By Ogaziechi Nnedi
The visit of CNN’s Richard Quest to Nigeria came with a cocktail of events and his one-week stay somewhat dramatically turned the attention of the people in government and even the media away from themselves to the very dramatic and versatile anchor and presenter.
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Even though the visit was almost subsumed under the now popular jollof rice controversy, a lot can still be taken away by the reporter’s visit. He had very complimentary things to say about the energy and vibrancy of the Nigerian youth.
Contrary to the perception that the country seems irredeemable, Quest informed the world that although the country has leadership challenges, the people are neither bad nor indolent.
He had only praises for the resilience, energy and entrepreneurial spirit of the Nigerian youth and had this to say, ‘’I am leaving Nigeria with optimism. The young people I have met since getting here are phenomenal”.
The words of Mr Quest might seem ordinary but given his grasp of economic issues and their impact on productivity and development around developed and developing economies around the world, it is good most of our leaders were around to listen to what he had to say.
It is very ironical that the youths of this country are only truly remembered during elections either as campaign ground crowds, voters or election thugs. Very little investment is made on the Nigerian youth with a view to development.
The education, health, health, security and other sectors very key to the total development of the Nigerian youth do not seem to be priorities and this has been so since the return of democracy in 1999.
He was equally appalled at the lack and decay of basic infrastructure as he even pointed out the number of electricity generating sets in the hotel where he was hosted. He kept lamenting about the type of leadership that Nigeria has been plagued with for a very long time.
Richard has been around the world and is known to be a perfect ‘story teller’ (for lack of a more appropriate description) when it comes to travel and tourism, aviation, money markets, economic hubs around the world and major country selling points.
It therefore remains to be seen the investment mileage Nigeria would get from his visit. The group of Ministers that lined up to speak to Quest (reminded one of World Economic Forum Davos) did very little to market the country to investors and tourists – two major groups that promote revenue earnings for countries.
It was amusing to hear a minister tell him when he drew the comparisons of Marakesh in Morocco, Dubai and Tokyo say that Nigeria’s Nollywood makes about fifty movies in a year. For a man used to a Hollywood industry that people spend as many as ten years to produce quality, Oscar-worthy films, it is surprising what must have gone on in his head at that moment.
Given what successive governors of Cross River state have achieved with the Obudu Resort and the other tourism potentials in Calabar, it is a mystery why the organisers of his visit did not seize the opportunity to market that very inviting tourism haven that can earn Nigeria huge foreign exchange.
The jollof rice controversy that emanated from the response of Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the information Minister to Quest’s question about the country with the best jollof rice (with a plate of Nigerian jollof rice on his hands) that Senegal ‘probably’ made the best jollof rice would definitely take some time to die down.
Ironically, the reporter had intermittently made reference to the tourism value (literarily) of the popular Nigerian jollof rice and for a plate of it to be provided for his Live presentation was such an anti climax for the whole programme. Not a few people felt that our information minister let the best tourism diplomacy opportunity pass Nigeria by. It further shows the disconnect between the country’s leadership and the people.
If the minister had a connection with trends he would have known that just like the rivalry between the Ghanaian Black Stars and the Nigerian Super Eagles, the two countries’ youths have spent the last few years arguing about which country cooked the best jollof rice.
The damage control attempt of talking about the origin of jollof rice should not even be pushed forward because for a plate to be made available to Mr Quest was not in anticipation of a history lesson about the origin of jollof rice. Richard’s instant display of outrage was priceless. There is what is called economic diplomacy. That particular response might have cost Nigeria a lot.
Richard Quest has come and gone, he made his observations and spoke out loudly, he told his hosts that they have the best material and human capital in the world but that something has to be done in other to maximise the opportunities. As always, he never does blind political or economic PR. Where ever Quest goes, he seeks to market either the tourism, economic potential or aviation industry because Quest usually means business and as he came, he meant business. Do we