I remember getting so excited as a child when my dad would bring home those One-Year Diaries that Banks gave their clients at Christmas (back in the day when corporate gifts were modest but useful)...my sister and I would get so excited going through the maps at the back, adn trying to figure out where in Victoria Island or Ikeja we could recognize on them. It gave you a sense of the "smaller world" around you. It's a shame that we are celebrating such a universally trivial accomplishment in the 21st century...but better late than never, eh? tAB congratulates the NTDC on this first step to improving (creating, really) the nation's navigation system. I hope we continue to hear of other feats being IMPLEMENTED by various federal, state and local agencies to improve the lives of everyday Nigerians.
As Reuben Abati puts it in the Guardian article below:
"Tourism can only be part of a wider and better articulated package; the key element of that package is good governance. Navigational aids: maps and all that, information flowing from the NTDC like the Niagara Falls can only be useful when governments: federal, state and local, focus on such urgent challenges as security, public infrastructure, and an enabling investment framework and so on."
A Journey Around Nigeria - By Reuben Abati
For the benefit of those who are looking for good news from Nigeria, here is something to crow about: the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), led by Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, has launched what it calls "a world class road network navigational system." I attended the media launch, in Lagos, two days ago. What Runsewe, former General Manager of the New Nigerian now since 1999 a public official, introduced to the public, is a set of navigational aids: a personal, in-car travel equipment which can be fixed to the windscreen of a car, maps which can be downloaded from the internet into cell phones which can be used to navigate one's way around the city, city maps covering all Nigerian state capitals and the Federal Capital Territory, and an online tourist market which can help provide tourism information about Nigeria. Runsewe was understandably beside himself with excitement: "Oil is exhaustible", he said. But "tourism is sustainable." "Tourism is life," he intoned.
And he cited the great example of how in the last 22 years Dubai, to which Nigerians now flock like termites, was transformed from desert into an international business destination. His main argument is that as part of Nigeria's Vision 20-2020 project, namely Nigeria's plan to be one of the 20 best economies in the world by 2020, a major entry point would be tourism.
Since he assumed office as Director General of the NTDC, Runsewe has brought fresh dynamism and innovativeness to the tourism sector. He has a bagful of publications to show for this: special publications on Nigeria which advertise the country's tourism potentials, in 2007, he had organised the Abuja carnival and for the first time, all Nigerian state capitals have been reduced to maps that can be picked up on the shelf for free. No one was surprised when Runsewe reported that many of the state Governors were impressed when the NTDC presented maps of their state capitals.
What's the big deal? Such travel aids are used elsewhere in modern cities across the world. In Nigeria, maps are only studied in Geography classes in schools. An ordinary Nigerian in a new town or city does not look for maps, because these are non-existent; to get around, we all more or less rely on word of mouth, and increasingly on the ubiquitous okada cyclist. When you are lost anywhere in Nigeria, just call a commercial cyclist. But it is not always that motorocyclists know the geography of the immediate environment, nor are they always good men.
Ladies have been lured to hide-outs and raped. Persons have been led to criminals, and turned into victims. In some instances, persons who were stranded who could not find their way around a Nigerian town reportedly went to the neraest police station to ask for assistance or to ask for permission to wait there till morning. Many of such persons were robbed by the same police to whom they had run for safety and support. Nigeria is also not the best place to park your car by the roadside to ask for directions. You could be misled. Nigeria is a tourist's nightmare, even for the citizen, it is like a jungle.
The NTDC initiative on navigational aids is helpful. It is forward-looking and encouraging. It is achievable, its advantages are many. It is likely to have the same effect as the GSM revolution particularly among the educated who can read maps. But the test of it all is in the implementation and sustainability. Runsewe had admitted that the mapping of Nigeria and the introduction of the navigational aids is a work in progress. He is right. He and his team would have to provide public enlightenment on a number of issues: where and how can the navigational aids be accessed? Which cities are covered? And cost? And what are we going to do about our many streest which have no names, or whose names change every season, and our unmotorable roads which impede access? The NTDC is a federal agency, how well is it interfacing with state and local councils, tourism after all being the responsibility of all levels of government? This can only work if states and local councils buy into it.
