I recently got the chance to do an informal interview. It was based on tourism in relation to politics and history. Since today is our independence, there’s no better day to put it up.
Some call him Ojomu, some honourable, others chairman (there’s is no shortage of names/praises in Nigeria), I call him jags sometimes, but most importantly, I call him daddy. 🙂http://unravellingnigeria.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/daddys-interview.m4a
For those who won’t be able to listen to it, below is the summarised transcribed version with a couple of pictures.
What are some of the ways history has influenced tourism today in Nigeria?
We have people like Mohammed El-Kanemi (of Borno State who founded the Kanem empire) and Usman Dan Fodio (founder of the Sokoto Caliphate). When you go to the North, you can see their architecture is of Islamic Influence especially from North Africa.
Daura, which is present day Katsina has a well where Bayajidda killed a snake that was preventing people from getting water. Now it is a tourist attraction. Daura is the home town of Rtd Major Gen Mohammed Buhari, a one time military head of state.
Illustration of Bayajidda killing the snake
In the South Coastal areas, we have Badagry which has the 1st storey building in Nigeria, the exit point for slave trade also known as the point of no return. When you go there you can see the chains which were used on them.
First storey building in Nigeria – Badagry
There are alot of other places in the country, and they have all by virtue of history, become places that must be seen and should be tourist attractions in the country.
Do you think politics has influenced tourism or has any relationship with tourism in Nigeria?
Politics should influence tourism because political will to encourage tourism has a huge role to play. The government has to formulate policies that are favourable to tourism. But right now it is still lacking and is a far cry from what it should be.
Why do you think it is lacking, do you think it’s because the govt is not placing a lot of emphasis on tourism compared to how important they think the oil sector is?
Yes, because the government isn’t paying too much attention to tourism. If you look at a country like Kenya, alot of their foreign exchange and income is derived from tourism, and Nigeria should be capable of generating even more than Kenya. One of their major attractions is their safari. And in Bauchi state, we have the Yankari game reserve.
Yankari Game Reserve – Bauchi State
Does that still exist?
Yes, it has been recently upgraded by the Bauchi state government
And there are still animals?
Yes there are. If that is properly maintained, it is going to be quite an attraction for tourism.
So you definitely think Nigeria has tourism potential
Oh sure, and you also have the Borgu game reserve, present day Niger State.
How do you think we can develop tourism in this country, both govt and individuals?
There has to be an enabling environment first. Security has to be upgraded, the ease of visa into the country, the attraction, how welcoming the airports are, these are basic requirements.
You’ve been around since the 60s and watched the country grow, people usually say the country is worse now than back in the day. Was there any form of tourism back in the days?
Yeah, in those days, we had the Durbar (a Muslim festival in the north), horse riding, the Eyo festival in Lagos, the equivalent in the Cross River axis of the country etc. But like with everything in Nigeria, as the economy got worse, less was available to spend on these things. In the last 3 years, the Durbar festival has been cancelled in the North due to security challenges. That is why security is very important.
Durbar Festival taken by Lesley Lababidi of nomad4now.com
I know you’ve lived in Lagos, Kogi, Kaduna & Ife. Do you have a favourite city in Nigeria with regards to tourism, festivals or culture?
The environment is serene. Well old Kaduna. They had the Durbar festival regularly, race horses and good hotels.
So accommodation was not a problem?
No it wasn’t and the environment was very peaceful in the old days.
Compare old Kaduna to new Kaduna with regards to tourism
Tourism in Kaduna is practically dead now due to the security situation.
Are there any states in the country that promotes tourism in the country right now whereby people come from all over to see?
Cross River. Every December they have the Calabar festival. And we have the Osun Grove at Osogbo by Susanne Wenger. (Side Note: The Osun Grove was inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage site in 2005)
Osun Grove – Osogbo, Osun State
Is that still functional?
Oh yes. People come from all over like Brazil to see it and to partake in the culture. It is a Sango shrine. (Sango is the god of thunder and lightening).
Pros vs Cons of tourism in Nigeria
Tourism is a growth area in Nigeria. which is worth exploring. The cons of it, like everywhere that has tourism, there will be fraudsters or pick pockets who want to take advantage of you. Another pro is the beaches we have, which if managed properly can also be another tourism source like in Kenya.
Do you think the local people play an important role in tourism?
Yes, the locals do. They have to be welcoming of visitors, good hosts, friendly and amiable.
In Lagos, you can see influences of the colonial masters with regards to architecture like the churches. Did they do that in other states or was it just because Lagos was the capital back then?
Well, what they tried to do was to try to adapt to every environment where they were. But their exposure was not too pronounced in other places early on. It was mostly in the coastal areas.
So structures in the East/West are mainly man made from mud and clay which people just found interesting?
If I was a visitor to Nigeria as a tourist, what would be your advice?
A peaceful Nigeria?
Well I would say visit Plateau for the scenery, the Yankari Game Reserve & the Mambilla plateau. You can still get bits of the old city walls of Zaria and Kano. They are still in existence and of course the Ikogosi warm springs.
Ikogosi Warm Springs – Ekiti State
Mambilla Plateau – Taraba State