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We will sell our tourism with culture, music — Lai Muhammed

By Jimoh Babatunde

Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, promised to ‘suffocate’ delegates to the just-concluded  61st  United Nations World Tourism Organisation, UNWTO, Commission for Africa (CAF) conference held in Abuja with the best of Nigerian culture.

He said the government has identified the entertainment industry music, films, theatre – as a unique brand to build on, in the promotion of the nation’s tourism sector.

Mohammed said just like Safari and Wildlife is unique to East and South Africa, Nigeria has comparative advantage in music, films and theatre and would exploit them for tourism development.

“We have been able to brand Nigeria tourism; Nigeria tourism is unique especially with the creative industry.

Lai Mohammed

“Although we still have safari and wildlife in Nigeria, no doubt, but our greatest strength lies in our creative industry, our music, films and theatre.

“This is an area where we want to build on. It is an area where we have comparative advantage over many other countries,” he said.

At the end of the day, the over 166 delegates, including 26 tourism ministers from Africa that attended the meeting,  were surely ‘suffocated’ as the best of Nigerian culture and arts were on display for the four days the meeting lasted.

It started with the Seki Dance Drama,  created by  Mr Yibo Koko, a notable filmmaker, which traces the American tap dance to the indigenous people of the lower Niger-Delta area of Nigeria and it is fused with cultural heritage.

The performance on that cool night brought out the  glamour and fun of Nigerian culture that shows  how rich we are as a people, how we can embrace our culture which is not fetish but colourful, beautiful, wonderful and something we can sell to the world.

If what the adults performed was spetacular, then the performance by the Ekemini Theatre Group made up of  drummers and dancers  with ages ranging from 5 to 18 the follwing day, held the delegates spellbound.

The  children from Akwa Ibom State warmed the hearts of the audience with their beautiful performance on the xylophone.

Even in their tender ages, they thrilled the audience with their skills as they churned out  popular tunes that got the audience singing and rocking along. The children’s handling of Flavour’s Ada was particularly thrilling  as  a boy and a girl danced rythmically to the song.

The older xylophonists echoed the enthusiastic twanging by the younger performers, adding depth to the kids’ sometimes wandering rhythms. Stable bass lines boomed from seated drummers, one of whom beat the drum he was sitting on with his right hand while beating a skin drum held between his knees. The songs rolled out in repetitive cascades and undulations, but the musicians achieved texture by varying the acoustic levels and inserting surprise stops and starts.

But, the grand performance of  Fela and the Kalakuta  Queens by Bolanle Austen Peters Production   will linger  in the memories of the delegates for long.

Fela’s Kalakuta Queens is a stage play in a musical format showcasing the beauty inside Abami-Eda’s shrine – the intrigues, fun, controversies and the truth about Kalakuta Queens beyond what the public perceive them to be.

From the outside, the queens are seen as ordinary fun-loving runaways entranced by Fela’s music but from the inside, they are extraordinary Amazons and engine room of Fela’s success.

The whole surrounding mysteries about the queens are in their commitment, resilience and passion to defend what they believe in.

They were all made up of dancers that performed alongside the initial Africa 70s to Egypt 80 band of Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Obviously, the spirit that binds them together to walk and work in unison is so overwhelming that you may ask what magic Fela used to keep them all together.

Elated Lai Mohammed said: “We have been able to brand Nigeria tourism; Nigeria tourism is unique especially with the creative industry,  our greatest strength lies in our creative industry, our music, films and theatre.

“This is an area where we want to build on. It is an area where we have comparative advantage over many other countries,” he said.

The minister said that the government would encourage more of the nation’s artists and will give more incentives to the sub-sector.

“Tourism is also about entertainment and we are trying to create a specific brand for Nigeria tourism which is the creative industry,” he said.

Mohammed reiterated government’s commitment to continually support the tourism industry in general being one of the sectors for economic diversification.

He thanked the UNWTO for the opportunity given to the country to host the Conference of African Tourism ministers.

The Secretary-General of UNWTO, Zurab Pololikashvili,  said Nigeria deserved to be one of the best tourism destinations in the world  with its unique tourism potential.

Pololikashvili assured of continuous support of the UNWTO to the development of the nation’s tourism sector.

Pololikashvili  re-echoed that when he met President  Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, saying Nigeria has huge potential to develop the tourism sector considering its large economy.

“We can do it in Nigeria, we can create, convert Nigeria to the main tourist destination in Africa. There is a huge potential here. Culture, nature, food you have everything here.

“You are investing in agriculture, improving seamless travel through visa-on-arrival programme, reforming the economy and doing so much on security. Nigeria is safe,” Pololikashvili said.

President Muhammadu Buhari, while welcoming the Unwto’s Secretary-General , said  Nigeria is safe and secure for tourism, citing improved security and country’s burgeoning economy.

He noted that it would have been inconceivable to host an international tourism conference in Abuja four years ago, because of security concerns.

“I am pleased that the country is now sufficiently safe and secure, and the message should go out to the world for all tourists and business travellers.

“The first thing tourists look out for is security and I am happy we have it now.

“Minister Lai Mohammed has been trying to convince the world that Nigeria is safe and has great potentials for tourism and investment.

“I am glad that you and your team have come here to see things for yourself,” the President told the UN tourism chief, who is in Abuja for the 61st UNWTO Commission for Africa (CAF) conference.

While highlighting the nexus between tourism and sustainable development, the President said Nigeria would not be left behind in ensuring that communities and businesses benefit from tourism development.

 


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