altA lecturer with the department of theatre arts, University of Port-Harcourt, and participant at the 3-day national workshop organized by National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) on “Repositioning Public Officers for Improved Productivity,” Mr. Ovunda Ihunwo, has stated that the development of Nigeria’s cultural tourism and its export must begin with Nigerians.

He stated this while reacting to papers presented at the technical session of the workshop, noting that, if Nigeria is desirous of developing its tourism sector, the citizenry should be knowledgeable about its diverse cultures and tourism potentials, just as obtained in other African countries like South Africa and Kenya, where tourism is fully developed.

According to him, the citizens are the first point of contact with foreign tourists before they get to the tourist centres, and that, what is obtainable in countries like South Africa is that, even taxi drivers promote the country’s tourism potentials as they are knowledgeable about it, adding: “I am glad to note that this trend is being replicated in Nigeria in places like Calabar, the Cross Rivers State capital, where some taxi drivers engage visitors in conversations about their state and its carnival.”

On the idea of government sponsoring people on pilgrimage to Israel or Mecca, Ihunwo noted that going on pilgrimage is like going to visit tourist sites in those countries and, therefore, it should be a personal commitment of individuals; so, government should stop sponsoring Christians and Muslims for pilgrimages.

“I can recall that the Executive Governor of Bayelsa State, Hon. Seriake Dickson has raised this issue before, saying that the state government will from next year not sponsor people. I support this policy totally,” he noted.

He argued further that, if state governments have to continue sponsoring pilgrims to Holy Lands, then they should as well fund traditional religious adherents to either India or Haiti or to any remote part of Nigeria, for their own pilgrimage, so that it should be balanced, since there are not just Christians and Muslims in Nigeria.

Ihunwo, therefore, called on Nigerians to propagate their own cultural and tourism endowments, saying, “nobody will do it for us; we need to preach what we have for others to come and patronize us in terms of tourism; and the essence of tourism is people being patriotic about their country, and this is a commodity that is lacking in our country, as we are the ones who even talk negative things about our country to foreigners and by so doing, hindering the development of tourism and discouraging tourists from coming to Nigeria.”

Speaking on Nigerian movies, which are a part of our cultural products, he informed that he was not comfortable with observations by foreigners about some of our movies being fetish, stating that, such people who complain should understand that there are various aspects to the movies Nollywood produces, so if they feel offended by the traditional African religious content in some Nigerian movies or the talk about the operations of witches and wizards in some of our movies, then, they ought only to concentrate on Christian movies produced by the same Nollywood.

He reiterated that issues of witches and wizards in movies cut across the globe as foreign movies too have contents that are fetish in nature and others dwelling on the supernatural, like the Harry Potter’s series, “Lord of the Rings” and “Wizards of the Hovering Places,” concluding: “Cultural tourism, cultural export begins with us, Nigerians; we must like ourselves and love our country first; only then, would we be able to sell our cultural values and products to others,” he stated.

Jonathan N. Nicodemus
Corporate Affairs