marked two years of the demise of the Emir of Borgu, Senator (Dr.) Haliru Dantoro, a legend and one of the brightest hopes for Nigeria’s unity, socio-political and economic advancement.
The revered Mai Borgu was like a father to me and, during the brief period of our relationship, he gave me hope and taught me perseverance and resilience in the face of many challenges that came my way. A game changer, resolute and humble motivator, the late Mai Borgu, while he lived, ensured I was not too far away from his thoughts and aspirations for our dear nation. He loved our diverse cultural tourism potential and invested his time and money in it.
Two years down the line, it still remains difficult for me to admit this exemplary leader of our time is no more. What the late Emir of Borgu would think of our nation today filled my mind as I made it out to honour an invitation to the celebration of World Maritime Day at Eko Hotel, organised by Nigeria’s Ministry of Transportation.
I was an hour behind schedule and regretfully missed the opening remarks of Boss Mustapha, the Managing Director of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), but I could sense on that day that something good was about to happen and change the narratives of water transportation and the future of NIWA.
In recent times, NIWA’s management has in many ways helped rekindle my interest on Nigeria’s blue and brown water economy, a process that had brought me close to friends on the maritime beat where I cut my teeth as a journalist.
The management template of NIWA by Boss Mustapha, if sustained and followed to the letter, may help restore the pride of Nigeria as a maritime power not only on the west coast but also the entire continent of Africa. Indeed, tomorrow will tell all when the bell tolls for the legacy left behind by this unassuming game changer from Adamawa State.
So, what did Boss Mustapha say at the event that may critically help Nigeria to take a second look at our quest to rebuild the totality of our railway, waterways and road infrastructure? Significantly, the search engine on the theme of the World Maritime Day celebration seeks to find the nexus between shipping, ports and the people, which reposition nations to greatness.
Two critical re-examination of Nigeria’s position within the confines of the domestication of the global theme of the event, particularly on inland waterways operation and logistics and safe and secure waterways transportation made my day. While Captain Olugbenga Abidoye handled “Inland Waterways Logistics and Operations,” Rear Admiral Adeniyi Oshinowo, Commandant, Nigerian Defense College, navigated through scary but interesting parameters of security in waterways transportation.
On this day and after each discussant tore at the fabric of inland waterways logistics and operations, as the moderator, Hadiza Usman of NPA, possibly led to introduce Boss Mustapha as the last discussant on the Abidoye paper, showcased a master strategist, an orator and advocate of grassroot development to the public space.
In simple language that participants could understand, Boss Mustapha bemoaned the loss of about N34 billion, which Nigeria pumped into dredging our waterways without critical windows of sustained maintenance, close monitoring and supervision.
The Jasmine hall of Eko Hotel, where Boss Mustapha spoke, suddenly became silent and as is wont with gifted orators and boxing legends, the NIWA boss knew he had got the attention he needed from the high networth maritime stakeholders and moved to silence critics of NIWA with records of poor flow of government funding on waterways development, which stood at a mere N5 billion, against N230 billion for roads, N161 billion for railways and N85 billion for aviation infrastructure.
Again, the hard truth and facts forced change of seats and a flurry of note taking by stakeholders and something told me Boss Mustapha came with a parting message. The message was prophetic and a true call on Nigeria to see our rivers and waterways that meander through 28 out of the 36 states of Nigeria as moving roads to make life better for our rural folks and help transform their dreams.
Boss Mustapha cleverly connected the expectant new dawn on shipping goods, services, and recreation to ports as holding bays to distribute machinery and end products of production value chain to the desired link, to better the future of Nigeria’s rural people.
The audience rose to applaud this brilliant Nigerian who craved that a regulator landlord such as NIWA must be encouraged to bring the desired message of change to rural Nigeria with waterways fast-tracking new engagements in real estate, new towns and villages, recreation and tourism; and the effective enabler of Nigeria’s intermodal transportation.
It was a profound message that would trend in the sector for a long time. As we headed out, we were gifted with news of his appointment as PMB’s new SGF and the rest is history. We prayed together. May God sustain him in the service of our dear Nigeria.