Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed just got back from Kebbi State where he visited to be honoured after resuscitating Argungu International Fishing Festival in 2020 which apparently improved the economies of the local communities. Kebbi fisshermen. Photo: by JUSTINA OKPANKU
Last week, the people of Kebbi State had bestowed Alhaji Mohammed with the title “Kakaki of Kebbi” during the United Nations World Tourism Day which was hosted by Kebbi State government in collaboration with the National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR) on September 27. Tourism operators in the country are among those congratulating Mohammed which is a rare gesture. Most of them would tell you without mincing words what “Alhaji Lai Mohammed is not doing right as a supervisory tourism minister.” They have even made a song of it. Operators complained among other things that government pays lips service to the tourism sector whereas tourism is a veritable tool to reduce poverty as well as foster unity. Clearly, public and private sector involvement in the tourism sector is not even working. The situation got worse in the past six years when tourism became a mere department in the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture. While urging the Federal Government for a stand alone Ministry of Culture and Tourism (which it enjoyed from 1999 till 2015), private operators bad mouth their minister. For them, Mohammed’s undoing are legion. Generally, the operators said the minister is not getting involved in tourism matters as expected of him. He was expected to shine a new light on the rural areas in the country and by extension the tourist sites, both natural and man-made. The tourist attractions are situated mainly at the grassroots level where there are no tourist infrastructure, including access roads. Mohammed had promised that the federal government would leverage tourism for rural development. Not-too-long ago, he unveiled his agenda to transform the creative, tourism and culture industry into Nigeria’s new oil in the next four years. These are things that will jump start the sector to create millions of jobs for the youths. Sadly, the Coronavirus pandemic set in and impacted negatively on travel and tourism like other sectors. It was worrisome that the tourism communities neither got bailout nor palliative like their aviation counterparts. Some of the operators expressed their dissatisfaction on the situation saying that the minister is not performing. One tourism operator said “Alhaji Lai Mohammed is not helping Nigeria tourism. I think he is only interested in attending foreign tourism events to represent Nigeria. He doesn’t have time for us. It is partly this reason we want a stand alone Ministry of Culture and Tourism.” Another operator said “nothing stopped the Tourism supervisory minister from hitting the ground and got running, if he could attend tourism events outside the country even during the pandemic.” These views are changing. Mohammed tried to correct the misconception in certain circles that he paid more attention to information sector. “There is a misconception in certain circles that we paid more attention to the Information sector than we did to Culture and Tourism.
“This may appear so because the issues we usually deal with in the Information sector are those that receive the bigger play in the media.
“But I can tell you, with evidence, that we achieved a lot in the Tourism and Culture Sector, or in the Creative Industry generally,” he said.
As pundits wait for solutions and actions, Alhaji Mohammed got back to Kebbi State to be honoured after he helped to resuscitate Argungu International Fishing Festival, several years after it was rested. The turbaning was obviously a recognition for Mohammed who supported in organising the lovely cultural event. President, the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN), the organised private sector tourism body in the country, Mr. Nkereuwem Onung hailed the new effort, appreciating the Emir of Kebbi and the Kebbi State government for the investiture of Mohammed. The traditional and cultural title bestowed on the minister, he said, is well deserved, an affirmation that the minister has done well.
”FTAN rejoices with our minister. He has done well,” he said. Adding: “Maybe after this outing, he will put more energy towards getting the industry the palliative the federal government promised us.”
Mohammed’s good job Precisely March 2020, when Covid-19 was getting a bit dangerous, global events like ITB Berlin, a travel Expo, were cancelled. Still, Argungu festival took place attracting the crème de la crème of the society. Almost all the big names in Nigeria including President Mohammadu Buhari and Senate President Ahmed Lawan, celebrated Kebbi Tourism and other attractions.
Not a few were glad to see this happen. Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, the Ooni of Ife may have expressed his admiration for the minister during the event as others thanked him.
Mohammed made an incredible effort to get Argungu International Fishing Festival back in the spotlight. Kebbi Tourism had showcased what makes the destination tick, including Argungu fishing competition and Argungu Auto Rally in 2020.
It was a chance to promote Kebbi Tourism. The minister had worked closely with Kebbi State Governor Atiku Bagudu as well as other stakeholders to ensure the cultural event was held last year. Organising Argungu festival was a big deal. It was easy for the outside world to see Kebbi is safe. Basic infrastructure like electricity and good road network were provided. Travel and tourism, experts say, is a significant contributor to human development. The transformation in Kebbi’s economy was evident with the influx of visitors. The man who caught the biggest fish with bare hands smiled home with …it was not a winner take all of sort. Other participants were rewarded handsomely just as not so lucky fishermen sold their day’s catches. Tourism with its substantial job creation spin-off could act as an antidote to the sluggish rural communities and their economy. Insiders said tourist receipt to Kebbi State rose, following the successful host of 2020 Argungu Fishing Festival which aim to open up the North-West Nigeria. The minister commented underscoring the significance of the event in Northern Nigeria struggling with terrorism.
Why the Minister took charge All the 774 local councils in the country can easily boasts unique tourist products. It is amazing. Nigeria is richly endowed with huge tourism potential and boasts diverse view cultures, wonders and attractions around the states. The thrilling sites, both natural and man-made, blew even the minds of Nigerians themselves. There’s a problem of low level awareness though.
Moreover, security concerns tend to deter prospective investors and tourists. Mohammed took the bull by the horn and began the making of Argungu festival 2020. Like everywhere else around the world fears about safety amid the coronavirus pandemic won’t let people travel for leisure. It is hoped investors and tour operators will be making enquiries.
Apart from the popular fishing competition, Kebbi boasts other unique attractions such as the Abdullah Fodio tomb at Gwandu, Kanta museum at Argungu, Yauri Boat Regatta, Uhola Festival in Zuru, Old Ruins of queen Amina càmp, Girmace, and Shrines in Zuru, Karishin Settlement in Sakaba. There are massive rice fields and pyramids across the state which are natural attractions.
The state is looking to attract potential investors. The Kebbi State government had assured that it will create an atmosphere conducive enough to promote long term investment in Kebbi and by so doing alleviate poverty.
The President of National Association of Tour Operators (NATOP), Hajia Bilkisu Abdul said at a time she was considering visiting Kebbi State with her members in post-Covid-19 era when Tourism fully restarts. Travel to Kebbi is worth the while as the state is not in the no-go parts of Northern Nigeria. There are definitely some right lights for Kebbi Tourism overhead after Coronavirus. Contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org