Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Celebrating NTDC, Runsewe's strides

Runsewe throws up 6 yrs of brilliance
…‘Tourism is vital to Nigeria’s development’

After roughly six years in the saddle as Director General of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Otunba Olusegun Runsewe has engendered staggering changes, consequently launching the country’s tourism to new heights. And, in appreciation of his efforts, Otunba Runsewe has been decorated with countless honours, yet the man is not resting on his oars.

Speaking in his office preparatory to heading out for this year’s ITB in Berlin, Germany; Runsewe had declared enthusiastically: “We won’t rest on our oars, we will continue to excel”. To be candid, he strives endlessly in words and deeds.

This is the reason why at home and abroad, Runsewe has recorded in-roads hitherto thought unimaginable. From the lowest rung to the topmost echelon of society, Nigerian tourism is now respected; and, more and more, people are buying in. Students, investors, members of the diplomatic community, even the military and practically everyone are now aware of tourism. There are countless instances:

Promises to add colour to Air Show
In its drive towards total tourism promotion, the NTDC recently promised to make its presence felt in the forthcoming Air Expo organised by the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) scheduled for May, 2012.

The NTDC chief gave this assurance while receiving a NAF delegation led by Group Captain A R. Salami at Tourism Village, Abuja. Otunba Runsewe promised “to comprehensively support the Air Show by providing for delegates, NTDC-branded T-shirts, caps, bags and other unique souvenirs to add colour to the event”.

It could be recalled that the NTDC threw its weight behind the military in their recently concluded hosting of the 39th World Conference on Military Medicine. The NTDC entertained guests from over 30 countries during an interactive reception at its Tourism Village, Abuja.

According to Group Capt. Salami, the Air Show is a military tradition to perform sundry air stunts with aircraft and is usually characterized with large attendance; hence the need to consult the NTDC in order to showcase the tourism destinations in Nigeria to visitors expected to attend.

Group Capt. Salami added that, the thinking is that visitors would want to use the opportunity to see other tourism attractions besides the Air Exhibition and since the military is not an institution for tourism promotion, they thought it wise to visit the NTDC as an expert to seek ways of collaborating towards this end.

On his part, the NTDC boss observed that he was delighted at the creditable acknowledgement given to the NTDC by the military representatives adding that he shares a pleasant history with top military officers and will always be ready to support viable initiatives aimed at improving the tourism sub-sector in Nigeria.

Trinidad and Tobago seeks NTDC support to carnival
South Africa is exploring new ways of collaborating with Nigeria through the NTDC towards promoting the tourism sector of both countries. In fact, the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ambassador Kingsley J.N Mamabolo made this known when he visited Runsewe in Abuja.

Even as South Africa has promised collaboration with NTDC in tourism drive, the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago is also seeking support from the NTDC to drive its carnival. In deed, the High Commissioner of Trinidad and Tobago to Nigeria, HE Nyahuma M. Obika has requested NTDC’s involvement as the Caribbean country prepares for its annual Carnival slated for February next year.

High Commissioner Obika informed Otunba Runsewe that his visit to NTDC was to appeal to the NTDC boss to make provision for top Nigerian musicians to perform at the Carnival and also acquaint the NTDC chief with the “Desperadoes Steelband”, an enterprising Trinidad and Tobago-based Orchestra.

The top-flight diplomat opined that “Desperadoes Steelband” is making a statement globally and that steel band music genre has stood the test of time with the instrument playing at major events in Nigeria. He cited the presence of steel bands and their powerful contributions during the 1977 Festival of Arts and Culture held in Nigeria as an example.

The envoy, who has been in Nigeria for barely a year added that the band currently features in Trinidad and Tobago State House events asserting that his high commission would like to make maximum use of the Steelband in Nigeria by organising a Steel bands’ competition for secondary schools. He also sought NTDC’s support in this regard.

Speaking further, the high commissioner said his country believes in exporting its culture as a product because it is a major revenue earner and contributes immensely to the gross domestic product as well as generates employment at the grassroots.

In his response, Otunba Runsewe, who in 2005 accompanied then President Olusegun Obasanjo on a visit to Trinidad and Tobago, submitted that the Caribbean nation is a beautiful country, therefore, he would love a revisit.

