Friday, March 30, 2012

mauricearchibongtravels: Runsewe’s cap overflowing with honours

mauricearchibongtravels: Runsewe’s cap overflowing with honours

Runsewe’s cap overflowing with honours

Tourism Development Fund compulsory for growth
Says– NTDC DG, Balogun Yoruba of Abuja, Most Enterprising DG, Chairman, Governing Council of Journalism Institute etc

Years ago installed Otunba, a reverred title in any Oba’s palace; Olusegun Runsewe also holds an OON (Officer of the Order of the Niger) National Honour and has been decorated with enviable titles by powerful traditional institutions in different ethnic and geo-political zones across the country.
Pic 1. PHOTOS: NTDC Press

A former General Manager of Kaduna-based New Nigerian Newspapers (NNN), Otunba Runsewe has brought phenomenal developments to the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) in particular as well as Nigerian Tourism in general since assuming the mantle of leadership of Nigeria’s apex tourism body as Director General in 2006.

Already laden with numerous feathers, more jewels have been added to the cap of Runsewe in the last few weeks. Interestingly, shortly after the Yoruba community in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), led by Oba of Yoruba in Abuja, HRH Kabiyesi Olusegun Salau, recently conferred the title of Balogun Yoruba of Abuja on Otunba Runsewe; the NTDC chief came under a deluge of honours.

‘Most Enterprising DG of the Year’ 
One of the latest in the wave of honours for Otunba Runsewe came from The Nigerian Tribune Awards, where the NTDC boss was crowned Most Enterprising Director General of 2011. The event also featured awards to three other recipients: Senate President David Mark, Best Public Officer of the Year; Ondo State Governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, Best Governor of the Year; and, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Man of the Year. Yes, who the cap fits, let him wear it.

During his welcome address, Rev Sam Adesua, Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief, African Newspapers of Nigeria, publishers of The Nigerian Tribune and organisers of the honours ceremony, eulogised Otunba Olusegun Runsewe as “A man spear-heading a silent revolution of rebranding Nigeria in a very unique way”.

Rev Adesua further noted that, Otunba Runsewe “Has been show-casing to the outside world Nigeria’s unique attractions. Since he mounted the saddle as NTDC DG, he has practically transformed the face of the nation’s tourism such that despite some glaring odds, tourism in Nigeria remains a source of pride”.

Speaking in the same vein, a former Senate President, Chief Adolphus Wabara, who was Chairman of the occasion, said Runsewe’s efforts are noticeable both locally and internationally. The former Senate President went on to add that the NTDC chief’s efforts were commendable because tourism is a viable option for increasing Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In deed, Niger State Governor, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu also added his voice to the chorus of encomiums for Runsewe. Runsewe is a “dedicated and hardworking public officer, who does not see any assignment as too big or small”, declared Niger’s Number One Citizen.

Going down memory lane, Governor Aliyu recalled: “Runsewe has always demonstrated his love for Nigeria as could be seen from his impressive performance as National Media Cordinator for the 2003 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

For many, however, the apogee of all honours to Runsewe must be the remark by the reverred Chief (Mrs.) HID Awolowo, matriarch of the Awolowo clan, who described the NTDC boss as “one of the finest brand managers in Nigeria because of his avowed commitment to improving the image of Nigeria and creating wealth through tourism”. As Mama HID rightly pointed out, Runsewe “Has proven cynics wrong by proving that Nigeria can rise again”.

Delivering his acceptance speech, the NTDC boss commended the Management of The Nigerian Tribune for organising the Awards imploring all Nigerians to remain united while dedicating his award to God, his immediate family, and all who had contributed to the development of tourism in Nigeria, he also used the opportunity to distribute a book he personally complied titled, “Hundred ever-green quotes of the great Awo” to everyone in attendance.

In his speech, President Goodluck Jonathan represented by the Minister of Tourism Culture and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke congratulated the Awardees and advised the media to be sensitive in its reportage of security-related issues in the country.

Niger Delta Students hail Runsewe
Not to be outdone, the National Association of Niger Delta Students (NANDS) has also acknowledged the monumental strides recorded by Otunba Olusegun Runsewe since he assumed duty as NTDC Director General.
Pic 4.

