By Frank Meke.
There’s something special about men and women called of God. They bring and preach salvation freehold and wholesale. The message of salvation is delivered authoritatively and with power.
These oracles of God are just bound physically just like any of us, but when they speak, the flow, the deliveries, and intent are unmistakable . There’s power, truth told with candour.
When Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria ( ftan) president, Nkereweum onung hinted me recently that Akwa Ibom state governor will headline the discussion on Nigeria tourism ecosystem, I pinched a bit of salt into my mouth.
You may wonder why salt and not wine? Salt wakes us up to certain taste bud reactions , it could either flavour the meal or stump it. The wine option is tempting, a little for your belly’s sake( that is, if you’re sick) or be lured into stupur.
Governor Eno umo is the Happy Hour evangelist for Akwa Ibom tourism. He is a pastor, and that special call puts him on our national spiritual radar. But to us on the tourism beat, Pastor Umo Enoh is a hospitality caregiver, and we are carefully proud.
Most of the frontline industry players in our humongous hospitality industry told me he is a jolly fellow, and I wondered why our paths have not crossed.
I pride myself as an encyclopedia of the industry, but again, this business is getting to learn and meet new people every day. My column in the Sun newspapers is aptly tilted ” People and Tourism “, an insight into how tourism is about people, for people and about people .
So, with the salt in my mouth, I attended the hugely successful ftan 26th Annual General Meeting in Abuja on Thursday last week.
How would this pastor deliver his speech on tourism, particularly his Arise Ibom tourism brand.? I had planned to corner him by myself to an exclusive interview and to study his spirituality .
That intent to look him in the face with salt in my mouth is because he preached Happy Hour, and I want deeper interpretation. Our industry from head to toe is repleat with the Barabas spirit.
In fact, plenty of tourism Barabas(es) spoke before Governor Eno umo took his turn. I was actually taken aback by the absence of the governor. His representative, the deputy governor, Senator Akon Eyakenyi, is someone I know closely. The memories of our encounter of many years ago in Akwa Ibom still sour in my mouth even though I came with a salted mouth.
Do I spit out the salt from my mouth and walk away? Can the Senator deliver the tourism message of Pastor Eno with power and authority? Can she speak our language and interpret the same?
Since I came in peace, I had to submit my thoughts to positive expectations, and with the salt in my mouth, expressly within the tongue reach to be spewed out if the contrary happened.
Nkereweum onung was smart. He kept governor Eno umo for the last beat. Good wine for the last, and it was later that it occurred to me why ftan president took the option.
Senator Akon Eyakenyi has chopped up ooo. As commissioner of Tourism in Akwa Ibom state years back, she may have kept a watch on her weight, but here today, representing the governor of her state, she trod with grace, beauty and intelligence.
The salt in my mouth nearly dropped as she found her way to the podium, no frills, no razzmatazz and drama by security persons, watching over big Barabases in Nigeria.
I watched her body language, still not sure she came to put life to the message of her principal beyond beyond mere recitation. The Senator, now deputy governor, used to be one of us, but one can never say how people quickly forget where they are coming from and pretend our roads never crossed.
Plenty of things trying to distract me while I carefully read every step, Senator Akon Eyakenyi, took to get to the podium. Six steps, I counted. Is it the message?
Ftan BOT chair, Samuel Alabi had earlier spoken, and my mind raced to ask questions, but Nkereweum was carefully looking at me. Otunba Segun Runsewe threw spanners to the niceties of family gatherings where truth sometimes flew away. He told us to boldly demand a stand-alone Ministry of Tourism and quit the pretentious referrals in sweet tales.
The Barabas of Area ONE tourism spoke, and the Jews among us eyed me bitterly. Is it really an offence that, as Nigerians, that we should put our country first and hold our leaders accountable?
Apologies for the digression. Sometimes, it is tough to deal with a fragmented mind poisoned by our industry Barabas(es)
Let us hear pastor Eno umo. First, the pastor governor is upbeat that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu must well do good things about tourism in Nigeria, considering the fact that most countries in the world have deployed the multipler effects of the industry to develop their economies, creating jobs , boost trade, grew their foreign exchange reserves, and power tax payments . Nigeria, pastor Eno umo, warned can not remain in kadesh Barnea but must strategically cross the Jordan to the tourism promised land.
He listed six areas of national cultural tourism rebirth, potent to our admission to the global tourism market.. I quickly recalled Senator Akon’s six steps to the podium. According to Governor Eno umo, Nigeria must review its national policy on tourism, beg off euro centric submissions, and advantage tech intelligence, amend existing laws to power foreign and local investments, address insecurity, and insist that our country must be safe and secure, coven infrastructure development baselines, put up signature and attractive livable structures on roads, airports, railways, stadiums and seaports.
To be counted worthy as a serious member of the global tourism community, the Akwa Ibom state governor spoke up on culture as our greatest gift not only as a viable tourism product to stay ahead of competition but as an instrument to cause aggressive attitudinal change to our simplistic tolerance to our diverse hospitable ecosystems.
Nigeria corporate branding is the sixth tourism amendment, canvassed by pastor Eno umo and to which he spoke as an industry oracle. Nigeria, he insisted, must be intentional about its image , what and who we are, clearly defined without ambiguity, and projected to the world.
I remembered otunba Segun Runsewe’s hastage NigeriaFirst. Is Pastor Eno umo our John the Baptist come to our judgement, our wake-up call to a new tourism economy, a stand-alone Tourism ministry, and our deliverer? Will he be at the Nigerian governors meeting to woo his colleagues to join the cultural tourism rebirth?
Can Pastor Eno umo seek an exclusive audience with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to share the Nigerian cultural tourism prosperity message? Beyond his six steps tourism amendment, will Pastor Eno umo remain faithful to the Ibom Happy Hour timeout?
I intend to be focal on Akwa Ibom tourism in weeks to come. Pastor Eno umo has thrown us a challenge to visit Akwa Ibom state. It is a continuous repeat experience for me, but next on my mind is on Ibom green biosphere space. After that, I either swallow or spew out the salt in my mouth. It won’t be long to hear from me on Akwa Ibom tourism. It’s a promise!.