The elasticity of one of Frank Meke, the writer of the People & Tourism column on the Sun Newspaper to orchestrate discord among the helmsmen of the tourism and culture-related agencies in Nigeria, and also pull down the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) by all means is limitless.
I’ve keenly dissected a good number of Meke’s column, especially since the Federal Government ridiculously sacked the flamboyant but ebullient Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, while on an active assignment of the Federal Government far away in Dubai as the Director-General of the NTDC and appointed Dr (Mrs) Sally Mbanefo instead.
Suffice it to say that Mbanefo was a subject of vitriolic media attack right from the very first day her name was announced as by the Federal Government as a replacement for Otunba Runsewe. This is not because of Mbanefo was incompetent. The fact remains that based on her resume and precedent at working posts, Mbanefo is not only fit, but she was (and still) an asset to the nation. The efforts of Mbanefo, an indisputable apostle of domestic tourism were ignored by the destructive element and hack writers against the NTDC. The removal of Mbanefo was overblown in the media as if she had not finished her term as the DG of the Corporation.
The appointment of Mr Folorunsho Coker, the initiator of One Lagos Fiesta while he was the Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, in Lagos state, was greeted with so much awe. But just after a few months, Coker became the subject of vitriolic media attack from a scribbler, ‘assigned’ (by who knows?) to unconstructively tackle every DG of the NTDC since the days of Mbanefo.
The latest of Frank Meke’s articles deliberately intended to misinform tourism stakeholders and cause discord among the heads of the tourism-culture related helmsmen in the country was published in his People and Tourism page in the Sun Newspapers on Thursday, March 5, 2020, with the headline “Tourism Master Class: Lai Mohammed lectures Coker on rudiments of Tourism.” He simply botched up the whole information, including the names of the NTDC DG (he wrote Folarin Coker instead of Folorunsho Coker) and that of the ministry (writing Information, Culture, Tourism and National Orientation instead of Information and Culture, though the minister has included Tourism in his complimentary card).
By divine orchestration, I was at the working visit of the Minister for Information and Culture, Alh Lai Mohammed, to kick-start his tour of agencies under his ministry. I stayed until the very end of the event. I even recorded the speech of both the Minister the NTDC DG, Coker. Frank Meke was not at the event. But Meke, for reasons best known to him, chose to distort the information and thought of the Minister during his visit.
Setting the records straight…
The Minister assured that the Ministry of Information and Culture is very much ready to collaborate with the NTD to fully harness tourism potentials in the Country.
He tasked the NTDC to adopt creative ways of actualizing its mandate of developing and promoting tourism in Nigeria, to attract tourists to the country.
Alh Mohammed also said: “The truth of the matter is that NTDC is not just the apex organization for tourism, it is actually at the centre of all these tourism activities and when you look at your Act, it actually mandates you to develop, promote and market tourism in Nigeria.
“In other words, you are the chief marketer of Nigeria in terms of bringing in people from outside to see what we have been blessed with and also encouraging people locally to see what they have been blessed with”, he said.
Alhaji Mohammed added that it is important for the NTDC to understand its pivotal role in coordinating all the activities in the tourism sector, and to realize its huge potential in view of its capacity to create employment and contribute immensely to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the nation.
He stressed the need for the NTDC to appreciate that tourism is beyond mere sightseeing as it encompasses the entire creative industry, which includes film, music, gastronomy, fashion, photography and monuments.
Lai Mohammed’s Statistics…
“There are many reasons why people should come to Nigeria. We are a country of colours. We are a country of about 250 ethnic groups and each with its own history, its own culture and we are blessed with miles and miles of beaches. We have almost all-year-round good weather.
“We have been blessed with a film industry which is number two in the entire world. We have been blessed with a music industry that has become global,” the Minister said.
Alhaji Mohammed, who noted that the film industry is the least untapped with only 51 cinema houses and less than 200 screens for a population of about 200 million people, urged the NTDC to strive to attract investments that will raise the number of cinema houses to 1000 and at least 6000 screens in order to turn the film industry into a money-spinner.
“This is where I think the NTDC will need to work even more closely with the ministry so that we can actually actualize the potentials of this industry and make it not just the fastest-growing sector of the economy of Nigeria but also increase its contribution to the GDP from 1.24% to 3 or 3.5%”, he said.
I am 100% in support of watchdog journalism. Let the media put every public office holder on their toes and make them accountable with constructive criticism by offering valid and well-reasoned views about the work of others, involving both positive and negative comments, in a friendly manner rather than an oppositional one.
It is expedient for Frank Meke to endeavour to maintain the regards he has earned as one of the early tourism writers in the country, and respect the core principles of journalism: Truth and Accuracy, Independence, Fairness and Impartiality, Humanity and Accountability. Let Meke endeavour to practice true watchdog journalism and be constructive in his criticism of the management of the apex tourism organisation in Nigeria – NTDC.
*’Labode Akintunde, an award-winning journalist and media entrepreneur sent in this piece from Abuja