The students, through NANDS President Comrade Lucky Emonefe, during a courtesy visit to Otunba Runsewe in Abuja, applauded the NTDC DG for his commitment to actualising the total success of President Goodluck Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda.

Delivering his keynote address, Emonefe, leader of the 15-year-old Niger Delta students’ body; said: “We came to crest your name in Gold in the sand of history based on your antecedents and your support of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s transformation agenda”.

Now Chairman, Governing Council of IIJ
Furthermore, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe FIMS, FABE, OON was recently appointed Chairman, Governing Council of the International Institute of Journalists (IIJ). The IIJ is affiliated to University of Maiduguri and the journalism school’s Visitor is Comrade Garba Mohammed.
In a letter, signed by Mr. Afolabi Olusola, IIJ Registrar and dated March 29, 2012, announcing Runsewe’s appointment as Governing Council Chairman; the NTDC DG is rightly described as “A man of outstanding performance, who strives at all times to improve the quality of any situation he is involved in”.    

Tourism Development Fund, a necessity
At another forum, the NTDC DG reiterated the call for the establishment of a Tourism Development Fund (TDF). Otunba Runsewe re-echoed this view while receiving Abuja Zone executive members of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), led by the current vice president, Susan Akporiaye, at the Tourism Village in Abuja.
Pic 5.

Runsewe said the Corporation was working hard to ensure realisation of the Tourism Development Fund, which is expected to signal a major boost in the growth of the sector in Nigeria.

Speaking further, the NTDC boss, who observed that a lot of opportunities abound within Nigeria’s tourism industry, went on to express regret about the dearth of expertise among practitioners on how the industry works. He declared that these practitioners’ poor grasp of how the industry operates remains a major setback to the growth and development of tourism in Nigeria.

He, however, assured that the NTDC was nonetheless committed to working with tourism and travel associations like NANTA and advised all travel agencies and tour operators to function and coordinate their activities so as to eliminate quacks in the industry.

On its part, NANTA promised to redefine its role in the tourism industry with the help of NTDC, while reaffirming total cooperation with the corporation, even as it agreed that more needed to be done to encourage the flow of in-bound tourist traffic instead of tour operators sticking to only selling tickets.

Team Nigeria gets NTDC’s pre-Olympics boost
If you think sports is all about physical exertions with no time for relaxation, then you need to think again. Sports are good because it helps to build a good body around a sound mind, but there’s more to sports than tracks and field.
Pic 2.

Like virtually every other human activity, sport has its tourism angle. To start with, competitors, umpires, officials and spectators all have to travel to the venue. In many cases, the event takes place outside your town, so one must arrive a day or earlier and take up accommodation in a hotel or guesthouse throughout the sojourn.

Moreover, whereas a football world cup final match cannot last more than three hours, assume the encounter went into extra time and eventually penalty shoot-out; the players and spectators would have spent days in the town hosting the tournament.

In other words, while the soccer final, the principal reason behind every visitor’s presence in the host community, often does not last more than 90 minutes; hotels, nightclubs, restaurants, cafes, transport operators, money exchangers and every other tourism facility are tapped for days before and even days after the sporting even had ended.

And, so it was that during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, hosted by South Africa and the very first ever on the African continent; The Nigeria Village erected by the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) proved a big hit not only for our compatriots but nationals of other countries in need of a place to unwind after the day’s business.

In line with the NTDC’s desire to come up with something, anything positive, to project Nigeria’s image; the Otunba Olusegun Runsewe-led body has again thought up a brilliant idea in support of Team Nigeria going to the next Olympic Games. The idea, in a nutshell, is to mobilise 1,000,000 supporters for Team Nigeria. And, the exercise was launched at Planet One, Maryland in Lagos a few hours before the NTDC helmsman set out for the German capital, Berlin, for this year’s ITB, roughly three weeks ago.    

Seated next to Mr. Ikechi Uko, Project Coordinator of Seven Wonders of Nigeria, among others, Otunba Runsewe explained that booklets of raffle tickets had been printed and that every Nigerian was invited to fill a ticket for free.

