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21.06.2012 Opinion

THE CHALLENGE OF TOURISM DEVELOPMENT IN RIVERS STATE

By Yahaya Ndu
THE CHALLENGE OF TOURISM DEVELOPMENT IN RIVERS STATE
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THE CHALLENGE OF TOURISM DEVELOPMENT SUSTAINANCE IN RIVERS STATE: THE IMPERATIVE OF AFRICAN CULTURAL RENAISSANCE.

Being A PAPER PRESENTED BY YAHAYA EZEEMOO NDU AT THE FIRST PORT HARCOURT TOURISM SUMMIT ON THE THEME: TOURISM AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, THE CHALLENGE OF SUSTENANCE IN RIVERS STATE.

21ST-22NDJUNE 2012.
PROTOCOLS.
Perhaps I should start by commenting that here in Nigeria, we are very fond of organizing conferences ,retreats, seminars, parleys and summits; We love to constitute investigative panels e.t.c. but after all said and all conclusions, we have never shown any interest in making use of the decisions and recommendations emanating from such conferences, retreats, seminars, parleys and summits. I therefore fervently pray to God Almighty to please help and in fact compel us to make this summit different. Make this a summit in deed and in fact and make us to apply the recommendations flowing from it for the betterment of our people.

I shall do my best in this presentation to stir the discussions, proceedings, conclusions and recommendations of this event away from mere theorizations and parroting of experiences of other nations and move towards practicalisations so that the people of Rivers State, the Niger Delta, Nigeria and Africa can indeed benefit from their more than abundant tourism potentials , endowments and attractions.

In this aspiration, I believe that I shall be led by my long experience of tourism in Rivers State, for it was in 1987/88 that I was first invited by the government of Rivers State for tourism development purposes. That was in the time of Mrs. Chinyere Nwokido as the Commissioner of Tourism.

TOURISM AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT.
Tourism as we know it has become the noblest instrument of this century for achieving international understanding. It enables contacts among people from distant parts of the globe, people of various languages, races, creeds, political beliefs and social standings-tourism brings them together. It leads to personal contact in which people can understand attitudes and beliefs which were incomprehensible to them because they were different. It is the greatest relater of cultures.

Tourism is acclaimed all over the world as the fasted growing industry. The potential of tourism in Nigeria in general and in Rivers state in particular are speculated to be much bigger than that of crude oil. Where oil has been described as GOLD MINE, Tourism has been described as DIAMOND MINE.

The problem that have militated against tourism development in River state, the Niger Delta and Nigeria has been overwhelmingly that of lack of political will, seriousness, in fact, lack of vision and patriotism.

The relevance, relationship and bearings of tourism to economic development has been thoroughly over flogged in Nigeria……….

THE CHALLENGE OF SUSTENANCE IN RIVERS STATE
How does Israel sustain her tourism?
How does Saudi Arabia sustain her tourism?
What of Dubai?
What is the magic of the tourism industry in today's China?

Would the NTDC of Nigeria be still organizing Abuja Carnival if there were no subventions from government?

AFRICAN CULTURAL RENAISSANCE CAMPAIGN.
On May 23rd 2010 in Ghana, the African Union launched the African Cultural Renaissance Campaign. At the event were Presidents Abdulaye Wade of Senegal, John Atta Mills of Ghana, and Kenneth Kaunda---former Zambian President. Also at the event were African Commission leaders, such as the Deputy Chairperson Mr. Erastus Mwencha and the Social Affairs Commissioner Advocate Bience Gawanas. The event was also witnessed by many politicians, diplomats, students and other guests. In all about 600 people attended the occasion.

As explained at the event, the aim of the campaign for the African Cultural Renaissance ''is to promote pan Africanism, cultural renewal and identity as forming part of the shared values in the continent.''

Listed as components of the campaign were:
Promotion of African cultural values including African languages so that their potential is explored and used to the maximum effect in order to reinforce a sense of identity among Africans.

* Promotion of the ratification of the Charter of the African Cultural Renaissance to ensure its entry into force.

