The election of new executives for the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN) has come and gone. It was a process that could possibly change the fortunes of the sector and how practitioners relate with government on tourism issues.
To many people, including observers of the many sides of the federation, it was not an election in the true sense of the word but a mere “selection” forced by circumstances that could have left many active participants distraught and on wrong side of history.
From the inside circle of power brokers, the very timely and wise steps taken by the chairman of board of trustees of the federation, Barr. Samuel Alabi, and the immediate past president, Mr. Tommy Akingbogun, it was possible to checkmate the clean sweep of all advertised positions by the rampaging bloc of progressives who want a bullish change in the affairs this august body ruled for years by hoteliers and their cronies.
The effective interpretation of the handwriting of change on the wall for the federation was in itself a great lesson that must drive the new direction to nourish the association back to acceptability and empowerment of industry players.
One other major lesson that needs to be “forced” down our throat is the need to truly revisit the constitution of the federation, which has gone through a series of fanciful and autocratic insertions thereby negating the true essence of the founding principles of the body. Indeed, since the federation has deemed it fit to revisit this, it, therefore, brings back a sense of the negotiations that birthed the federation.
Specifically, in this voyage of ideas, it is imperative to state that FTAN is an association of tourism-related associations and not tourism or culture companies or individuals. The de-boning and de-marketing of this provision largely contributed to the noticeable rebellion of some sub-sector associations in the past.
Another time bomb that is yet to be addressed is the growing demand by some very important sections of the tourism economy, which need to be assisted to grow and find their footing and to which many industry leaders appeared to be impatient at their existence as factories of mushrooming nonentities.
Yes, man is a known political animal and in FTAN of tomorrow, the new leaders must find a way and means of reaching out to others to work together and not push for self and power. A federation with 22 registered sub-sector bodies that still cannot pick its bills and speak truth to authority is in itself a useless monkey prancing around for mere glory.
It is also an important lesson and observation that the federating power structure grounded on the six geopolitical zones should be revisited and made the true test case for future elections into all critical areas of the association’s leadership, particularly the presidency, since these various blocs supposedly drive tourism and culture business at the grassroots.
Even though one admits that an association endorses an aspirant to the national elective office, such a candidate must be seen to have served effectively and transparently at the local chapter and, therefore, come well-equipped with experience and passion to serve at the centre of the federation.
Sadly, the game of shame today reflects the dangerous bent where power-mongers oxygenate their ambition to become “executive” at the centre through the zonal structures without any record of achievement, which must be discouraged. It is helpless to imagine that the South West zone, for instance, where majority of active stakeholders and industry businesses abound, do not feel the impact of FTAN and its zonal leadership.
The expected and right thing(s) to do is to drive zonal structures that could galvanise the sector at the level of administration to become the face of tourism development and progress and, if need be, challenge the states and local government authorities to embrace the tourism economy to partner employment and encourage rural growth.
It is a mission achievable and to which the template to promote and market domestic tourism and culture product(s) finds a tripod. FTAN zonal structures and not the centre are the engine rooms of development and let those so “selected” wake up and prove to Nigerians that their national call to duty is a challenge to help rewrite the history of tourism in Nigeria.
We must warn that the restructuring of FTAN will never be complete without booting out the Board of Trustees (BOT). FTAN cannot have new wine in old wineskin; we must change the BOT.
Next week: The unveiling of the new FTAN executive, their individual strengths and weaknesses.