You are right if you question why Femi Otedola would grace headlines in a travel column. For some reasons, and for his act of kindness to many people who served Nigeria but were left in pains at old age, this Otedola has wormed his way into my heart.
Every Saturday, I have this ritual of having a quiet time, reading the dailies on my balcony. Now that we are fasting, a cup of tea or sizzling hot fried egg and bread hardly makes waves, so no distractions. So, what did Otedola do with his palliatives? Remember, our Christian Chukwu, the great footballer? He is alive today because Otedola intervened. Nnewi, a small community in Anambra State, has more millionaires that can floor Otedola a hundred times but it was this great, kind Yoruba man that remembered Christian Chukwu in his low estate.
All those who have kept our collective palliatives, warehoused it and are pretending, nothing, nothing. Otedola, a private sector businessman, has exposed you. I have made up my mind to speak for the tourism industry in this regard, even though many people would fry me.
We have no Otedola to help us. I am yet to see the Otedolas in the tourism sector, and if they can be found, we need to list them and profile their interventions, if any. Documentation is very critical in this sector. Very critical. Our Ministry and its agencies are guilty for not helping us get palliatives. During the very first economic lockdown, the fear and impact on the sector, particularly the tourism media, was telling.
Otedola, hear us even if you don’t know us. We know you have the milk of human kindness flowing in you. Before that lockdown, I had always dreamt of having a day off on Otedola’s very beautiful luxury cruise boat anchored close to the American embassy in Lagos. I heard his friend, Aliko Dangote, the billionaire businessman from Kano, also owns the same kind of “machine,” also anchored at same spot.
Imagine reporting travels, and Otedola has not offered me a peep into this very luxury castle on water. But the truth is the man has eyes and ears to show kindness to many Nigerians (hoodlums) who are down and out, without making noise about it. Some people will give you just a bottle of coke and the world would watch them on CNN making noise about nothing.
Apart from Christian Chukwu, Otedola did the same for Majek Fashek, the “Send Down the Rain” reggae musician, and a Dr. Inih Ebong, a lecturer forcefully retired from a state university and left to die piecemeal, until Otedola happened on the scene.
Vanguard newspapers is one my best weekend papers because of the human interest stories that feature prominently on its pages but, again, since I left the paper over a decade ago, the paper has not measured up to tell us how people in tourism and travel in Nigeria are dying slowly.
Anyway, I am calling on Otedola to, please, look the way of our industry and help many who ordinarily should help Nigeria to become one of the best destinations in the world. Like I said earlier, I am drawing attention today to the low estate of media professionals in this sector. In the past 10 years, the tourism media has lost some its best brains to the outside world. From year to year, nobody seems to care how they fared. Poor or unpaid, threatened from all sides, enemies to all, even to the industry and players they swore to protect and promote.
Now, if one mentions the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), a lot of people would call me a hoodlum. Even the same workers whose case is pathetic would buy a full-page advertorial to call me names. In that place, there are workers for oga only and others for Nigeria. It started some years ago. The workers call it the salacious era!
Talking about names, there was once a personality who held sway at NTDC and each time you signed agreement to help provide tourism services to the organization, she would swallow the papers of agreement at the point of sharing palliatives. Hoodlums in government didn’t start today. A friend of mine, whose elder brother is the Deputy Senate President, complained to me about his very unexplainable encounter and wondered what has become of leaders in NTDC. I truly have no answers but I think the names we call our children when they are born matters.
Now, I don’t also understand why somebody would employ divide-and-rule tactics to ruin an organisation that is supposed to provide us succour and direction in tourism at a time like this. Recently, the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, went to give a lecture at the NTDC. Some people don’t agree it was a lecture, anyway, we are in a democracy.
The minister was kind enough to articulate the expectations of government and the industry from the minders of the government-funded tourism agency. Today, looking back to that visitation, the minister just wasted his time. Now that hoodlums have taught us some lessons, my prayer is that the workers at NTDC would not carry placards at this time to protest gross abuse of work ethics in the place. And if you must know, before you call me names, the same shenanigans are on showcase in all the agencies under the ministry, minus NCAC.
Just check out National Orientation Agency and you will vomit at its poor presence in addressing basic cultural and national development issues, which could have arrested the protests that engulfed the nation two weeks ago.
Now that the police say they would not return to man security, is it no appropriate for the orientation agency to intervene? My good friend, Segun Adeyemi, a special adviser to the minister, is wont to remind me that the minister cannot be everywhere at the same time, meaning some people at the helm of affairs in our tourism and related agencies don’t really fit.
I speak, and write that our palliatives are long in coming and, if your daughter or sister bears names such as Grace or Nkechi, it is important you go for deliverance. Please, I speak only if you have them in the tourism industry, otherwise, the those names are worthy.
In the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the warehousing of palliatives has names as mentioned on the bags of corruption.
I speak and write in the spirit. So, before the minister calls it fake news, let me remind the ogas at the top in the agencies of the ministry that there is God. Any attempt to call me or my colleagues hoodlums, because we are bold to ask for our palliatives and good governance, is an attack on the media and democracy, ask Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
Nkerewuem Onung, the board of trustees chairman of National Association of Tour Operators, is a troubler of my Israel. Anytime, I address national issues and call for urgent measures, he calls me to lecture me on civility and how to die for Nigeria while others smile home with our collective palliatives. He used to behave like Otedola before-before but the industry has taught him a hard lesson. He now dodges like a zebra. Even the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria, where he is deputy national president, cannot fight for our palliatives. Rabo Saleh, the president, has gone underground, even as board member of NTDC, he cannot bail the workers from their many troubles.
Let me ask, what exactly does FTAN represent? In this time, so critical for each section or opinion to be heard, loud and clear, FTAN under Rabo is nowhere to be found. No placards, no protest, no voice, nothing, just Sidon look? Just look at the police now saying no going back to work, why don’t FTAN call its members to down tools if it truly relevant to the survival of the industry.
If we close down hotels, recreation centers, restaurants and bars, Cinemas, and close down all artists deals and presence, won’t our palliatives ware houses be opened?
Please can someone tell me why I should not draw attention of Femi Otedola to the poor state of our tourism persons in Nigeria, particularly the media.
Let me appreciate CHIKA Balogun, even though she has left the services of government for over five years, she still remembers tourism media constituency. But for her intervention through her NGO, the media players and their families would have become hungry hoodlums. Gani Tarzan Balogun, the boatman was there too. He shared out of his little profit to keep the pen family going.
Don’t ask of FTAN, I know nothing about them but election is coming. God bless Gbenga Sumonu, chairman Lagos FTAN. He nosed down on Lagos government and the Lagos palliatives he distributed was nothing compared to what was exposed by the hoodlums who helped themselves to the warehouses. At least Gbenga Sumonu made effort. Where are others?
The benevolence of Otunba Segun Runsewe Director General, National Council for Arts Culture (NCAC), cannot be measured. From the police and other Frontline workers in the battle to mitigate impacts of Covid 19, he introduced far reaching measures which provided a template for Cultural management of covid, introducing home grown protocols profiles, thus empowering women and unemployed youths who took to tailoring to come up with affordable face masks made from local fabrics. Plenty jobs thus created and families fed.
That is why we must help Otunba Segun Runsewe to get our own palliatives from those who are holding it captive in the warehouse (s). Our industry needs the palliatives badly and am waiting for the minister to also visit operators who lost goods and businesses worth billions of naira during the protests. He should visit us too, not only just a select group. We are burnt out too. I have made up my mind to reach out to Otedola to help give me a ride on his iconic luxury boat, at least that will keep me away from the many troubles of our tourism sector. At least for now!!