Tourism Brainwash and the making of zoombies.

By Frank Meke.

In our tourism sector, it is very easy to bewitch and hypnotise the practitioners. In the early 90s, we ran a piece entitled ” Who is a tourism practitioner” in the vanguard tourism and travel pages, and hell was let loose. My oga , 0gbeni Tope Awe, who clocked 69 recently and in good health, scampered for safety as bullets from bloated egos of fly by night and portfolio operators flew from all directions.

Who is this upstart, Frank meke? They queried, calling for my innocent head on a plater for daring to define who is and should not be described as a tourism practitioner.

I was very young then, just starting out on the beat and as wont with oga 0gbeni Awe, we must as a matter of the best editorial policy, brainstorm over critical industry issues and I recalled, that it’s a job that I must accomplish once we agree to confront the monsters pretending to run the affairs of the sector then.

I was trained to be a tourism table shaker, a kind of “trouble maker,” bullish and fearless, an intrepid tourism reporter.

There were plenty of enemies, usually those who came to deceive and fool the government and people. They usually prant around, speaking queen’s English as if they were born before Britain was created and trust our “ogbojus”, the thieving lot with buccaneers boldness, they stole us blind in the name of tourism development

We also had plenty of supporters and encouragements. Those who felt and believed that we spoke their minds, particularly in putting Nigeria tourism first above personal shenanigans.

Late Professor Femi Pearse, a medical practitioner who invested in the famous whispering Palm resort in iworo Badagry, threw his weight around me when I took over the running vanguard tourism pages and paid upfront advertisement fees for three years on his nature wonderland on our pages with a follow up of an all expenses paid patron card which I was not able to use because of a very demanding schedules then.

The late pioneer tourism resort heavyweight kept visiting me at the vanguard newspapers whenever he drove through Apapa, where Vanguard newspapers was located along the kirikiri Canal and indeed bought beautiful paintings to touch up my drab office then.

Now, looking back those years and now, it is glaring that a lot of waters had passed under the tourism bridge. We are neither moving forward or backwards. We are stagnant, still the same story, and different players and different Ali Babas per period of time

Last year, both Nigerian Tourism Development Authority and National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism Studies ( NIHOTOUR) celebrated their statutory independence, brandishing their new legal licences to register and regulate the private sector.

Initially, the private sector was excited about the operational legal vehicles of the two agencies and looked forward to engagement to breaking down the workings of the two documents and their usefulness in advantaging tourism growth expectations.

As usual, the two agencies went dumb afterwards and had since warehoused the two operational documents. The end results? Nothing is happening in the sector, and the practitioners are forced to hail the pharaohs.

As we all know, that is if you are a licensed practitioner, in the absence of law guiding and protecting operations in the sector, lizards will thrive, different kinds of lizards.

And because we are now zoombies, bewitched practitioners, our ogas at the top now prant around as if they were appointed unto themselves and for their flattering team.

Since we are not sure who we are, it is considered an offence to criticise the failings of our tourism pharaohs, and when we see a little bit of sun out their cloudy weather and warm up to it, we are equally seen as being deceived or paid to talk about it. No doubt, there is a deliberate and systemic manipulation of the sectoral players and the “busybody observers.” The winners? The craft masters of the brainwash , divide and rule tourism mafiaso.

And let me ask, what exactly does ntda do for tourism in Nigeria? I really don’t understand what this agency does or is expected to do since it received the legal badge to authorise wholesale tourism development and promotion across the country, for whom and how?

Let us admit that the leadership of ntda has successfully sidelined the private sector for the past seven years and has asked whoever is pained to go jump into the lagos lagoon, one is however constrained by the peevishness of the private sector players who either chooses to keep silent or dare to take out their frustrations on the Industry media whom they cherish to call names for having the audacity to challenge their brothers and friends in power.

Even in the infamous animal farm, the big oppressive beings are somewhat magnimous than the leadership of ntda. You, that is, reading this piece, let me ask you who owns the agency and money that people in that animal farm are spending?

Last year, when we asked for accountability, our ogas at ntda hurriedly ran to jos and organised a ‘stakeholders’ meeting and trust our stakeholders, they eat well prepared porridge from the table of their oppressors and sang their praises to high heavens.

CROSS RIVER state capital, Calabar, was the next geographical destination for the charade just to justify the ” ongoing ” budget allocation for stakeholders’ meetings running into millions of naira. This time around, the best of the food and culture of Cross River state was put to effective use to buy the soul of the people.

The anchor of the talk across the table was digital tourism, which for seven years, is the focal deceptive and brainwash mannah generated by the all-knowing oga of tourism at ntda.

I won’t waste space here to ask us where have we found ourselves on the global tourism ranking as a result of the ntda digital tourism nonsensicals!. As we say on the streets, particularly in the Oluwole area of lagos Island, ntda digital tourism is a “wash”, a radically designed propaganda agenda to fool and brainwash the nation.