* Popularization and promotion of the effective implementation of the charter at all levels of society through various activities that will-

a. ensure the ownership of the Charter by member States, cultural stakeholders, civil society organizations and the public at large.

b. ensure the preservation of Africa's rich cultural practices whilst also campaigning against harmful traditional practices.

It is in pursuance of the quest for African continental integration that the African Union Commission has launched the three year campaign on the African Cultural renaissance under the theme: PROMOTING TOGETHER THE AFRICAN CULTURAL RENAISSANCE.

According to the late tourism guru, Dr. Ignatius Atigbi:

''the modern trend towards tourism development is the discovery of folklores, dancing, tradition, culture, and art. On the continental basis, Africa which is still yet undiscovered and of which the world still has a superficial and at most times , distorted image stands to benefit from the development of this phenomenon.

With legitimate pride in the incalculable riches of our continent, African nations are anxious to have their share in this outstanding phenomenon-the growth of international tourism''

RECOMMENDATIONS
Create a global Center for African Cultural Renaissance in Rivers state—a modern wonder of the world that would put the Disney world in the shadows.

Don't make the Tinapa mistake.
Recreate ancient spectacular Black African empires/kingdoms in each local government area of the state.

AFRICAN CULTURAL RENAISSANCE THEME PARKS
It is highly recommended that Rivers state invest immediately and massively in the establishment of African Cultural Renaissance Theme Park tourism complexes in a network connecting all the local government councils in the state. The theme parks recommended shall be borne out of the historical and cultural realities of Rivers state, the Niger Delta, Nigeria, and the Black race. The over riding intention should be as has been indicated earlier to make River state the intellectual and cultural epicenter of the African cultural renaissance.

The theme parks shall be individually extremely commercially viable and shall attract Africans and Black from all over the world particularly and tourists of all other nationals generally. theme parks that will fulfill the needs and fill the void now existing in the global campaign for African cultural renaissance. Theme parks like no other in the contemporary world. Theme parks that will attract visitors from allover the world because they offer features not available anywhere else.

The Theme Parks shall also double as film villages for the production and promotion of Black African Cultural and Historical films for Nigerian, African and world audiences. Anyone who has watched the film by Alex Harley ROOTS and seen the magic that that film has wrought for the tourism industry in Gambia would not question the relevance of films to the promotion of tourism.

The recommended theme parks in River state shall tell the stories of African heroes like King Jaja of Opobo,films that tell the world about the Egyptian empire of 1570-1070B.C., of the Kushite Empire 760-656 B.C.,of the Carthaginian Empire, the Aksumite Empire, Kanem Empire, Ghana Empire, Fatimid Empire, Almoravid Caliphate, Almohad caliphate, Ethiopian Empire, Ayyubid Sultanate, Marinid Empire, Mali Empire, Mamluk Sultanate, Songhai Empire, Jolof Empire, Kingdom of Kongo, Bornu Empire, Oyo Empire, Benin Empire, Sennar Sultanate, Kaabu Empire, Kingdom of Luba, Lunda Empire, Aro confederacy,Asante Union, Long Empire, Bamana Empire, Sokoto caliphate,Massina Empir, the Wassoulou Empire, e.t.c.

Films that tell the true stories of Fumo Liyongo of the Wagalla in Kenya, of Sundiata of Mali, of the warrior queen Amanirenas of Meroe, of Queen Nefertiti, of King Seti, King Taharqa, King Tuthmosis 111,King Rameses 11, King Menkaure, Chaka Zulu , of the great Queen Nzinga who organized an all woman army that fought off Portugal and kept them out of Angola for many years.

As a prominent son of Rivers State, Professor S.J.S Cookey [two time Vice Chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt said].

Nations striving for greatness and distinction in today's world must recognize their heroes of both the past and present and hold them before people as profound examples to be studied and emulated. Sadly, must Nigerians [and Africans] know little or nothing about the history of their country or the African continent?

Although we are urged to embrace a nationalistic fervor. The heroes whose achievements should inspire us to a patriotic love of our country and the ambition of struggle for the advancement of our people, are virtually unknown to most.

Men such as Jaja of Opobo,Oba Ovaramwen, Sultan Attahiru and Nana Olumu, to name only a few who played leading roles in Nigeria's resistance to the imposition of British rule are blurred in obscurity. Britain or America could not have risen to such heights without their legendary heroes, their national inspirations.

