Prince Adetunji F. Fadina, chairman and chief executive of Jethro Tour International was the vice president of the Nigerian Association of Tour Operators (NATOP) and also director, Federal Tourism Association of Nigeria. In this interview with TN’s, Mayowa Ibukun, Abigel Ige & Lere Tiannah Fadina who is the chairman of Tourism Board of Ado-Odo Ota local government area of Ogun State speaks on tourism in Nigeria, Olota’s one year in the saddle as well as the challenges and place of Ota in the scheme of things.
Over the years, efforts have been made to improve and develop tourism in Nigeria. How successful have such efforts been?
Well, there are. There is something tourism rests upon. It is called the Mice Concept. Abuja to me, is a business destination, Calabar is a carnival destination, the North,
in terms of crisis is also a carnival destination. The major problem we have now is the issue of Boko Haram and the Fulani herdsmen. There is a little change which the government really needs to look into because tourism aspect needs to be more creative in terms of security. One of the reasons I came back home is because I believe the product of tourism is local. If we need to promote the product we need to come to the local government, partner with the local government, push the product from local level to state level and then national and international level. Are we moving traffic in this community? Of course they’re moving traffic. Whenever there is Shiloh, more than hundred thousand and more than six private helicopters are landing and the questions are: Who is paying the tax to? Who are they giving the money to? I’m a Christian and I am being honest because even the Bible says “give unto Caesar what belongs to Cesar and God what belongs to God.”
Does the security issue of a country, nay Nigeria, have a direct impact on tourism and to what extent, if any? Every country has its own question marks and challenges in terms of security. But in our own case, whenever something happens, we need to go to the root of it, arrest the culprits and let them face the wrath of the law. And yes, the security issue of a country affects tourism. If you go to South Africa, there are killings everywhere but still it doesn’t stop the country from being visited. Go to Gambia, they have their own crisis too and Ghana which is developing rapidly and faster than we are in terms of security. What I will say about Nigeria Is that if we want to do something, it is very important that we do it well. Unfortunately, we are doing it lackadaisically right now.
What do you think we can do to improve tourism In Nigeria? Let’s go back to the basics. We need to look at tourism master plan. To be honest, it’s not until the federal government sets a committee or when presidency sits on it. Even the local governments can look into it if they know the dynamics. People who have no clue to tourism should be reoriented.
What is the impact of your organisation locally and internationally? By the special grace of God, I am partnering with a gentleman from Nigeria whom I met in The Gambia to set up Intercontinental Airways. Going to Gambia then was something I enjoyed and I said to myself that I wanted to grow a local product.
So, I sent some of my colleagues to study Ota and its environs and in that process, I found out that there is a job and what is the job? It is called destination, evaluation and interpretation. I want to start a product; I want to know about the product, I want to know what is in my town and I want to start from here because I believe Ogun State is a complete state in terms of tourism. So I have decided to start locally. We have a growing youth development programme in which we help youths look at their challenges, strength and whatever it is we can invest on. We are done in the area of product development; now we are doing what is called domestic tourism.
As the chairman of Ado Odo Ota tourism board, what are the plan to improve tourism? My role is to make Ota a place of destination. Many years ago, Obasanjo made it a place of business tourism and different presidents were coming for leadership programme at Obasanjo Farm, Ota. I also realised that we have various products like Ijamido festival which is water festival and I have tested it. If you have any challenge and you hold the water it begins to affect the wave. We also have Isese Day. Actually the first time I witnessed, it I was scary, it was mystical because the origin of witches and wizards were seen there. We are rich mystically and we have been crowned since 1642. We thank God the present king actually took the mantle from my father. He is also a learned person and I am proud of him. I would have been the King myself but I stepped down and handed over the properties to him. I am very much in support of it and that is why I am standing here as the tourism chairman to make sure that all our properties are properly managed and they will. We set up a committee with the governor as the
grand patron, the Olota as the grand patron, the deputy governor and senators Gbolahan Dada and Akin as patrons. With this caliber of people with us we are growing. By July or August 2020, we will be launching the vision 2020 Ota Developmental Goal which will show us how to develop all our products globally and I can assure you now that all our products will develop and tourism will be the way it should be.
What would you say about Olota and the forthcoming commemoration of his one year in office? By God’s special grace, a committee has been set to handle things on and before the coronation. There are some elements picking their heads negatively and we are challenged but thank God we have a good Oba who understands the dynamics of what we are facing. We are proud because during the one year journey, there was no crisis. All things that are done within the year are being done maturely and we give glory to God and kudos to our Oba. I look forward to seeing him in the first year anniversary.
Being a tourism expert, what advice would you give to tour operators? We are coming up with a product very soon. A workshop that we will be doing. It will help the tour operators to understand the dynamics of financing themselves. Among the tour operators, I think there is too much ego.
What are the challenges facing tour operators in Nigeria? One of the challenges facing tour operators is that…we have people in this industry that have no clue to the business. We also have those in this industry who understand the procedure of tour operating but many of them always believe in creating objectives outside most of the products we are talking about.
We have more than what we need but the environment itself is not helping us to develop. This is the only country I have seen that wants to talk about tourism without the ministry. First, is a question mark; secondly, the department that would need to go to the industries does not understand the dynamics.
Do you think the government is doing enough to promote tourism in Nigeria? Well, to be honest, if I am to rate the present government in that regard, I would award 25-35 per cent because if they know the dynamics of it, they would know this is the only industry that can give them revenue. In terms of creating tourism, we have some genius in our country; I mean we have products and our government is not utilising them. This is the only country in the world that we have what we need for tourism. Historically, we have the River Jordan source of water which is also biblical. So what are we thinking about? If we are to look at it archaeologically, we have the slave trade buildings, the four-story building. The man that translated the Bible from English version to Yoruba is right here in this community. I think one of the problems with us is that we don’t know what we have. We are not proud and do not value what we have. I think the produce will need to go back to the basics “Made in Nigeria”.
Could you give us a little insight into your academic attainment? I attended a school in Lagos where some of governors like the former governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola passed through too. I also attended Adeola Odetola Elementary School, Ijebu Ode in Ogun State. I left there for Loyola College Ibadan where I studied Business Administration. In America, I was in Miles College initially and later Stanford University, Birmingham Alabama. I came back to Nigeria when my mother was killed by an armed robber 33 years ago. TN