Otunba Segun Runsewe is a Nigerian of different mould and make. He loves Nigeria so much and, as a frontline influencer in culture and tourism, he broods sometimes when challenges of development seem to make Africa’s biggest economy crawl on its knees. One of such areas is the recent tension between Nigeria and Ghana.
So, when he forwarded me an invitation to a West African travel and tourism programme in Ghana, where he was to be conferred with a diadem as the icon of the culture tourism of the year across the region, nay Africa, I knew he was undecided to accept the gesture not because it was not deserving but because of the tension between Nigeria and Ghana.
Ghana Tourism Authority, significantly, was heavily involved in the award project, which again is the brain child of a Nigerian tourism facilitator, Mr. Ikechi Uko, of Africa Travel Quarterly magazine (ATQ) and Akwaaba Travel Market. On the invitation, he had promised to call to discuss its full impact, possibly if he should accept the award. After two days and he was not forthcoming, it dawned on me that he needed me to take a position and I laid out those expectations the best way I could understand it. He responded immediately, confirming my position to engage the project since he forward it to me. We spoke on strategy, and the rest is history.
Last week, Ghanaians knew a pan-Africanist, a tourism diplomat and communicator was in town. Runsewe electrified the event and got our brothers across Africa, not just Ghanaians, entrapped about the beauty of intra-African unity and brotherhood. It was a lesson in history from a Nigerian, a cultural tourism enigma well-grounded in the business of tourism communication and its many unexplained advantages that both sides of the divide across Africa are yet to understand.
As an experienced influencer in the business and unarguably the best, he waded through the forgotten history of Nigeria-Ghana relationship through sports (football) and dropped shocking but pleasant bombs of Yakubu Mabo, Baba Eleran and others who were by birth Ghanaians but wore the colours of Nigeria. Same of also on the side of Ghana were Nigerians who stood with Ghana and wore the colours of the great Black Stars.
The hall broke up in shocked surprise, plaudits rained cats and dogs, Ghanaians, young and old stood up in appreciation of historical truth and testimony of a brotherhood feasted recently by ignorance, economic and social dislocation and unbridled rivalry.
Our brothers from South Africa who had seen the measure and weight of Runsewe’s influence on this business, a neglected sector, joined the appreciative crowd, denied of the history of where Africa is coming from and possibly where it is heading to. Where I sat in the back, a vintage position to help interrogate this reality of the moment, I was proud again to be a Nigerian. Indeed, Runsewe made Nigeria proud and the delegates from Nigeria at the event, not excluding the organizers, knew that they got the right man to the do right job, to break the hold of unnecessary tension between brothers who have a long history of partnership and co-operation.
Wait for the cake, the beauty from a master creative artist, a cultural tourism chef who knows how to generate sustainable people-to-people, culture-to-culture project. As the headmaster given the floor to address critical issue of development, Runsewe cleverly calmed the effervescent crowd, requested that the Ghanaians’ tourism influencers, ministers and the traditional rulers present and some select Nigerians come out to the podium.
“What is he up to again?” Someone sitting by my side whispered aloud.
I would be lying if I didn’t know that Runsewe could at any time spring surprises at events of that octane level. We braced for his move, I mean everyone was tense for another truth about these two top West Coast nations. I saw some top Nigerian tourism journalists looking my way for the answer to another riddle from Runsewe.
Like thunder, lighting and action seemingly well practice before hand, Runsewe grabbed Nigerian and Ghanaian flags and distributed same to those on the podium, and announced with authority and candour the birth of Nigeria-Ghana friendship club.
The crowd roared in appreciation and approval. It was like a late goal in a keenly contested football match and everyone went into jubilation and excitement about the Nigeria-Ghana friendship club. It became the instant toast and broke into song on the streets of beautiful Accra.
It is done, I told myself as we headed out to our embassy at Roman Ridge, where Runsewe was received with much reverence and awe by top embassy officials who stood in for Ambassador Olufemi Akitoye, who was on official assignment outside Ghana. To cement the gesture, Runsewe donated brochures and other critical promotional materials on Nigeria’s culture and tourism to help the embassy promote and market the numerous socio-economic and cultural endowments of Nigeria.
Mission accomplished? Oh, yes, Runsewe’s message from Nigeria was not about our weakness and challenges but of a nation on the path to greatness, presence of power and a respected huge contributor to peace and development across Africa. This cultural tourism engagement and the message therein is just about to begin, where next after Ghana? Watch out on this space.