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Years ago installed Otunba, a reverred title in any Oba's palace; Olusegun Runsewe also holds an OON (Officer of the Order of the Niger) National Honour and has been decorated with enviable titles by powerful traditional institutions in different ethnic and geo-political zones across the country.

A former General Manager of Kaduna-based New Nigerian Newspapers (NNN), Otunba Runsewe has brought phenomenal developments to the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) in particular as well as Nigerian Tourism in general since assuming the mantle of leadership of Nigeria's apex tourism body as Director General in 2006.

Already laden with numerous feathers, more jewels have been added to the cap of Runsewe in the last few weeks. Interestingly, shortly after the Yoruba community in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), led by Oba of Yoruba in Abuja, HRH Kabiyesi Olusegun Salau, recently conferred the title of Balogun Yoruba of Abuja on Otunba Runsewe; the NTDC chief came under a deluge of laurels.

'Most Enterprising DG of the Year'
One of the latest in the wave of honours for Otunba Runsewe came from The Nigerian Tribune Awards, where the NTDC boss was crowned Most Enterprising Director General of 2011. The event also featured awards to three other recipients: Senate President David Mark, Best Public Officer of the Year; Ondo State Governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, Best Governor of the Year; and, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Man of the Year. Yes, who the cap fits, let him wear it.

During his welcome address, Rev Sam Adesua, Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief, African Newspapers of Nigeria, publishers of The Nigerian Tribune and organisers of the honours ceremony, eulogised Otunba Olusegun Runsewe as 'A man spearheading a silent revolution of rebranding Nigeria in a very unique way'.

Rev Adesua further noted that, Otunba Runsewe 'Has been showcasing to the outside world Nigeria's unique attractions. Since he mounted the saddle as NTDC DG, he has practically transformed the face of the nation's tourism such that despite some glaring odds, tourism in Nigeria remains a source of pride'. Speaking in the same vein, a former Senate President, Chief Adolphus Wabara, who was Chairman of the occasion, said Runsewe's efforts are noticeable both locally and internationally. The former Senate President went on to add that the NTDC chief's efforts were commendable because tourism is a viable option for increasing Nigeria's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In deed, Niger State Governor, Dr. Mu'azu Babangida Aliyu also added his voice to the chorus of encomiums for Runsewe. Runsewe is a 'dedicated and hardworking public officer, who does not see any assignment as too big or small', declared Niger's Number One Citizen. Going down memory lane, Governor Aliyu recalled: 'Runsewe has always demonstrated his love for Nigeria as could be seen from his impressive performance as National Media Cordinator for the 2003 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

For many, however, the Mother of all Accolades to Runsewe must be the remark by the reverred Chief (Mrs.) HID Awolowo, matriarch of the Awolowo clan, who described the NTDC boss as 'one of the finest brand managers in Nigeria because of his avowed commitment to improving the image of Nigeria and creating wealth through tourism'.

As Mama HID rightly pointed out, Runsewe 'Has proven cynics wrong by proving that Nigeria can rise again'.

Delivering his acceptance speech, the NTDC boss commended the Management of The Nigerian Tribune for organising the Awards. While dedicating his award to God, his immediate family and everyone that has contributed to the development of tourism in Nigeria; Runsewe implored all Nigerians to remain united. The NTDC chief also used the opportunity to distribute a book, his personal effort, titled; Hundred ever-green quotes of the great Awo, to everyone in attendance.

In his speech, President Goodluck Jonathan, who was represented by the Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, High Chief Edem Duke congratulated the Awardees and advised the media to be sensitive in its reportage of security-related issues in the country.

Niger Delta Students hail Runsewe
Not to be outdone, the National Association of Niger Delta Students (NANDS) has also acknowledged the monumental strides recorded by Otunba Olusegun Runsewe since he assumed duty as NTDC Director General.

The students, through NANDS President Comrade Lucky Emonefe, during a courtesy visit to Otunba Runsewe in Abuja, applauded the NTDC DG for his commitment to actualising the total success of President Goodluck Jonathan's Transformation Agenda.

Delivering his keynote address, Emonefe, leader of the 15-year-old Niger Delta students' body; said: 'We came to crest your name in gold in the sand of history based on your antecedents and your support of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan's transformation agenda'.

Now Chairman, Governing Council of IIJ
Furthermore, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe FIMS, FABE, OON was recently appointed Chairman, Governing Council of the International Institute of Journalists (IIJ). The IIJ is affiliated to University of Maiduguri and the journalism school's Visitor is Comrade Garba Mohammed.

In a letter, signed by Mr. Afolabi Olusola, IIJ Registrar and dated March 29, 2012, announcing Runsewe's appointment as Governing Council Chairman; the NTDC DG is rightly described as 'A man of outstanding performance, who strives at all times to improve the quality of any situation he is involved in'.

Tourism Development Fund, a necessity
At another forum, the NTDC DG reiterated his call for the establishment of a Tourism Development Fund (TDF). Otunba Runsewe re-echoed this view while receiving Abuja Zone executive members of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), led by vice president, Susan Akporiaye, at the Tourism Village in Abuja.

Runsewe said the Corporation was working hard to ensure realisation of the Tourism Development Fund, which is expected to signal a major boost in the growth of the sector in Nigeria.

Speaking further, the NTDC boss, who observed that a lot of opportunities abound within Nigeria's tourism industry, went on to express regret about the dearth of expertise among practitioners on how the industry works. He declared that these practitioners' poor grasp of how the industry operates remains a major setback to the growth and development of tourism in Nigeria.

