Africa: Ikechi Uko says next 90 days crucial for domestic tourism in Nigeria on 6th Zoom conference


The 6th edition of the Seven Wonders of Nigeria weekly Zoom Conference kicked off as scheduled on Friday, July 24, 2020 with the host, Amb. Ikechi Uko welcoming the audience to another exciting encounter, as he introduced the day’s line-up of speakers – a selection of heavyweights in the travel and tourism industry – as he had referred to them on his Facebook post earlier.

And truly, a line-up that includes the likes of Mr. Bankole Bernard, Group MD of FinchGlow Group and immediate past President of NANTA; Alhaji Aliyu Badaki, former President of HATMAN; Ebele Enemchukwu (Mrs. Tourism United Nations 2016/17), among others is a line-up of heavyweights.

Amb. Uko, then stated that following the NOTAM by Nigeria Airspace Management Authority (NAMA) on international travel, the next 90 days are the most important days for domestic tourism in the country. He explained that many Nigerians are desirous of travelling now and once the ban is lifted, many will seize the opportunity to fly out. It is therefore important for us to drive domestic tourism and get these people to see and travel Nigeria, before the resumption of international flights.

The former President of NANTA, Bankole Bernard kicked off his presentation by first acknowledging the efforts of Amb. Uko to promote the industry. Swiftly, he highlighted the need to push domestic tourism, pointing out how the industry is a major income generator for many countries.

His presentation, centred on Ogun State started with a short intro about the state being an industrial centre with several manufacturing companies in the state. The first was Olumo Rock, the landmark attraction in Ogun state. The rock has been there for centuries and was a safe haven from the slave raiders, as the indigenes sought refuge beneath the rocks – which actually is the origin of the name of the state’s capital, Abeokuta (Under the rock).

The Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library was next on his list, and it is a state-of-the-art facility – the first of its kind in Africa – in fact, anywhere outside of the US. He mentioned that, they have a tradition of weaving an adire fabric for visitors, and by the time one completes a tour of the entire facility, the fabric would have been woven and ready for you.

Swiftly, he went on to talk about the Ijebu Waterside and the Ebute Oni Beach and the resort there. The Omu Forest reserve is rich in fauna and flora with over 225 bird species, 200 types of trees, endangered elephants, white-throated monkeys, chimpanzees and other primates. From there, he talked about the Osuuru Water Spring at Imeko and the Oronna Statue, dedicated to a brave warrior who defended the Ilaro people against enemies.

He also talked about the Centenary Hall, the second story building in Nigeria, which was where the great Samuel Ajayi Crowther translated the Bible into Yoruba. He also highlighted the various festivals and celebrations in the state, citing the instance of the Ojude-Oba Festival, which telecoms giant Globacom proudly sponsors.

He closed his presentation with a call to the relevant authorities to do the needful and help to boost domestic tourism in the country.

The second speaker was the CEO of Novarosta, Geraldine Itoe, who started her presentation with talking about the Ubang Community in Obudu LGA. Obudu has over 13 languages in its 10 wards. In Ubang, it is forbidden for the male to speak the same dialect to the female. It is such that even, if they understand each other, back and forth communication is not allowed between the sexes. There are two particular myths to the origin of these language dichotomies. One of these leads to the story of the tower of Babel.

According to the myth, the Ubang were among those who were trying to build the tower. However, the Ubang were so obstinate in their desire to see God, that God was left with no choice than to cause further confusion among the Ubang. However, in recent times, there’s a risk to this because the younger people are migrating and leaving the community for greener pastures and communicating in English.

Holy Mountain, which is part of the Obudu Mountain range is a serene spot which can be promoted for religious tourism. The people believe that there’s no prayer you say to God on the Holy Mountain that goes unanswered. She cited the instance of a Nigerian celebrity who claimed to have seen an apparition of the Virgin Mary at the Holy Mountain, during her quiet time while shooting a movie.

From there, she moved on to Boki LGA and talked about Alobe Festival and the discovery of cocoyam. Boki is home to Cross River National Park, Afi Mountains, etc. According to folklore, a hunter stumbled upon a half-eaten strange tuber, during a time of famine. After observing that no dead animal was nearby to signify that the tuber was poisonous, he took it and brought it home and prepared for his family.

In the morning, the neighbours asked; “Eliben” which means “How did you sleep?” While another group came and asked; “Eriben?” which means “How did you eat?”