The NTDC has even added a digital dimension to this campaign with its online signature mobilisation and support for Team Nigeria for this year’s Summer Olympics in London. At the end, a draw would be held from which winners will emerge. Each winner will subsequently enjoy an NTDC-sponsored trip to, and a few days’ stay at, each of the 7 Wonders of Nigeria.

A branded banner depicting the Mobilisation Tourism concept launched by the NTDC to garner One Million Supporters for Team Nigeria in the forthcoming Olympics was unfolded during the event, where Runsewe said it was the NTDC’s way of promoting domestic tourism while concurrently helping more Nigerians to appreciate the allurements of their country.

With this kind of synergy, you just can’t miss. Although the original plan was for Otunba Runsewe to meet with some 15 or so tourism reporters/travel writers, at the end of the day, about 50 people crammed into the venue. Interestingly, a few more even turned up as we were emerging from the hall after the event.
Pic 3.

Everyone wants to identify with a winner… Yes, this adage must be true. 


Pic 1. Otunba Runsewe FIMS, FEMB, OON, NTDC DG.

Pic 2. One of the banners rolled out by NTDC to mobilise One Million Supporters for Team Nigeria to this year’s Olympic Games in London.

Pic 3. L-R: Otunba Segun Runsewe receiving Programmes’ Schedule of Kaduna-based Liberty Radio from Alhaji Tijani Ramalan, Executive Chairman of the broadcasting outfit during the latter’s visit to Tourism Village, Abuja recently.

Pic 4. R-L: Comrade Lucky Emonefe, President of National Association of Niger Delta Students (NANDS), presenting an award for Distinguished Nigerian Personality in Diligent Service to the Fatherland to Otunba Segun Runsewe during the former’s visit to Tourism Village, Abuja recently.

Pic 5. L-R: Otunba Segun Runsewe handing out souvenirs to Susan Akporiaye, NANTA Abuja Zone Vice President, when the latter led a delegation on official visit to Tourism Village, Abuja recently.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

mauricearchibongtravels: Countdown to Abia Day, 31 Mar in Cotonou

mauricearchibongtravels: Countdown to Abia Day, 31 Mar in Cotonou

Countdown to Abia Day, 31 Mar in Cotonou

All roads lead to Cotonou
Abia State Governor, Chief Theodore Ahamefule Orji, will attend celebrations of the premiere Abia Day in Cotonou, Benin Republic, mauricearchibongtravels can authoritatively reveal.

The event is slated for 31 March and Mr. Kingsley Megwara, Special Adviser to Governor T. A. Orji on Diaspora and Foreign Matters; confirmed during a telephone conversation that a high-powered delegation from Abia will be in the Benin Republic economic capital to participate in the socio-cultural fiesta.

“His Excellency will grace the occasion with his presence”, said Megwara, who added that his principal is favourably disposed to witnessing the debut Abia Day observances in Cotonou. Unofficial statistics put the population of Nigerians in Benin Republic at between one million and two million and the majority of these immigrants are Igbo people.

It could be recalled that a delegation of Abia officials had earlier visited Cotonou for two days, from February 23 to the 25th on what could be termed a surveillance mission. And, at the end of their tour, it was obvious these forerunners, which included Mr. Megwara and Mr. Felix Azu, Director of Abia State Liaison Office, Lagos; left convinced Abia Day in Cotonou would be a huge success.

It is also worth noting that, following assurances that their governor would travel down to Benin Republic, executive members of Abia Community have been holding series of meetings in Cotonou preparatory to the historic event. One of such encounters took place on Tuesday, 27 March somewhere near the popular Missebo Market from 3pm to 5pm.

Invitations had since been despatched to virtually every who’s who of Abia as well as outstanding Igbo personalities everywhere. Among the invitees are General Ike Nwachukwu (rtd), a former Foreign Affairs Minister; Prof Raph Uwechue, President General of Ohaneze ndi Igbo; Rear Admiral Ebitu Ukiwe, a former Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters; Navy Commodore Ndubuisi Kanu, a former Governor of Lagos State; and, Senators Uche Chukwumerije, Enyinnaya Abaribe and Nkechi Nworgu as well as all National Assembly members of Abia State origin. 

