By Dare Atoye
In the ongoing debate over restructuring, a critical factor that must never be ignored and which is central to all other dynamics is leadership reform. As a matter of fact, there appears to be a national and global consensus amongst analysts, critics, scholars and ordinary Nigerians that the greatest problem confronting the country is lack of visionary and effective leadership. Even some critics, who, in their wisdom, would rather prefer to blame the system for Nigeria’s woes, have also come to accept the reality that the system cannot purge itself without the right leadership; in essence, the system requires good leadership to function properly.
Over the years, many agencies of government have suffered untold leadership weaknesses, manipulations and deficiencies caused largely by unhealthy politicisation and undue interference in the system. Merits, specialisation and robust internal leadership succession plan and quality have been sacrificed for extraneous considerations influenced largely by political expediency to suit the interest of politicians. The Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) is just one out of such numerous government agencies, which until recently, has been bogged down by unfavourable external interference.
Tourism is a big business and a global venture that is very dynamic in nature; unfortunately, Nigeria with huge potentials to lead Africa as the first destination of choice in tourism, is yet to explore the abundance of opportunities available in this money-spinning sector to the advantage of the country. For far too long, the previous leaderships in NTDC have adopted a superficial approach to driving this very important sector for personal fame. In some instances, the name of the head became more popular than the agency itself for sheer political expediency. While the global tourism sector has moved some steps forward, exploring all the potentials in sustainable tourism, Nigeria is still grappling with the elementary. This sad development must be reversed through the hands of talented and skilled technocrat who craves institutional rather personal glory.
The task before the current Acting Director General of NTDC, Mrs Mariel Rae-Omoh, who is a technocrat and an insider, is to carry out a holistic reform of the agency and the tourism sector as a whole in line with global demands and international best practices. As a reputable professional of many years, there is no better time to get good value and the best out of tourism than now, notwithstanding some years of wasted fortunes. She must be courageous and daring in coming up with far-reaching reforms that will open up the sector as a viable alternative for creating jobs and generating millions of dollars in earnings.
These reforms should include liaising with the Legislature to fashion out amendments in the Act establishing the corporation that will compel appointing authorities to source for the leadership of the corporation from within as a first option of ensuring continuity and consistency; and, where there is none that meets the criteria set out by law; a global search could be made for a Nigerian with such qualifications. According to Jack Welch, “No company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.” Emergency or ad-hoc leadership influenced by political consideration will never be helpful in the long run; we have to get serious as a nation to get the best out of every sector.
Tourism is fast expanding and growing globally. Ours cannot be different. While Rae-Omoh, is looking for an alternative funding to grow the industry by setting up a committee to work with the Institute for Tourism Practitioners (ITP) in order to facilitate the corporation’s access to the United Nations Tourism Intervention Funds (UNIF), she should also consider keying into the Made in Nigeria drive of the President of the Senate and adapt some critical component where the agency could function effectively. For instance, NTDC could partner that office to make some tourists sites in Nigeria a marketing centre for made in Nigeria products. No doubt, the Senate President will be much willing to work with the NTDC on this noble project.
In addition, the NTDC could also work with the Trade and Investment Ministry to stage international trade fairs in some tourists’ sites in the country. All this will not only drive traffic to these centers, it will also help to generate more money and increase global attention. The corporation can get some private sector players to participate in both the marketing options and the trade fair initiatives by providing some strategic supports and funding.
Another critical area for Mrs. Rae-Omo to focus on is sustainable tourism. There is a likelihood that the UN-Fund may want to know the extent to which Nigeria has succeeded in addressing the threat of climate change to tourism. It is a modern reality and present danger that climate change is threatening the business of tourism globally and Nigeria is not an exception. Consequently, some well-throughout interventions are necessary to mitigate negative environmental and weather conditions that could come from climate change, so as not to discourage willing and interested tourists.
This is another opportunity for NTDC to partner environmentalists, climate change campaigners and numerous global organisations working in this critical area to preserve nature and tourism in Nigeria. “Tourism can be the key for implementing many global solutions for challenges such as climate change, poverty reduction, waste reduction, preserving eco-systems and moving the world to a more sustainable planet,” said Dr. David Randle, a global expert in sustainable tourism.
With an estimated 11.5 per cent of the world Gross Domestic Products (GDP), tourism is the largest industry in the world, according to U.N. World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). It employs 12.5 per cent of the world’s work force. The task before Rae-Omoh, therefore, is to ensure that Nigeria adequately profits from tourism in line with this global expansion. The government also should give her all the necessary support to reform the NTDC and reposition Nigerian tourism for the global market.
Mr Atoye, is the Executive Director, Adopt a Goal for Development Initiative