We must begin the correcting process that will bring valiant men and women, of both the past and present, to the fore front of our peoples' n\minds and familiarize our people with the formidable heroes who are our own and who have loved and served our land well.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT TOURISM COMMITTEES:THE FOUNDATION OF NATIONAL TOURISM DEVELOPMENT.

Tourism development in the Local Government Areas of Rivers State and the rest of Nigeria has been one of the most neglected aspects of our planning, inspite of the fact that over 70% of our touristic assets are in these areas.

Every local government area in Rivers state has a lot of enviable tourism potentials whose proper development could be immensely beneficial and would no doubt help bring economic developments to the people, state and nation.

It is in realization of this fact that the NIGERIAN TOURISM DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION DECREE 1992 provides in section 10:

[1] There is hereby established for each local Government of a State, a committee to be known as the Local Government Tourism Committee [in this Decree referred to as 'the Local Government Committee'']

[2] The Local Government Committee shall consist of

(a) The Chairman of the Local Government Council as Chairman;

(b) The Councilor charged with responsibility for matters relating to tourism;

(c) A representative of the State Ministry charged responsibility for matters relating to tourism;

(d) A traditional ruler;
(e) Three persons who by reason of their ability, experience or specialized knowledge are capable of making useful contributions to the development of tourism; and

(f) The Divisional Police Officer in the Local Government Area.

(3) The Local Government Committee shall subject the control of the Tourism Board and the Corporation have responsibility for –

(a) Recommending to the tourism Board projects for development as tourist attractions;

(b) Advising on such matters relating to tourism within the Local Government Area; and

(c) Preserving and maintaining monuments and museums in their areas of jurisdiction; and

(d) Providing and sustaining communal interests in tourism''

It should go without saying that the Local Government Tourism committees should form the very foundation of Rivers state's and in fact every state's tourism organization. The Local tourism committees should be trained and equipped for the proper identification, promotion, development and marketing of their tourism endowments, potentials and attractions. Clearly, if we build on the strong foundations of Local tourism development, no doubt tourism would be take its rightful place in the scheme of the state's economic development in a sustainable manner.

AFRICAN RENAISSANCE ICONS AWARDS & AFRICAN CULTURAL RENAISSANCE CONFERENCE, NIGERIA 2012.

The Renaissance Multi-Links[Nig] Ltd in collaboration with the African Renaissance Foundation[AREFO] have been working on the organizing of an AFRICAN RENAISSANCE ICONS AWARDS and an AFRICAN CULTURAL RENAISSANCE CONFERENCE.

While the African Renaissance Icons Awards is aimed at honoring Africans and friends of Africa from allover the world who have distinguished themselves in the promotion of the ideals of African renaissance, the African Cultural Renaissance Conference is aimed at assessing how successful the African Cultural Renaissance Campaign spoken of earlier and enunciated by the African Union [AU] has been and to proffer ways forward.

Among those invited to be honored are Prof. Ali Mazrui, Prof. Shadrack Gutto,Prof. Tunde Babawale,Dr. Wilfred Ngwa,Prof. Catherine Achalonu,Prof. Runoko Rashidi,Dr.Jideofor Adibe,e.t.c.

It is highly recommended that the Rivers State Government takes over the funding and hosting of both events that were originally scheduled to take place at the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria [ASCON], Badagry on August 21-23,2012.

The events would draw the cream of Black and African Intellectuals from all over the world and has the potent potential of profoundly commencing the process of globally promoting the state as a front line center for African Cultural Renaissance.

NIGER DELTA SLAVE ROUTES PACKAGED TOURS.
The Rivers State of Nigeria is a perfect position to develop and operate a NIGER DELTA SLAVE ROUTE PACKAGED TOURS. The project is predicated on the mounting and intensifying demand by especially, but not exclusively African Americans for the retracing and rediscovery of the phenomenon of slavery of yester years and the routes, markets and paraphernalia through and with which their forebears were led out of Africa to the far flung nations throughout the western hemisphere[North and South America and the Caribbean].The slave routes assumed considerable international prominence and represent major tourism potential.

