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Tourism, COVID-19 and a new dawn of service delivery, by Folorunsho Coker




Calibrating the Impact

Certainly, the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) or simply the coronavirus, which causes the coronavirus disease referred to as COVID-19, has occasioned one of the greatest disruptions to human existence since its break out in November 2019.

Its grisly impacts have not only shown up in the spiral of mortalities across the world – from the Western to Northern Hemispheres, but it has more so led to the unravelling of huge dimensions of the global economy, prompting the major losses of jobs and livelihoods, putting healthcare systems under tremendous pressures, while equally deepening the burden of countries, which have to create newer forms of safety nets for their people.

In many African states, the tally from lockdowns attendant upon the spread of the virus has seen to the growing incidence of poverty, resurgent immiseration, and worsening fiscal outlooks, which have added to the general fragility of the states. With over four million recorded cases of coronavirus infection in the continent and more than 100,000 deaths, the disaggregated data for Nigeria reveals over 162,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and 2,049 mortalities at the March-ending 2021 count.

The disruption wrought by coronavirus to the tourism and hospitality sector globally deflected its upward thrust as a dependable form of economic activity, source of jobs and also the wealth of nations. It was a sector that had accounted for as much as $9 trillion of the world’s GPD, over 7 per cent of global trade and about one in every 10 jobs – totalling up as some 330 million positions, worldwide, as recently as 2018.

On the continental level, tourism and its associated sectors have been noted as adding $166 billion to the GDP of Africa in 2019 by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), constituting 7.1 per cent of the entire GDP of Africa, at a growth rate of 2.2 per cent over the previous year.

In Nigeria, tourism and a number of its allied industries, from travel to hospitality, had generated revenues in excess of N1.2 trillion, about 4 million direct jobs, coupled with many more along its expanding value chain, which all kept over 10,000 SMEs preoccupied. As a web of interconnected livelihoods, the tourism and hospitality sector made a significant contribution to the national gross domestic product.

Yet, the rupture from progression induced by the coronavirus has seen to the major contraction of the global GDP by between 3 and 5 percent since early 2020, an erosion of about 80 per cent of the value of tourism worldwide, which is heeled to the loss of almost $2 trillion in international visitors’ spending and the whittling away of tens of millions of jobs.

By the close of 2020, there had been a global loss of over 1.2 billion international tourist arrivals – an attrition of more than 74 per cent of the 2019 traffic, with the African figure being about just 18 million arrivals, making for a 75 per cent loss.

The Weakening of Demand

The adverse impact of the coronavirus on economies across the world led to a huge reduction in demand in the tourism, travel, hospitality and cognate industries, which are traditionally hinged on human contact. As the pall of fear became entrenched and coupled with the lockdowns imposed by governments, these impelled a vast human recoil that greatly eroded economic activities across countries.

In the mono-product economy that Nigeria is, the petering out of commodity demand consequently motivated a crash in the price of oil in the international markets, signaling the bottoming out of government revenue, and prompting a huge ripple effect on incomes and jobs. This culminated in the abrasion of purchasing power, severely weakening consumer demand across a range of sectors, including tourism and hospitality.

Weakened demand cut through the entire gamut of tourism and hospitality, alongside its wide value chain, and deeply affected subsectors such as transportation – from the airlines to waterway conveyance and railways; food and beverages – including catering operators, cafes, and restaurants; accommodation – involving hotels, and other forms of lodging; and the entertainment sector – with its film houses, concert venues and events centres, etc.

As demand tanked, this not only impacted the economy but also education, political and cultural institutions, with the latter witnessing many of its locations closed, including World Heritage Sites, and deferments to communal cultural practices.

Besides over 80 per cent of hotels and other hospitality concerns undergoing major downturns and similar levels of impact as a result of the coronavirus offensive, one metaphor that is illustrative of the unfortunate condition of the sector is the airline industry. This is an industry reputed to have earned global revenues in the region of $600 billion prior to the advent of the virus, but which sadly incurred a loss of some $314 billion in 2020, resulting from an unprecedented -80 per cent decline in international passenger traffic.

In Nigeria, the assault of the virus has only compounded the situation of the airline industry, which is now cumulatively tottering on the verge of collapse, and in need of another round of government financial intervention.

The Dawning of Recovery

The trajectory of recovery from the deleterious impacts of the coronavirus on the tourism and hospitality sector is anchored as much on the effective adoption of the safety protocols designed by international and local health regulators and officials, as in the administration of the COVID-19 vaccines that are being rapidly gained access to by many across great swathes of the world.

With both the non-pharmaceutical and pharmaceutical forms of prophylaxis and intervention, the climate of fear that had enclosed peoples and communities through the globe is lifting. Also, recovery is hitched to the reinvention and transformation of economies, drawing deeply from the lessons offered by the disruption of COVID-19, which bodes well for the tourism and hospitality industry, in terms of the healing for people, for prosperity and destinations.