Although many Cotonou-based Igbo are engaged in various occupations, most of them hail from Abia State and make a living from trading in used clothing items. It is hoped that Abia Day would serve to consolidate unity among not only Abians but all Igbo and other Nigerians in general living in the neighbouring country. For Abians in particular, the governor and his state’s indigenes plan to use the opportunity to explore possible areas, where they could synergise with a view to improving the social and economic conditions of Abia people at home and abroad.

Interestingly, despite being a celebration of Abia State, virtually every Nigerian in Benin Republic has, however, been sucked into plans to make the premiere of Abia Day in Cotonou an unforgettable event. There was excitement among the Nigerian community across the Beninese commercial hub as information filtered in that Gov Orji would personally attend Abia Day on 31 March.

Following is a reproduction of my report, first published in Daily Sun (Travels) of 22 March, 2012; after the Abia delegation’s visit to Cotonou
I’m looking into the etymology of the Igbo name, Megwara. Got any clue? From a recent encounter with a Mr. Megwara, I’m tempted to think there is some nexus between this name and a humourist.

Who could blame me, if after roughly two hours spent on a buffet dinner; every time I reflect on that outing at Cotonou’s most expensive hotel, I can’t suppress the laughter that surges forth at the recall of one of many anecdotes thrown up by Mr. Kingsley Megwara.

Countless people see death as that classic leveller. Every mortal, some folks believe, are equal after death. But, Megwara holds a different view. He challenges anyone that questions his opinion to visit a morgue. There, he expatiated, the viewer can tell a dead moneybag from some poor opposite number.

Even in death, the face of a late prosperous person radiates joy. Some of them even sport a smile, whereas the face of a dead poor man is often not inviting, at all. The poor even take their fury and agony to the world beyond, Megwara intoned. Magwara had more in store. He said, when the Caucasians, saw some 30 black faces walk into the dining hall, they probably believed we were resuming duty that night. But, when we began to help ourselves to the buffet dinner, these whites may have wondered where we were going to raise the money to pay. 

Across Cotonou, Nigerians are looking forward to March 31, Abia Day. Never, since the launch of associations by members of various Nigerian ethnic nationalities in Cotonou, Benin Republic has preparations for any of such observances been so meticulous.

Although Nigerian immigrants and settlers in the Beninese economic capital usually celebrate the end of each year with a party before returning home for the main thing in their villages; Igbo people in Cotonou also have other fora, where they come together. One of such events is an annual soccer contest organised by Igbo Football Association (IFA) in Cotonou. However, this report is not about the IFA.

Interestingly, Igbos of Abia State origin are poised to add another forum aimed at bringing their people together. As things stands, plans have been concluded to launch Abia Day in Cotonou. In an exclusive chat with mauricearchibongtravels, organisers of Abia Day in Benin Republic revealed they plan to make it an annual observance.

And, from the effervescent enthusiasm on the part of all stakeholders, it would seem that indigenes of this South East geo-political entity living in Benin Republic can’t wait for the climax of this year’s Abia Day slated for March 31.

However, it is worth noting that, despite being a celebration of Abia State, virtually every Nigerian in Benin Republic is being sucked into plans to make the premiere of Abia Day in Cotonou an unforgettable event. Already, invitations have been (are still being) despatched to virtually every who’s who of Abia as well as outstanding Igbo personalities everywhere.

Among the invitees are General Ike Nwachukwu (rtd), a former Foreign Affairs Minister; Prof Raph Uwechue, President General of Ohaneze ndi Igbo; Rear Admiral Ebitu Ukiwe, a former Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters; Navy Commodore Ndubuisi Kanu, a former Governor of Lagos State; and, Senators Uche Chukwumerije, Enyinnaya Abaribe and Nkechi Nworgu as well as all National Assembly members of Abia State origin. 

To assess the state of preparedness, a delegation of Abia State officials were in the Benin economic capital for two days, from February 23 to the 25th on what could be termed a surveillance mission. And, at the end of their visit, it was obvious these forerunners, which included Mr. Kingsley Megwara, Special Adviser to Governor T. A. Orji on Diaspora and Foreign Matters; and, Mr. Felix Azu, Director of Abia State Liaison Office, Lagos; left convinced Abia Day in Cotonou would be a huge success.

