Getting tourism education right has always been a major challenge in the quest to get Nigeria blossom in global tourism business. Indeed, home front tourism education has no focus and lacks sustainable definition. It is from zero to zero until Chika Balogun came to the scene almost four years ago.
For over 30 years, 1987 to be precise, the birth and successful lobby by Nigeria to serve as creative tourism education hub in West Africa powered by International Labour Organisation(ILO) and other United Nation agencies, met brick walls of ineptitude and organisational dislocation.
The institute had mushroomed early at formation under the contraption of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), which could not help its overall objective of producing trained tourism hands to service the emerging hospitality and tourism enterprises across West Africa it was then mere department.
Before Chika Balogun came, the National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR) hemorrhaged not only from poor funding but also from misinterpretation and misapplication of its core values and mandate. NIHOTOUR bled from poor vision and mandate execution, making it fit only as conduit pipe to waste and fret away government meager funding for tourism education.
Significantly, the institute lacks the statuary powers to husband effectively tourism education within Nigeria’s federating units, having sadly lost its frontier privilege in West Africa. Here, there is no denying the fact that this institute of tourism education as a deliverer of our tourism professional training expectations needs deliverance.
From the Baguada Kano head office, signs of imminent collapse stirred this all important tourism training and certification school in the face. The feeble attempt to relocate the operational structure to Abuja under Munzali Dantata was a mere sleaze to confound the beggar status to which the school was reduced to.
Desirous of breathing fresh air to the ‘dead’ Institute and to give it another lifeline, the government brought Chika Balogun, a supposedly ‘green horn’ to superintend a fresh start for NIHOTOUR. Balogun was then not known or a major face in Nigeria’s tourism circles. The industry players kicked and waited for President Muhammadu Buhari to push her out with the winds of change blowing across the entire national administrative architecture.
It was a dream aborted as Buhari held on to Chika Balogun to break the backbone of 30 years of neglect and lack of direction for NIHOTOUR. Indeed, Chika Balogun foray into the institute’s strategic rebirth met with disdain and at some point, instigated tourism public and stakeholders’ bitterness and dismay.
Chika Balogun held on to her vision to run through the race with unexplainable humility, hard work and stride to make a difference. First, she had to tour the over 14 training centres of NIHOTOUR across Nigeria, from Kano to Enugu, Osun to Benue, all by road and at the risk of her life, a passion very uncommon with women in government or even men ,who sees their position as a means to fly first class.
Soon and within four years, NIHOTOUR rebranded, won the hearts of stakeholder, fronted democratised process of tourism education and playing the role of tourism education incubator and facilitator. From providing the needed parameters for standardisation of services in the sector, NIHOTOUR under Chika Balogun brought most states in the federation to key into the gains of having tourism training schools and need to create a youth tourism empowerment centers.
The “Project Smart Jobs” in collaboration Consolidated Alliance Group attests to Chika Balogun’s futuristic vision to transform tourism education through the private sector. Today, this effort has turned out over 1000 employable and self employed influencers in Edo State. Enugu, Benue, Bayelsa, Kano, Lagos, Jos and other states are basking in this prosperity and gives kudos to President Buhari’s game changing appointee, who deserved another term to take NIHOTOUR to the Promised Land, a place where professionalism truly counts.
In Nigeria tourism space, Chika Balogun has rebuilt the battered image of NIHOTOUR. Chika Balogun,an orator with strategic academic background from Kent University in the United Kingdom and Harvard University, this University of Jos alumnae has skills in project management and construction to which she deployed to re-establish NIHOTOUR as Nigeria’s prime tourism training and certification citadel.
You can’t beat this record; it was under Chika Balogun’s watch that NIHOTOUR got its first legal life wire with a bill already passed by the Eight National Assembly and it is before the President Buhari for his assent. It is believed that with NIHOTOUR’s Act, Nigeria will witness a major breakthrough in tourism education standardisation, service delivery, a sustainable and verifiable community of tourism professionals to which local and global investors could leverage to drive tourism investment. Are you there!!
Notably, it is not out of place to commend the Minister of Tourism, Lai Mohammed for support given to this Buhari’s tourism Amazon and to which we pray that the minister without any administrative summersault, would pen a recommendation for her re-appointment. Chika Balogun deserves our support and that of the President.
Frank Meke, a Media Consultant and Tourism Expert, writes from Lagos