Last weekend, tourism industry practitioners rose from ashes of depression to high praises and celebration over the appointment of Segun Runsewe and Folarin Coker as director-generals of National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) and Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) respectively.
The two time-tested administrators and frontline tourism apostles were appointed by President Buhari to rev up the dwindling fortunes of mega naira culture and tourism sectors, drive culture and tourism jobs and restore the battered image of Nigeria in the community of tourism nations.
Indeed, Buhari tourism is here and if the president’s famous one track mind in tackling noticeable socio–economic draw backs are anything to cheer about, then the appointment of Runsewe and Coker, a deadly tourism strike force team any day, will bring the Nigerian tourism economy into national and international reckoning.
From Kano to Calabar, Borno to Rivers state, Buhari’s latest appointment is described as a master stroke, very timely and efficiently delivered to an industry largely seen as orphan since the coming of APC government two years ago. The jubilation has drowned weeks and months of speculations on what direction this government is headed tourism wise.
Though culture and tourism minister, Lai Mohammed tried to put in some gaps in place to give some breather to Buhari’s tourism dreams, this reporter and other major stakeholders never thought a day such as the reality of last weekend appointments would ever come.
National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) which took upon itself the systematic and deliberate occupation of the Nigerian tourism space in the last two years, says President Buhari by the appointment of Runsewe and Folarin Coker, has restored full confidence in the tourism sector.
Bankole Bernard, NANTA president told me that these appointments has vindicated the selection and choice of Runsewe and Coker as NANTA tourism legacy awardees last year and wants the president to sweep out the cupboards of National Gallery of Arts, National Museum and Centre for Black and African Civilization in order to have a new team for tourism and cultural revival in Nigeria.
Travel journalists, Andrew Okungbowa Okorie Uguru, Wale Olapade, Frankline Ihejerika and Omololu John Olumuyiwa say the tourism dance has just begun for Nigeria and commended President Buhari for this gift of tourism appointees.
Sadly, the Bureau of National “tourism” Statistics is yet to release the high ranking and positive response of tourism trade to President Buhari’s weekend appointments, however, my findings shows that operators contemplating giving up have reversed their decisions while those in business look up to better times ahead.
Soft touch contacts at the NCAC and NTDC revealed deep appreciation for the new development as Runsewe and Coker are known high flyers in their former operational calls. While Runsewe took NTDC to unprecedented heights between 2006 and 2013 as director general, Folarin Coker within one year in office as Ambode’s commissioner for tourism changed completely the ugly tourism narratives of Lagos state once regarded as “Eko for show”.
Having worked and associated with Runsewe and Coker closely in the past, it is my prayer that they will not disappoint the huge expectations of the president and Nigerians as their famed determination and uncommon ability must immediately stamp tourism on Nigerian map, visa and passport.
Matters arising: Lai Mohammed must be loyal
Minister of information and culture is unusually silent on the appointees of two agencies under his ministry. Though one is not saying the vocal and “face of government” minister is not happy with Olusegun Runsewe and Folarin Coker, it would have looked good for the minister to praise the foresight of the president for bringing life back to NCAC and NTDC.
The man – Folarin Coker
Is Folarin Coker a ‘Kolo mental? The traducers of this fine gentleman have gone to town in secret places and exclusive midnight hide outs to paint Coker black and blue on his supposed famed “temper” and one asks, Is any man born of any woman free from loads of the flesh?
We all stumble on various fronts as the bible tells me. Some people stumble and show weakness on women, money, alcohol and words, so it is all vanities in the imperfect man so who is throwing the stones? Let those who are afraid of Folarin Coker tell us something new, please. The gentleman proved his mettle in Lagos and so far, Lagos is still struggling to find his replacement since he left. Knowledge is revelational and relational and may God give us wisdom.
Coker is strong, focused and I believe NTDC will do well under his watch. Those who search for angels in the affairs of men should wake up from slumber. Hurricane Folarin Coker is here and Nigerian tourism is better, best for it. Come to think of it, do you know that Folarin Coker was deputy chief of staff when Lai Mohammed served Bola Ahmed Tinubu as chief of staff? So Lai Mohammed should speak up and rejoice for his ex-deputy is now DG under his ministry. I rest my case.
Runsewe – the second missionary journey
Otunba Segun Runsewe’s first outing in NTDC was revolutionary and apostolic. He worked round the clock including Saturday’s when his fellow DG’s were at parties, just to stamp the tourism image on Nigeria. Runsewe is an unrelenting tourism apostle and made plenty of friends and also enemies.
In 2013, the hawks in PDP struck not because he did not deliver but because he is “an OBJ man”. It was painful for the nation and some of us who labored in the background. Today, he is back on a familiar terrain and thanks to President Buhari. Again, it is my prayer that Matthew Olusegun Runsewe on this second missionary journey would surpass the achievements of his first outing at NTDC. I know Runsewe will do Buhari and Nigerians proud again.
NTDC – Shall the sword devour forever?
One of the pains in tourism is the issue of quality leadership at the apex tourism regulatory body and to which Lai Mohammed tried his best to correct. One admits and takes responsibility for putting so much heat on the minister and the ministry to do the right things, particularly after the notoriously incompetent Sally Mbanefo was edged out of NTDC. From actors (acting DG’s) Boniface Eboka, Maria Omoh and lately Dr. Paul Adalikwu, Lai Mohammed and the Ps, Ayotunde Adesugba, all tried to breathe fresh air into NTDC and we cannot deny that those efforts were evident of how NTDC and tourism are dear to our hearts.
But now that President Buhari has intervened to give us a substantive DG in Folarin Coker, I think we must pull our weights behind the president and his appointee. It amounts to mere distraction to see all the mud slings, the rag sheet called panama papers and whatever that was in the past and ignorant days of Folarin Coker to jump into our minds instead of coming up with tourism administration models and blue-prints to revive NTDC. Mohammed, Lagos state governor, the entire Yoruba nation should be thankful to President Buhari for picking two of its best minds and saddling them with responsibilities of creating jobs and rebuilding of the image of Nigeria through tourism. Let all sword fights cease and let us concentrate on how to get NTDC to work again. I wish to add again that with Segun Runsewe in culture and Folarin Coker in NTDC, Lai Mohammed now has the most formidable tourism team ever. Lai Mohammed can now face the information mandate of this government with gusto and take all the glory from the expected achievements and new tourism borderlines from the duo. The Yoruba should be please think hard.
Who is in Charge at N. Theatre?
There is National Theatre management and also that of National Troupe, the two reporting to the ministry of culture. If the Presidency says and announced that celebrated artist Tar Okor is now artistic director (DG) of National Troupe, why is Okor eyeing National Theatre, and the agency different from his new call? I think the Presidency should tidy up its process of appointments to avoid setting innocent appointees against each other. By the way, what now happens to George Ufot, the man who has brought life back to the once dead iconic place? Lai Mohammed must clear the air on all the confusion that tailed one of the greatest highpoints on appointments since the coming of President Buhari.