Like a Trojan, the Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) Director-General, Folorunsho Coker, has been known to be a determined personality. The city socialite moves in elite circles and has been this way for decades. As an influential member of the society, Foley, as he’s fondly called, has held several offices in the Lagos State government prior to his current position. Not a few were surprised when Coker, who suffered a setback in Lagos, overcame the stormy weather which threatened to upturn his career vessel that just started a fresh journey. But like a cat with nine lives, the sociable gentleman bounced back with a top job at the federal level as the chief marketer of Nigeria’s tourism potential. Some staff of the NTDC had been up in arms against him soon after he resumed work. On another front, stakeholders in the industry were also badgering him on account of reforms he was trying to bring to the sector. The internet was awash with sleaze linking him to corruption in his previous duty post. However, since he assumed office as NTDC boss in 2017, he has refrained from performing his assignments on the pages of newspapers, but focused mainly on building blocks that will allow subsequent development plans within the Nigeria’s tourism sector. He was said to have met a lot of historical debts. But with limited funding, he has been able to discharge some of them as to keep the organisation alive. The implementation of his financial engineering plans was the cause of his initial running battle with a segment of the corporation staff when he resumed in 2017.
As part of his plans targeted at the millennials and the growing Nigeria’s Diaspora population, his team at NTDC has created two key digital marketing brands –Tour Nigeria and Nigerian Flavour— to generate in-bound tourists. He believes that by virtue of our population, we have the strength to bring good number of Diaspora to Nigeria. But his ultimate ace is the new NTDC Bill awaiting President Muhammadu Buhari’s assent as the needed legal framework to grow the nation’s tourism potential. The new bill, according to Coker, when passed into law will prompt a financial framework that will allow the agency to operate as a business entity capable of generating huge revenues for the economy. He likened the NTDC’s legal framework to the required foundation (the financial framework inclusive) laid in the communication, banking, oil and gas sectors, and which resulted in their huge revenue returns.
Coker’s experience as an hospitality entrepreneur prior to his public life has been an added advantage. For over 15 years, the son of Baba Eto of Lagos, Chief Folarin Coker, ran a hugely successful upscale night club in Victoria Island, Lagos, until he became tired. The 54-year-old dude used to be married to celebrated fashion designer, Folake Akindele-Coker of Tiffany Amber fame. The marriage, which produced three children, crashed some years ago. Even though his ex-wife has yet to remarry, Coker has moved on with his new wife, Aisha Rimi.