In West Africa today the Governments of Ghana and of Senegal have developed comprehensive slave routes packaged tours, whose multiplier effects and economic fallouts have impacted positively on the Ghanaian and Senegalese economies. Here in Nigeria, in the same vein, the Government and peoples of Lagos state have developed Badagry/Ife slave routes packaged tours, which in turn is making economic waves.

History reveals that the Niger Delta played very prominent roles in the phenomenon of the trans-Atlantic slave trade which deserves a properly articulated, developed and promoted slave routes tours to satisfy and benefit from the tremendous ready market for the specialized service.

This recommended project has a prominent part to play in opening up the communities and peoples of Rivers state in particular and the Niger Delta Region in general to the full benefits of international tourism, with its attendant foreign exchange generation and massive employment generations.

COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE, MERITOCRACY AND BEST PRACTICES.

I recall with nostalgia that in 2001 during the INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF THE NIGER DELTA REGION[10th -12th,December,2001] organized by the Niger Delta Development Commission[NDDC] in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme[UNDP],where I had sought to make a presentation entitled THE ROLE OF TOURISM,ARTS AND CULTURE IN CREATING AN ENABLING ENVIROMENT FOR THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF THE NIGER DELTA in my capacity then as the Executive Secretary of the Center for the Promotion of Tourism, Arts and Culture in Nigeria[CEPTAC] and was finding it difficult. I had told one of the officials organizing the event that the CEPTAC presentation was perhaps the best tourism proposition being put forward at the event. Imagine my shock when the official asked me what made me ''what makes you think that we are interested in the best?''

I also remember on one occasion around 2002 when a very prominent Niger Delta borne Nigerian tourism practitioner whom I had been trying to convince over the years to assist in the establishment of my proposed KING JAJA MEMORIAL TOURISM COMPLEX in Rivers State, told me that the complex would never be built. When I asked him why, he said..''Because you are not from the Niger Delta''.

I make bold to ask all Niger Deltans who have cars if their cars were all built by Niger Deltans; To ask all owning mobile phones if their had sets were built in the Niger Delta or by Niger Deltans; Is there any Niger Deltan whom if his or her child is sick would say that the child would only be treated by a physician that was a Niger Deltan? How many Niger Deltans who travel by air insist that the pilots must be Niger Deltans?

The most incomprehensible aspect of it all is that there are no reservations in accommodating and engaging foreigners, especially Europeans. Is it not most strange that we are eager to partner with Americans and Europeans and Chinese and Indians and what have you,but never other Nigerians? Something must be fundamentally wrong.

MASTER PLANS
At this point one may ask what happened to the NDDC/UNDP master plan for the development of the Niger Delta; at least as far as the sustainable tourism development goes? We may also recall an exercise that went on some years ago that I believe has been fully paid for by the Federal Government of Nigeria, concerning the production of a Nigeria Tourism master plan..Where is it? What happened to it? What has it to say about sustainable tourism development in the Niger Delta and in River State in particular?

In short what happened to it? How relevant is it to the quest for which we are gathered here today?.Does this document have any real values? Are they really useful in the practical world? One thing is clear. If those documents were what they were supposed to be and have served the purposes they were supposed to serve, the event that we are gathered for here now would not have been necessary and the face of tourism allover Nigeria in general and the Niger Delta would have been radically different.

The reality is that most of the federal authorities who are charged with tourism matters in Nigeria are but propaganda outfits and have no real ideas or deep patriotic intentions to develop tourism. When they hear that changes may come in government ministries and parastatals, they begin to make statements as to how they would partner with other government agencies to reduce employment through tourism and all worth not.

TOURISM IS COMPETITIVE
Tourism is a highly competitive industry and we cannot compel the potential tourist to visit any attractions by force, threat or decrees. But by creative presentation, packaging and persuasions.

Unless and until those in authority in Nigeria and in Rivers state open up their hearts, minds and hands to accommodate creative and committed tourism practitioners and join hands with them to sincerely develop the industry, we cannot make any progress in tourism .