Now, to nihotour, it is obvious and clear that there is a missing gap between its avowed commitment to the sector and the deliveries.

Nihotour was set up to bridge training needs in the sector, professionally, with standard rubrics and to add, carry out yearly census of practitioners, and to an extent, license them.

Interestingly, and unlike what is ongoing at ntda, the oga at Nihotour tried to salvage a battered nihotour and give it a brushed outlook. Dilapidated infrastructures in the system were upgraded in lagos and other centres.

I have also taken time to study its budget, and I worry about the absence of intent to purchase the best training equipment, particularly for courses on food preparation and cookery. I also did not see a training trainers budget to help unskill and properly equip the teachers at the institute. There’s also an absence collaboration with both local and foreign training institutions, which could help internationalise its certified graduates and also open more opportunities.

Last year, we all gathered in Abuja to celebrate the nihotour gastronomy festival, which was a massive success, but unfortunately, the food was not enough, and for this year, next month in focus, about five thousand foodies are expected to hit the Abuja centre for the chop chop.

As usual , after dinner, everyone goes home to look forward to another announcement for a food festival. So, the cycle of retarded industry steps keeps slipping into unimaginable error and trust us , we clap and in addition, we procure mass reward system to give our heroes and pharaohs deserving awards.

Talking about awards genres in the sector, we are yet to truly measure the impact of those “resounding” awards. I truly believe that persons or institutions can be recognised for outstanding contributions to the growth of the society, but I worry about the blanket coverage awards in an industry still pretending to be big yet empty inside.

Let us just reason together and take a look at the eight years of lai Mohammed tourism disaster. Where are those so noise fully awarded for whatever fanciful entertainment reasons? Where are they today, and what fresh impact have their paper weight awards brought to the sector even if we disagree to agree that everyone surely has something that they should have done well.

I won’t be surprised to hear soon that the minister Ade John has been slated for an award for incubating skill acquisition. As we find in the rested family flick Fuji House of Commotion, our sector is commulatively combustive and heading to no desirable end.

Let us go back to professionals running professional institutions, I suggest that the minister if she is not already cut up in the race to 2025, ( if you know, you know), Folarin Coker is surplus to requirement and should be dropped. He has developed muscle pull and can not take ntda even across River Niger , not talk about getting us to the tourism promised land.

So, it is best to effect a change of guard at ntda and move Nura Kangiwa to ntda. Madam lola Ade John, however, needs loads of courage to effect the change, but surely that is the best she can do now to breathe life back to a camotose ntda

At Nihotour, bring in tested trainers, those with known and verifiable pedigrees on industry training ecosystems. We have some of the best legs in Justina ovat, Aliyu Badaki, Gbenga Sumonu, and Victor kayode. Madam minister, go check out these persons by yourself, and indeed, the more reason the minister should have possibly held a stakeholders meeting to appraise the depth of the industry instead of relaying on cooked up briefs by hate mongering civil servants in the ministry.

If you ask me why Nura Kangiwa fits the ntda bill, at least for now, I have my own thousand reasons to justify my pick. First, Kangiwa is not shy in promoting Nigerian food offerings and is effusive in strategic showmanship, which is a grit needed to take Nigeria tourism promotion beyond our shores.

He also has a special background in ntda when it was ntdc with a stint at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism years back. My only issue with Nura is his management of the very vibrant tourism media. Tourism reportage is not about churning out press releases but having these critical stakeholders as effective partners in marketing and promotion of Nigeria, which needs deep interpretation.

Since the separation of culture from tourism, it is glaring that Kangiwa is trying hard to occupy the Nigerian tourism space, but it’s an effort driven by an unexplainable half hearted agenda rather than trying to give the sector a champion figure.

All the same, he has proven to be better than folarin Coker. If we disagree to agree that Madam lola Ade John is the new coach in town, she is expected to assemble the best tourism team in town even though she is yet to tell us what and how exactly she would execute her tourism assignment. She says she came to the tough task with a learners badge, so we are probably on long stay on the bridge of errors.

The role of the tourism press and the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria is next to our observatory post, and I am sure you will make out time to be part of it. Before we rest this intervention, let me ask again where that nihotour hospitality training bus is parked. That initiative should have been deployed to all nooks and crannies of Nigeria, Markudi, Ekiti, lagos, kano , owerri, everywhere, effectively up skilling unemployed young boys and girls in cookery and hospitality studies instead of being parked, rotting away.

That is actually the most significant people centric achievement by Nura Kangiwa if he actually has got the guts to break the ceilings in hospitality vocational education expectations in Nigeria.

If you don’t agree with us, we shall welcome your thoughts and rejoinder. This industry needs some sanity, and I am sure you will agree. We are done with Easter festivities and looking forward to the Ramadan festival. I have an extra invitation from a moslem friend who invited me for a tourism discussion over a Ramadan breakfast. If you re interested, give me a beep.

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