The word ‘collaboration’ draws strong inspiration to the age-old norm that no man is an island. And as we say in deep spiritual circles, I give you what you don’t have and also collect from you what I lack or need.
It is an equilibrium, a strong beneficial relationship that grows humanity and enriches communities, organisations and nations.
Many years ago, I had visited my long-time friend and encourager, Mr. Yomi Jones, then of Lufthansa Airlines at his Broad Street office.
He had invited me to sound me out about certain travel trade issues, which his head office in Germany was contemplating to introduce to the Nigerian market, of which Lufthansa was ahead of the pack then.
Dashing Yomi Jones also wanted me to witness Lufthansa first breakthrough on ticketless travel, which again was limited to trips between Frankfurt and Berlin back then. Those who know about the ingenuity of Lufthansa possibly will credit the Germans for inaugurating digital travel economy to the world; they thought ahead.
Apologies for the digression but it was in Lufthansa’s Lagos office that I learnt about organisational collaboration. For instance, I witnessed first-hand that each department or unit would make out a request to a particular department for certain items it needed, while also willing to offer the other department what it had, even if not for immediate use.
I had asked Jones if that was trade by barter, and he explained in detail the dream behind the concept, it was geared towards eliminating waste in the system and driving accountability as such transactions must be captured at a centralised management ecosystem.
That is one step ahead of collaboration. Let also wind back to 2006, when Otunba Segun Runsewe came to the NTDC. His administrative masterstroke was unbelievable and un-Nigerian. For the seven years, he managed our tourism promotion space, Runsewe reached out to stakeholders, supported their programmes, visited states, communities, and ensured their full participation and presence at the various global tourism trade markets.
To Runsewe, every group or association must be seen to be part of the Nigerian tourism narrative and it was uhuru. The tourism media was particularly and deliberately targeted as the key drivers of the new national tourism movement. NTDC’s investment in the training and exposure of the Nigerian tourism media remains a historic collaborative testimony that only pretenders to Nigerian tourism history may deny to their shame.
I recall then Runsewe fixing appointments on Saturdays, just to catch up with unfinished tourism collaboration businesses of the week, a process, which he enthroned as a work ethic and pattern, which his other colleagues found a tough challenge to their weekend clubbing pastime.
Sadly, those remarkable and exemplary leadership qualities are down the drain. Collaboration is now a big poison in the management values and ecosystem of most industry players and agencies.
If you dare write to request for a visit and consultation, a “special purpose vehicle” is deployed to investigate your intent and team list. And since our ogas at the top, led by our emperor minister, hardly welcome troublesome private-sector entrepreneurs and leaders, his agency boys and girls grudgingly give a date that coincides with their lunch time, and that is if the reports of their witchcraft investigation reveals that you have no request of any kind to table before them.
One such crank fellow has a special red carpet corner where those found worthy to visit and request no collaboration whatsoever except to shake hands are received.
Nkereweum Onung, president, Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria, is a successful banker and travel logistics guru. He knew from experience in the key private sector monetary system that collaboration dynamics rules the world. In politics, it is the liver and heart, oxygenating successful political engineering projects, but to our industry it’s a forbidden fruit, in fact, poisonous.
Since Onung came on board, he walked the talk on collaboration, pulling off a must memorable fully established private sector collaboration and funding of World Tourism Day in Lagos last year.
He birthed a process, which suddenly became a topic of subjective interpretation and discussion, particularly among the community of lone rangers and self-adjudged tourism pall bearers.
It’s sadly disturbing that our collaboration mechanics is defined plainly as a window to feret away government tourism allocations, usually in the name footing eatery, trips to see the Queen and cuisine expenses for private sector engagements, which are considered achievements.
Onung strategically laid out the blueprint, requesting for better budget circles for government tourism agencies, and in particular in creating a grant window for the private sector to create jobs.
In South Africa, tourism operators are profiled and managed through an established and verifiable protocol, thus engendering sustainable government intervention and grant support for training and purchase of buses and relevant tools to aid their tourism marketing and growth of South Africa Tourism.
A careful auditing of this same growth effort or similar to it is missing in the Nigerian government-driven relationship with the private sector ecosystem.
Here, possibly at the whims and caprices of our ‘never seen’ before oga, the emerging emperors of our time, collaboration is tagged to poorly executed beach parties, mountain hiking and (orishrishi) deceptive engagements.
For an emerging and cash-starved tourism economy, we are yet to see any creative effort to help the private sector to rebuild, rebound and create jobs.
I am sure for the sake of its dramatic effects, if only a rickety and painted mobile kitchen can be passed around as collaboration reachout programme to the private sector by NTDC, no doubt it will make meaning.
In Lagos, for instance, where jobs can be created for the teeming unemployed youths, such mobile kitchens embossed and deployed to popular areas with NTDC logo surely will attract accolades.
Though NTDC claims its training intervention arm was illegal taken away from it, reasons advanced for its operational impotence, one wonders at the very magical turnaround of the same NTDC under Runsewe with this same attachment.
Elections are around the corner, does the industry have anything to show for eight years of this administration? Isa Pantami, Minister of Digital Economy, revealed during a presidential achievement showpiece recently that the Nigerian digital economy created over 20,000 jobs in less than two years and I leave you, dear reader, to find out how many jobs were created by Minister Lai Mohammed’s Culture and Tourism Ministry.
Even under the information mandate, where are the jobs and businesses? This attached office, certainly, has not been effectively deployed to market Nigerian cultural tourism landscape and its unbelievably untapped assets.
These are possibly the pains of Nkereweum Onung led ftan whose cry in the wilderness, was misconstrued and tagged by anti-powers that be as a confrontation. My joy, is that no appointment is permanent and knowing Nigeria, some who held sway today will be invited to swear on public podium on what they did in office.
Tomorrow is here and yesterday is gone. Each day to which if we all refuse to think first about Nigeria and empower the sustainable survival of the private sector, then doomsday looms.
A young golfer and Sports Tourism promoter, sought help from the aviation industry, successfully and collaborately pulling off a template desirable for our a joint venture between sports, tourism and travel business.
We noticed, and request that others bemoaning the absence and lack of organised government intervention and collaboration, should step out and seek help elsewhere.
This year should mark an end where the private sector can only be seen to useful when they become appendage to the facade organised to fret away government tourism allocations to private pockets.