By Wale Ojo-Lanre
The Jagaban of Borgu, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu!
I salute your agrarian doggedness and the solid determination to become the President of Nigeria.
An effort that God approved, sealed and delivered to you on the 1st of March ,2023
I congratulate you for your victory at the poll, which you must not see as just a mere victory over vicious opponents, but one which has placed on you the enormous responsibility of effecting fundamental and surgical changes in the entire sphere of this nation called Nigeria
There are many contending problems eagerly waiting for your Midas touch as urgently and instantaneous as I believe you will tackle them effortlessly as you did when you governed Lagos State prosperously for eight years.
One other fundamental issue, which you must address in earnest, is finding an alternative source of revenue to oil, if this nation must grow, develop fast, and be able to raise its head in the comity of resourceful nations.
Every successive government in Nigeria, in the past few years, has mouthed this, but none has been able to effectively and earnestly make spirited efforts at searching for another source of revenue, just because of our overdependence on oil.
A mono-product revenue-generating nation is always at the mercy of international market indices and global events, which gives no room for stability in the planning and execution of projects and thus, stunts, truncates, or strangulates development.
This is the situation in which Nigeria has found herself today; at the mercy of global oil prices on which we, as a nation, predicated our budget and development plan.
Asiwaju, it will interest you to know that Nigeria is economically sick and developmentally ill, because no serious developmental projects are being embarked upon because the oil revenue dropped drastically, which reduced the allocation alarmingly, forcing all development projects all over the country to be on hold.
The fault is not in those who derive joy in manipulating the international oil prices to suit their whims and caprices, but in us as a nation, which has refused to do the needful by nurturing alternative sources of revenue.
Sir, it is a known fact that Nigeria is solidly an agrarian country. The present government of President Muhammad Buhari honestly laid down and embarked on rigorous re-engineering of the sector, to the benefit of the country, and I do not doubt that you will not only build on his achievements, but add more value.
However, one of the sectors which have helped many countries out of their mono economy syndrome and, which also served and serving as an awesome revenue generation resource is the tourism sector.
God Almighty, apart from blessing Nigeria with crude oil, also, in his infinite abundance, pampers us with multifarious natural tourism assets, which are crying for development
This sector has helped to bail many countries out of economic doldrums, salvaged them from unemployment crises, mobilized wealth, empowered the citizens, and made the countries glow and financially healthy.
Such countries include Malaysia, Indonesia, France, Kenya, South Africa, Senegal, Zimbabwe, India, Britain, Seychelles, Brazil, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Asiwaju, it will surprise you that Ghana, which has not up to 10 notable tourism sites, reaped a whopping sum of $3.1 billion only in 2021 in international tourism receipts and investments.
This is money spent by international inbound visitors, including payments to national carriers for international transport. These receipts include any other pre-payment made for goods or services received in the destination country.
They also may include receipts from same-day visitors, except when these are important enough to justify separate classifications. Some countries, do not include receipts for passenger transport items. Data are in current U.S. dollars.
Malaysia, which has a population of 27 million people, received 26.5 million visitors in 2021 with $21.05 billion.
Though still suffering from the particles of COVID-19 restrictions.
I am using these two countries, which have identifiable similarities with Nigeria, to drive home my point.
Malaysia, like Nigeria, is an oil-producing country, which in the pre-1980s, relied so much on oil as the main source of revenue.
However, the oil glut of the 80s dealt a deadly blow to Malaysia and Nigeria, which almost collapsed their economies.
Realizing the urgent need for alternate revenue generation sources as the oil glut receded, paving way for an oil boom again, Malaysia, scared of being beaten twice, diverted heavy funds from oil to develop two other alternate revenue sources – manufacturing and tourism.
The country looked inward and developed most of its tourism sites to international standards. Malaysia, for instance, turned all the environmentally polluted and desecrated mining spots into unimaginable tourism sites, and embarked on massive marketing, branding, and publicity.
Today, the fluctuating global prices of oil have no impact on Malaysia’s budget; the country’s budget was not predicated on oil prices.
However, the reverse is the case in Nigeria. Instead of copying Malaysia’s module and following suit, our nation quickly forgot the trauma of the oil glut as soon as the oil boom reared its head again.
Sir, there is no tourism ingredient, elements, items, objects, or value, which does not abound in Nigeria.
Malaysia, which 55 years ago came to Nigeria and acquired palm seedlings, established palm tree plantations and today is one of the countries, that exports palm oil to the world, including Nigeria.
Asiwaju, the Ghana situation is compelling and interesting, Ghana has only 10 prominent tourism sites and because of the seriousness its government accorded the sector, it has become its major revenue source, attracting a sum of $3 billion to its economy in 2021.
Mr. President-in-waiting, Jordan is another country in the Middle East, which has no oil as others, but is blessed with just six major tourist sites, which are Petra, Wadi Rum, the Dead Sea, Amman, Jerash, and Aqab.
The government never mourned that the country was without oil, but went ahead to set up the legal necessities and created a conducive atmosphere, making tourists rush to Jordan.
Sir, in 2021, Jordan reaped only $5.3 billion from tourism!
