Last week, in Abuja, tourism industry players and stakeholders proved beyond doubt that leadership counts, and that credibility, capacity and integrity will drive the process going forward. Interestingly, the naysayers, the doubting Thomases stayed away; it is their right, though. Indeed, the electoral process, from the countdown to the end, was approached from a different perspective and no doubt the better candidate, Mr. Nkerewuem Onung, from the National Association of Nigeria Tour Operators (NATOP) polled 71 votes to floor Ayo Olumoko of ITPN, who scored 22 votes only.
So how did this new FTAN election happen? The networking, horse trading and high points? I will give some of the detailed accounts and the names behind the rebirth of this all-important collaborative private sector association.
Networking: Great lessons on how to practically run and grow the sector, deployed massively by the Onung campaign team. Everyone and every association was approached and opportunities provided to join in the recalibration of the federation. Tribe, and tongue did not factor in the process. It was a free socio-tourism entrepreneurial engagement, no deceit, no bitterness. It was a game-changer, it brought many into the fold, with assurances of a better tourism tomorrow.
Associations and not individuals as focal attention: As earlier stated, it was the winning game. Administratively, FTAN’s strength lies in the united visibility and empowerment of federating associations and not the perceived local chapters, which have no technical or administrative relevance in the day-to-day running of the federation. Notably, state chapters are creations not known the true value ecology of the federation and one of the sore points that would be surgically addressed under the new dispensation to bring sanity to the issues that have troubled the organisation in the past one decade.
Government partnership: it is incredible to note that, before this new call for FTAN, most government agencies with tourism focal agenda hardly showed interest in the affairs of the federation. No tourism grants or bridge of support. It has always been a passive relationship, sometimes acrimonious even, when some known practitioners held critical positions in the Ministry of Tourism and its implementation organs. However, this time around, it was different, glaringly exciting, revealing and progressive. The National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) rolled out the drums to give the industry hope and encouragement. The Otunba Segun Runsewe-led agency in charge of arts and culture was all over the place, making delegates feel at home and welcomed. The delegates’ night held at Grand Mirage Hotel, Abuja, which also housed most delegates, would remain indelible in the minds of industry practitioners and delegates. It truly potenteds the gains of effectual relationship between the government and industry players.
Runsewe showed the maturity and wisdom inherent in a cultural tourism economy. He gave it the needed interpretations and gained the trust and confidence of all. Don’t ask me about Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC). I saw and witnessed nothing for NTDC, except the noise that they don’t have money!!! What a shame!
Unveiling the progressive masquerades
For the greater part of the evolution of the federation, I had always been part of the change process, with very few like minds and lovers of FTAN. I will, for the sake of this exposition, dub them the FTAN Patriots. Significantly, the list changes at each election, indicative that there are angels watching everyone’s contributions to the growth of the industry. Unlike the Jos group, which ushered in the last administration, the FTAN Patriots of Onung, Andrew Ehanire, John Best Likite, Ganiyu Tarzan Balogun, Ikechi Uko, Bankole Bernard, Andrew Okungbowa and Kabiru Malan brought in two promising industry changers of our time, Mrs. Susan Akporiaye and the unassuming Badaki Aliu. Both became the soul of the Team Progressive, showing maturity and wisdom. Their story and what they brought to the table is a story for another day.
Chief Samuel Alabi, chairman, Board of Trustees, FTAN: A former president of the association whom I will dub the FTAN rescue missionary, holds the assets and liabilities of the federation. He suffers no fool gladly, underrate him and you will kiss the canvas. Chief Sam Alabi stabilized the electoral process, ensured the contestants met the guidelines, generated confidence, built trust and faith. He was everywhere, attended to all enquires and called on the industry to recognize the contributions of Runsewe to the growth of FTAN, promising to fund and host the event. He restored my hope and faith in the future of the federation and tourism in general. He is a notable general to go to war with. Samuel Alabi has earned his place in the history of tourism in Nigeria. He is indeed a Tourism General.
The election results countdown: Vincent Ugbor, chairman of the FTAN electoral committee, is an industry player to watch. He was cool and calm and refused to be intimidated into error. He was democratic and transparent. The results countdown was nerve-wracking, the high intrigues and horse trading earlier heightened the process. Even though Badaki Aliu knew his principal would come up tops, the very “dramatic” appearance of Ayo Olumoko, despite several calls, added to the nervous countdown. What happened and reasons shall be interrogated soon. Was the very childish game plan of Olumoko meant to frustrate the election, to give it a negative slant or an acceptance of defeat before the actual voting process? Time shall tell. However, It was a regrettable sore point indeed.
South-West vice-president: Strategic to both contesting groups. Gbenga Sumonu was the sole candidate going to the election but got his backers offended due to his alleged “compromised allegiance.” He went into the contest against Julius Tunde Julius and lost 60 votes to 39 votes. Why Somuno lost was not farfetched. He was naive, failed to read the writing on the wall and was pedestrian. Another day for this story.
Lessons: A new era, though early in the day, but it does not take prophetic interpretations to note that collaborations and togetherness will form the backbone and fulcrum of the new FTAN leadership. The progressives indeed landed and the lesson to learn is that we must work together or disintegrate. Let us all table our fears and worries, and help the federation’s leadership to find solutions.I am glad I was part of the new FTAN, fully recalibrated for the growth and relevance of the industry. Integrity matters!!