Buhari: Our hope in him not in vain By Frank Meke - Paul Ukpabio's Blog


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Monday, 4 October 2021

Buhari: Our hope in him not in vain By Frank Meke

Thursday night last week, 30th of September and a night preceding the Nigerian 61 independence anniversary, was historic for our Cultural diversity and cohesion, in words, meanings and action. Inside Nigeria seat of power, the strategic embellishment of the entire Banquet hall of the Presidential villa within and without, grossly and generously highlighted the very significant recognition of our distinct arts and crafts value chain.

In 2015 when President Buhari came to power, his revolutionary broom sweeping government left us hopeless as orphans, leaving us in quandary with our stand alone Ministry of Tourism gone with the winds.

We raved and I raged in utter disgust but I knew the military in the President will make amends. Honestly, no man knows the hour but I just kept praying and the President kept on chasing the thieves that stole away our tourism funding resources, those who could not defend the value chain in the octopus and globally accepted economic game changing industry as part of the pillar of his administration's economy recovery plans.

Our tourism case was precariously irredeemable then, it appeared we had no chance of giving Nigeria a new gold mine, a diamond crest notable world wide to create jobs and opportunities, with good measure of good will and image for country and people.

I recall several calls to Femi Adeshina, the President spokesman and my former editor at the Sun. He knew how much the industry meant to me, and the several struggles to keep it in the minds of Nigerian government and the people.

Adeshina knew how acidic my column can be and had encouraged lots of critical investigations to unveil those who pretended they were with us but in truth and spirit, were not part of us. They came and left us empty, heart broken and a museum of mockery.

In those days, the  two long  years waiting in the rain  for President Buhari to heed our plea for a chance to prove we can get it right again for tourism could be likened to the long walk to the Promised land.

No doubt, I simply stayed put in Jordan, with my knees to the floor and prayers for  Opportunities to the washing away of paralytic effects of those who failed our tourism, those who mismanaged and stole our tourism funding and left us groping in darkness.

By 2017, President Buhari made earth quaking appointments for the  culture and Tourism sectors. It was magical and I recalled Femi Adeshina reminding me  that the President loved us before we love him. 

Those who are not part of us possibly will not understand why we celebrated that day in April  in 2017. To me, it was a new opportunity, a gift to witness refreshing narratives and like diseased Naman,. the Biblical  Syrian army general, washed clean at the Jordan river, our Culture and Tourism was washed clean by the prophetic vision and appointment of new leaders for the industry.

Oh yes, I fell in love with this President: , like or hate him, President Buhari gave us opportunity to come back to the mainstream of national development,he is gracious and he listens.

So how have we fared in four years of this great opportunity? Olusegun Matthew Runsewe, appointed to give Culture a new badge, did not and has not disappointed. He is in the race, and from what he has achieved in four good and eventful years as Nigeria chief driver and marketer of our rich culture, President Buhari once again, made a decisive choice.

Let me not waste my space on Folarunsho Coker at Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation ( NTDC). His failing records are in public space, a very prodigal waste of tourism opportunities and to which again, this government must be bold to address.

Let me concentrate on interpreting the very policy benefits to which Segun Runsewe has brought to the reinvention and rebranding of our Cultural tourism economy in the past four years.

From refocusing and the rebase of our culture, Arts and Crafts, Runsewe who also while at NTDC left historical foot prints yet unequalled today, knived surgically through the National Festival of Arts and Culture, making it  the most sought after Cultural evolution, with the 36 states, in blissful competitiveness, proudly bidding to host it for the  strategic poles of national inclusiveness and cohesion which it engenders. 

From kaduna,  Rivers , Edo , Plateau and next month,  November this year in Ekiti, Runsewe with the President's revolutionary Cultural blue print at heart, has brought out the very significant socioeconomic and political dominance of our Cultural diversity to national limelight.

If you think that was all that mattered, you can check through the books of Buhari Cultural chronicles and behold the astounding and astonishing breakthroughs with the  iconic International Arts and Crafts exposition, retouched by Runsewe and presented not just to Nigerians but to  Africans and the entire world as the melting pot of global diversity in arts, crafts and culture.

This project indeed, has more than any activity of government in six years, brought together the international community in Nigeria to a one shop market to witness, appreciate and understand that deepness of Nigerian Culture and its values, engendering peace and national cohesion.

