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'TOURISM, CULTURE SHOULD COMPLEMENT JONATHAN'S TRANSFORMATION AGENDA'

By NBF News
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• Tourism and Culture Minister Duke
Tourism, Culture and National Orientation Minister, Chief Edem Duke, has said the least any Ministry, Department or Agency (MDA) could do in support of the Transformation Agenda of the Dr. Goodluck Jonathan-led Federal Government is to complement the President's efforts.

The minister said this in response to observations that, whereas tourism and culture have played cardinal roles in positively transforming the economy in numerous other countries; these sectors were conspicuously missing in the action plan of the federal government's transformation agenda.

According to Duke, President Jonathan is determined to improve the lot of every Nigerian through economic boost by harnessing business opportunites, especially in the non-oil sector; and, creating more jobs as well as helping to enhance security across the land.

This, in a nutshell, is what the Transformation Agenda is all about; intoned Duke, while stressing that since every MDA was obliged to key into the president's noble vision; his ministry shall not be a weak link in any chain. The tourism and culture minister went on to emphasize that it was out of a desire to fit into the president's agenda that his ministry sought permission from Dr. Jonathan to make imput into the Transformation Agenda blueprint.

The minister, who spoke with Travels after events marking the International Day for the remembrance of slavery and its abolition, which took place at Reiz Continental Hotel, Abuja on August 23; enthusiastically revealed that Mr. President graciously gave his ministry a period of grace to submit its imput. 'And, we intend to do this with sincerity of purpose because it is our responsibility to do so', Duke declared.

When we took him on, vis-à-vis the relevance of the August 23 annual observance, also called Emancipation Day; when today, countless Nigerians would literally give an arm to go to America and slave for a living there; whereas during the days of the despicable trade in human cargo, Africans were forcibly uprooted from their aboriginal homes, Duke countered: 'Irrespective of the circumstances, the slave trade had a phenomenal impact on Africa and the black race. Therefore, this makes its remembrance relevant'.

Organised by the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the theme of this year's observance was Lest we forget: The story of slavery and slave trade in Nigeria. The event, which attracted a crowd that filled the hall to overflowing, featured non-Nigerian participants, many of them African-Americans; including Mr. James Wale, an African-American, who is Mayor, City of District Heights in the US State of Maryland.

Aside Minister Duke; Alhaji Ibrahim Gaya Mahe, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Tourism and Culture; Dr. Joseph Ngu, Director/Country Representative, UNESCO Regional in Nigeria; and, Professor Akin Oyebode, a former Vice Chancellor, University of Ado-Ekiti as well as professor of International Law at University of Lagos attended the event, where the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) put up a strong showing despite the absence of its Director General, Mr. Simon Chuzi Egede. However, NAPTIP chief, Barrister Egede, sent a representative.

Interestingly, Chief Duke would be highly commended by Prof Oyebode, who described the Tourism and Culture Minister as 'One of the most articulate ministers I ever met'; apparently due to the former's eloquence and oratory prowess. There was no doubt that Prof Oyebode, who commanded rapt attention from the audience throughout his rendition and got a standing ovation for his presentation; also elicited tremendous respect from everyone in attendance.

Prof Oyebode's paper, which revolved around the issue of reparation, threw up much food for thought virtually at every turn. In fact, an indelible note was struck, when; referring to Africa's socio-economic predicament, this egg-head recalled a description of a 'Disarticulate Economy' as one in which 'the people produce what they do not consume, and consume what they do not produce'. As to whom the victims of such grotesque economic distortion are, we would simply say, res ipsa loquitor (the situation speaks for itself).

When we spoke during the interactive session at the slavery memorial venue, one had wondered, if the descendants of those sold into slavery were not victims of double jeopardy; given that money was still collected from them as charge for admission into museums dedicated to the slave trade; in Nigeria for example. Prof Oyebode succintly reminded that slavery has been with mankind virtually ab initio, when he recalled: 'The Great Pyramids of Egypt were built through slave labour'… And, the same can be said of the Sphinx and countless monuments across the lands of ancient civilizations.

Curiously, however, the slave trade is often made to look like trafficking that went solely across the Atlantic; whereas there was also slave mercantilism along the Trans Sahara Trade route and into Arabia. To this day, we see descendants of slaves that were sold to the so-called New World, but; whatever happened to all the blacks that were condemned to slave labour in the Maghreb and Arabia?

On this issue of reparation, one is still at sixes and sevens.

Have we not lost the moral high-ground to demand reparation; when for decades we have looked the other way, while millions of blacks are treated as slaves in Sudan? Charity, they say, begins at home. Slavery is a very emotive issue and one must carry out deep introspection before discussing any tragedy as touchy as this.

Back to a cheery note: Chief Duke was treated to a memorable reception by Cross River community in Abuja shortly after his swearing-in as Tourism, Culture and National Orientation Minister.

Although notable Cross Riverians, including some that are not based in Abuja, like Ntufam Ekpo Okon, Chairman of the ruling PDP in Cross River; many of the guests at the event were not indigenes of Cross River State. Examples: Ex-Green Eagles Captain, Segun Odegbami (MON); and, La Campaign Tropicana proprietor, Otunba Wanle Akinboboye.

Ogbomoso-born Mr. Mayo Adediran, then Director of Museums at the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) as well as the tourism attache of Antigua, whose name we did not quite get and Igbo-born Chike Osuagwu; were also there. There were also people of Hausa, Kanuri and Fulani extraction or connection. In deed, the ethnic diversity of those in attendance could well be taken for the minister's cosmopolitan disposition.