Runsewe spoke about the importance of tourism. Quite true. Countries like the UAE, South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia, Ghana, Sawziland, and the countries of the Caribbean islands have turned tourism into a strong national branding mechanism. Nigeria's tourism income is negligible, the industry is under-developed, our cities are no destinations of choice, even for the people. Why? There is a lot more that needs to be done beyond the provision of navigational aids. The NTDC and its Director-General are showing much enthusiasm; they want to make a difference, they want to move Nigeria closer to 2020, but 2020 has become such a magical, whimsical creation. Tourism can only be part of a wider and better articulated package; the key element of that package is good governance.
Navigational aids: maps and all that, information flowing from the NTDC like the Niagara Falls can only be useful when governments: federal, state and local, focus on such urgent challenges as security, public infrastructure, and an enabling investment framework and so on. European tourists flock to Ghana because they can move about without any hindrance in Accra and elsewhere at any time of the day. To do that in Nigeria is to take a serious risk. Runsewe's NTDC has played its part, but the country is still a long way from 2020. We may all be excited about navigational aids but that is not enough. However, this is not Runsewe's headache. The Yar'Adua administration has been busy pursuing the Vision agenda as if it is an isolated, disjointed effort, with each department of state, acting on its own, and federal agencies dictating to the states, but this is not what vision is all about; what exists at the moment looks like 2020 gambling.
If the NTDC gives us something this week to be optimistic about, the same cannot be said about the government of Zamfara state, where Bashir Gusau, the Managing Director of Legacy, the state-owned newspaper, has been fired for writing an article titled "My fears for Yar'Adua" in which he argued that "the past one-and-a-half-years of Yar'Adua's Presidency were marred with indolence, ineptitude, violence, kidnapping, armned robbery, communal clashes, power blackout, and succumbing to the whims and caprices of a cabal holding the nation to ransom." In a two-page statement, the state Commissioner for Information, Ibrahim Danmaliki accussed Gusau of being "Insincere." He added that President Yar'adua is the "de facto and de jure head of the country and we shall never associate the government and people of Zamfara state with any attempt to run him down".
Subsequently, the state Government organised a special prayer session for "peace, good health and God's guidance for the Yar'Adua administration and the nation in general." In fact, the state government has now decreed that no civil servant must say, write, hear or see anything that is remotely bad about or critical of the Yar'Adua government, the punishment for a breach is instant dismissal. The stupidity of this action is so obvious, it requires no further comment, but let the point be restated that the sycophantic censorship at work in Zamfara state is a violation of the Constitutional right to free expression, duly articulated in Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution and in international conventions on human rights.
It is in addition a violation of the profession of journalism: section 22 of the 1999 Constitution grants the media oversight roles over government, and whether Yar'Adua is de facto or de jure head of state, Gusau's article is a fair comment, written in the public interest, and it can be easily justified. Do we not all have "fears for Yar'Adua"? One other point: the same Yar'Adua for whom Gusau has now lost his job has been "missing in action" for more than a week. Nigerians are not sure whether he is in a hospital in Saudi Arabia, or attending the lesser hajj, ill or well. Gusau wrote about kidnapping, armed robbery aand communal clashes. What is insincere about this? Is the Zamfara state Governor living in outer space?
In journalism, facts are sacred, opinion is free. Gusau was expressing an opinion. The Zamfara Governor is an ANPP Governor, a party in the opposition. Who should encourage criticism if not the opposition? But we have the likes of this Governor who see democracy as a mechanism for self-promotion by any means. You are wrong sir. Gusau has since been replaced. He should be re-instated, and the dictator of Zamfara should be told that this is a democracy where state Governors must not behave like drunken sailors. And what was that about sacking any civil servant who criticises President Yar'Adua? Criticism, sir, is the oil of the demcoratic wheel.
