“To be one, to be united, is a great thing. But to respect the right to be different is maybe even greater.” – Bono
Otunba Olusegun Runsewe is one distinguished Nigerian who has helped redefine how government can drive the business of culture and tourism beyond the lip service usually seen in government policy interpretation.
As director-general of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), he eschewed official deceit and took the business of tourism to the marketplace of ideas, enthroned a practical approach to its revival in Nigeria and a massive dose of marketing advocacy never seen in the annals of tourism engagement in Nigeria.
It was no magic neither a conception driven by the folklore of certain ancient parameters somewhere but a vision powered by the desire to prove to all that government has a right and pointedly so to practically guide, promote and open diverse marketing options for tourism.
Runsewe was egged on by the public but clearly misunderstood by “professional” sit-tight officials in the corridors of powers who could not understand the “noise” about tourism but would chose to spend their holidays in Europe or America.
Indeed, there is no denying the fact that Runsewe set a benchmark as key marketer of Nigerian tourism at NTDC, a visible revolution grown through the power of practical tourism as against the norms of talk shows, workshops and disgusting seminars with speakers and tourism seminarians in deep darkness.
As government’s culture and tourism entrepreneur, Runsewe believes that issues of tourism must leave the four walls of academic discourse into practical experimentation. The gospel of tourism and culture can only fly outside the “church” of select few and embrace the evangelism ethos of soul-winning. Real tourism entrepreneurs, according to Runsewe, must be practical.
At NTDC, he took 36 states commissioners to South Africa to witness the “can do spirit” of Mandela’s people. At the World Travel Market, ITB Berlin and recently at the last World Cup in Russia, Runsewe showcased Nigeria and is noted today to have brought the Nigerian drum web and the diverse Nigerian culture fashion attributes to international frontier, to the huge admiration of foreigners and Nigerians in diaspora.
In line with his entrepreneurial practical expressions, Runsewe, after a tour of Dubai with the management of NCAC, took the learning curve out of the office circles of government and invited select representatives of the private sector influencers in culture and tourism to an open engagement to refocus the desire of Nigeria as culture and tourism destination to watch. Runsewe inspiring “can do” welcome speech challenged the private sector to create various webs of practical culture and tourism businesses to prove to the tourism world that Nigeria can be seem to play its part well.
A heavy dose of tourism Dubai, which he rightly dubbed an inspirational work of artificial architectural creativity and rightly so, can possibly not be compared with the natural cultural and tourism endowments seen in Nigeria but neglected and not factored in developmental agenda of most state governments.
Since there is a noticeable interplay between the federal government’s culture and tourism institutions, and the organised private sector, NCAC in particular generated a document, a kind of national declaration, to move culture and tourism business into the same driving motive that changed and oriented a Dubai out of the wilderness of yesterday’s uncertainty.
Uhakheme Ozolua, a frontline culture journalism entrepreneur and of The Nation Newspapers and Andrew Okungbowa of Association of Travel Journalists and Writers of Tourism (ANJET), who penned their names to the declaration for a new vision for Nigeria culture and tourism, believe the approach would expose the hidden drawbacks and advance a collective endorsement for solution to our many years of tourism “development.”
Alhaji Badaki Aliyu, a top hotelier and FCT chapter vice president of the Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria, commended the Runsewe initiative and cautioned the private sector to change the often misplaced slogan that wrongly claimed that government has no business in the business of tourism, adding that the Dubai, South Africa and Asia experiences where government invested heavily in security and infrastructure, marketing and promotion, had proved beyond measure that government must be in the forefront of new practical engagement in culture and tourism as intentioned by Runsewe.
“Talk is over gentlemen, this is a call to do, but also can-do spirit by all of us,” he said.
•Next week: Who said what at the Abuja declaration!!