Mr. President-in-waiting, the main purpose of making these few examples is to show that countries that do not have one percent of our tourism potentialities are making money and lubricating their economy, while Nigeria, the giant of tourism, is not trying to crawl at all.
And the problem is not in our ability to recognize the potentialities of tourism, but largely because of the lucre of the cheap money from crude sales, successive governments have always been reluctant and complacent when it comes to the execution of tourism plans and policy.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo Connection!
Between Chief Obasanjo and Tourism
President-elect sir, do you know that Chief Obasanjo inaugurated the Presidential Council on Culture and Tourism?
And sir, Chief Obasanjo, the two-time former President of Nigeria, was the first President, who not only believes in tourism as a wondrous economic booster, but also later strove hard to explore it as an alternate revenue resource to crude oil.
It was General Obasanjo as the Head-of-State who, at the later end of his regime in 1978, approved a sum of ₦1 million each to the 19 state governors for the development of a tourism site each in their respective states.
The then General Obasanjo believed that Nigeria could kick off the tourism economy if it can sustain 19 exciting tourist sites.
Sir, only a few state governors ever used the money for that purpose.
However, one of the civilian governors who inherited the money, late Adekunle Ajasin, the then governor of old Ondo State, expanded the state’s portion of the fund in rehabilitating and constructing the Federal Government chalets at the famous Ikogosi Cold and Warm Spring.
It is noteworthy that, there was never an improvement on that particular tourism site until the tenure of Governor Kayode Fayemi, who perfectly understood the economic import of tourism and transformed the once neglected site into an Eldorado.
It is instructive to point out here, sir, that Ikogosi Warm and Cold Spring Resort, which Dr. Fayemi rehabilitated in Ekiti State when he was the governor, is the only project, apart from the educational institutions in the state, which has continued to lubricate the economy of the state phenomenally.
Sir, it will interest you that within the first three months of its formal opening, Ikogosi Warm and Cold Spring Resort attracted over 22,000 visitors to the town and the state.
Sir, this phenomenal visit, apart from directly impacting the resort by the way of gate fee, accommodation, and feeding, also rubbed off on the economy of the state via, visitors purchasing one item or the other, ranging from petrol, drinks, pure water, drugs, food items (roadside market) and other ancillary businesses.
This is to show that if the old 19 states governors then had judiciously expended the fund allocated to tourism on a site, by now, at least, going by the Ikogosi Warm and Cold Spring Resort example, Nigeria would be proud of having 19 exciting sites.
First Ministry of Culture and Tourism
Sir, even though the first tourism seed fund was misused, Chief Obasanjo, on his second coming as a civilian President, never allowed that to kill his tourism dream for the nation.
Upon his swearing-in, he immediately created the first-ever Ministry of Culture and Tourism, with 11 appropriate parastatals set up with specific charters.
The parastatals are the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, NTDC, with charter to market, promote, nurture and develop tourism; National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism, NIHOTOUR, with the mission to serve as training ground and platform for the capacity need of the sector; National Council of Arts and Culture, NCAC, with the objective of consolidating the various cultural and arts assets of the nation in building the tourism sector; the National Institute for Cultural Orientation, NICO, with specific aim of harnessing our cultural resources to meet the challenges of social integration, peace and unity, for tourism development; National Commission for Museums and Monuments, NCMM, with the responsibility of collection, preservation and presentation of Nigerian antiquities for education and tourism purposes; Centre for Black Arts and Civilization, CBAAC, with the target of ensuring the promotion of Nigeria as the paragon of African arts, by exhibiting to the world, through lectures, symposia and exhibitions, why the millions of the diaspora population must visit Nigeria and trace their roots; National Gallery of Arts, NGA, charged with the responsibility of enhancing and developing the visual art sector for tourism; the National Troupe of Nigeria, NTN, charged with the promotion of Nigeria’s various dances; Nigerian Copyright Commission, NCC, and the National Theatre.
Mr. President-in-waiting, the ministry and all the parastatals under it performed and lived up to expectations under Chief Obasanjo, not because of any miracle, but because Chief Obasanjo was then determined to ensure that the tourism sector is not only developed for its entertainment aspect or the fun of it, but to serve as an alternative source of revenue for the nation.
Hence, the ministry’s first minister, Chief Ojo Madueke, adopted the slogan: “From entertainment to emancipation.”
To create an enabling environment, every policy and project embarked upon or launched under Chief Obasanjo was tilted toward, job creation, empowerment, and revenue generation.
It is to the eternal contribution of Chief Obasanjo that he did not only ensure a mound of financial consideration for this sector, but also ensured that some of those appointed to run the affairs of the ministry and parastatals were qualified men and women.
In addition, it is on record that Chief Obasanjo did not hesitate to change or sack whoever was not pursuing the tourism vision of the nation.
Presidential Council On Tourism And Culture
Just to show that he meant business on tourism, Chief Obasanjo inaugurated the first Presidential Council on Tourism and Culture, set up primarily to focus on the development of the tourism sector, and of which he was the chairman and included others ministers, whose ministries were strategic to the development of tourism, such as Finance, Foreign Affairs, Internal Affairs, Police, Works, Aviation, Information, and Environment, with state governors, whose states harbor notable tourism sites and willing to develop tourism in their states.
The main reason for Chief Obasanjo’s inauguration of a presidential council on tourism is to ensure presidential attention and dispatch to tourism issues.
For instance, the Ministry of Tourism found it easy to access funds for the organization of the first and second Abuja Carnival, and the inauguration of the Committee on Tourism Master Plan, just because these two projects had been discussed at the council, where the President was in attendance with the Minister of Finance and other ministers whose ministries were involved in the two projects.
This council met quarterly, with all members present, while issues and policies concerning tourism were made and necessary processes for implementation were set in motion and executed with presidential fiat.
While the Presidential Council on Culture and Tourism met regularly and made headway, Chief Obasanjo also encouraged the states to sustain the National Council on Culture and Tourism, NCCT, where all state commissioners for Tourism and Culture in Nigeria hobnobbed and strategized on tourism.
This made the tenure of Chief Obasanjo the most memorable time for tourism and it attracted to the nation the Conference of all Commonwealth Ministers of Tourism, when 53 ministers of the Commonwealth converged on Abuja, was addressed by the then President, Obasanjo, in April 2006.
Inauguration, Commencement, Development Of The Nigeria Tourism Development Master Plan
Sir, do you believe that Nigeria spent heavily on the Nigeria Tourism Development Master Plan, but unfortunately nothing has been done about it?
The Tourism Master Plan needs a heavy revision and re-assessment, while the re-inauguration of the Abuja Carnival and the resuscitation of the Argungu Festival; the rejuvenation of various domestic tourism – cultural festivals in the six geo-political zones in Nigeria, become Imperative to boost tourism and make it another source of rev nue generation
Hosting Of The Commonwealth Head of Governments, CHOGHOM
Nigeria was recognized as a tourism-friendly nation. Tinapa and Obudu Ranch Resort were conceived and construction commenced.
The dismantling of police roadblocks or operation, 48-hour ultimatum visa issuance policy for tourists coming to Nigeria at our embassies all over the world became state policies.
To crown Chief Obasanjo’s success in this realm, a Nigerian lady, Agbani Darego, won the Miss World beauty contest.
Chief Obasanjo laid the foundation for tourism to blossom, which was even noticed by the World Tourism Organisation WTO, which listed Nigeria as one of the nations making progress in tourism.
Sir, you will also agree that going by the tale of tourism glory enumerated above, Nigeria should, by now, be one of the proud top tourism countries of the world, but that is not the case.
Jagaban, sir, that was where the beauty stopped.
Since the exit of Chief Obasanjo tourism has been ejected from the national policy.
First, the Ministry of Arts, Culture, and Tourism was subsumed under the Information Ministry.
The Presidential Council on Tourism was delisted.
The tourism budget was reduced to zero and since then, no President ever thought of building on the fundamentals of development planted by Chief Obasanjo.
This, the hope raised in tourism was dimmed and flushed out.
Asiwaju, I hosted a pounded yam party, when you were declared as the winner of the 2023 election, for I am sure you are our Tourism Hope Restored and Renewed.
The sector needs: a Declarative National Policy on Tourism, Creative Arts, and Culture; production of a Digitally Compliant National Tourism Master Plan; fundamental legal framework for tourism; a separate Ministry of Tourism; a Commission for Creative Arts and Culture under the Presidency; and a Presidential Council for Tourism, Creative Arts and Culture.
These are the essentials of what the nation urgently needs to put in place for the exploration of the humongous tourism potentialities that abound in Nigeria, but crying for enhancement.
Asiwaju, before I end this memo, it will interest you to know that there is a place in Nigeria where birds from all over the world hold a conference every year – Nguru – Hadeija Wetland, Yobe State.
It will interest you also to know that there is a place in Lagos State where whales glide into the air every morning – Osoroko, Ibeju Lekki.
Also, there is a rock in Ekiti State which has an amphitheater that seats 450 in Iyin Ekiti. Your Excellency may also be interested in knowing that Nigeria hosts the most beautiful masquerade in the world – Ijele – East.
Asiwaju! It is good to inform you that Iwo Eleru, the only neolithic settlement in West Africa is in Isarun Village in Ondo State. A place where Europeans hired a helicopter to ferry skulls and bones of stone – age creatures.
Asiwaju! We have all the tourism raw materials to shore up the revenue sources of this nation.
And lastly, our President-in-waiting, oil is exhaustible. Tourism is not.
Kindly Reawake. Rekindle. Renew. Our Tourism Hope!
Once again, congratulations!
Mo yo fun e.
Mo yo fun ara mi!
Wale Ojo-Lanre is a former Senior Special Assistant, SSA, to Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the immediate past governor of Ekiti State on Tourism Development; member, Special Media Projects, New Media, All Progressives Congress, APC, Presidential Campaign Council, PCC; Country Leader, Federation of World Arts and Culture Society, Singapore; Goodwill Tourism Ambassador for Cote ‘d’Ivore in Nigeria; and National Tourism Award Recipient.