The exhibition delibrately internationalised, has seen foreign missions and their ambassadors, using the Cultural framework to share the gains of their Cultural diversity, building stronger diplomatic relationship with Nigeria, opening doors of knowledge and understanding of the full intent and challenges of the the Buhari  administration.

And back to my Thursday night story at the Presidential villa, where the  full mechanised force of Nigerian arts and crafts was put on a historical display by Otunba Segun Runsewe's National Council for Arts and Culture ( NCAC), the defining moment in celebration of Nigeria independence, was majestic and independent.

There were witness in case doubting Thomases in our midst will not clap their hands. They may not also understand that a President Buhari visit to see for himself what his appointee for culture has done, does in long way build  up policy support and funding, creating a full economy, supporting jobs openings and not  including export. 

Again my witness to this very open endorsement  by the President were, Mr Nkerewuem Onung, Mrs Susan Akporiaye and Badaki Aliyu, all top notch players and leaders in the industry and the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN).

The security was no doubt tight, don't forget, it was a Presidential outing, never as before. The President was majestic, but approachable.  It was like a movie scene,. He strutted inside the exhibition hall and if not for the security details, am sure no one will notice his appearance.

He was like the headmasters of the old, unassuming, graceful merciful, willing to mentor and guide those under their watch. President Buhari accompanied by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President Ahmed lawan, Speaker House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila,  Secretary to the Federal Government, Boss Mustapha and Niyi Adebayo Minister of Trade and investment, took a brief tour of the biggest representative assemblage of Nigeria diverse arts and crafts, nodding in appreciation the background Cultural songs rendered in soulful rememberance and dedication to a country of great opportunities, and people.

It was a curtains fall moment, and somehow and against the protocol to take him through the left side of the hall, the President chose to walk through the right, possibly attracted by the very strong presence of the Igbo Cultural assemble with the famous Abiriba warrior dancers, taking the  lead, with the six geopolitical zones ably and Culturally represented through their distinct culinary expressions,  traditionanal and cultural dances. 

It was a mini Nigeria on display, powering its cohesion, unity and national diversity and believe me , many yet unexplained, unexamined and fully interpreted. I could read the body language of the President and his top four powerful delegation. 

It was not surprising that they nodded in appreciation of this strategic exhibition and my mind ran riot! If the President can  appreciate what was showcase here  about Nigerian Culture, what will happen if these exhibition goes international to places like China, Switzerland and Russia? 

I can see through my mind eyes, foreigners pouring in droves into Nigeria and our culture industry, and the rural poor, getting opportunities to market indigenous arts and crafts, promoting  a dollar driven local Cultural festival(s) to the bargain.

Now I understand why Niyi Adebayo, Trade and Investment Minister  came to see things for himself. He must leverage on culture as a trade and horn the desirable presence of foreign investment and support for the culture sector. I believe Niyi Adebayo can muster in partnership with NCAC, a formidable cultural trade expo in China, and Switzerland, the heart of global culture, and trend the Buhari Cultural revolution. 

If you ask me, Segun Awolowo led Nigerian Export Promotion Council is yet to fully engage the culture content of Nigeria export promotion and here at NCAC lies the bridge, the connectivity and reality of the culture sector economy, going full blast.

The Oni of Ife, was also on ground, he came before President's  appearance, what he saw, must have made him  proud  of  the  son of 0duduwa, Segun Runsewe doing something differently for the country,  without any fuzziness   to self importance. 

I was happy to see Oni pose for photograph within the hallowed exhibition chambers. It was a defining moment for the Odua monarch, and testament to how a true son should make a father proud.

I want to use this opportunity to thank  President Buhari for identifying with us and for appreciating the good work of Otunba Segun Runsewe for the Cultural tourism industry. We are not yet there yet  but no doubt we are closer than ever before. To our top legislative heads, Senator Ahmed lawan and Speaker, House of Representatives,  Femi Gbajabiamila, thanks for coming and I know henceforth, the budget for Culture development and promotion, will make more impactful meaning.

Indeed, if I have my way, I would suggest that  Tourism should be merged with Culture inorder to close the wide gap between the two sectors and since Culture drives our tourism tomorrow. It certainly a waste of scarce resources funding an Ntdc  fallowed  on grounds of poor tourism management creativity and  insipid leadership. 

Also great thanks to the editor of editors, and President's spokesman, Femi Adeshina who me  kept on the path of reality that our industry deserves a stand alone Ministry and also that President Buhari will keep his words to make Nigeria better. My hope, our hope,  in  President Buhari is  certainly not in vain.

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