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Taking tourism to new heights by Alaba, trouble

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Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

The comfortable, the successful and the well-to-do, in their heart of hearts, wonder how they made it to be comfortable, to be successful and to be well-to-do. In such heart-searching moments they are bound to say: “there, but for the grace of God go I.” It is this sense of ‘remember you did not do this on your own’ that has prompted a new tourism venture.

You see, the CSW (the comfortable, the successful and the well-to-do) love to gaze at the uncomfortable, the unsuccessful (failures) and those who are not well-to-do in order to appreciate their on well-being. The new tourism venture wishes to made them pay for this psychological relief that comes to the CSW by gazing on their opposites. There, but for the grace of God, go I. Alaba and his Oga Trouble have opened a tour of poverty and penury. Along with poverty and penury, there is also the third leg of the tour. It is called failure, not individual failure but communal failure, societal failure, national failure, a country’s failure. Given the abundant resources that Nigeria has in poverty, penury and failure, it has the potential to be the centre of the new tourism stage called the tourism of pure negativism.

Alaba and his Oga Trouble have deliberately not advertised their tourism venture to Nigerians. Yes, like all comfortable, successful and well-to-do people around the world Nigerians in these categories might sometimes wonder how but for the grace of God and so on, but they do not appreciate being reminded of where they are coming from. So, the tourism of ppf (poverty, penury and failure) does not interest them. Even if it did they could not pay to view it. Only western tourists can be made to travel to Nigeria and be made to view poverty, penury and failure. Maybe once the venture gets the approval of Europeans, the Great British and the fabulous dollar rolling Yankees, the Chinese and the Japanese would come in. Then Nigerians would love poverty, penury and failure as tourist attractions!

The tourism products of poverty, penury and failure need no infrastructure. Or rather, it is a venture that already has the wherewithal to prosper. A tour of poverty can either be made on foot or on okada. There are no roads for kombi buses and jeeps. This raises security issues but once poor people realise that this a job and they need not antagonise poverty tourists, there were no threats. Plus the fact that, here was an opportunity to tell the affluent world the story of our poverty, our penury and our failure. And we all love relating our stories to wealthy strangers. The tourists are warned, just as visitors to zoos are warned, not to feed the animals. Here it is simply stated: do not feed the poor!

Poverty, so goes the first story, made a man and woman sell their daughter to a visitor from somewhere nobody knows. The parents, who could not supply the necessary documentation and so forgery had to help did not even tell the buyers the name of their daughter. The girl was devastated. She kept on telling her parents to tell her buyer what her name is but they would not. Even when the buyer asked, they bid him give her whatever name he liked. Being a mere middle man, he decided to leave that heavy responsibility of naming to the final owner. As she was led away and her parents clutched the thirty pieces of silver, the man and woman hoped that once their daughter had made it in the house of bondage she would come back and save her parents.

The penury tour, like the poverty one, does not ask why or how. It simply states and goes on. Streets full of young men hanging around the streets, saluting anyone who looks anything like comfort or success or well. Households full of young girls full of purposeless existence, hanging around, sitting on their hands until their mothers suggest they could be selling out of their pants. Penury as expressed on our dung hills, in our trash cans and in the gutters where plastic poverty might aid penury for a day or two.

The failure tour is our best product. Any country that would snatch failure from the jaws of victory must be the best failure tourism practitioner. Here, contrast is the cleverness needed to get to the tourist. The exhibits on the tour include fertile lands on the banks of two of the greatest rivers in the world. And these rivers have thousands of smaller flowing waters feeding the two rivers. And at the delta, as the single unified rivers leisurely go to deliver to the Atlantic wealth undreamed of in a thousand years are deposited for the wise to see.

There are other exhibits: the incredible muscled arms of our men made lax by lack of work; the wonderful pliant hair of our females discarded for the gloss of foreign hair: the brains of thousands of our wise men and women whose products proliferate, surrounded by forest, captured by creepers; billions and billions which could be used to better the situation and avoid failure dumped in soak aways, buried in farms and forgotten in water tanks.

This is not the place to speak of the profound effect that the poverty, penury and failure tourism products have had on the tourists who have taken the tours. Human beings as they are, they have been moved. And being moved, they wish to contribute to alleviating poverty, checking the spread of penury and preventing continuing failure. They have been cured of their humanitarian impulse by being told that it is not as if the Nigerians are not aware of these possibilities.

After all, our leaders tell us to go back to the land, to till the land. But did the till the land to be comfortable, successful and well-to-do. No. They tilled the national till. And their hope is that every Nigerian, through federal character will have a chance at tilling the till. U till then let our tourism products of poverty, penury and failure flourish!


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