One good thing about Jos is that when you come to the city, you will find it very difficult to leave because of the hospitable nature and serenity.
Governor Simon Lalong says tourism in the Plateau deserves an emergency rework to bounce back. Humble, very unassuming, the plateau governor believes that the issue of insecurity in the state is over exaggerated, adding that he would focus more on tourism infrastructure than ever before. Yours faithfully anchored this interview with the amiable governor who shared great insight on how he wants tourism to flourish with select tourism journalists in his office in Jos.
Wrong impression about Plateau
Let me say that sometimes seeing is believing, because the impression given outside not only on Plateau but sometimes when a visitor is coming to Nigeria, people will tell you at the airport that you have to be very careful and also what the international community say about this country is unfortunate. I like the way, my friend, the director-general of the National Council of Arts and Culture (NCAC) Otunba Segun Runsewe said at the conference telling us that the western stereotypes were figment of their imagination because they tell a wrong story about Nigeria and it is high time we gave them the right perspective through our rich culture and right narrative. And again the impressions given about Jos by outsiders are different from the reality. When you come to the state, now you will see a lot of traffic, right from the entrance of the state to the city, you will see a lot of traffic, virtually every week. Recently I have a meeting with the business community and they were telling me that hotels are now too small to accommodate visitors in the state, and they are telling me that they are looking for opportunity to build more hotels to accommodate people during the weekends and even lamented about scarcity of accommodation during holidays. So when I hear people saying that there is no peace in Plateau, I wonder which part of Plateau they are referring to.
At least most of you have been in Jos the past 48 hours and up to a week you can see that there were no crisis anywhere unlike the sentiment by some media and social media that Plateau State is no go area. But as a Governor of the state, I know it is not a no go area, it is a peaceful, accommodating place and very hospitable for people. Yes you have some pocket of crisis in some villages here and there, which is almost what happened in every state and even most countries of the world. There is no state or country that will say they are leaving peacefully without having any crisis, so if there is no crisis in those countries, it means then there is no need for police and the Army, but since it occur in one time or the other, that is why we have Police and Army. But then, the magnitude of exaggeration or escalation of any crisis is what we are pleading to always downplay, not to always overemphasize that Plateau State or the capital, Jos is not a no go area. The better part of my tenure, about three and a half years we all enjoyed the serenity of the state, we celebrated home coming of most footballers, musicians and others stars that started their career from Jos and as it is now, we are also –planning to enjoy ourselves at the end of the year, because on yearly basis, we do invite people to come and take advantage of the weather so I think that impression of insecurity is not true reflection of what you see in Plateau State.
Thank God you are here to see things for yourselves. Jos is a very attractive place to stay, considering the weather and standard of living here. One good thing about Jos is that when you come to the city, you will find it very difficult to leave because of the hospitable nature and serenity. So I still emphasize that Plateau is still home of Peace and hospitality.
Peace and Security in the state
On the way forward for Plateau tourism, first tourism is the mainstay for Plateau State, I want to give credit to the first governor of the state, who in his wisdom saw the need to create and put lot of potential on tourism in the state. I think he brought the first Museum, zoo and a lot of things. Because the potential are all here and after that Plateau was nicknamed ‘the home of peace and tourism because of the weather and the people’s hospitality, so we kept on calling it home of peace and tourism until when we started having some crisis in the state. But even after that crisis, we still use the same slogan for the state. Plateau is the only place where people are running to when they have crisis and where people will run to when they look for cool place for their holidays. But for that long period, we wanted to pay attention to tourism; we need to develop some policy framework to guide the process, that unfortunately we have not done, all we always mentioned about tourism, we have not done. But this time, even with the presentation and conference I was touched and that was why we decided that we would invoke state of emergency on tourism. By that, it means that we are going to focus more attention on tourism as a source of great revenue for not only Plateau State but also for Nigeria. Instead of running to Kenya or UK because of the weather, what we just need to do is to develop that in Plateau State and people will find a much more better holiday resort for themselves.
State of emergency on Tourism
When I mentioned state of emergency, I mean full attention will be placed and focused on tourism in Plateau State, because we know many sources of revenue in the state. We have agriculture, which we are developing right way, we have minerals that are already there and we also made tourism as part of our five policy thrust. First of all, we are ready on the number one which is peace and security. You cannot introduce tourism without peace at the same time if you have peace what do you do? You must enjoy it. So tourism and peace go together. So by the term state of emergency, I mean practical attention on tourism.
Repositioning and sustaining tourism in Plateau
First of all, I already have a memo on my table which I deliberately kept until after this conference and it has come and gone.