• FROM NOTHING TO SOMETHING: THE STORY OF NIGERIA TOURISM DEVELOPMENT CORPORATIONStarting agencies is the forte of Nigeria but maintaining them is unfortunately not in the DNA. Commissions, committees, agencies, departments, many have gone moribund in the short political history of the country.Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) was meant to have gone down the drain but the agency has made resurgence, thanks to the insightful leadership of Mrs. Omotayo Omotosho MFR. Created in 1975 apparently to boost tourism, by 1999 the organization had nosedived and was almost going to be scrapped.‘I took up one of the agencies meant to be scrapped. The corporation has been in existence since 1975. Three directorate positions were vacant when I took the job in Abuja’, Mrs. Omotayo Omotosho MFR, former Director-General of Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation recalled in her speech themed ‘Entertainment and Tourism: Prism of Possibilities’ at the last year’s conference of Committee of Wives of Lagos State Officials (COWLSO) in Lagos.L-R: National Leader, All Progress Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu with His Wife, Senator Oluremi.The woman who hosted a television program, Towards a Greater Nigeria’ dating back to 1990 added: ‘I was trained as a broadcaster. Many people thought I was set up to fail. I also thought they didn’t give me NTA as a broadcaster which would fit into my experience. I received a lot of encouragement from then Governor of Lagos state, Sen. Bola Tinubu and his wife, Oluremi Tinubu when I took the role.’Mrs. Oluremi Tinubu said: ‘You won’t work and die. You are a Pastor’s wife, you will make impact. I believe that when you finish, they will still be calling you to come and talk about tourism in Nigeria’Asiwaju Bola Tinubu said: ‘You can’t fail. It will never happen. Whatever support you need, let me know. When Lagos cough, the entire nation shakes’With the dose of motivation received from the inspirational leadership of the Tinubus, Mrs. Omotosho took the office and attained major milestones. ‘Three directorate positions were vacant when I took the job in Abuja. So I brought in three individuals who we shared the same passion from Lagos. I asked them if they are ready to close 10pm, 11pm. We focused on entertainment tourism, sport tourism, eco-tourism, adventure tourism and cultural tourism, which were our low hanging fruits. I wanted beach tourism too but my team said the Caribbeans own the space, so we focused. We began to pay courtesy visits to states that were ready. Some of them are Lagos, Cross river, Imo, Abia, and states in the North east.’Lagos is home for her, so the former Chairman of Lagos State Broadcasting Corporation was able to get automatic support for her tourism projects. ‘We got support of Governor Tinubu and his wife, and then met Hakeem Gbajabiamila, then Commissioner of Tourism. We started Eyo festival and Black Heritage festival.Governor Donald and wife, Onari Duke gave us support in Cross river state.’The rest, as they say, is history. Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) is back on its foot and surging from one level of glory to another. The current Director-General is Mr. Folorunsho Coker who was once Commissioner of Tourism, Arts and Culture in Lagos state. Mr. Coker conceived the ‘Tour Nigeria’ brand to drive domestic consumption of tourism products in Nigeria, commercialize tourism, and generate employment.Mrs. Omotayo Omotosho MFR, popularly known as ‘Madam Tourism’ has also since moved forward from the role of Director-General of the agency. Among other successes, it was during her tenure that Agbani Darego won the Miss World competition. She currently runs a nongovernmental organization, ‘Towards a Greater Nigerian Foundation’ by which she is empowering youths.For tourism to thrive Nigeria requires synergy. States have different strengths in terms of tourist attraction, entertainment, culture, sports, and arts which should be harnessed for the economic development of the country.-First Published in Trek Africa Newspaper.
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