On his part, Ambode understands the impact of tourism in galvanizing a hitherto oil-dependent economy like that of Nigeria

Ayo Oyoze Baje

Truth be told, one outstanding aspect of the leadership style that has given Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State the winning edge over his contemporaries is his futuristic approach to governance. In fact, one unique feature of his achievements so far attests to the fact that he had a thorough thinking through, on exactly what to do with the instrument of political power even back in 2014 before he became the governor.

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That reminds one of late Steve Jobs, who remarked that the key element to the success of Apple Computers was traceable to the in-depth planning stage with his team of top technocrats and technologists before they hit the ground running. Similar thing could be said about the accountant-turned-politician, over three years down the leadership line.

For instance, his ‘I BELIEVE’ spectacular musical concert back held in 2014, soon after he clinched the gubernatorial ticket on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) party marks him out as one who understands the ever increasing power of the Entertainment/Tourism industry. Ever since, his administration has followed suit with the One Lagos end-of-year musical concerts as well as the Lagos-at-50 extravaganza featuring the brightest and the best Nigerian acts such as Olamide, Wizkid, Davido amongst several others. So remarkable is his focus on entertainment/tourism that French President, Emmanuel Macron came all the way down to Lagos, where he danced Shaku-Shaku steps at the African Shrine, before his country won the prestigious World Cup. What does that tell us? That tourism goes beyond a merry-making matter.

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So compelling is the growing influence of the sector that the United Nations designated 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. As one of the world’s largest economic sectors, Travel and Tourism creates jobs, drives exports, and generates prosperity across the world. Tourism provides an enormous opportunity to further showcase the tremendous economic, social, cultural, environmental, and heritage value that the sector can bring.

On his part, Ambode understands the impact of tourism in galvanizing a hitherto oil-dependent economy like that of Nigeria. He must have had the requisite knowledge, like the former Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, (16 September 1923 – 23 March 2015), that worldwide, the tourism industry has experienced steady growth almost every year for several decades.

Available figures show that International tourist arrivals increased from 528 million in 2005 to 1.19 billion in 2015. Figures were forecasted to exceed 1.8 billion by 2030. Indeed, tourism in Singapore is such a major industry and contributor to the economy, that it attracted 17.4 million international tourists in 2017, more than 3 times of Singapore’s total population. The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017 ranked Singapore 13th out of 136 countries overall, which was the third best in Asia only behind Japan (ranked 4th) and Hong Kong (ranked 11th).

It is instructive therefore, that his administration is consciously investing huge resources to develop an enduring infrastructural architecture. Such would ensure that the state’s tourism potentials are fully harnessed for all round economic growth and development. He made this known during the Lagos Tourism Summit with the theme “Destination Lagos: Towards A Sustainable Tourism-Driven Economy” at the Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, precisely on April 16, 2018.

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The good aspects of his administration’s policy thrust in this direction are predicated on safety and security; the provision of functional and diverse venues for the arts, culture and festivals. Not left out are the creative industry, recreation and wildlife. Let it be noted however, that much needs to be done in the areas of partnerships with the private sector and also the mass media in projecting, promoting and propagating the ideals of this noble cause.

One has noted with great delight the bold bid by the state to reclaim 50 hectares of land at the Oworonshoki end of our lagoon. The government has also cleared a whole stretch of coastal land at Badagry, Epe and Marina. This move, according to him is to ensure that the prime waterfront at these areas are not taken over by shanties and slums. In addition, more funds are being committed to providing jetties and expanding access to waterways.

It is with leadership foresight that the administration has embarked on some ambitious road, flyover and modern bus terminal constructions. In his words: “We are preparing the grounds for a major source of employment and prosperity. When you see us continue to plead for the control of wasting federal assets like the National Arts Theatre, National Museum and National Stadium and possibly declare our intention to have the Murtala Muhammed International Airport concessioned to us; we are focused on our tourism sector.” This is great vision at work.

Little wonder that he confessed that the tourism sector contributed about N800 billion to the State’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2017. And this figure is expected to double or treble in the next 5 years. This is possible if there is strict adherence to the Tourism Master Plan which is focused on six key sectors including Culture and Heritage, Film, Art and Entertainment, Business Tourism, Nature and Adventure, Medical and Wellness, Beach and Leisure.

If all these are carried to the letters, the likes of Nike Art Gallery, owned by Nike Okundaye which is arguably one of the top African art galleries, meant to inculcate the core principles of cultural heritage to the people of Nigeria will receive more visits patronage. So also would top-range hotels such as Eko Hotels and Suites, Sheraton Hotel and Tower, the George Lagos, Eastgate Hotel, Lekki enjoy wider appeal.

In fact, exotic beaches and places such as the Whispering Palms, La Campa Tropicana, Oniru Beach, Elegushi Royal Beach, Atican Beach Resort, Eleko Beach, Tarkwa Bay and the iconic Badagry with the first storey building and the Slave port would come alive as tourism destination of choice.

And since Lagos state is promoting national unity; with it as a melting pot for people of diverse ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds, cohabiting peacefully it should take interest in those people’s annual festivals, as it is with Eyo Festival, to upgrading them to international standard.

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For the state to match up with other leading world tourism destinations like Miami; São Paulo; Dubai, Singapore and Tokyo as well as African cities such as Cape Town, Cairo, Marrakech and Accra, the right infrastructure has to be put in place. Tourism is big business and the earlier many of us get actively involved the better it is for us and the country.


Baje writes from Lagos