Up next was the CEO of WABIO (Women Are Beautiful Inside Out), Ebele Enemchukwu who was Mrs Tourism United Nations 2016/17. Excitedly she started her presentation, sharing that her life is like a story on tourism. She was born in Enugu State, bred in Abia, schooled in Akwa Ibom, with additional schooling in Lagos. She got married in Anambra State, adopted by Cross River State, crowned Mrs. Nigeria in the north and crowned Mrs. Tourism United Nations in Kingston, Jamaica.

The mention the Caribbean nation led straight to her first destination; the Badagry Slave Route. According to her, it is better felt than imagined. She talked about the coconut candy called ‘ajagun’ which is a snack-on-the-go along with coconut juice. She however, admonished that except you’re sleeping over in Badagry, it is better you leave early, because of the road, and even if you’re using the waterways which is better – you still need to leave early.

The queen’s next destination was the Zoological Garden in Ibadan, Oyo State. She mentioned that the facility has a rich fauna and flora ranging from tortoises, giraffes, snakes, birds, camels, ostriches, and even lions. It was a delight for her, because it was her first time getting up close to wildlife. She was particularly happy about the availability of conveniences, possibly because the gardens are located in the university.

Her next destination was about Cross River State. She was very excited to talk about Calabar which has a unique acronym “Come And Live And Be At Rest,” to which she has come with her own, “Come A Lot And Be A Resident.” She about her experience on the monorail with its exquisite 10 coaches, before moving on to the Calabar National Park. She had a warning to visitors, particularly women to avoid skirts when visiting the place. It is better to have body fitting clothes because of the soldier ants in the place. She also talked about the African cherry called udala in Igbo, and agbalumo in Yoruba.

The queen also talked briefly about the Carnival Calabar – Africa’s biggest street party – of which she is an influencer and adjudicator. She advised that to be part of the whole experience, it is best to plan your travel and book your accommodation early.

She closed her presentation by talking about Plateau State and Shere Hills with the beautiful rock formations. She had been to the state several times, but it had always been strictly for work and she had no time to explore. However, at the 2018 Abuja Jabamah, she caught a glimpse of Shere Hills via a painting given to Amb. Uko by the Plateau state Commissioner for Tourism, and she has decided it is a must-visit place, noting that her children are already fascinated as well, asking how the rocks were balanced on each other.

There was a technical issue with audio from the fourth speaker, Aniedi Udofia, CEO of EDC Travels. Her presentation actually opened with a culinary clip of some delicacies from Akwa Ibom, which had the audience already salivating. The host had to move on, promising to bring her back on another episode, before calling on Alhaji Aliyu Badaki to make his presentation.

Alhaji Aliyu concentrated on attractions in Kogi State, highlighting the hills and rocks. Kogi is often referred to as the Confluence State, particularly because of the meeting of the Niger and Benue rivers. It shares boundaries with nine states, and it is a central hub where road travellers have to pass through.

The former President of HATMAN talked about some attractions such as: boat regatta, the statue of Scottish explorer, Mungo Park; rest place of Lord Lugard and the confluence beaches, before speaking about the Obiosese Festival of the Ogori people, where young maidens are initiated into womanhood.

Afterwards, he spoke about Mount Patti, the hill on which Lugard’s rest place was built, where he often resorted to take a break. It was on the same mount Lady Flora Shaw, who later became Lady Lugard gave the name, Nigeria to the country. The mount offers panoramic views of Lokoja, the state capital and you can get a bird’s eye view of the confluence. It is also a safe environment and every morning; it hosts a group of people who jog up the hills for physical fitness.

Alhaji Aliyu then moved on to Obangogo Hill in Egunbe, Kabba which has just recently started to attract people. On the 27th of December each year, a festival takes place in Kabba around the hill. Also, Obangogo Hill has some peculiarities, such a water spring at the top, which many believe has healing properties. In ancient times, when the Nupes tried to conquer the Okun people of Kabba; they fled up and found refuge on the hill.

The famous Zuma Rock along the road on the boundary between Suleija and Abuja was next, and Alhaji Aliyu wondered why such a beautiful natural attraction has not been tapped? He talked about the unique features of the rock, that appears as though it is a human face. Adjacent the rock is an artisanal village built by a past president of NIHITOUR, Dr. Dantata. It is lovely place where tourists can buy artefacts and souvenirs. Also, behind the rock, there is a golf course.

Alhaji Aliyu Badaki rounded off his talk by calling on the government, both state and federal to do what is necessary to transform these attractions into major tourism sites which can generate lots of revenue for the nation.

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