Mr. Megwara and others visited Charge d’Affaires, Nigerian Embassy Cotonou, Mr. Ayo Roberts; Igbo Leader in Benin Republic, Chief Ebuka Onunkwo; immediate-past President of the Cotonou Chapter of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation, Chief Emmanuel Uko Elendu et cetera; during their sojourn.

Although the visitors were originally scheduled to head straight to Nigerian Embassy Cotonou, from Seme Border, a change in itinerary was compelled since the mission would have closed for the day, by the time the entourage entered Cotonou. As a result, a call on the Charge d’Affaires, Mr. Ayo Roberts, earlier slated for that day was postponed to February 24.

Thus, from Seme border, the entourage headed to the residence of Chief Emmanuel Uko Elendu, immediate-past President of the Cotonou Chapter of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO); where they enjoyed a splendid reception.

On hand to assist Chief Elendu was his wife, Lolo Cecilia Elendu, who treated the visitors to mouth-watering delicacies despite the short notice she got regarding the guests’ arrival. Aside tastey munchies, the Elendus also spoilt their guests with choice wines and sundry drinks.

However, it was not all about eating and drinking: After introductions and explanation of their mission by Mr. Megwara; Chief Elendu promised to assist the visitors in every way possible to make their stay in Cotonou worthwhile.

During his welcome address, Elendu also commended the Abia government for the current state of security across his home state thus: “I believe we are better now because the incidence of kidnapping and robberies have reduced. There was a time, many of us were afraid of going home, but on my latest visit; late last year, I stayed in Abia for almost two weeks and travelled around freely, whereas before, it was straight from Umauahia to my village Alayi and from Alayi back to Umuahia and out of Abia”.

After roughly one hour’s stay with the Elendus, the entourage relocated to the residence of Chief Onunkwo, Odozi-Obodo 1 in the elite Haie Vive neighbourhood of town. There, everyone was also feted to their heart’s desire.

As if the treat was not enough, Chief Onunkwo later took some 30 or so guests to a buffet dinner at Benin Safari Hotel. But, there were some notable remarks at this venerable host’s home before we set out for dinner.

Hear Mr. Megwara, during his remark at Chief Onunkwo’s house: “I’m indeed surprised that this Igbo leader is so young. In fact, I was expecting to meet an old man with head covered by grey hair. You know, it is not easy to be an Igbo leader because every Igbo is a leader. So, I must commend Chief Onunkwo’s wife, who has helped to keep her husband ever young and refreshed in spite of his numerous responsibilities”.

Mr. Megrawa went on to commend Chief Onunkwo for being chosen Igbo leader time after time, even though Odozi-Obodo hails from Anambra State, whereas the majority of Igbo in Benin Republic are Abia State indigenes. In fact, Abia State Governor, Chief T. A. Orji is expected at the event; which is why the organisers are leaving no stone unturned in ensuring that Abia Day 2012 ends up a delectable and memorable observance.

Speaking during the delegates’ visit to Nigerian Embassy Cotonou, where they were received by the Charge d’Affaires, Mr. Ayo Roberts; Alhaji A. A. Lawaal, Minister II; Mr. E. Monn, Head of Chancery and Mrs. Zainab Mohammed, Administrative Assistant, among others; Mr. Megwara said: “We are very happy to be here, today. On our way here, my brother, Ikoku; had already told me many good things about you, and arriving here, I now understand why”.

Hear Alhaji A. A. Lawaal, Minister II at Nigerian Embassy Cotonou: “Then, there is also Chief Ebuka Onunkwo, leader of the Igbo Community in this country. He is a great son of Nigeria and is doing a great job in this country. Just mention his name everybody knows him here. He is known by everybody in this country and he has been doing a lot to promote the welfare of Nigerians in this country. Some of us are well aware of the spirit of entreprise of the average Igbo and we appreciate their diligence”.

Alhaji Lawaal, who once served at Nigerian Embassy in the Gabonese capital, Libreville; went on to add: “Personally, I was in Gabon and I saw how much Igbo people are involved in the commercial activities there. Our people are very creative and deserve to be encouraged”.

After the meeting with the charge d’affaires et al, the visitors also paid a courtesy call on the Defense Adviser, Colonel A. M. S. Anyalewechi. Welcoming the guests to his office, the military top brass informed the visitors that he could hardly forget the day he assumed duty at his current post.