TOURISM DEVELOPMENT BANK
When agriculture was uplifted to a preferred sector status in Nigeria, an Agricultural Development Bank was conceived and established to ensure that viable and useful agricultural projects did not die for lack of adequate funding. But since the nineties when tourism was lifted to the same preferred sector status in Nigeria, no concomitant Tourism Development Bank has been established to assist viable tourism projects with the result that many ideas that could practically transform the industry in Rivers state, the Niger Delta and Nigeria are being consistently frustrated and the long suffering masses denied by implication the benefits that would have accrued from the success of the projects.

We must remember that ideas are the root seeds of all inventions and developments ever accomplished by man and that no matter the quantum of natural resources, attractions, endowments and potentials that a people may be blessed with, without the right ideas, nothing good would ever accrue to them from it.

INTELLECTUAL PLAGIARISM AND OUTRIGHT HI-JACK OF TOURISM IDEAS, INVENTIONS AND PROJECTS

One of the greatest problems militating against development in Nigeria [including the Niger Delta and River State] is the rampant practice of plagiarism of other people's ideas, plans, and projects and attempting to implement them with mostly disastrous results.

The truth is that written projects are usually representations of not more than about 10% of their full intents and that the rest 90% usually remain quiet in the minds of the initiators until they are questioned for details. Therefore those who set out to plagiarize other people's ideas can never have the fullness of the components of the ideas.

NATIONAL CAKE SHARING MENTALITY
During the last administration in this state I had endeavored to organize a RIVERS STATE TOURISM ENDOWMENT FUND PROJECT to ensure that viable tourism ides for the state do not die for lack of funding but after several meetings with the tourism ministry, the project cane to nought. The same experience repeated itself in Bayelsa State last year.

The truth is that for so long as Nigerians have their eyes fixated on the ever flowing oil money, it is difficult to interest those in government into exploring other sources of funds for development purposes. As a former Head of State of our nation was reported to have said some time ago: MONEY WAS NOT THE PROBLEM OF NIGERIA BUT HOW TO SPEND IT.

A most tragic utterance issuing from the mouths of prominent Nigerians whose fellow country women are prostituting themselves all over the world because of poverty.

In my mind the governments of the oil producing states of Nigeria should give notice to themselves and to the rest of the country that after five years from now that oil prospecting must reduce if not discontinued. Why are we in a desperate rush to exhaust the oil reserves and squander the monies on frivolities when there are abundant other sources of revenue? The oil must be reserved from the coming generation.

Crude oil is as we know exhaustible and most unfriendly to the environment which is why its exploration and exploitation in the Niger Delta has always been attended by oil pollution and other environmental degradations and hazards that in turn has led to community restiveness, strive and conflict. Tourism on the other hand is inexhaustible and environmental friendly.

Finally, the government of the Republic of South Africa has been running a subtle competition with its regional governments for the unannounced championship of who would be lead the rest of the black and African world in the campaign for African renaissance generally.

Since the past twelve years the African Renaissance Festival has been annually organized in South Africa .In the same vein the University of South Africa has established a Center for African Renaissance Studies[CARS] which has now been upgraded to an Institute for African Renaissance Studies. The Institute had Professor Shadrack Gutto[a Kenyan] as its pioneer Chair and Director..Not only that, establishments in the republic are always organizing all imaginable things in promotion of African renaissance with the main motive being to make the Republic of South Africa as the global headquarters for African renaissance. They do this because they recognize the immense touristic and other underlying benefits that are involved in these. Unfortunately for South Africa, its economy is a white economy on black soil and therefore not ultimately suited to play this role in a sustainable manner. Nigeria, the greatest concentration of black of black people on earth is uniquely situated to play this role and I fervently advocate that the government and people of Rivers state immediately commences this role on behalf of Nigeria and inevitable the other states of Nigeria would have no alternative than to constitute themselves into satellite tourism zones with your state as the hub.

On my part, I have been at least since 1987 committed to the tourism development of Rivers state and am prepared to partner with your state in an organized manner to ensure that the state will begin to enjoy the short , medium and long term benefits of sustained tourism development.

African Cultural Renaissance is the area where we have our comparative advantage and the time to begin is now.

Thank you all.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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