By Andy Ehanire
The national tourism architecture is known to dovetail from the Federal level to the States and then the Local Governments, where the tourism products actually reside, but FTAN (Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria) has cut itself from the tourism roots through a Constitutional blunder.
In what appears a self inflicted catastrophic path to irrelevance, how else could stakeholders have allowed such to happen with their eyes open and to serve what purpose? Read on!
In my active service years in FTAN Governing Council, we all saw at least two operational Constitutional frameworks that came into effect.
The first was such that relied strictly on the primacy of the tourism associations that formed the Tourism Federation. Most were Lagos based tourism associations that had scant representation across States in the country.
However, at the FTAN AGM of 2006, it was a Constitution that recognized two structures was operational – the usual Federating Associations and then the FTAN State Chapters, considering that Tourism is on the Concurrent legislative schedule. That AGM saw the first and only visible presence of State Chapters, on which platform Chief Edem Duke ran and emerged as FTAN President. Many other functionaries, including my humble self, rode on the platform of State Chapters to FTAN Governing Council.
It is important to note that this 2006 AGM remains the most successful and flamboyant AGM ever held by FTAN, for which credit should go to then FTAN President, Alj Munzali Dantata.
In the ensuing years of spasmodic interregnum, there was again a reversion to the central tourism Associations and the relegation of State Chapters from FTAN AGMs.
It will be recalled that the relegated FTAN Constitution actually went beyond the State Chapters to recognize even FTAN Local Government Chapters! This can easily be justified since the tourism products reside at the Local Government level where the Local Government Tourism Committees occupy the foundations of the national tourism architecture.
I had conjectured then that FTAN was meant to be a mass movement, in which its AGM would attract thousands of delegates, with Governors and LGA chairmen scrambling for roles. The subsequent approach of reverting to only the Lagos and Abuja based associations coincided with the era of lackluster FTAN AGMs, to the extent that I often described these later AGMs as being akin to village meetings. It was as if the operating cliché became ” the less the merrier”.
The hotels group that subdivided itself into multiple representation, have held sway over FTAN without as much as an omnibus perspective or developmental strategy to tourism. They were only interested in dispensing important positions in high organs of FTAN to a small cabal that monetized the electoral process, as well as tied FTAN to their apron strings. It was in view of this circumstance that I made a writeup titled: “The Colonization of FTAN”.
It was even propounded in some of my articles that in view of the complex and diverse stakeholders in tourism, its Presidency should rotate amongst its four legacy associations: That is NANTA, NHA, NATOP and ATPN, rather than the continuing entrenchment of the hotel subsector. It was even conjectured that significant expertise in tourism development resides in ATPN and NATOP – the two legacy associations that are yet to have a shot at FTAN leadership.
Needless to stress the point that in subsequent intervening years, the interest of many informed and committed stakeholders had gradually and continued to wane, due to the tunnel vision of those who scrambled for leadership of FTAN .
The crux of this current writeup is that some Constitutional tinkering during the mediocre leadership of FTAN had the effect of undermining the legitimacy of the Association. I cannot specifically recall when a constitutional restructuring was made to dismantle FTAN State Chapters and to cede full administrative representation to the Zonal Vice Presidents.
This was first observed during a related point raised by the then FTAN VP South East at the FTAN Governing Council meeting in Port Harcourt held at the Presidential Hotel in 2018. Certain altercations led to distraction from this catastrophic misnomer of a new structure that seeks to do away with State Chapter executive Committees. This issue later reared its head when a new Zonal Vice President South – South recently visited Benin City to our warm reception, only for him to reiterated the new structure of FTAN in which State Chapters were now to pave way for a sole State Coordinator appointed by him. It was akin to a declaration of war on the sovereignty of States to organize and legislate for tourism, which is a constitutional policy that was affirmed at the Supreme Court in the case between NTDC and Lagos State Government. So here is FTAN decreeing a structure that will not recognize the full expression of tourism initiatives of private sector stakeholders at State level by their elected representatives.
So, tourism initiatives would be driven from a Zonal level, which, in this case, is to be solely based on the discretion of a Vice President based in Calabar!! Is it not absurd that FTAN is removing the interface between State Chapters and their Governments in exchange for an external Vice President and believing that such will advance the interest of Tourism Stakeholders in the national tourism architecture that has its roots at the States and Local Government levels?
How will FTAN leadership and Stakeholders be so unmindful of the absurdity or shall we say illegality of such a warped structure? I am of the mind of challenging this Constitutional gaffe at the Courts, since this idea of arrogating full control of tourism development to a structure that denies the stakeholders in the States the capacity to organize themselves as elected State Executive Committees, is antithetical to the spirit of the concurrent legislative schedule of Tourism in the Nigerian Constitution. I am not surprised that this so-called new FTAN structure will seek to arrogate the right of State Chapters to have bank accounts to the Zonal Vice President alone, including seeking exclusive access to the States’ Chief Executives. So a State Government will now loose its right of free interface with its local tourism stakeholders for one oligarch who was formerly elected to coordinate State Chapters but now promoted to solely represent all States tourism interests within the Zone from his remote base. Such a Constitutional blunder should never have arisen in the current tourism dispensation and even passed without the vigilance of Stakeholders, or is this another case of collective leadership amnesia in tourism?
It is of great relief that the Association of Tourism Practitioners of Nigeria (ATPN), which is an omnibus organization in Tourism and a precursor to FTAN, still offers an alternative, legitimate, functional structure of elected State Executive Committees of their State Chapters. This becomes a vehicle for optimal organizational interface amongst tourism stakeholders at State and Local Government levels. FTAN has simply shot itself at the foot, on a fast track to irrelevance.
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