From Colonel Anyalewechi’s recall, this officer and gentleman arrived on February 3, 2011 only to meet Nigerian Embassy Cotonou engulfed by a funereal mood; for it was on that same day, the then Ambassador, Mr. Lawrence Akindele passed on.

In any case, Colonel Anyalewechi had since settled down to discharge his duty effectively. Although his office vests concurrent accreditation to six other Francophone countries in West Africa, this DA was not complaining. In fact, he said his immediate predecessor, Colonel Abrahams, had two more countries to take care of, we were informed. 

Megwara again: “Having spent 25 years of my life in the US, I lived in Atlanta for 25 years, His Excellency appointed me to this office in 2006 because he feels that this office should be occupied by somebody capable of reaching out to our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora. The governor believes in reaching out to Abians, wherever they are. He believes that by so doing, we’ll be able to bring together the cohesive forces that bind us all as Abians and we’ll begin to build a new Abia.

Concluding, Megwara said: “In December, 2011; for the first time in the history of our state, the governor decided to host all sons and daughters of Abia State, who came from all over the world to celebrate the Yuletide at home. The governor arranged this encounter so that we could tell our people resident abroad some of the things we are doing as well as some of the challenges we are facing as a state. These Abians, many of whom are accomplished technocrats in various fields, should be able to bring in their expertise. They should be able to make some imput since our collective and compelling interest is to move Abia State forward.

It is worth noting that at least two officials of Nigerian Embassy Cotonou were at Seme to receive the visitors from Abia State. Additionally, these mission staffers kept the delegation company throughout their stay and finally saw them off to the border on the day of their departure.

Friday, March 2, 2012

mauricearchibongtravels: Songhai Centre: A rare African success story

mauricearchibongtravels: Songhai Centre: A rare African success story

Songhai Centre: A rare African success story

From the Songhai Centre, Porto Novo

Realistic, affordable way of keeping unemployment, hunger, poverty at bay

Successive Nigerian governments have spent billions of dollars over several decades on various agricultural programmes to enhance food production, all to no avail. Instead of increased food production, the nation, year after year, ended up with staggering amounts of money spent on importing more food than before.
Pic 1.

Past Nigerian governments had spent colossal sums of money on programmes to feed the nation, yet more and more Nigerians still go to bed on empty stomachs. Nigerians have been served Green Revolution, Operation feed the nation, Back to land, and what have you. At the end of the day, each one proved nothing but mere sloganeering: no better than pouring huge sums of money down the drain.

Evidently, successive governments had placed so many premiums on agricultural promotion exercises with little or nothing to show for it. However, all hopes of reducing the number of Nigerians groaning under hunger are not lost because there is one programme that boosts food production, fosters environmental conservation and enhances human dignity; all at once, and at considerably much lesser cost.

This programme is called Songhai, a name borrowed from a prosperous Western African empire that flourished throughout the 15th century. During a chat with Songhai philosophy propounder, Reverend Father Nzamujo, in Porto Novo, capital of Benin Republic; he said: “The name, Songhai, inspires pride and hope for a prosperous Africa”.

Founded in October, 1985; Songhai, Nzamujo continued, aims to restore in Africans the values, attitudes, and competences, which facilitated the emergence of a world-famous civilization in West Africa some 600 years ago. Curiously, even though this tested-and-found-to-be-true programme was launched more than a quarter of a century ago, successive Nigerian authorities continued to fritter away huge sums of money on dubious food production programmes.
Pic 2.

Painfully too, whereas the fool-proof Songhai programme is the brainchild of a Nigerian-born Catholic priest, Nigerians are just now struggling to bite into an idea their leaders, perhaps for selfish reasons, apparently shunned decades back.
Finally, akin to the biblical tale of the stone that the builders rejected later morphing into the cornerstone, more and more states in Nigeria are rushing to embrace a Songhai Centre.

