Our industry has grown tremendously from what it was 20 years ago, Folorunsho Coker says. And Nigerian fashion, food and music is tremendously at it’s the best. In this interview with Stellamaries Amuwa, he shares some highlights on tourism revenue which according to him, is already growing yearly in Nigeria just as it is globally
Could you please introduce yourself?
My name is Folorunsho Coker. I am the director-general of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC).
Where are you from?
I am from Lagos Island local government area of Lagos State.
What do you do sir?
I work for my country, I work for you.
What can you say are your achievements so far?
Talk about corporate governance and regulation, the passage of the new NTDC Act through the Nigerian Senate which has been futile since 2002 is now pending in the federal House of Representatives for concurrence. For human capital development, we began the digitalisation of NTDC with the training and empowering of staff in collaboration with Google for best practices in the tourism business, particularly in the area of data gathering.
As for our infrastructural development, we drafted the preliminary tourism development plan for the rehabilitation of the Tiga Dam, Kano State, National Park and Zoo, Katampe Hill, the Owu Waterfalls in Kwara State, Kurra Falls – 64 hectares of land allocated by Plateau State government under design and we are rebranding the NTDC logo. We also got the chance to host the Nigerian Flavours in collaboration with the NIHOTOUR. We are promoting culture in the area of food, music and arts.
For finance and investment, we put together the improved collaboration and partnership with both private entities and other stakeholders for support towards the development of the tourism industry in Nigeria. The objective is to pursue funding for capital projects in the tourism sector.
Would you say it has been a smooth sail all through?
I thank God for my portion in life. Could it be better? Could it be worse? I am grateful for where I am today and by the grace of God, I will continue to be grateful.
Where do you see Tourism in Nigeria in the near future?
We are approaching a stage where we don’t have a choice but to consider and invest in it. It is not a choice anymore. We are putting things together to deliver more energy. Tourism revenue is already growing yearly in Nigeria, just as it is globally. We are at the crest of doing so much in our country, for our country and for ourselves. I think because of what is happening globally, Nigerians are beginning to look inward and our share number will soon transform the ecosystem of our tourism.
What has been your greatest challenge in handling your responsibility?
Like every other government parastatal, Nigeria has come out of recession funding and that gap between what we need and what we have, allows for some agitations, taxing problems, staff issues and it all stands for one thing that is funding. Beyond that, I think there is no challenge that is insurmountable.
What do you do for leisure?
I like being in the water so I swim or go boat riding. I like good food, I don’t joke with my Ogbono, Efo Riro or Afang soup. I like ’Eko’ because I am progressing in years now and I have to be careful with carbohydrate, bread, rice, those things. I drink warm drinks and cold ones because of all the advice we have heard.
Tell us about your family
I belong to a large lovely family and I am grateful to God for that. My father is alive, 95 years old. My mother is alive, 80 years, and I have a beautiful wife from Katsina. We are blessed with many children. Like I believe in my country, I also believe in my family. When I am up or down, my family members stay with me. No matter who I am, I am a black, Nigerian and Yoruba.
What is your take on fashion and style?
I think Nigerian fashion is just it, our women are the most beautiful in the world. The fashion sense, anything you like is here in Nigeria. Our industry has grown tremendously from what it was 20 years ago and it’s amazing, just like our music. You remember that all we had back then was Michael Jackson and others. Now all we listen to is Wizkid, Davido and their likes, we have gone exclusively indigenous. If you look at fashion, most of us go on our traditional attires. Look at me now, what I’m wearing was made in Nigeria. I bought the material in Kurmi Market, Kano and my tailor made the attire. My cap is an indigenous Yoruba cap sown by my tailor, not Gucci, Dolci and Gabbana. I wear simple clothes. I believe in quality, it does not matter who made it. Why do I wear it? The colour, the texture, and the quality. The simpler it is, the timeless it becomes. I can wear this buba and shokoto for the next ten years.
Which is your favourite genre of music and why?
I like the Nigerian music. I grew up on Ebenezer Obey and King Sunny Ade and as I grew older, I encounter Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Victor Olaiya, and others. Now the contemporary music has exploded and I like the complete patron from the energy of Davido to the talented Wizkid, and to the professionalism of our entertainers, just the complete patron. And I know a lot of them. I like to use the screen for education rather than entertainment so I spend a lot of time watching documentaries that go on around the globe.
Where is your favourite tourist location in Nigeria?
I like Lagos because I like water. I like the energy of the city and the people, it’s my state, my family home. I like Kano because it has an energy similar to Lagos. I like the culture and traditions of the people in Kano.