While the nature of the post-COVID-19 recovery is not fully clear at this point, what can be conjectured is the likelihood of its unevenness across spaces and differences in location, with some likely to be faster than others. Yet, in contemplation of the bounce back after a raft of disasters, misfortunes and pandemics, such as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Ebola and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), history shows us that the recoveries are never prolonged. The pattern is not likely to be fundamentally different this time either, even when people would definitely entertain a lot more caution in resuming erstwhile levels of activity.

Still, indications and evidence point out that the notion of recovery in the tourism and hospitality sector is going to be initially linked to the spike in the fortunes of domestic tourism, which is closer home than international experience-seeking. Fortunately, this aligns firmly with the policy focus of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) that I lead, as it evolved in our strategy outlay described as the CHIEF plan, from which was spawned our flagship programme, “Tour Nigeria.” This is the flank from which we are driving recovery in Nigeria.

As many countries are developing measures towards the building of a more resilient tourism and hospitality industry in the post COVID-19 era, these would have to include efforts within the frame of sustainable recovery, as signaled by the digital transition that we are all enmeshed in and which served the basis for adaptation during the heights of the coronavirus affliction. This is tourism and hospitality that equally needs to be greener and more future-ready.

Harnessing the Digital Transition

We now live in a world of adjusted living and the series of global lockdowns earlier gone through in most places as part of the strategy of containment of the coronavirus, speeded up our adoption of a contactless world, and primed our reliance on digital technologies for activities extending from payments to e-commerce, education, and the general marketing of most things. The lessons from this show that technology has come to play a more salient role in our reality than was the case before the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and going forward the Nigerian tourism and hospitality industry would need to find new ways of engaging with technology in growing the sector to the extent of its potentials.

Even with the gradual healing coming with recovery, as vaccines are being administered as pushback to the virus, the full resumption of contact-based activities will not likely happen as quickly as many would have wanted, hence the need to reinvent ourselves and professions in line with the newer reality. New digital compliant products would need to be developed, while the marketing of tourism will have to take advantage of the huge convergences on the information superhighways.

Our experience at the NTDC saw us leveraging technology for the promotion of tourism, as in our engagement with the tech giant, Google and Wikipedia to create a bouquet of tourist experiences, particularly through our leading offering of Tour Nigeria. The tourism and hospitality industry must be positioned, not only to benefit from the reach of technology but also to take on the efficiency it offers in delivering services to people.

Tourism and hospitality, all over the world, and in Nigeria is big business, which is why the Nigerian government recognised it for its potentials and drew these into plans for economic diversification and a post-COVID era. Big businesses are aligning with the new economic direction opened up by digital technology, and tourism and hospitality cannot afford to be left behind.

Even then, there is the new notion of “promoting attractions in your destination more than the destination itself”, which can be a veritable source of merchandising.

Towards More Efficient Service Delivery

In consolidating on recovery towards greater service delivery in the post-COVID-19 tourism and hospitality industry, the foremost measure that needs to be considered is the rebuilding of the confidence of tourists and stakeholders in the sector. A concert of targeted rebranding and publicity campaigns are important in creating the reassurance needed to re-inspire demand for the products of the industry. Equally, staff and other operatives in the sector need the assurance of security around their livelihoods for them to be able to offer their motivated and unrestrained services.

Closely related to this is the necessity of paying attention to sanitary protocols and hygiene in the industry, through the regular disinfection of facilities to reduce the risks of contagion, etc., while communication strategies and campaigns have to be created around this as a way of shoring up the confidence of tourists about their safety. Henceforth, it would be important for infection prevention programmes to become a strong aspect of the marketing of tourism and hospitality, into the future.

Moreover, general safety policies and programmes have to be put in place to secure the operations of the industry and guarantee the protection of tourists and its patrons.

On a very important level, there is the need for government to help save the sector’s businesses and livelihoods, which have been under serious threat in the wake of the ravages of COVID-19, through economic support and national stimulus packages for the industry. This should be in the form of low interest loans and other fiscal buffers to help in recapitalising tourism and hospitality enterprises, the payment of staff, settling of outstanding payments, updating of equipment and skills in the industry, etc. This could also help the operator in creating competitive products that help in stimulating demand.
Another emerging issue is the necessity of developing frameworks for industry collaborations that assist in the sharing of information, ideas and experiences across stakeholders. This will help in creating partnerships for mutual support and cooperation, which are needed to better withstand circumstances that could be harmful to the industry and its actors.
As alluded to earlier in the instance of NTDC’s collaboration with the tech giants, Google and Wikipedia, the challenges of COVID-19 has enabled a more digital reality, which the industry has to be a part of to survive in this new day, as demanded by the great shift in consumer behaviour. Hence, the tourism and hospitality sector needs to accelerate its digital transition and transformation, taking advantage of information and communications technologies to enhance work and industry operations. Cloud-based computing systems now offer a slew of tools for remote working, the cultivation of clientele, and creation of innovative products.
This leads to the need for digital trainings pertaining to technology adoption and online activities, to retool workers on skills needed to function effectively in the brave new world of artificial intelligence, comprising machine learning, that shape new tourism and hospitality experiences. These comprise skills such as big data analysis, digital marketing and market intelligence, in order to understand novel consumer behaviour, and therefore satisfy demands in this regard.
In addition to the foregoing, there has to be improvements in the offerings of the tourism and hospitality industry, as in services for the yet wary consumers, like non-contact orders and delivery, through which they can, for instance, order meals and entertainment through apps, other forms of e-payment systems and innovative platforms, amongst similar possibilities.
I am of the firm believe that while the impact of coronavirus on the tourism and hospitality industry has caused us much to think about and great concern in recent times, yet the opportunities it opens up lay ahead as a grand feast for the brave.
Folorunsho Coker is the Director General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC).


