About 30 years ago, Nigerian women in the travel and tourism trade business, were just in the ” owenbe” class. They took back seat and respectfully serve the men flock. Generally seen but not heard, these women of yore, simple bow to the suffocating male influence.
They were more in number, yet timid in taking political decisions. The men rode over their shoulder and where they were given opportunities, they merely hold the purse of the associations or speak for groups with tongues tied by men.
I have been around for a while in the sector, so let me share with you the emerging rise and rise of women in travel and tourism trade and how the men, have respectfully changed their oppressive perception. These has nothing to do with” mother’s day or international women’s day”.
My focus today, is on the ongoing revolution in National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), a critical indigenous trade brand organisation, every step positive, and voice mail of private sector travel and tourism contribution to the economy.
At its foundation, some four decades ago, great men like Rex Udo, Late Elder Jerry Nwosu and Babatunde Akala, gave birth to a Nigerian collective interest in what could be considered an essential business decision to grow an exclusive Nigerian service offering in a business colonised by foreigners.
There was a woman in their midst, though not a trade operator but history bestowed her with opportunity to ” take notes” at one of the several meetings to find bearings for the association, known as Nigerian Travel Agents Association (NATA). Mrs. Kate Emetu, is the mother of delectable Chinyere Umeasiegbu, who was inaugurated the Vice President, of NANTA, Eastern Zone, more than four decades her mother, took the first notes of meeting of the association.
Was it divine? Did God who know the ways of humanity, plant the seed of women futuristic hold at those early “Israelites journey” of the association? I have tried to severally to tie the loose ends and I kept wondering.
After Olufemi Adefope and Munzali Dantata eras, the likes of pretty but now ageing Modupe Lawale, brought the visibility of women” spokesperson to bear. There were also fearless, black and beautiful, Mrs. Lewis, Uloma Egbuna and Victoria Soluade.
These women were the early signs that NANTA, will thrive bigger and better with women at its driver’s seat. No doubt, the presence of skal club, to capture the feminine desires of travel operators failed. While the industry future lies with the aggregation of the collective bargaining chips in NANTA, attempt to lure women with Owanbe gyrations in Skal club, a variant trade body but with partying vanities, didn’t kill the interest of women in NANTA growth and development.
Early nineties, saw the emergence of the matriarch of association’s female leadership ecology. Mrs. Teresa Ojo( Ezobi), a Thatcherist, urban and dogged achiever happened on the scene and redefined and repositioned the association, , making it a first port of call before government could evolve industry policy actions and even of engagement.
Even though it was during the highway days of the military in government, these men in uniform, ensured that aviation and tourism issues were well cleared by NANTA under the watch of Tereza ( Ezobi) OJo.
Apart from introducing automation to the entire industry, a biblical guideline to how to issue tickets and compute costs with ease, Teresa drove tourism business to no end and ensured NANTA members flourished in the new game, leveraging on the new stream of income, human relations, and the very glamour associated with tourism.
Let nobody deceive you, cultural tourism is the future and herein lies the power of even tourism transportation and logistics. Ask Femi Adefope, Uloma Egbuna, Funmi Rotiba and the young influencer led by Bolaji Seun.
Critically, Susan Akporiaye, the trail blazing President of NANTA and the second in the history of the association, while stabilising NANTA after the COVID Armageddon, took to cultural tourism evangelism and hope to revisit the Tereza (Ezobi) Ojo touch.
In Kano, where again, NANTA made history, under the watch of Mrs. Susan Akporiaye, detailed female membership was on leadership show of force. Aminu Agoha, ex-President of NANTA and member of the association Board of Trustees, took the floor of prophecy, revelling the future of women in NANTA.
Something told me to capture for posterity where and who these women are. I won’t tell you what position they occupy but will tell you their names, so when this seed sown by Mrs. Akporiaye gains fruition tomorrow and in the future, you may understand, how NANTA kept evolving.
From the Eastern Zone and led by a revelation herself, Mrs. Chinyere Umeasiegbu, are Onyinye Okwara, Amarachi Obinna – Ngige, Foluke Abodunrin, Ruth Ohakwe, Ifeanyi Ngozi Mbachu and Adaora Bassey Okon. In Kano, they were smart, hospitable, organised and visible. They can’t be ignored and let me add, brilliant. Their zonal leader, Mrs. Umeasiegbu was angelic, every encounter with a deep smile and you wonder if she is hardly outspoken or speaks at all. Her actions speak, I dare say.
The men in NANTA, should know this outing is about their women, mothers and sisters that have come to table of a new dawn in NANTA and there is no denying they have come to stay for long time to come.
From Abuja Zone led by a lady to whom one has found amazing, uncomplicated and cerebral, Mrs. Ibiwari Uloma Kemabonta, the women presence in the leadership profile, also attracted the attention “prophet” Aminu Agoha.
And they are numbered for posterity as Angela Ike, Sarah John and Iniobong Umoren. From Lagos, Ms Aliu Bukola breaks the ice in all male zonal exco led by unputdownable Yinka Folami. It indeed, would be a sin to forget Adeola Adewole, who once gave the zone a future and currently numbered in the Susan Akporiaye leadership. What of Western Zone, led by indefatigable Babatunde Adesokan? Adeyemi
Olayemi and Riyike wellington are women to watch the NANTA heritage line.
Up North, the women are taking their time. Abdulrazak Ibrahim, the Kano team leader, has promised to break the ceiling before he leaves office.
And to end this piece on women in NANTA, the Board of Trustees, has Tariboba Mordi, ageless Mrs. Kofo Akanni Aluko, Bimbo Durusimi Ette and Ihuoma Ubani
However, this giant stride could not be achieved without the willing prodding of men. While Tereza era had Adefope, Akala and Olu Ogunsulire, who flanked her in total support, Mrs. Susan Akpopraiye, currently has her men team in the persons of Zack Abulahhie, Yinka Folami, Chima Ihe, Kabiru Maiwada and Yinka Ladipo.
Going forward, I must also point, the emergence of grasshoppers in the women wing. Noisy, impatient and hawkish, these young female operators are far away from the dreams of future female leaders in NANTA. And they know themselves. This piece is dedicated to Susan Akporaiye, who in the next two years, God willing, will write her name in gold. And for Chinyere Umeasiegbu and Uloma Kemabonta, my eyes are you and that of the nation.
- Frank Meke, a Media and Tourism Consultant based in Lagos