Nkerewuem Onung, president, Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN), will possibly make our own “Nigerian Guinness Book of Records” for his strategic and determined efforts to rebrand and refocus the organised tourism practitioners’ representation and visibility.
First, he changed his address from his Cross River State home ground and influence, relocated to Abuja in order to lead the federation from the front as a tested war general would do. Nkerewuem Onung has a massive thriving tour outfit in Calabar, coupled with piano chords fingers in logistics, agriculture, hospitality, ferry services and rural banking.
He knew some of these establishments, some still at the early stages of pregnancy, may suffer his absence but the job to recreate the federation takes a patriotic centre stage.
In less than 100 days in office, he has shown that unity of purpose among federating associations is the way to go, the future, the game. He has established a web of relationships across board, travelled miles to show support to industry leaders who had to celebrate one event or the other. Indeed, Nkerewuem Onung can be trusted to be at your homes, events and ceremonial gatherings to help sustain the true values of our Cultural relationship expectations.
To nay sayers, the ball is in your court to invite him or forever be a prayer warrior for the sustainability of this initiative hitherto lacking in our industry, fueling individualism, bitterness and poor mentoring programs.
Two weeks ago, he constitutionally re winged the zonal Federation structure, in the South West and last week, the critical Abuja zonal structure, and gave vent to full participation of serious industry trade bodies.
Before now, the Federation livered on embittered process, hardly in support constitutional provisions, hence several ambushed attempts to generate needed buy in from stakeholders and including federal and state governments.
Interesting to me, however is the Federation’s desire to institute a yearly Nigerian Tourism Awards to celebrate tested industry Generals, men and women who fought for the industry at the front lines. Tourism Generals that earned their ranks and commission by staying strong for tourism in the heat of the battles, pointedly sacrificial and unputdownable.
In recent times, the industry has been washed and abased by all kinds of Awards, some clinically introduced to wing noisy adventurers as Generals and many other fly by night Lilliputians as our first eleven.
As much as one harbours no grudges against the promoters of all shades of awards in the sector, I have always held that a worthy awardee must bring integrity and unquestionable verifiable and enduring legacy not only to the award institution but also to the glory and acceptance of the values of tourism development.
Significantly, that is the blood line, the oxygen of a true National Tourism Award devoid of wholesale certification. At this point, let me cite some interventions. The late Victor Uwaifo told me in Benin, Edo State, about four years ago that he would never welcome, endorse and share any musical stage with any musician who has not consistently, productively stayed put on the musical scene for 50 years. He also disclosed that he would not accept to participate in any event or ceremony packaged by any organiser or individual whose source of wealth or pedigree is questionable, no matter how tempting the appearance fees.
Interpreted, the late music maestro wished and instituted integrity, and verification of vision and passion for the music industry. No Papa Oyoyo and sentiments of frying pan twists and turns.
In 1994, when National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), instituted its travel media award, the association so gained leaps and bounds in its singular recognition of the doggedness and passion of the often neglected travel and tourism press in Nigeria, thus opened a door of enduring creative and futuristic competitiveness among the tourism press to do more for sector. I recall later that nanta decided to step down the award when insidious and over ambitious persons wanted to influence the choice of winners and so rightly rested it.
Four years ago, NANTA came with more enhanced and enduring legacy awards, the Eminent Persons Award and to which later this year, under the watch Mrs Susan Akporiaye, the rested media award will be revisited. There will not be any divisive and unsubstantiated social media generated influence, no whisperings, no pecuniary motive but a kind of Victor Uwaifo integrity and passion timeline.
Truly, we have got to stage where a Nigerian Tourism Awards will help us to separate and identify the tourism generals from the ragtag army of the industry bourgeois gentihommes. We need a proper documentation, a verifiable record of persons or institutions that has built an enduring bridge for our tourism tomorrow.
Certainly, it is the desire of men and women to be appreciated and recognized yet such desire , expectation and reality must be driven by a hard board of profiling, birthed by unquestionable dedication and Professionalism.
That is why am looking forward to the upcoming ftan Nigeria Tourism Award and again kudos to nkerewuem onung for this refreshing challenge which must help us enthrone a new discuss on the quality of manpower, visionary leadership , gains sustainable and beneficial to the nation and the industry in particular.