Polishing The Pearl Of Tourism

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Ibrahim M. Farouq

Any Kindergarten Economist will tell you that diversification of the economy is key to long term growth and sustainable progress. It’s a no brainer. We all know exploiting comparative advantage in production is the silver bullet to increased revenue generation. However, implementing these ideas and ideals is far from easy. It takes first, the vision to put a competent team and winnable plan in place, and next the discipline and political will to implement. This is where our leaders over the years have fell short. Most talks on diversification of the economy are just that – talks.

In contrast, some few leaders of this generation are standing out. One of them is Mohammed Abubakar of Bauchi state. He has steadily, outside public eye, been polishing the tourism sector of the state. Slowly but surely, the tourism sector is picking up, and major Industry experts are predicting it to shine soon.

It is also important to add, that Abubakar has been doing all this without much hype, and the results are steadily coming in. This no-media-hype move to boost the sector is not only strategic but also brilliant. Here is why.

First, Abubakar knows that boosting Tourism requires money, and this is scarce currently. At present, other sectors of the economy competes for these scarce resources, and critically need more attention. The schools, roads, water projects and health facilities are more important making tourism an opportunity cost that can be rightly forgone. However, rather than let go completely, Abubakar has continued to develop the sector on the side not mainstream.

Again, for tourism to flourish, critical infrastructure must first be put in place. This takes us back to point one. The massive urban renewal in Bauchi plus aggressive implementation of infrastructural projects under Abubakar is laudable. The state owned Zaranda Hotels was last year renovated, modern firefighting trucks have been procured, the state’s international airport is being refurbished, road networks are currently being expanded – all pointing to the fact that supporting infrastructure for tourism to succeed is being put in place. This is knowing one’s priority and putting the horse first.

Furthermore, Bauchi’s slow but steady build-up of its tourism assets to meet international standards is also paying dividends. The restructuring of the administration and facilities of Yankari Games Reserve in late 2015 for instance, has led to increased patronage. The reserve now has an active online presence, the facilities are decent and functional; and both private and public institutions now patronise the place. The CBN held its 2016 Annual Retreat and Workshop there. The State Government also used the facilities at the start of this year for its training, with Commissioners and the Deputy Governor in attendance.

Little wonder the Sole Administrator, Engr. Habu Mamman was quoted as saying even the state government who owns the place, pays to use the reserve. This is what one expects from a Governor who have worked in the Tourism sector to do. Yankari is now a business, with a winnable model that works. For the first time in ages, Yankari’s accounts have shifted from red to green. Tourism in Bauchi is now viable and profitable.

The efforts of Mohammed Abubakar to grow tourism in Bauchi is highly commendable. The Governor in a tweet that went viral called on people to come holiday in the state, taking up the position of Chief Marketing Officer. This singular act prompted enquires about Yankari and Sumo from interested individuals from Lagos to London. Not done yet, Abubakar floated the #ExploreBauchi initiative, where young people from across Nigeria visited the state first hand and shared their experience on social media. His meeting on the 1st of September, 2016 with the Honourable Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Alh. Lai Muhammed indicates the Buhari-led Federal Government is interested in tapping into Bauchi’s culture and tourism potentials. Of particular interest as gathered from the meeting is the annual Bauchi Durbar. Surely, Abubakar is using tourism to place Bauchi on the world map.

In a time when patronising made in Nigeria is gaining momentum, Bauchi has shown that a government product, can be packaged to international standards and commercialised. This is not only commendable, it is desirable.  Other leaders can learn a thing or two from this model.

As citizens, there have never been a better time to patronize the tourism sector in Bauchi than now. We also need to give feedback that can help us grow the sector. This is the only way we can maximise our natural endowment in a manner that will bring pride to us as a people. For the first time in a long while, Government has led the way. It is now for us to follow. We can also leverage social media to share our experience while promoting tourism in our little circles of influence. Let’s hype our own. The socio-economic benefit is worth it.

Governor Mohammed Abubakar has shown that governance in action do not need noise. Most importantly, he has shown, sectors like tourism can be steadily grown without compromising critical sectors like infrastructure, agriculture, education and health. He is polishing the pearl of tourism, beginning from Yankari Games Reserve, Sumo Park, Gubi Lake, rock formations in Dass, to Udubo International Bird Sanctuary. He is polishing our priceless pearls handed to us by nature; we can’t wait to see it shine and share it with the world.

Ibrahim M. Farouq lives in Bauchi and can be reached on [email protected]

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