Decades ago, with studies showing 3.6% population growth, against 2.1% rise in agricultural production; Nzamujo saw from this imbalance that “Africa was in a crisis situation”. He further observed that, the African continent groaned (still does), under “Food shortages, rural exodus, brain-drain, environmental degradation and hopelessness among the youth”. From deep studies, Nzamujo came to the conclusion that, among others; “Subsistence farming, non-development of the opportunities offered by demographic growth, among others; were at the heart of Africa’s woes”.

Cheerilly, unlike the majority of powerful politicians that would not act, even when they saw crisis looming, Nzamujo swung into action. He was spurred by a vision “To establish an entrepreneurial platform of integrated development, an enabling environment to find social, economic, technical and organisational solutions that will take Africans out of poverty, pulling them towards autonomy and sustainable socio-economic development”, the cleric recalled.

To achieve this goal, Nzamujo continued, there was need “To draw Africans into a development mentality”. This stance revolves around “developing new strengths in spite of prevailing socio-economic, cultural and environmental constraints”, Nzamujo explained. Having devised a way out of the crushing poverty that bogs many an African society, Nzamujo began to put his theories to test; and, viola! The Songhai formula has proven a welcome solution to many a problem.

Apart from teaching people to fish, instead of throwing fish at them; Songhai also concurrently addresses the issue of waste. “At Songhai, nothing is lost”, declared Nzamujo. This is due to skillful and advanced techniques of waste recycling. Put simply, Songhai is an integrated production system based on diversified agriculture and thrives on expertise in animal husbandry and fish breeding as well as conversion of wastes and by-products to useful items.

Songhai encourages mechanised agriculture, which yields more and creates much post-harvest activities. Songhai Centre also provides impetus for the agricultural vocation and professionalism in agricultural entrepreneurship.

Each Songhai system energy requirement is complemented through the capture and use of bio-gas as well as solar power exploitation for the farms. Expatiating, Nzamujo said Songhai is committed to “Revamping agriculture as the driving force of development with regard to politicians and decision-makers, thus attracting economic operators and the youth towards agriculture and spawning a vast network of agricultural producers”.

The Songhai model projects the image of a self-sustaining and all-found community. “The Songhai model”, Nzamujo added, “incorporates numerous services and activities”. According to this priest, these activities include training in agricultural entrepreneurship; animal, plant, aqua-culture production; food processing, manufacturing of agricultural machines, marketing, community telecentres, catering, accommodation, housing, maintenance, computing, communication, renewable energy, partnership, and assistance in the start-up of new businesses, administrative services like financial and human resources management, road maintenance and diverse networks”.

We observed that the Songhai principle also hints at a fusion of traditional and modern methods: The best of each aspect is adopted and together they produce a hybrid that is better than either of the sources. In any case, Songhai points to; as Nzamujo aptly put it: “A highly diversified national, regional, international and multi-partnerships; and, finally, a Culture of Excellence at all levels sustained by values such as commitment, responsibility and quest to achieve results. Songhai was built over time on human resources determined to carry far and wide its initial ideals. They have taken advantage of rich experiences which continue to exist and are reinforced in everyday life”.

Nzamujo again: “The integrated system of Songhai production is based on the principles of synergy (interaction among three poles, agriculture, animal husbandry and fish farming); the integrated system of production recycles and reasserts the value of by-products/waste of the production units and of the farm in general”. Evidently, the Songhai strategy “offers numerous technical, ecological, economic and social advantages”, Nzamujo enthused.

Sauntering across a section of the sprawling Songhai Centre in Porto Novo, the estate came across as ostensibly large. Interestingly, Fr. Nzamujo later revealed Songhai Centre in Porto Novo is actually the smallest of three such properties in Benin Republic. The Beninese settlements of Savalou and Parakou, each boasts a larger Songhai Centre, we gathered.

But, when it came to where the funding came from; Nzamujo was keen to stress that, “money, though important; ranks lowest among the five capitals” necessary for production”. For him, the leading priority among the quintet is the human capital. This is why Songhai plays down the role of money against “the development of a healthy mind re-engineered toward a new philosophy”.

With regard to enrollment, Father Nzamujo’s answers evoked the biblical phrase of “many are called, few are chosen”. He was quick to emphasise that admission to Songhai Centre’s training programme is not an all-comers’ affair.

