… The tourism sector is crying for Justice
Wale Ojo Lanre
Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
I am sure you are on the drawing board drafting and structuring the government of National Unity to come after May 29, when you would have been gloriously planted in the saddle of the nation called Nigeria- the Greatest Country in the Universe.
As a clinical and clever strategist which you are, I am sure you will never fall into the error of the past but instead review the mistake to make it as a rectification column to reinforce your structure.
This is why I am sending this memo which is the second such to you after you emerged as the incoming President of Nigeria.
As the headline of this memo, it will be a monumental tragedy if we keep mute without letting you know where the nail punctured the bloating balloon of the tourism sector which was floating high, aiming the sky at the commencement of the 3rd Republic by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
Sir, the scrapping or merging of some ministries by President Mohammed Buhari in his efforts at scaling down the cost of governance, reducing overlapping in government agencies, and lubricating the wheel of operation of the civil service for optimum performance and national development is apt, right, and welcomed.
Truly, there are some of these ministries which can justifiably function while in alliance with others without duplicating offices and personnel.
However, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism with its nine parastatals is not one of the ministries which should be merged with another ministry because of what it stands to plant, grow, nurture, and showcase.
Thus, the scrapping of the hitherto Ministry of Culture and Tourism is not only an anathema to the development of tourism in Nigeria, but one of the faux pax which I believe this regime has committed which I hope could be and should be addressed squarely by you Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Unfortunately, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism Ministry had to go which is one of the youngest Ministries out of all.
The defunct ministry was not just created as an avenue for the jobless boys but as a result of the necessity of growing the tourism industry as an alternative to oil.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo had a passion for tourism not just because he saw it as an entertainment or recreation driving sector but a sector, if properly grounded has the wondrous capacity to empower, generate employment, mobilize funds, and serve, as an alternate revenue to oil.
Chief Obasanjo knew the essence of having a separate ministry for the Tourism and Culture sector as obtained in other countries that are tourism conscious explore and exploit the sector for the development of their countries.
And before Chief Obasanjo’s tenure, tourism has no separate ministry. It was either with the Ministry of Commerce or the Ministry of Information and under these ministries; the highest categorization for tourism has a mere department while the permanent secretary was the highest officer for all.
Chief Obasanjo then created the Ministry relying on the ad hoc committee’s report he initiated to look into ways to enhance the tourism industry and groom it to a level of world acceptance and patronage.
The informal committee made many suggestions and underscored the need to have a separate Ministry for Culture and Tourism.
The committee pointed out that one of the ways to grow, nurture and mobilize the numerous tourism resources available in this country for national development and growth is to “create a separate from Ministry to drive the vision of Mr. President on tourism”.
The committee listed 20 countries that today reap bountifully from tourism and emphasized that a separate ministry was created in these countries solely for tourism to drive the economic potentialities in culture, entertainment, recreation, wildlife, and others.
The countries are Australia, New South Wales, Western Australia, Brazil, Bahamas, Croatia, Canada, Ontario, France, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Lebanon, Malaysia, Peru, Philippines, Israel, Mauritius, New Zealand, Pakistan, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom, Vietnam.
In Ghana, the ministry was created in 1993 to promote, develop and coordinate tourism-related activities in the country. In 2003, under John Kuffuor’s administration, the ministry’s name was changed to the Ministry of Tourism and Modernisation of the capital city.
This was due to the expansion of the ministry’s portfolio to include the development of Accra into a modern international capital city. The ministry had another name in change to the Ministry of Tourism and Diasporan Relations. In 2009, the John Atta Mills administration reverted the name of the ministry to the Ministry of Tourism.
Ghana has only six notable and well-kept, internationally branded tourism sites and maintained a separate ministry for Tourism and the result is that last year only, the country made one billion dollars in revenue from tourism.
Chief Obasanjo created a separate Ministry for Culture and Tourism in 2000 and matched his passion with guts, vision, and direction.
The ministry’s first minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe laid the foundation for the industry which consecutive ministers built on.
It was because there was a fully-fledged ministry with a minister and even a minister of State who was all members of the Executive Council that enabled the sector achieved much under Chief Obasanjo,
It is to the credit of the ministry and the ministers that, Nigeria was not only admitted to the Commonwealth Tourism Ministers Committee but within four years of its existence, it hosted the Commonwealth Tourism Ministers’ Conference.
Chief Maduekwe was able to push some reforms with his clout at the Executive Council meeting such as 48 hours visa for intending tourists to Nigeria, and the abolition of embarrassing roadblocks being mounted then by officers security, Immigration, and Customs which was seen then as an encumbrance to travel and tourism.
Chief Obasanjo inaugurated the Presidential Council on Tourism which was not only visible but active throughout his tenure. Throughout Chief Obasanjo’s tenure, tourism was not only given pride of place but declared as one of the six preferred sectors.
And it was so.
And then, Nigeria’s image soared to high heaven and wielded respect in the comity of tourism nations. Though the passion with which Chief Obasanjo drove the tourism sector was not the same as his successors in office, they were able to retain the ministry with its nine parastatals.
Though President Muhammed Buhari has no tourism agenda, bearing in mind his ability as an efficient person and people’s expectation that he is coming to make things work, no one expected him to scrap or merge the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
The expectation of President Buhari was fuelled by his body language after he met with the officials of the ministry where he assured that his government would soon be inaugurating a Tourism Development Fund.
It was a shock to all that the Ministry of Culture and Tourism was never considered worthy of those ministries that survived the onslaught of the merger.
What the stakeholders were expecting was a reinforced Ministry of Culture and Tourism which will include National Parks, while National Orientation should go to the Ministry of Information.
By not having a separate Ministry for Culture and Tourism with a substantive minister, it has relegated Nigeria to the lowest step in the global tourism ladder and debars it from having a say of reference in the comity of tourism countries in the world.
Also, Nigeria will not have the strong latitude to negotiate and host International Tourism Summits like African Tourism Minister’s Conference, and Commonwealth Tourism Minister Conference and negotiate talks at the G20 Tourism Ministers Group.
For now, Tourism has no designated ministry except Culture which has been effectively taken control of by the Ministry of Information, National Orientation, and Culture.
However, the situation is not out of hope.
The President-elect, I have gone through this historical odyssey to ensure you have a rich tie back of how the tourism sector arrived at this sordid sector
Nigeria is a paragon of Tourism.
The tourism potentialities in Nigeria are bigger than 10 West African countries lumped together.
All we need to enhance these potentialities is for you to buy into the tourism vision, create a separate Ministry of Tourism and Culture with two Ministers, have a national tourism policy, and appoint competent tourism-minded souls to plant and fly your tourism vision.
I remember your passion for tourism when you were the Governor of Lagos State. I remember being a member of the tourism reporters band which covered the inauguration of Midas Hotel, Lekki, where you exposed the massive economic import of a thriving hospitality sector.
God bless you as you learn from the mistake of the past to ensure an enhanced present and prosperous future Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu!
Kindly create a Tourism and Culture Ministry.
It is good for the Nation
Sir, Oil is perishable. Tourism lives forever.
Wale Ojo- Lanre
Member, Special Media Projects- New Media, APC PCC.
Country Leader, Federation of World Culture and Arts Society, Singapore, FOWCAASS,
Former DG/ Senior Special Assistant to Dr. Kayode Fayemi on Tourism Development.
Ex-Chairman, Oyo NUJ.