(Opinion) UNWTO: Nigeria’s Tale Of Nightingale By Frank Meke. 



There’s a nocturnal bird by the name nightingale.  It has a biological family of about three hundred and forty-eight species and it is divided into fifty-one genera.

The most popular and I love its sonorous voice, is the male, Rofous nightingale (luscinia megarhynclos), which won a YouTube video presence, singing various songs, without any drumming support. It is indeed amazing, but I wonder, why do the birds sing at night when men are dead asleep?

No man, except he who is awake can sleep and walk through serious issues, music or songs being one of them.  In Nigeria, night parties once used to be “a touristic product” until insecurity, banditry, armed robbery, kidnapping and the worst of socio-economic dislocations became our catholic creed.

Remember ye the owanmbes of the 70’s, Victor Olaiya’s  sisi,sonorous romantic song? Ebenezer Obey, Sunny Ade, Orlando Owoh evergreen songs? This week, Felabration is on course, bringing back the memorable “African lady” and across the East, Owerri, decimated now by blood let, used to be capital of Highlife music with the Oriental brothers, Rex Lawson in Garden City of Port Harcourt, with other creative Trumpet generals, with songs cutting across tongues and diverse cultures of Nigeria.

Those were the nightingales of our time, the trail blazers of national unification through cultural music and we grew up, awake but not dead asleep to listen to them.

Come November, Nigeria will host a United Nations World Tourism Organisation(UNWTO) event in lagos.  Prior to the approval to host the event, Nigeria led by Minister of Information, Mr. Lai Mohammed, had deployed his famous nightingale sonorous voice, drawing from an embellished statistical data, the tourism jobs and sundry benefits, hosting the tourism party, would bring our distrusted nation if UNWTO would come to see Nigeria.

During President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to Spain about three months ago or thereabout, our beautiful nightingale on Information and Culture, ensured that our President visited the UNWTO headquarters and gave assurances of great hosting of the tourism world body and its member states.

In all those engagements, Nigeria did not   table nor tendered any document requesting for assistance on security, private sector entrepreneurs Rethinking Tourism support or collaboration. All we did was to merely invite UNWTO to come witness the unveiling of a mere event centre, a national theatre, whitewashed and renamed “an entertainment city”.

Now, let me share with you what other serious African tourism nations tabled before UNWTO.  These are the true nightingales of African tourism, futuristic, strategic and systematic, leveraging on global tourism opportunities and socioeconomic collaboration to develop their private sector tourism economy.

Hamat Bar, is Gambia’s Minister of Tourism. He was among the first tourism nightingales in Africa to knock on the doors of UNWTO after the pandemic, to request robust engagement and assistance for African cultural tourism rebound.  He knew Africa Region, not only Gambia which ranks above Nigeria on foreign visitors’ choice list, deserves some technical oxygenation and begged the Polish Ambassador head of UNWTO, to come help Africa.

Eldevina Materula, is Minister of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Mozambique.  She tabled before Zureb Pololikashili, UNWTO Secretary General, strategic outlines on innovation, education and investment opportunities in her home country, and sought UNWTO bilateral support to Rethink Tourism in Mozambique.

There were plenty of African tourism nightingales, who sang in the daytime, requesting for support, understanding and commitment from the tourism world body to help their private sector entrepreneurs to rebound and re-engage after the pandemic thunderbolt.

What did we do? Where are our Rethinking strategies and why do we love to sing to deaf ears in the night? In fact, we sing nothing meaningful or special!

Let us critically come to security.  Apart from the COVID-19 pandemic, insecurity is one major socio-economic and environmental dislocation that has in the history of Nigeria, has brought us to our knees.  Even the civil war of the late sixties and early 70’s, did not have such a profound negative impact on us.

Do you know that while other countries, possibly bedeviled by this anti-tourism economic monster, contacted UNWTO to share their pains, seeking solutions, Nigeria tourism minders were busy showcasing flowing agbadas and kaftan. Some slept at the recent UNWTO meeting in Arusa, Tanzania.

Pained and disturbed by rising insecurity bedeviling the world and negatively impactful on global travel, particularly to Africa, UNWTO in collaboration with the African Union Development Agency (AUDA- NEPAD) and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) inaugurated a white paper on Safety and Security in the tourism sector.

Elcia Grandcourt, UNWTO Africa Regional Director, who was in Nigeria about three weeks ago, to merely inspect lodging and recreation facilities to be used to host UNWTO officials and member states, was at the behest of that strategic effort and sadly Nigeria, troubled by insurgency, was nowhere near making any input to the security white paper.

UNWTO member states, worried by the impact of security to their tourism end posts, lobbied to submit the impact assessment reports to the Elcia Grandcourt inspired security white paper, knowing the effort, may attract global security solution architecture to their country and also help other countries to find security bearings. That is strategic tourism thinking and not the rush to open an old event centre to which our ministry of Information, so “misinformingly” wish to put on stage.

Member states of UNWTO, so concerned about the impact of insecurity on their destination tourism economy were Kenya, Morocco, Senegal, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Portugal, Tunisia, Philippines, Mexico and Colombia.

These countries shared and contributed to best existing practices generated to ensure security and safety of foreign visitors and even domestic tourists in their countries.  What did we share with the world on this all important checklist on the tourism environment?

Hear Mr. Zureb Pololikashil on this issue and you may wonder afterwards, what should really be Nigeria’s prime priority to getting tourism off the ground.

“Restoring trust and confidence are critical to restarting tourism.  The white paper on safety and security in tourism shows UNWTO commitment to working together to keep tourists safe”.

UNWTO Secretary General continued and emphasised, “Safety and Security are One of the Man Priorities of UNWTO Agenda for Africa and as such (through) the white responded to the needs of our member states?

You may rightly ask, where is the place of our dear country in this cheering UNWTO agenda for Africa? For over seven years, we have established notoriety in misplaced efforts, wasting resources in hosting banal UNWTO conferences.  No gain whatsoever!!

As it was in the past, we have gone feverish pitch high, singing like the nocturnal nightingale, singing to body but to ourselves.  We have abandoned the private sector, the engine room of tourism development and empowerment, in a very disgusting solo effort just like the nightingale, merely to entertain our pecuniary persuasions, ignoring to our shame, an industry begging to be lifted up and supportive to our rural poor and very troubled economy.

Shamefully, we shall host UNWTO without any strategic and sustainable tourism conservation action plans, no tourism innovation, education, and community values.

Recall the recent UNWTO Tourism Villages listing? Nigeria despite our huge eco and cultural heritage sites, did not get a mention out of the five slots set aside for Africa Region.

Sad ehn? Our saviour is still far out of sight. I love the nightingale!!!


Frank Meke, a Media and Tourism Consultant is based in Lagos

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *