Home Tourism Gbege! It’s a tourism penalty!

Gbege! It’s a tourism penalty!

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Mrs Lola Ade-John, Minister of Tourism

By Frank Meke

Last week was so busy for me. Trust, our “new” sector trended on failed metrics, and I should console us, for we so seem to pass off as crying orphans and rejoice and instead of wailing that we were not the only failures in the gragra mantra  to hopefully rebuild the nation. 

You wonder what is really important about failing or failure as it does not determine how food comes to our tables. You know, this world is really the true habitation of the wicked men and women who don’t care what happens to others. So, to hell with poor marks so long as it can not stop our tourism people in government at the centre from fooling us all the time. 

Hmmm, I had in the past done a study which revealed that failure as a check-in  developmental metric is big business in Nigeria. How? Now, there are paid  fixers whose business is to arrange poor marks either to gain sympathy or to escape sanctions.  Let me send you to the field to do some research  on why car drivers who are  captured as “learners”: obtain permits to emboss a big letter L on the front and rear of their vehicles.  

 Now, help us research why hotels and big corporate organisations will inaugurate big bill boards at strategic places with bold lettered words with cars parked at owners’ risk! 

I once asked why directors or senior officers in government on ” acting ” capacities  were hardly queried for acts of misappropriation, misdemeanours, and Sundry failed projects executed while holding brief before the appointment of substantive chief executives? And you won’t believe me that it is lucrative to be a failure as being on acting capacity allows some measures of “innocent mistakes” such as stealing and deliberate misapplication of public funds ordinarily punishable but not sanctionable because it’s errors done by a placement. 

Let me digress a bit with your kind permission. It was in the news last week that about 305 directors failed the federal civil service examinations for appointments into the offices of permanent secretaries in the past four years. Don’t laugh ooo but ironically, and knowing the Nigerian system, these failures will still parade the cosy offices sooner than later as permanent secretaries with very foreseeable damaging results to governance. 

If permanent secretaries are truly chief accounting officers in the ministries,  why are ministers queried for the failings in the ministries? Why do we do with failed permanent secretaries and failed ministers? 

No doubt we know and agree that the ministers are the political actors in the ministries and are also politically accountable to the president, whose government is elected by the people and is accountable to same people,  assumably so in practice but in reality.  However, a lot of permutations are allowed to define deliverables and performance by failures.

Last week, our dear madam tourism at the centre was lured by the spirit of deception to Nigeria Television Authority ( NTA). Her special advisers didn’t tell her to take along her two parastatal heads at the Nigeria Tourism Development Authority and National Institute for Hospitality studies who ought have provided her with fortified vitamins in strategic propaganda rather She sat through the interview alone sweating and quivering like a hapless ram being led to the slaughter slab.

Her hosts on the programme were quite  hospitable and deeply concerned not make her panic, so their questions were mere “expo” answers passed off as tough questions, but madam minister’s smattering answers clearly revealed the tourism” gbege” we are into. 

She scored herself, imagine, a student or rightly an appointee requested to submit her answer sheets, boldly marking herself by herself!. In street soccer,  we say it’s offside, ojoro, cheating, Wayo!

What was her score? Twenty over 100 marks and na wetin be that? A castle of failure. Again, remember she is not supposed to be in this examination hall alone ooo. So, where are her field officers, those mandatorily expected to execute tourism projects across Nigeria? Where were folarin Coker and Nura Kangiwa?

If those are her two agencies and by virtue of Mr. President’s  expectations from ministries and agencies on performance metrics,  it then behoves  that madam minister failed because her agencies failed to deliver too. Qed! 

Though she was kind to carry the failed tourism cup alone and pretentiously ready to stake herself as scapegoat to the failed metrics, her excuses that the ministry is “new” is laughable. It is also laughable how she in same breathe wants to grade and “standardise” hotels across Nigeria when in the eyes of the law, going by the 2013 supreme Court judgment, her ministry is a stranger and interloper! 

Certain narratives in this sector can be mischievous. There was a ministry of tourism from the Obasanjo era, Musa Yardua to Goodluck Jonathan, until  Buhari came with sweeping brooms in 2015. It invariably means we had a focal ministry of tourism for over sixteen years out of the twenty-five years of uninterrupted democratic governance. 

Though not hotly contested,  the culture marriage was made manifest to provide tourism the life blood and arteries to gain foothold. Indeed,  the current agitation to have culture to drive  our tourism vehicle still subsists, meaning that tourism is not “new” as a ministry.  

Under the same Obj ministry of tourism,  NTDA and NIHOTOUR played a prominent presence as integral drivers of tourism development and hospitality promotion. 

So what is “new” here if these two agencies are still the bedrock of the flattering failure in defining our tourism for tomorrow in the “new” ministry. 

If there are emerging new narratives in  our space, it’s on culture being merged with creative economy and arts. These are deep enablers of tourism promotion in Nigeria and also not entirely new in practical terms but in administrative synthesis. 

To critical and informed observers of President Ahmed Tinubu surgical separation of the biological twins, the two ladies in charge of  weaning the co joined twins, but separated entities are  certainly struggling to find their footing.  These areas are not for learners with or without permits! 

George Lucky, a journalist who was on the NTA interview belt, drew our  attention to 2013 supreme court judgment, which exposes Ade John’s  poor briefing on federal government  tourism interventions. No doubt, she is being misled, blindfolded, indicative that nothing worthwhile will be achieved going forward other than the safari dance we have so far seen since madam minister came to hold forth. 

Even at that, it’s obvious that serious recalibration of the ministry is important, not the simplistic blame game of lack of funds and the quest to remove or replace directors she met on ground in the ministry. 

What madam Ade John failed to disclose for being reasons for her very poor abysmal marks is her obvious bitter quest to do away with experienced directors in the ministry and also her open show of favouritism to Nura Kangiwa against Folarin Coker.  

This unfortunate game plan has slowed down meaningful efforts to see to good of the sector, pitching her against structures that could give her some sense of direction as a tourism student leader.

The minister hands and legs are so deep into the honey pot that her naivety and poor understanding of the bitter politics and rivalry between her two agencies threw up and which is clandestinely refereed by her. She can’t dare remove any of her two subordinates as they both have enough firewoods to light her night of misery in case she wants to prove stubborn. 

So what happens? She lives with her failed partners or wait for their tenured existence and otherwise remain silent and,  lose her job.

Unfortunately, she is on wrong footing with the private sector, which would have backed her to clean up the stable if she had  independently stood up to be counted. Unfortunately, she overreached herself by joining hands in glove with the rouge  transactional experts who are feasting her weakness to advance their ambitions. I wonder how madam lola Ade John should feel comfortable working with a so called Nigeria Economic Summit Group neglecting  the industry federation leadership in her perceived quest to review industry policy documents and master plan which She claimed were too voluminous for her to read. Can you beat that, a minister that can not sit down to read and study industry documents! 

After the military left, we had seen Ojo Maduekwe, Graham Douglas, Bromillow Jack, Frank Ogbuewu, Edem Duke (egungun calabar) and lai Mohammed but the confusion and the desperation to live a lie for tourism in Nigeria is unbelievable in this  current tourism barbers shop. We thought the era of lai Mohammed was the worst  we had seen! 

Unfortunately,  the absence of strong private sector institutions to highlight these concerns and failings, and boldly confronts the tourism demagogue,  leaves gaps for portfolio operators to submit and band about the tourism corridors in Abuja with sleaze submissions as tourism proposals. The  tourism gbege is just about to begin except Mr President keeps to his promise of doing  away with failed ministers and this Ade John deserves  our parting  good bye!

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