While eulogizing the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival as one of the oldest, most colourful and best organised in the world, Runsewe reminded that Nigeria and the Caribbean country share historical connections and said such ties should be sustained for the mutual benefit of tourism promotion in both countries

He agreed to the envoy’s request by promising to brand the ‘Desperadoes Steelband’ with Nigeria and Trinidad and Tobago emblems, arrange for top Nigerian acts to perform during the carnival alongside the ‘Desperadoes Steelband’. Otunba Runsewe also suggested that a joint press conference should be organised in Lagos featuring top musicians and Nollywood Stars as this would yield maximum publicity and appreciation for the steel orchestra.

Tourism is the answer
To be sincere, the Runsewe-led NTDC has devised several strategies to create jobs in line with President Goodluck Jonathan’s agenda to improve the lot of every Nigerian. Nonetheless, Runsewe is eager to see more employment opportunites for the nation’s jobless youths. And, the NTDC chief remains unwavering in his conviction that tourism can do more for the economy.

This must explain his re-echo of “To boost its economy and realise its growth potentials, Nigeria must tap the various tourism opportunities”. Speaking during a breakfast meeting on Investment Opportunities in the Tourism Sector for the FCT, organised by the Abuja Investment Company, recently; the NTDC helmsman enumerated several tourism investment opportunities capable of diversifying revenue generation and employment creation in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), adding that for Nigeria to advance in sustainable economic growth, it needs to key into the various opportunities that tourism provides.
The Director General who was speaking at a breakfast meeting on “Investment
Opportunities in the Tourism Sector for the FCT”, listed the vast opportunities which the tourism and hospitality sector in Nigeria offers.

Reiterating the vast opportunities offered by Nigeria’s tourism and
hospitality sector, Runsewe observed: “The development of tourism as a critical sector of the economy has gradually assumed centre-stage in the economic agenda of most nations of the world”.

Expatiating, he declared: “In the past few decades, international attention on tourism as a critical sector of the economy has greatly increased. This is in view of tourism’s capacity to quickly stimulate income growth, generate foreign exchange and contribute to domestic earnings of government through fees and taxes”.

As to the state of affairs in his home country, Runsewe informed: “More than ever before, tourism is gaining recognition in Nigeria. It is being adopted by government as a vehicle for poverty alleviation, employment generation and wealth creation. It is also seen as a veritable tool for the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals. Indeed, tourism holds the key to our economic diversification and for stimulating rapid economic growth and development.”
Runsewe further submitted that he had personally adopted “practical-based” tourism, even as he emphatically recommended it for others. Hear him: “This is what Nigeria needs as an approach to tackling the socio-economic challenges facing the country, especially in the tourism and hospitality sector”.

The NTDC boss went on to remind that the United Arab Emirate and other countries that were at par with Nigeria some 29 years ago had exploited their tourism sector to advance their overall social and economic wellbeing; noting
that today, such efforts have paid off handsomely.

The NTDC chief also used the opportunity to list tourism investment opportunities in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) highlighting such key areas as Conference Tourism, which he said is a viable option for the FCT since the capital territory boasts numerous conference destinations like the International Conference Centre, ECOWAS Secretariat, Merit House as well as major hotels; such as Transcorp Hilton, Sheraton, Nicon Luxury, among others with state-of-the-art facilities.

Other investment opportunities in the FCT that Runsewe also identified include Ecotourism, which he said; if properly harnessed will translate into massive profits because of Abuja’s vast land mass and enchanting scenery, abundant sunshine, waterfalls, and topography characterised by beautiful plains and awesome rock formations, among others.

The NTDC boss also recommended exploring the local arts and craft industry, more collaboration of the Tour Operating and Travel Agencies, education tourism, culinary tourism, investment incentives and NTDC’s role in creating a regulatory framework for all tourism and hospitality establishments in Nigeria as provided for by the NTDC Act.

Pointing out that tour packaging “is germane to economic development”, Runsewe suggested that “investors could establish Tour Packaging companies for conducting guided tours for tourists to the FCT and adjoining destinations like Gurara Falls, Zuma Rock in Niger State and Farin Ruwa in Nassarawa State”.

Responding to questions on security as a threat to tourism development, Otunba
Runsewe pointed out that this is not peculiar to Nigeria. He, however, said: “The immigration authorities need to do more by way of checking criminals who travel into Nigeria from other countries to perpetrate crime. He blamed ‘image-battering’ for Nigeria’s woes. Runsewe went on to reveal that NTDC was doing its part by providing, among other security measures, a tourism travel card that enables the holder do cashless transactions.

Speaking on the clash of festivals/carnivals dates in Nigeria, the Tourism Czar lamented the current untidy situation, where several carnivals are held within the same month in a year. He warned that such clashes ended up dashing the organisers’ hopes because of lower patronage since both local and international stakeholders end up confused as to which one to attend/support.

