NIHOTOUR: When Nigerian food Matters.

By Frank Meke

It is like a plague in the heart when we assume Nigeria does not matter in developmental strides. It is equally a failed strategy when we have so much, yet live in denial of the truth of how we Could transform our nation and people, as contributors to global tourism acceptation, particularly in cultural tourism.

No doubt, our diversity in culture and tradition cannot be over emphasised and for long, as far I can remember, the messages of our richness and unbelievable grace as recipients of God abundance gift in fertile landscape , rivers and fauna resources, remains unexplainable.

World Gastronomy Day, celebrated every 18th June, gave us another opportunity put our threshold in food culture on global map. National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism, ( NIHOTOUR), simply did the magic.

This year alone, three food festivals, all held in lagos, called out the nation and people, to a seminary of futuristic collaboration and partnership to create awareness to a new oil wealth in food industry.

I had taken to engaging such process, noting such gathering merely tailored to husbanding struggling vendors as mere adjuncts to organised investment influencers who just want to embellish their business targets.

If you know, you know but NIHOTOUR focal attempt has no explorative agenda but rather to give vent to a blossoming and an inclusive support to a sustainable creative future growth of veritable food enterprises and entrepreneurs.

In one swoop, NIHOTOUR, in true practical application as a vocational Hospitality industry trainer, , put up a veritable platform to profile the diverse range of our food and cuisine ecology across the six geographical zones, carefully and cheerfully, fronting the private sector, to stand in gap, defining tomorrow’s expectations, and showcasing its tourism destination values.

Farming and why we should, shoulder the difference and gain going forward, encouraging and improving our farming habits, also formed part of the NIHOTOUR initiative.

Indeed, since the formation of this government Hospitality and Tourism vocational intervention capacity building agency, this is arguably the first full impactful attempt outside the classroom, to help interpret our local food content and context, beyond just relishing the fullness to the advantages the our palate and taste bud.

Does our food and beverage ecology satisfy the global quest for research in wellness and healthy lifestyle? Let me confess, that is what was on display and freely devoured by guests and visitors last weekend in Abuja, deserving more strategic inquisition to the demands of a world today ravaged by strange sickness and poor presentation of food chain, pressured into certain telling unhealthy practices in food preparation, planning and presentation.

A man certainly is what he eats and there is no equivocation about it, eating healthy and right, is now the testament of creed in medical tourism.

Though the master of ceremony engaged by NIHOTOUR was far from giving the audience the opportunity to strengthen the resolve to appreciate the fact that Nigerian food and beverage speaks volume in this aspect, and failed woefully to call up master chefs at the event to share the prosperity and profiles of lines and tables of the humongous display of nigerian food chains freely available, I snoozed in irritations why NIHOTOUR engaged a Nollywood lover against tested food and hospitality specialist to fully, engage food loving Nigerians and visitors, on the huge medical and medicinal benefits obtainable across well laid out and tempting Gastronomy exposition rack.

Clearly reading my mind, possibly impressed with what Nigerian food could do to aid body growth, wellness and development, South Africa embassy official, who showed off his heaviness and good health, gave it to his taste bud adventures to eating and tastings our Amala and ewedu soups, Egusi and pounded, embellished with assorted cow hides( Pomo) and our undiluted palm wine beverage.

Mrs Patricia Narai, Director, Domestic Tourism, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, made my day, and possibly should have headlined the basic interpretative profiling our diverse food and beverage calendar.

She sang of the wellness contents of paw paw, water melon and banana, insightful of the great benefits to which these array of fruits, generously found and grown in Nigeria, could add to Nigeria’s quest to be counted as Africa’s food tourism destination.

Nura Sani Kangiwa, Director General, National Institute For Hospitality and Tourism ( NIHOTOUR), from all intent and purposes has unbundled the many food culture of Nigeria and to dream of taking it beyond the shores of Nigeria, is a welcome development.

Though he Marshalled his intentions in an mistakeable narrative, laced with passion, my fear is the funding of such tourism export viabilities in a world where super power food producing nations such as China and United States, have invested billions of dollars into trade advertisements targeting poor African nations to serve and eat their food.

Interestingly, the Chinese embassy, Ethiopia and Spain, graced the NIHOTOUR Gastronomy Day outing and oh dear me, the Chinese won my heart in food packaging even though, I deliberately avoided their stand.

Do you know what, ? It was indeed gracious to see Nigerian food and beverage entrepreneurs and vendors going shoulder high in packaging, but more need be done in this regard, as its value chain potential is a waiting and winning game in job creation and employment opportunities.

NIHOTOUR mobile kitchen is deep in the teaching frontiers of engaging the youths and entrepreneurs but it must be so enhanced to break the lines of numerous enquiries from teeming unemployed Nigerian young persons, wallowing in nest of unprofiled job scales in agriculture and food science.

NIHOTOUR six geographical zones food and beverage chain display was unique. I went for owerri soup ( ofe owerri) and next week, I will give you my verdict. Honestly, if you were not in Abuja, for the event, don’t miss next year, hoping nura Kangiwa and his NIHOTOUR, can take tlthe message round the zones under its management jurisdiction.

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