Wakaabout Series: Tourism for Nigeria is a Priority

Smiling faces at a Nigerian festival

As an award-winning travel journalist and blogger Pelu Awofeso has been to 36 states in Nigeria. His journeys around the country have always led him to the same resolve – there is really so much to see and share – but tourism to Nigeria is certainly lacking.

In this Wakaabout Series, Pelu uses the pidgin English term for “one who is always on the move”, waka about as he visits the National Summit on Culture and Tourism stakeholder meeting in Ikeja, Lagos, on Sunday April 10, 2016, to hear what the Federal Government plans to do to bolster this lackluster area.

By Pelu Awofeso

Ahead of the National Summit on Culture and Tourism scheduled to hold in Abuja from April 27-29, the Minister of Information and Culture, Chief Lai Mohammed, met with Arts, Culture and Tourism correspondents (and other relevant stakeholders) in Lagos. Here are some takeaways from the session—in the minister’s own words.

Tourism is priority

This Administration is diversifying the economy away from oil, which for many years has been the mainstay of our economy. Among the sectors that have been identified as veritable sources of revenue for the nation are the Arts, Culture and Tourism Sectors. This is why we in the Ministry of Information and Culture are working hard to move these sectors from the margins to the mainstream, and ensure that the rural poor in particular are factored into the sector’s architecture.

Ivory from Benin City (courtesy of the Lagos National Museum)
Ivory from Benin City (courtesy of the Lagos National Museum)

Impacting the grassroots

Working with various local and international partners, including the Tony Elumelu Foundation and the British Council, we are mapping our creative arts, by which we mean pottery, weaving, dyeing, sculpturing [and more], with a view to reviving them massively through capacity building for those involved and the provision of loans. We believe this will not only create hundreds of thousands of jobs…it will also become money spinners for the economy and stem the rural-urban migration.

Building stakeholders’ capacity

We are doing the same thing for Culture and Tourism, training Festival Managers so they can be fortified enough to take their events to the next level, and involving the local communities, as critical stakeholders, fully in our efforts to bring the sectors into the mainstream.

Leveraging local festivals

We are aware that culture drives tourism, hence we intend to leverage heavily on our numerous cultural festivals in our efforts to boost tourist arrivals. That is why we are currently compiling a list of the top 10 creative arts and cultural festivals in each state of the federation, with a view to creating a year-round calendar of such events. This way, those willing to attend such events can plan ahead.

Horse riding is an essential festival right, specifically in Northern Nigeria.

Building synergy for success

Tourism is a multi-sectoral issue that involves easier access to visas, provision of necessary infrastructure like roads, adequate security, etc. This is why we have decided to call a National Summit on Culture and Tourism, which is scheduled for April 27th to 29th 2016 in Abuja, with a view to charting the path forward. We are aware that similar efforts have been made in the past, without an appreciable result. The difference this time is our commitment and the different milieu provided by the national imperative to diversify the economy, amidst the crash in the price of oil.

Gate at the Ancient Wall in Kano

Pelu Awofeso has written two books about his travels. Tour of Duty and Nigerian Festivals are available for e-purchase or in hard copy.