When President Muhammandu Buhari came in 2015, he was quick to roll out his vision and agenda for Nigeria under his watch. The most important aspect was the fact that governance would not be business as usual. The President’s anti-corruption crusade came like Hurricane Andrew; many people took flight and changed their ways.
Former Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, told us he would give tourism practical economic visibility, and he did. Otunba Segun Runsewe, as the then director-general of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation ( NTDC), told us he was not going to spend government’s tourism budget on workshops and seminars but on driving practical tourism action plans, and he left legacies that were very big shoes for his successors to fill. He is doing the same thing at the National Council of Arts and Culture (NCAC) and the whole world is perplexed at the best of Nigerian indigenous culture.
We have had governors like Ahmed Tinubu and Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, of Lagos and Abia states, respectively, who turned around the fortunes of their people and were proudly documented and referenced as influencers and benchmarks of developmental sagacity.
Indeed, underlining societal evolution and development are key factors propelling men and women to aspire to lead. No wonder some leaders never die in the hearts of their people, so blessed by the work and presence of such legacy influencers, living or dead.
In the areas of global religion, Jesus Christ and Prophet Mohammed remain the frontrunners in leaving behind enduring legacies, many of their lifestyles, footprints still guide peoples and nations today.
So, you ask me, what do some men and leaders such as the Pharaoh that did not know Joseph leave behind? Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, witnessed the failing aspect of his father’s shortcomings, yet took to ignominy and got recorded as the king that split Israel.
In our tourism clime, we have the worst, good and ugly legacies and we usually and quickly forget and go back to our vomit. Let me tell you that this timeless inquisition about Folarin Coker’s legacies in the NTDC may be construed as a sponsored attempt to extort pecuniary advantage. Na their style when the bell for accountability rings out loud.
I am prepared to be called names for standing up for the truth, to the betterment of our tourism economy and the good of our nation so blessed but milked dry by locusts in our midst. Our business today and in weeks to come is to interrogate how a nation of 200 million people was bewitched into silence by the leadership in the NTDC.
In the next few months, this administration will have to present its tourism scorecard and I wonder what Folarin Coker will show off as his legacies.
Let us come clean on the current maximum leader of NTDC. He is handsome, articulate and has a political machinery that oxygenates his deep antagonism for legacy expectations.
Was Folarin Coker overwhelmed by the legacies he met at NTDC? That type of signature turnaround under the watch of Olusegun Matthew Runsewe? Indeed, he met ally Mbanefo’s disastrous flourishing at an agency that was saddled with turning our tourism fortunes into gold, yet chose like Rehoboam to listen to gutter submissions on tourism administration and empowerment.
Significantly, both Sally and the boyish-looking Coker are in the same boat, ignoring the oversight of history and the voice of reason. Though today is not about Sally Mbanefo, the Nigerian flag model princess, Coker fared not better, with a body language carelessly telling us he is above accountability, confrontational to anyone who dares ask him what’s going on in NTDC.
Though our Honourable Minister, Mr. Lai Mohammed, excused himself adequately from the marginalization of tourism workers through a well-publicized visit to NTDC to draw Coker’s attention to what was expected of him in NTDC and the horrorondious feedback from the private sector, including shocking encounters with interested parties to our tourism tomorrow, Uncle Lai Mohammed told Coker that he was very far gone from an industry he was appointed to serve. Lai Mohammed was no false accuser of the brethren, he once worked with Coker and tried to protect him.
I watched Coker closely when he marshalled Lagos’ tourism affairs. Though he was very “arrogant” about his call and how to implement it, there was no doubt he, at least, had a mission and vision. I was not part of his tourism kitchen cabinet in Lagos, yet Coker glowed under the massive encouragement of Governor Ambode to deliver Lagos countdown and culinary culture never seen in government entertainment and tourism empowerment circles.
I must confess, he listened to me. I must state, he wished to be better; and I admit, he encouraged selected meetings and engagement with the private sector in Lagos’ tourism architecture.
Was I fooled and did Ambode make a wrong choice in Coker as commissioner of tourism in Lagos? No doubt, I got involved when Ambode saw what we could not see, hidden from our eyes. In retrospect, I now know better. It is only God that cannot be fooled!
I am not a politician but a tourism journalist, ready to defend the industry and anyone above board in getting the sector a head start. I wear this legacy as a badge of honour. It is over three decades of cultural tourism evangelism and still counting, to the glory of God.
Let me leave the details of the dirty fight between Coker and Ambode. Suffice it to report that I got the very powerful presence of National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies, then under the leadership of Bankole Benard, to articulate the visible legacies of Coker in Lagos.
The gesture, which also captured the position of the very Midas touch of Segun Runsewe in NTDC, was greeted by the industry with plaudits and acceptance. That signature NANTA eminent persons’ award, which Coker attended in person to shake hands across board and with various interest groups in the industry, remains a lifetime legacy that was not steeped in pecuniary consideration.
Coker cannot deny this fact and, unknown to many people, Coker does not part with his money easily. I really can’t say if he is stingy or not. I have no memory of his generosity that has made legacy impact on anyone or the industry, except for the Lagos effort.
At the centre and in NTDC, Coker simply failed to re-enact the little he did in Lagos. He fought everything and everyone. He became fearful of fear and was grounded in moving NTDC forward. He frustrated the workers, leaving the six geopolitical zones structures of NTDC limping on fractured. Nigeria made no headway in the comity of tourism nations in the past four years.
The Ntdc structure of administration collapsed, no private sector collaboration, no visibility, no agenda, no code of ethics and the place died. He leveraged on his political connection not better the workforce and the industry but pulled weight in questionable scale to muzzle associations, journalists and investors who desired and rightly so to partner Ntdc for new tourism agenda to the benefit of our country.
Why Coker cared less about his presence and pedigree remain a mystery. Was he charmed, was this handsome Lagos boy bewitched?, Plenty questions to which any attempt by the federal government to fall into error in reappointing him will spill unrepairable damage to Ntdc and the industry at large.
Am still interested in finding out how Folarin Coker fell from grace. This industry does not have the luxury of being foisted with persons who lack ambition, knowledge and passion. And as we wait out the next few weeks of his dribbling and sad management of federal government tourism agenda, we pray that God help us to frustrate those who are lobbying for Ntdc appointment without vision and passion.
Folarin Coker, where is your Ntdc tourism legacy, the nation and people await your score card.