Last week, the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria(FTAN) sent a petition to government and people of Nigeria, on the parlous state of tourism in Nigeria. The association, representing sub sector tourism bodies such as National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies(NANTA) Nigeria Hotel and Catering Institute, Association Tourist Boat Operators and Water Transporters, Association of Tourism Practitioners of Nigeria, Nigeria Youths Tourism Association of Nigeria, Institute of Tourism Professionals of Nigeria, Hotel Owners and Managers of Lagos, Tour Operators of Nigeria and many others my space could not accommodate, simply told us that Nigeria tourism cannot thrive under the circumstances it found itself under watch of the Minister of Information, Lai Muhammed.
Many people certainly wondered why FTAN took time, this last “ten minutes ” of this administration to call out lai Muhammed to account for his supervision of the tourism sector. To allow a game to go on for 86 minutes, with fouls, shoving and outright neglect of the rules of the game and suddenly, FTAN found its voice in protest, demand our interrogation.
Howbeit, FTAN ” red card ” to Lai Muhammed is timely and deserves the President attention even though, the industry acted with caution, albeit, wisely to avoid being seen as hasty in asking for accountability for seven years of tourism under this administration
So the grounds of contention being carefully laid out and articulated by President of FTAN, Mr. Nkereweum Onung, speaks volume of Lai Muhammed poor neglect of the industry and to which FTAN rightly called for a change of intent. For seven years, there was truly no bankable or appreciable road map for the industry, not because we are not endowed but because the government drivers of our tourism future, were sleep mode.
And at each bend, just as the as UNWTO proposed visit to Nigeria, we are made to dance to the drum beat of confusion, the ministry’s usual recourse to enthrone comedy and diaspora content above cultural tourism promotion, which smacks of poor understanding of Nigeria’s tourism sector.
It is untenable that a Ministry in charge of tourism, has no response to the pains of COVID-19 lock down, which devastated the industry, and yet find it expressly easy to junket to global tourism confabs, partake and listen to how other countries respond to the crises and yet deem it only fit to look out only for opportunities to host a troubled tourism world.
As FTAN leadership rightly observed, to invite UNWTO and inaugurate a committee out of the critical purview of the sector, certainly project insidious agenda against our national tourism aspirations.
Indeed, for seven years, the Minister and his political trajectory in the ministry, has failed to appraise and interpret our collective tourism dream and most painful, protecting pomposity and pharaohmatic pretence that FTAN and industry players do not count.
How he got away with it, remains a mystery until the FTAN open call last week, to account for not being able to get grips with solutions to our tourism dilemma. To count, issues of visa regime to Nigeria, pains of service protocol hurting visitors into Nigeria, no bailout funds for the sector, and compared to aviation and trade and investment ministries support to operators under their watch, Lai Muhammed and his team, do not factor a pass to speak and hold forth for Nigeria tourism.
Those who sees rebellion in FTAN new call and boasts that government will go ahead and host UNWTO, feathers the nest of un-profiled future setback for tourism. Take it or leave it, Lai Muhammed is on his way out and having set his mind possibly to ignore the call to engage the tourism private sector as represented by FTAN, leaves him on the blacklist of our tourism history.
Again, I believe the truth about the National Theatre and its many controversies will soon expose the rot in our national tourism ecology, a situation and process begging for due diligence and commitment as against robotic and endemic systemic corruption at the corridors of transfer of public infrastructure to private hands.
No doubt, this same National Theatre (Entertainment city as renamed) has suffered from transparency transition from time immemorial, and gained traction under the ministry which has never bothered to let Nigerians know those who now owns the land.
Two gentlemen in this sector had earned my respect over tourism matters over the years and for reasons I will explain when their views run on this podium, Victor Kayode, of the Nigerian Hotel and Catering Institute, un-putdownable Andrew Ehanire, a Board member of Association of Tourism Practitioners of Nigeria and facilitator, Ogba Zoo, Benin city, both tourism intelligence power houses and whom have taken to backing the FTAN call for boycott of the UNWTO jamboree event in Nigeria, are warriors, waiting in the wings to sustain the advocacy of a standalone Ministry of Tourism and ready in weeks to come to also articulate the many sins of Lai Muhammed against Nigeria Tourism.
Some people possibly are yet to understand why and how we got here and being hasty to see the FTAN bold attempt to expose industry rot as a response ” to been left out of the UNWTO planning Committee,” one thing they possibly again fail to understand, is that FTAN has since over a year ago, notified the Minister and Ministry of the desired intent to rub minds to reverse the poor returns of tourism to national economic database.
Anyway, in every community, divergent views must be expressed and so too, Judas must find expression among few. However, for us take back our tourism tomorrow and get any incoming administration to evaluate their economic recovery plan through engagement of tourism business, we must stand up and support FTAN to articulate and reposition the sector for our nation and people. No one individual, no matter his or her political clout and propaganda maneuvering, is bigger than Nigeria.
Time for tourism truth be told, has come and we must support the truth to set us free. We join FTAN to say boycott UNWTO meeting in Nigeria. It will steal from us, nothing less. We have nothing to gain from the Jamboree.
*Frank Meke is a Media and Tourism Consultant based in Lagos