(Opinion) Gov. Sanwo-Olu: Time To Rejig The Lagos Tourism Team
One of the best fallouts of the just concluded Ehingbeti Investment Summit, is the promise of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to double critical efforts on youth empowerment.
Indeed, the summit examined six thematic areas which would be the fulcrum of entrepreneurial rediscovery and empowerment. These are Destination Lagos, the shaping up of Lagos as world best investment destination, strengthening governance institutions and legislation, road map for a shared economy, inclusive capital development, funding sustainable growth, through resilience modules and impact.
Significantly, various current and past interventions of engaging critical stakeholders, have positioned Lagos State as Nigeria’s” centre ” for the biggest foreign capital inflow with about $8.3 billion in 2020.
This fruitious revelation by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in its latest release, tells a lot about governor Sanwo-Olu delibrate policies to manage critical stakeholders as fulcrum of its entrepreneurial and resources management in positioning Lagos as investors destination.
As the governor had promised at the end of the summit last week, managing and harvesting the very potent youth economy, speaks volume of a governor dubbed the “listening leader”.
No doubt, governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has maintained and sustained steady sure footings to engage business owners and investors,, regulatory bodies, consumers, and host communities, maybe propelling the prosperity of Lagos in trade, telecommunications, estate and property development, tourism, hospitality and recreation.
In the above listed areas of human development, tourism, hospitality and recreation, had featured as mere templates of governance and clothed with most unsustainable efforts.
It didn’t begin with governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu but having witnessed his open sincerity and determination to carry all stakeholders along in a new prosperous Lagos, it then beats me why Lagos tourism has suffered from poor interpretations and presence in the focal agenda to grow the state into the biggest economic destination in Africa.
I will possibly provide the failing institutional drawbacks and disconnect. The civil servants in the state Ministry of Tourism are the arrow head of the hostility against sustainable strategy to build bridges of growth for the sector in Lagos.
Pampered over the years by the government quest to leverage on its 0ver 20 million population, the littoral communities, thriving trade posts and prime estate mechanism, the unique culture, festivals and infrastructural renewals to reposition the state as a tourism destination but sadly without adequate training and exposure to the state tourism minders, particularly the promotion team, Lagos has continued to hover like a helicopter that has lost radar backings.
In the last administration, efforts were made to create a special agency saddled with the business of promotion and marketing the state tourism and hospitality industry but again got buried in the most uncertain efforts which critically questions the promised inclusiveness of the governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to drive a new investment climate for the state.
And until the governor, convinces the tourism Industry otherwise, investors, owners of tourism business and even the littoral communities, who depends on recreation and visitations, will hold governbment promises in disdain.
Apart from various Lagos government broken promises on review of multiple taxation, hostile environment and poor stakeholders management, the Ministry of Tourism in Lagos must be rejigged to help actualize the dream of making the state the preferred economic and tourism destination in Africa.
First, governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu should head hunt for a new team to drive tourism in Lagos and this should be pedestaled on a new agency specifically mandated to grow and promote the entire gamut of tourism business in in the state.
This agency must enjoy funding from legislative circles and must be accountable to same but with free hand to operate as an enterprise, devoid interference in its day to day management.
I believe Lagos state have the experienced tourism human resources and in making this suggestion, political correctness or consideration should not drive the appointment of the Chief Executive Officer or Director General but a verifiable template for resourcefulness, grit, legacies in tourism management and good and timeliness of collaboration and partnership with with stakeholders.
This is necessary to check the rising birth and growth of power drunk tourism officials in the state service who believes that the state tourism budget is for their family.
Let me digress for a moment to share my experiences while covering the Lagos tourism beat in the last two decades. Apart from specializing in blackmailing the tourism media, particularly those who would not give in to their brigands, Lagos tourism officials have been anything but stakeholders friendly.
During the military era when Olagunsoye Oyinlola was governor of Lagos state, some power drunk officials went overboard to sack the the Eko Tourist Beach Association from the Bar Beach which then was the face of recreation and tourism in Lagos . What was the problem? The state tourism officials want a cut from the enterprenual returns of the poor tent managers despite dedicated tax and levy payment to state coffers.
At a point, the power drunk and corrupt officials, registered another trade company using a front and the bubble burst as my published investigation of the heist got the attention of governor Oyinlola, who demoted then Permanent Secretary and her collaborators.
In 1992 or there about, the Lagos Tourism Master plan put together by then Governor Raji Rasaki, mapping out waterfront locations from Ozumba Mbadiwe, down to Lekki Peninsula as exclusive tourism zones, was balkanised later through the years and sold to the rampaging Lebanese businessmen who throng the Ministry then known as Home Affairs and Tourism with Ghana must go bags. In fact as a reporter with Vanguard newspapers, I will take out time when bored to count how many of those bags that went and out of the office the Commissioner.
The Eko Hotel issue was another example of how the Ministry collapsed the hotel even under then management franchise by the French hospitality icon, the Holiday inn. Generators and other sundry equipment bought by the state, were allegedly sold off by the Ministry officials and it left the government no choice than to withdraw its equity holdings and hand over to private investors.
Plenty deliberate acts of corruption by the Lagos tourism officials which stunted tourism growth and promotion and one believes can be checked by having a professionally managed tourism agency free from the poisonous hold of a Ministry that cannot interpret Sanwo-Olu government’s socioeconomic and tourism expectations.
After over five years of self imposed exile from the activities of the Ministry, I was again shocked to witness the same hostility and power drunk being associated with the officials from one, Mrs Adamma Oni, who claimed to be the Director of Tourism Promotion.
I was scandalized by her impatience to an effort and idea from a stakeholder. And like I told her, she has no business interrupting and intimidating a stakeholder properly invited to share and engage the state government on tourism, even if the idea is ahead of time or cannot fly for whatever reason.
She behaved like the matriarch of the Ministry, pompous and hostile, lacking civility and humility. She even came two hours late to an engagement she arranged. I can’t breath!!!
It same scenario with the Ministry over the years and that the tourism officers have failed to allign themselves to the vision and sense of humility shown by the listening governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, clearly spells out the possible end of moving Lagos tourism ahead.
Indeed, it will not be out place to either send these heady officers to Lagos Waste Management Agency to learn how to sweep the streets, and inculcate the habit of working for the good of all with all the attendant pressures, smiling through it all. LAWMA will be a good retreat ground for the likes of Oni and others, who cannot be patient to articulate a better workable relationship with the private sector.
I just wonder and as could be clearly seen, that a generation of tourism manpower must be trained to enable Lagos take its rightful position as Africa’s preferred tourism destination. The bullies in that ministry can’t do nothing enduring but frustrate governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu tourism dreams.
Frank Meke, a Media and Tourism Consultant writes from Lagos