Commiserates with the Ibrus, The Guardian
Nigeria recently lost a gem in the person of Guardian publisher Alex Ibru, and ever sentient and sympathetic, Otunba Runsewe has said that he was shocked and saddened at the demise of the late eminent personality. Commiserating with the survivors of the late Alex Ibru and The Guardian in a statement issued in Abuja, the NTDC chief aptly described “the death of Mr. Alex Ibru as a great loss to the Nation”.

Alluding to the establishment of The Guardian newspapers, which provides a platform for young men and women to realise their potentials and earn a living Runsewe reminded that, “the late publisher etched his name in gold as a great employer of labour”.

Runsewe, who further described the late publisher as a philanthropist that impacted greatly on many Nigerians, lamented: “Thousands of families across the length and breadth of Nigeria and beyond have lost a benefactor with his death”.

Citing the Ibru Christian Centre established in Agbarha Otor, the Delta State home-town of the Ibrus, the NTDC helmsman added that this is “another evidence of Alex Ibru’s commitment to the advancement of humanity”. While praying for the repose of the soul of Mr. Alex Ibru, Otunba Runsewe concluded by asking God to grant the deceased’s widow, Mrs. Maillen Ibru, their children and the entire family as well as The Guardian Newspapers Group the fortitude to bear such a great loss.

Celebrating NTDC
The uncommon strides recorded by the NTDC chief have not gone unnoticed: Runsewe was conferred with the National Honour of Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) two years ago.

That national honour had been preceded by numerous chieftaincy awards from communities spread across the country’s different ethnic groups. Whether from Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba or ethnic minority lands, Runsewe has them all. Interestingly, more feathers have been added to Runsewe’s cap after his decoration with an OON.

Jarman Ibi is one of the recent honours conferred on the NTDC helmsman. Jarman stands for Pioneer or Trailblazer, while Ibi is a community in Ibi Local Government Area of Taraba State. Interestingly, Ibi’s fame has been growing in leap and bounds because of its annual fishing festival called Nwonyo.

It is note-worthy that the title, Jarman Ibi or Pioneer of Ibi, was conferred on the NTDC Director General by no less a personality than the King of Ibi (Sarkin Ibi) HRH Alhaji Abubakar S. Danbawuro. Runsewe’s installation’s ceremony was preceded by a letter notifying him of the monarch’s intention. Justifying his decision to thus honour Runsewe, Sarkin Ibi observed that, “after extensive consultation and assessment of outstanding Nigerians by his council, they found Otunba Runsewe the most worthy recipient of the prestigious chieftaincy title”.

The traditional ruler also noted that Runsewe’s commitment to elevating the status of Ibi Chiefdom was key in the decision to thus turban him. The title, the king expatiated, is usually given only “to individuals who have contributed immensely to promoting the values of society, especially that of Ibi Kingdom. Such protagonists are regarded as great heroes/heroines, which makes Runsewe a great one.

As earlier stated, Ibi is home of Nwonyo Fishing Festival and the NTDC under Runsewe has contributed immensely to promoting this fiesta consequently launching it to international pedestal. Expectedly, therefore, Sarkin Ibi expressed his gratitude to the NTDC boss for “consistently promoting the Nwonyo fishing festival”.

Hear the monarch: “You (Otunba Runsewe) have indeed demonstrated this progression particularly in the building of Nwonyo fishing festival into an enviable international status.” The traditional ruler, who observed that his domain could be described as the only community in all of Taraba State to boast such tourism facility; noted that the importance of Nwonyo Fishing Festival could hardly be exaggerated.

While praying for God’s continuous guidance and protection for Otunba Runsewe as he steers the affairs of NTDC to greater heights, the royal father went on to add: “Jarman Ibi” is the highest in his kingdom and it was bestowed on Runsewe in appreciation of his efforts at promoting the festival and improving the lot of Ibi community, generally.

In his acceptance speech, Otunba Runsewe who is also Danburan Kebbi, said he felt honoured by the conferrement of such a revered chieftaincy title on him. He also pointed out that his every visit to Taraba state is greeted with very warm reception from the king and his people.

Runsewe went on to cite the special relationship he enjoys with the Sarkin Ibi, who he described “as a tourism-friendly ruler”. The NTDC boss further observed that this monarch’s decision to confer a prestigious title as Jarman on a southerner is another proof that Nigerians remain united, irrespective of ethnic, religious, cultural, social or political differences.

As could be seen, six years down the road Runsewe has done much, yet he is forever raring to go.

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