Shall we now go to Bauchi state where an idle state House of Assembly has just passed a bill into law, banning co-education at all junior and senior schools in the state. The lawmakers argue that this law has become necessary in order to check teenage pregnancies and poor performance. They note that teenagers have difficulties controlling their sexual urges. Again, stupid. Private religious schools are however exempted. But stupid all the same. If the Bauchi lawmakers are looking for ways to reduce adolescent sexuality, they should not do so by enacting laws that will not make any difference in the long run.
If they are interested in better academic performance, they should seek the reasons for poor performance elsewhere, and enact laws which support Governor Isa Yuguda's expressed determination to transform Bauchi state into a leading centre of education. But obviously a legislature with sex on its mind, cannot think that far. Co-education is not what is responsible for sexual urges: people don't get sexual urges simply by seeing the opposite sex, law-making should be informed by greater rigour not speculations.
And in Bida, Niger state, one Abubakar Bello Masada has been under fire for about two weeks now, for marrying 86 wives. All kinds of custodians of the Islamic faith including the Jama'atu Nasri Islam (JNI) have ruled that Bello is not a true moslem and that his battalion of 86 wives is far in excess of the maximun of four wives prescribed by the religion. There were intial reports that the JNI had issued a fatwa on the man. The JNI later denied this insisting that it is only interested in restating the doctrine and that it is not true that the octogenarian may be put to death this weekend. There is so much mystery suroounding what the old man is supposed to have done or not done. But what is certain is that he has been ordered by the JNI and the Etsu Nupe to divorce 82 of his wives and keep only four of them or leave Nupe land.
On Thursday, the man was subjected to a three-hour trial. The Etsu Nupe had also ruled that the man's safety can no longer be guaranteed. Does that mean he will be stoned to death? Kidnapped, amputated, or what? Bello's ethnicity is even been questioned as the Etsu Nupe reportedly pointed out that Bello cannot be a Nupe man.
In Nigeria, the distinction betwen an indigene and a settler is sensitive, it could make a lot of difference in traditional commnuities. At the end of his trial, Bello reportedly asked for two weeks of grace to decicde which of his wives he would do away with, many of them about the age of his great-grand children. But the court of the Etsu Nupe has ruled that the choice must be made within two days. What is Mallam Bello's offence? Did he marry any of his wives under the Ordinance, for which he could be guilty of bigamy? Even if he is guilty of bigamy, only a court of law can determine his guilt, not the JNI, not the Etsu Nupe-in-council. No one has accussed Bello of incest, only that he is too much of a polygamist. And if the issue is that he no longer reads the Quoran as he claims, he is entitled to the freedom of choice. Looked at closely, it may even be said that other men may be envious of this old man. In some other countries, his virility and feritlity would be a subject of scientific inquiry.
But here the Etsu Nupe says Masada should undergo psychiatric examination. And there is an element of hypocrisy involved. Many of those who are condemning Mallam Masada are probably serial polygamists or serial monogamists. What for example is the difference between four wives and 86 wives? The Etsu Nupe, the JNI, and the Niger State Government should take responsibility for Mallam Bello Masada's safety. The police should protect him from the gathering mob.
Finally, a report in The Herald of Zimbabwe quoted in an article in The Nation of Kenya by Kitsepile Ngathi on August 18 indicates that some African leaders including the leaders of Zambia, Botswana, and Tanzania have since apologised to President Robert Mugabe for allowing themselves to be misled by the opposition. After the June 27 re-run Presidential election, Botswana, Nigeria, Kenya, Liberia, Zmabia, Tanzania and other African countries had refused to recognise Robert Mugabe's victory. But now Ngathi writes: "the biggest surprise, however came from Nigeria, which sent a high profile emissary to South Africa on Sunday to seek a meeting with President Mugabe and offer apologies for taking an "uninformed position" on Zimbabwe's electoral process during the last AU summit in Egypt." Apologies also came from Zambia, Bostwana, and Tanzania. Did Nigeria apologise to Mugabe? The Ministry of Foreign Affairs owes Nigerians a clarification, if not explanation.