He, however, assured that the NTDC was nonetheless committed to working with tourism and travel associations like NANTA and advised all travel agencies and tour operators to function and coordinate their activities so as to eliminate quacks in the industry. On its part, NANTA promised to redefine its role in the tourism industry with the help of NTDC, while reaffirming total cooperation with the corporation, even as it agreed that more needed to be done to encourage the flow of in-bound tourist traffic, instead of the prevailing situation, where tour operators seem stuck to only selling tickets.

Endorses Aagboko Day fest
In a related development, the NTDC is poised to further expand the frontiers of tourism promotion in Nigeria, through its endorsement of this year's Aagboko Festival, billed to run on April 7 and 8 in the Idoma spiritual heartland of Otukpo in Benue State. The NTDC Director General, Otunba Runsewe, made this known during a courtesy visit to the Tourism Village by a team from Aagboko Community Development Association, led by the body's President General, Chief Jonathan A. Ocheibi.

The theme of 2012 Aagboko Festival is Celebration of Outstanding Performance, said Ocheibi; who pointed out, that; 'Like previous ones, this year's edition will be hosted by Senate President David Mark'. According to Chief Ocheibi, Aagboko 2012 will comprise two segments: The first will feature the spiritual context that throws up several ancestral dances, while the grand finale will showcase the formal enthronement of Chief Akatu Ahubi as Och'Ewulo; revealed a statement from NTDC Press Unit.

Chief Ocheibi, who had earlier informed the NTDC helmsman that the visit was pursuant to the community's quest to invite Nigeria's apex tourism body to the 2012 edition of the festival, added that, aside inviting Otunba Runsewe to the Indaba; his visit was also to humbly solicit the NTDC's support for Aagboko Festival 2012, particularly as regards publicity, cultural troupes, security and entertainment, among others.

Profuse with apologies for the short notice, Chief Ocheibi went on to explain that Aagboko aims at fostering peace, progress and socio-economic development of the community. Additionally, Aagboko; he expatiated, is held with a view to consolidating Idoma nation integration as well as promoting their common heritage.

The NTDC Press statement also quoted Chief Ocheibi as saying: 'Sir, we deeply regret gate-crashing into your organisation with our request, considering the hard times. The annual festival is geared towards a committed course for peace-building, progress and socio-economic development of our people. During Aagboko Festival 2012, we intend to provide a vent for promoting our cultural heritage through dancing, music, arts and other entertainments'.

To conclude, Chief Ocheibi; while thanking Runsewe on behalf of the Aagboko Association for his 'exemplary contributions to the socio-economic transformation of the country'; requested the inclusion of the annual Aagboko Day Festival in the NTDC calendar.

In his response, the NTDC DG thanked the delegation for their visit and assured them of NTDC's total support towards a successful 2012 edition of Aagboko Day Festival.

Team Nigeria gets NTDC's pre-Olympics boost
If you think sports is all about physical exertions with no time for relaxation, then you need to think again. Sports are good because it helps to build a good body around a sound mind, but there's more to sports than tracks and field.

Like virtually every other human activity, sport has its tourism angle. To start with, competitors, umpires, officials and spectators all have to travel to the venue. In many cases, the event takes place outside your town, so one must arrive a day or earlier and take up accommodation in a hotel or guesthouse throughout the sojourn.

Moreover, whereas a football world cup final match cannot last more than three hours, assume the encounter went into extra-time and eventually penalty shoot-out; the players and spectators would have spent days in the town hosting the tournament.

In other words, while the soccer final, the principal reason behind every visitor's presence in the host community, often does not last more than 90 minutes; hotels, nightclubs, restaurants, cafes, transport operators, money exchangers and every other tourism facility are tapped for days before and even days after the sporting event had ended.

And, so it was that during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, hosted by South Africa and the very first ever on the African continent;

The Nigeria Village erected by the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) proved a big hit not only for our compatriots but nationals of other countries in need of a place to unwind after the day's business.

In line with the NTDC's desire to come up with something, anything positive, to project Nigeria's image; the Otunba Olusegun Runsewe-led body has again thought up a brilliant idea in support of Team Nigeria going to the next Olympic Games. The idea, in a nutshell, is to mobilise 1,000,000 supporters for Team Nigeria. And, the exercise was launched at Planet One, Maryland in Lagos a few hours before the NTDC helmsman set out for the German capital, Berlin, for this year's ITB, weeks ago.

Seated next to Mr. Ikechi Uko, Project Coordinator of Seven Wonders of Nigeria, among others; Otunba Runsewe explained that booklets of raffle tickets had been printed and that every Nigerian was invited to fill a ticket for free.

The NTDC has even added a digital dimension to this campaign with its online signature mobilisation and support for Team Nigeria for this year's Summer Olympics in London. At the end, a draw would be held from which winners will emerge. Each winner will subsequently enjoy an NTDC-sponsored trip to, and a few days' stay at, each of the 7 Wonders of Nigeria.

A branded banner depicting the Mobilisation Tourism concept launched by the NTDC to garner One Million Supporters for Team Nigeria in the forthcoming Olympics was unfolded during the event, where Runsewe said it was the NTDC's way of promoting domestic tourism, while concurrently helping more Nigerians to appreciate the allurements of their country.

With this kind of synergy, you simply can't go wrong. Although the original plan was for Otunba Runsewe to meet with some 15 or so tourism reporters/travel writers, at the end of the day; about 50 people crammed into the venue. Interestingly, a few more even turned up as we were emerging from the hall after the event. Everyone wants to identify with a winner… Yes, this adage must be true.