Vice President Namadi Sambo and Tourism Minister Duke unveiling the Fascinating Nigeria magazine
The quest to generate additional revenue for Nigeria through tourism gathered pace with the launch of the Fascinating Nigeria brand identity at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. Demola Ojo reports...
At the beginning of the month, Nigeria’s ministry of tourism, culture and national orientation launched a brand as part of its vision to “reposition Nigeria as the preferred tourism destination and cultural capital in Sub-Saharan Africa” in Abuja.
The event which took place at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa was educative and glitzy in equal measure, as it evoked a sense of national pride with many distinctively Nigerian offerings on were display. This included the best of Nigerian art, craft, music, dance, fashion and entertainment.
The foyer of the Banquet Hall was a grand exhibition room with artifacts from across the country competing for attention with models adorned in the best of Nigeria fashion, and giant portraits of past leaders hung on the walls.
The formalities were kicked off by Nikki Laoye who belted out a rousing rendition of the National Anthem. This was followed by a cultural dance by the National Troupe tagged “A coat of Many Colours” to celebrate Nigeria’s diversity.
Up next was a medley of musical performances starting with Omawumi, then Inyanya, Tuface and and P-Square. Veteran juju artist, King Sunny Ade, also dazzled the audience with dance steps that belied his age.
It was also a night of screenings as Nigeria’s history and heritage was shown through footage of some of the country’s important sites, rich endowments, the Nollywood industry, football icons and the forthcoming centenary celebration.
Some of Nigeria’s leading hospitality spots where also included in the minutes-long video which - to a large extent – portrayed Nigeria as an interesting proposition for potential tourists.
The Minister’s Thoughts
Chief Edem Duke, the minister of tourism and culture at a point came on stage and claimed he was filled with trepidation facing the audience “because he had misplaced his speech.” This inadvertently (or not) drew attention to the fact that he was speaking extempore – for minutes on end - and highlighted his oratorical skills, as well as his grasp of the issues concerning Nigeria’s tourism and culture.
“…For the very first time in the history of our country, a tourism brand which will properly position our country in the global tourism stage is being launched,” he explained as he recalled a statement by American civil rights activist, Jesse Jackson, who noted recently that it was time Nigeria stopped being seen through a keyhole but through a wide, open door.
“Tonight is that night when we open that door into the nation’s unbelievable possibilities and aggregate the talents that dwell in this country in the interest of Nigeria’s image.”
Drawing attention to the place of tourism in the country’s economy, Duke said, “ If Nigeria desires to be one of the top 20 economies by 2020, we must do what the top 20 economies are doing; they have invested in tourism and are using culture as major collateral.
“This is a country of 167 million creative minds. This is a country that has been defined by the rest of the world as accommodating the world’s happiest people. This is a sector that accommodates every professional calling; there is versatility, creativity and enormous possibilities in the sector.”
The President’s Speech
President Goodluck Jonathan was represented by Vice-President Namadi Sambo at the Fascinating Nigeria launch. “For me this is another important milestone in our drive to achieve sustainable transformation of every sector of our dear country,” the president said.
“…To this end, the Federal Government, in partnership with State Governments and the Private Sector, will embark on the upgrading of major tourist sites across the country to serve as our selling points for the promotion of domestic and international tourism.
“We shall encourage increased investments in the hospitality business to promote conferencing. To achieve this, Government has put in place a mechanism that will provide incentives for investors in this area. There is also a new traveller-friendly visa regime which has taken away encumberances associated with visiting or doing business in Nigeria in the past.”
Stating the willingness of the Federal Government to encourage the development of more leisure, entertainment and retail businesses across the country, the president took the opportunity to clear the air over the status of the National Theatre Lagos.
“I would like to announce to fellow Nigerians that contrary to speculations and rumours being peddled in certain quarters, the National Theatre in Lagos will not be sold or turned to a hotel. What we intend to do, in accordance with the Transformation Agenda, is to provide ancillary facilities that will promote leisure and multi-platform entertainment. This will not only make the cultural edifice a bee-hive of activities, it will also transform it into an attractive tourist centre and a source of employment for many of our citizens.”
The best piece of news of the night for those pushing for more government investment in tourism came when the president said; “Based on the importance this administration attaches to the growth of the tourism industry, we shall continue to work assiduously towards an enhanced budget for the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation.
“I have directed the Ministry of Finance to come up with adequate funding options for the sector outside the budget.”
The first issue of Fascinating Nigeria magazine was also launched at the event by the Vice-President alongside the minister. Introducing the best of Nigeria to the world, the magazine is dedicated to showcasing the beauty and diversity of the Nigerian landscape and heritage, as well as the talent and culture that is abundant in the country.
If there is any debate over the print quality of the quarterly magazine, there isn’t any concerning the content. It drips with information about the country; 250 pages of captivating pictures and interesting facts: Everything from destinations (Yankari, Taraba, Idanre Hills, Calabar) Culture (Kalakuta museum, Lagos nightlife, football), events, people and a Nigeria travel supplement including Nigeria “Dos and Don’ts.”
Published by Anchorapoint, it is a must-read and I’ve had to wrest – in some cases go to great lengths to retrieve – my copy from friends dazzled by the contents. If there is a downside though, it’s the fact that the cover is emblazoned with a picture of the president rather than one of the numerous attractions featured on its inside pages.
According to the ministry, it will be made widely available in Nigeria, all Nigerian embassies around the world, as well as bookshops worldwide.
Despite slight hiccups like the fact there was no programme of events, which had the knock-on effect of many people missing the president’s speech delivered by Sambo because it was after P Square had performed, the Fascinating Nigeria launch was a resounding success.
However, the distinction needs to be made between the launch of an impressive magazine and other collaterals on one hand, and actually developing tourist sites and cultural events to standards worthy of visiting by tourists within and outside the country.
Generally, Nigerians are skeptical about tourism being a major driver of the country’s economy.
The onus falls on the tourism ministry to prove otherwise.
“We are working with local governments to develop the infrastructure for visitors and tourists alike, and to identify the places they will want to see. Nigeria is as safe as other countries with more developed tourist markets, and as more people come to visit us the more Nigerians will see the personal benefits that tourism can bring,” said Duke.