He stressed the importance of discipline. Discipline, he reiterated, is compulsory to inculcate a new way of thinking in any trainee. Without discipline, there can be no progress or that all-important need to break away from an unwholsesome past. In a nutshell, each applicant goes through several rigorous tests, including physical, academic and moral. At the end of the day, only a handful is admitted.

As regards admission fee, Father Nzamujo revealed that, where a promising student had financial difficulty, such a one could be made to work or provide some service in one of the numerous areas of the system in lieu of money as school fees. And, at the end of the training; graduates are often helped to set up something of their own, instead of being sent out to go roam about looking for employment, we gathered.
Pic 3.

It is also worth noting that Nzamujo’s development strategy is not lost on the United Nations. In fact, UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, two years ago delivered a letter of commendation to Nzamujo and Songhai Centre.

Worryingly, very few Nigerians understand the Songhai philosophy. Not surprisingly, therefore, very few Nigerians know of any Songhai Centre than ought to be the case. By way of contrast, nationals of Benin Republic are more familiar with the Songhai philosophy or Songhai Centre than Nigerians.

Songhai’s fame in Benin is understandable, for it was in this country’s de jure capital, Porto Novo, that Reverend Father Godfrey Nzamujo established the debut Centre.

However, the popularity of Songhai could be spiralling in Nigeria very soon. Nzamujo revealed that, apart from being contacted to replicate Songhai in each of the 15 countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), some states in Nigeria; including Rivers, Imo, Cross River and Benue have a Songhai Centre.

Moreover, the importance of Songhai Centre was recently re-echoed by Alhaji A. A. Lawaal, a senior diplomat serving at Nigerian Embassy Cotonou, during a visit by a delegation from Abia State to Nigeria House in the Beninese economic capital.

After the Charge d’Affaires, Mr. Ayo Roberts, had addressed the visiting Abia government officials, he had asked Alhaji Lawaal, who is Minister 11, if the latter had additional comments to contribute.

In response, Lawaal had remarked: “I would advise that you recommend a visit to the Songhai Centre during your governor’s visit. The Songhai Centre is a wonderful success story and after a visit there, the government of Abia State may find it beneficial to send some youth there for training.

“Anyone that passes through Songhai ends up self-employed: And, training about 100 Abia youth at Songhai will go a long way to ameliorate the high unemployment level in the country. I believe that Abia youths sent to Songhai would help to foster food production and lessen hunger and poverty. Personally, I’m still craving to eat Abakiliki rice; so, some of our youth should be sent to Songhai”, he remarked jokingly.

Speaking further, Lawaal enthused: “The founder of Songhai Centre is a Nigerian and he is one of those helping to promote Nigeria’s good name in this country and West Africa as a whole through his positive contribution”.

Aside being a Catholic priest, who belongs to the Dominican Order, it is also worth noting that Nzamujo holds a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Electronics, Development Science and Microbiology. Echoeing Songhai’s Mission, Nzamujo said, “Songhai aspires to develop alternatives allowing Africans to stand on their feet through agricultural entrepreneurship, in an integrated development framework enhancing agriculture, industry and services”.

Each Songhai community is designed to run as a social and economic institution that facilitates the emergence of entrepreneurial zones by being an incubation centre, a technology park, a production centre, a resource and service centre, a resource centre, a training environment, an extension space and a mother enterprise, Father Nzamujo added.

Nzamujo went on to shed some light on Songhai’s emblem, which features an eagle with the slogan; “Awakening, Prosperity, Afro-optimism, Excellence”; on a green background. He explained that, “The eagle signifies, vision, self-confidence, endurance, loyalty, heights, adaptability and dynamism”. Speaking further, this unique personage added, “The green stands for agriculture, while awakening, prosperity, excellence and Afro-optimism represent our aims”.

To be candid, the premiere Songhai Centre in the Ouando neighbourhood of Porto Novo has blosomed beyond everyone’s wildest imagination. Based on this, and the successes posted by latter-day schemes; Father Nzamujo is convinced every community needs a Songhai Centre to facilitate development and growth. As to the Songhai philosophy? The growth continues. 

1. Administrative Block, Songhai Centre in Porto Novo.

2. A view of Songhai Centre, Porto Novo; from the gate.

3. Fr. Godfrey Nzamujo, Director of Songhai Centre.