Akwaba 2018: Nigeria needs national carrier to help our economy – Runsewe
Passion drives tourism and culture. Today, Nigerian culture is on the move again because a passionate tourism and culture promoter is on the helm of affairs of National Council of Art and Culture, that sub sector is finding its rhythm again. This is a pointer to the fact that Nigeria needs round pegs in round holes to move the nation’s economy forward.
Since Otunba Segun Runsewe was appointed the director general of NCAC, the industry has suddenly become vibrant once again.
In this interview with Franklin Ihejirika at the just concluded Akwaaba African Travel Market in Lagos, Runsewe speaks on the essence of the NCAC’s participation in this year’s expo, the need for a national carrier, its free skill acquisition programme, contribution of culture and tourism to GDP among other issues.
What is the essence of NCAC’s participation at the 2018 Akwaaba African Travel Market in Lagos?
We are using the platform to showcase the strength of our great country Nigeria. Akwaaba has been on for 14 years, this is the 14th edition. We have Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, The Gambia, Ghana and five other countries. Our Job is to ensure that everybody that comes to our country has a lasting impression about our hospitable country and also let them know our culture. So we don’t allow this kind of platform to waste. You can imagine, Dubai took almost half of this top floor. So if a country that recognises culture and tourism like Dubai is here to showcase what it has, that means they are sending us a message, so we must take advantage of the platform.
And you must know that this is the sector were nobody is useless, even if somebody made F9 in school, he’s useful in our sector. Look at the cloth the people in our skill acquisition are designing there, you will know that it is quite unique.
What informed your free skill acquisition programme?
We are training people on skill acquisition, free of charge, bead making and others, creating employment, this is part of how to empower the people, reduce tension and make the best of our country. We will give certificate at the end of the training. In Abuja we tried it and were shocked that most of the people we trained opened shops after the training and if this is given a serious backing am sure crime will be reduced in this country. We met three girls in Abuja and they were prostitutes and we took them out of the street and they have left prostitution.
They have now found something that give them hope. So if you have sisters, a friend or brothers doing nothing at home, let them come for the skill acquisition, we are doing it free, we are not going to take any kobo from them. That is part of our own social responsibility. The NCAC has brought yam floor, bean floor, Garri branded for 2018 Akwaaba all to show that we must believe in our selves. All these products are purely Nigerian.
To me, Akwaaba is a platform to bring the world together to one level, to enable us communicate and strengthen our culture.
What is the contribution of Culture and tourism to the GDP of the country?
You know before, we are doing about 4.6percent constant to our GDP, but only that we have not been able to talk to ourselves, this sector has increased to about 11.5percent which is constant in the last six months. If you come to the airport, all the major world airlines are flying into Nigeria and somebody will say Nigeria is not safe, so who is coming in. They are trying to deceive us not to believe in ourselves or trust ourselves which we have come out now to make a statement that we must tell our story ourselves.
A viable tourism and culture sector needs the aviation industry to succeed and Nigeria is now working to establish a new national carrier, what is your take on that?
Honestly, the national carrier is a welcome development. We need a national carrier, a national carrier will help our economy to improve to about another 14. 6 percent. Do you know why, because if you are travelling to London, you have to come to Lagos, Abuja and Kano to connect. Every where you do that, you help the economy to be stronger. Look at Ethiopian Airlines, if you are going to any where in the world, you must first get to Addis Ababa. So is a thing of joy that we have woken up from our slumber, we need a national carrier.
What is your take on Lagos state partnership with private sector to promote Nigeria culture and tourism to the world?
I must tell you that Lagos state Governor, Mr Akinwumi Ambode is one of the best culture and tourism friendly Governors in the country. Ambode has realised the benefit of culture and tourism and the returns. All those tourism clusters he has created will be a benefit to us to expose. Look at the entire Kenya, Gambia and Uganda, they are not up to the population of Lagos state, but they are making so much from culture and tourism which we have not been able to key into and that is why i am preparing the mind of Nigerian that we are changing the narrative, is time now to take back our heritage and make best of our great country.
What is your message to Nigerians?
My message to Nigerians is that culture is the unifying factor that brings people together. Culture will reduce crime, it will allow us to understand each other, that is why I came out with a product called cultural diplomacy, if we adopt that, there will be less tension in the country, there will be no need for hate speeches, there will no need for attacking each other. Culture is key to any developmental product of any country.