Next week, we shall roll out the drums to celebrate our togetherness as a people and nation in the past 60 years. Great experience and reality indeed, and to God be the glory.
To us in the emerging tourism industry, it is not Uhuru yet but certainly we have held our head above water. It was tough from the beginning; from Nigerian Tourism Authority (NTA) to Nigeria Tourism Board (NTB) to Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), all in an attempt to draw focal attention to tourism as a key driver of our economy, the problem, however, lies in government trying to organise the disorganised private sector, yet unwilling to power their wobbly legs in the right direction.
One must state with all sense of responsibility that the Federal Government has done well. From the evangelical expression and commitment to the sector as a preferred economic activity, government graciously created a stand-alone ministry, but later re-merged it with Information due to poor understanding of its very complex attributes, yet the truth is that those tasked with driving the business and the various policy oversight helped themselves to the bounty.
These unfortunate privileged Nigerian tourism technocrats worked and helped themselves and told us “it is a private sector affair.” They stole us blind, hid budget allocation for the sector from the public and practitioners.
For 60 years, it is arguably only in the tourism sector that government budgets are not made public at federal and state government levels. Government tourism officials live big off the “poor budget allocations,” while the practitioners, without help, support and encouragement, struggle to provide jobs and pay humongous taxes and levies.
And until a certain Otunba Segun Matthew Runsewe happened on the scene, our tourism that was despotically undermined in the past, began to make sense.
NTDC hitherto a piggery warehouse, was restored to prime focal enabler. NTDC, under Runsewe, became the industry bus stop, provided umbrella for the private sector, broke into the global tourism community, gave certain African tourism leadership pretenders a run for their money, restored our national pride and many people wondered at our culture engagement and re-enactment.
Runsewe has again left many people floored. He is very visible and passionate to change the old order. He has brought hope to industry players and heartache to pretenders and wasters of our tourism opportunities.
These our tourism destiny wasters know themselves. God forbid, they want to turn our industry to a cemetery, eat everything in sight.
Now enter the caterpillars and grasshoppers. Agents of darkness, pretending and parading questionable tourism certificates and yesterday’s questionable glory. They are vocal and easily seen in the corridors of power. Smart, articulate and expert in organizing collaborations specifically tailored to meet the needs of unpatriotic and hungry government officials, they corner businesses meant for tourism agencies, bridge gaps of intergovernmental relationships across board, set up conduit pipes and become the new lords of the tourism manor.
COVID-19 is to be appreciated for exposing the jackals of the tourism sector. President Muhammadu Buhari, no doubt, has provided the industry with various financial interventions and aid, yet the few with selfish eagle eyes have manipulated the system to their benefit.
We ask, where is government N-Power intervention for the private sector? Who are those who collected the fund and how is it being executed? Is it an individual or government agency that is empowered to execute the N-Power project?
Who are the government officials helping themselves and not the private sector and government to ambush the project?
In the weeks to come, we shall get to the root of this saga and unmask the mafia. Last week, a top industry player, influencer and fearless critic of the sector fumed at the trend of individuals pretentiously misleading government officials; they take over their obligatory roles and in so doing milk government of resources meant to help the private sector and also empower the many unemployed from skill acquisition.
Till next week, happy 60th anniversary to you all.