(Opinion) Nkereuwem Onung: Why Tourism Votes Must Count By Frank Meke

* FTAN President, Nkereuwem Onung



Nigerian Tourism remains the most talked about sector before and after any dinner outing.  Check through the social media and within organised and unofficial quarters, the heavy dosage of lip and eye service devoted to what and how this sector can play, rightly, roles of socioeconomic engagement is legendary.

During the military era, it was the most “preferred sector” and every conference has it brochured in the glossiest print and the talking goes on.

At the advent of democratic experience under President Olusegun Obasanjo, a near focal agenda, failed in interpretation and not in will power. Determined to give the sector a practical certification, Obasanjo gave Franklin Ogbuewu the needed support to grow the sector but the fine dashing diplomat from Ebonyi State, has other ideas.

And with the masterplan seemingly doctored Euro-centrically by some of egg heads saddled with the responsibility, Obasanjo galled at the effrontery and requested a creative indigenous response.

By the time President Muhammadu Buhari came with an Olympic size broom, sweeping away 16 years of political near miss intervention for the sector, it was back again to a night life for the industry.

Indeed, there was even no moon light story for the industry under the APC government,  no stand alone ministry,  meaning the industry did not enjoy ministerial attention,  but a mere departmental profile.

If we go by civil service roles, issues and concerns of the state under “a table”, the department cannot receive ” ministerial” attention but must be routed through frustrating innocuous time wasting tape rules, ending up in the dustbin.

This has been our story since 2015. All the permutations and make believes that fine handsome Alhaji Lai Muhammed is our Minister,  cannot truly survive scrutiny under this telling scenario.

Now, I don’t want to dwell or argue with anyone on this matter of Alhaji Lai Muhammed being our Minister or not.  Okay, let us go by the nomenclature of which he is known and addressed in this government and I am not afraid to be corrected.

Who is our Minister of Information, Culture and National Orientation? Alhaji Lai Muhammed, simple!  This confirms however that we do not have a full-fledged Ministry of Tourism.

Semantics, if you argue in that realm, culture does give us access to engage in tourism trade, yet it will be failing to navigate and negotiate a full grown policy overview for the sector.

I would have asked what the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation(NTDC) should bring to bear in the absence of a Minister or Ministry exclusively devoted to tourism planning and development, but again,  wisdom failed us as a nation when we appointed an All-Round Failure to hold the strategic institution in trust for us.

This is however an issue for another day since we recently noticed NTDC  just woke from slumber, requesting us to queue up and register for a UNWTO conference slated to hold in Nigeria in November.

Since it sounds like a clarion call out and invitation to the industry, I was wondering if NTDC could have done the same to reawaken our political consciousness and conversation in the emerging political ” market ” for the tourism correctness.

Interestingly, it was the President of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN), Nkereuwem Onung that has thrown a challenge to us to wake up and use our votes to decide who  our next President and possibly our Minister of Tourism, will be.

Hate or love Nkereuwem Onung, he is not pretentious about our precarious tourism political situation and is determined to stamp the interest of the  sector in the socioeconomic and political equation among  the parties heading to elections.

Now, at the last count of industry players (active) population,  we certainly can garner over 30 million voters and could well drive a tourism “obedient ” advocacy campaign to win another 100 million voters across the geographical zones,  who must be made to see the job creation and employment opportunities,  rural development and youth and women empowerment value chain inherent in a full-fledged tourism industry .

Honestly, I don’t know what Nkereuwem Onung is thinking about, but this progressive  and selfless industry front line investor and President of FTAN, may trigger off a tourism political revolution that will force the hands of professional political think tanks to reach out to FTAN and the industry for collaboration.

No doubt, I have taken keenly to watch this development, suffice to say,  that each and every one of us must go get our Permanent Voters Card(PVC) and even join political parties to bring about a sustainable change for the sector.

And back to our strength and figures,  it is certainly not doubtful that during the quest for a post pandemic bailout fund, the ground work done to interrogate and upscale industry sub groups and population,  under the watch of Otunba Segun Runsewe,  cannot be lost on us.

Let those who may want to fly another flag on this score, revisit the list and interpret its huge political position. Numbers, they say in politics, matters and I join Nkereuwem Onung, to say, let us go get our PVC, and vote any party, willing beyond semantics and political sweet talks, to accommodate our desire for a  Ministry of Tourism and an industry best hand(s) as Minister.

Red Post: Is it beneficial for Nigeria to invite UNWTO in our current situation of unbelievable insecurity, jobs losses and poor financial position to which the government now borrows money to augment payment of workers’ salaries? Zamfara, a state in Nigeria, says its citizens and visitors should arm themselves in self defence.  Is this UNWTO conference truly for us or” them them”.  Abeg, na corn I throw oo, I no call fowl(chicken) ooo. No, look me, go get  your PVC and let Nkereuwem Onung know.


Frank Meke is a Media and Tourism Consultant based in Lagos

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