Column / Opinion

Obateru: Celebrating a quintessential PR man at 60




By Obinna Nwachi

The job of managing the image and reputation of a company that many love to hate and others hate to love is no mean task. Very often, one leaves the job inheriting the ‘enemies’ of the company as personal enemies. Very rarely does one leave the job in a gale of accolades as Dr. Kennie Obateru is doing today from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) upon clocking the statutory retirement age of 60.

Obateru assumed office as the Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division of NNPC in March 2020 at a time when various countries across the world, including Nigeria, were going into lockdown to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. He quickly retooled the Division to be able to promptly respond to the challenges of the time. This saw the robust engagement of the Corporation’s publics with the Group Managing Director, Mallam Mele Kyari, leading the charge in clarifying the issues around production cuts, decline in crude oil sales and efforts to shore up revenues for the nation.

Apart from ensuring the vigorous implementation of the corporation’s Transparency, Accountability and Performance Excellence (TAPE) through timely communication of NNPC’s operations and activities, Obateru maintained an open-door policy which ensured prompt handling of all enquiries. This obviously resulted in a near-zero bad press for the NNPC in the one and half years he held sway as the chief reputation manager.

Speaking on Obateru’s style and professionalism, the Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, stated that he owed the very cordial relationship his agency enjoys with NNPC to Obateru’s engaging human relations skills. “It is with mixed feelings I learnt about Kennie’s retirement. Kennie Obateru is a very tall man, taller in ideas but tallest in competence and integrity. He’s a man of details, learns lessons from opportunities and from the ups and downs of life. We had a smooth working relationship with the NNPC during his tenure and it was all due to his style,” he declared.

Stakeholders from across all sectors of the oil and gas industry who had the good fortune to encounter him in his long career that spanned 29 years across various subsidiaries and the Corporate Headquarters of the Corporation are all agreed about Obateru’s excellent human relations skills. One of such is Sopuruchi Onwuka, the publisher of Oracle News who traced his first encounter with Obateru to his days at the Manager, Public Affairs Department, Port Harcourt Refining Company (PHRC), Port Harcourt, Rivers State. He described Obateru as a thoroughbred public relations professional and a perfect relationship manager who succeeded in getting the public to see NNPC through him.

“He is down to earth in his dealing with people. He is polite and urbane. He doesn’t talk down on you or force you to accept his point of view, he wins you over. Another thing I find particularly fascinating about Dr. Obateru is his ability to listen patiently and respond to issues no matter how busy he is. If his busy schedule makes it difficult to take your call and respond to your questions immediately, he will send a text message that he will get back to you, and he returns with answers,” Onwuka stated.

From colleagues and media practitioners who had to deal with daily in the course of his job, none could think of anything negative to say about Obateru as a person or his style as a reputation manager. A veteran energy journalist, Mr Olusola Bello, who related with him closely for years in the course of his job described Obateru thus: “He is a very competent public relations man, he knows his job. He is very accessible and always reaching out. In fact he has a way of drawing people close and taking them into confidence about developments in the industry. This style made it difficult for a lot of us to do stories that could impact on NNPC and its subsidiaries negatively because it would make you feel guilty that you are betraying your source”.

Bello’s submission holds the secret to the general positive reportage NNPC enjoyed throughout Obateru’s tenure as the corporation’s spokesman, a job for which he came fully prepared by virtue of his vast experience within the NNPC and the oil industry. Before his appointment as the Group General Manger, Group Public Affairs of the NNPC in 2020, he was the General Manager, NNPC London Office.

He joined the services of the Corporation in 1992 as an experienced hire and since then has held several key and strategic positions in the Public Affairs Division.

He was Manager, Public Affairs of the National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS), a corporate service unit of the NNPC between 2010 and 2015.

Prior to that, he was Manager, Public Affairs Department, Port Harcourt Refining Company (PHRC) between 2008 and 2010 and was Manager, Media Relations in the Group Public Affairs Division from 2007 to 2008.

Dr. Obateru was Deputy Manager, Media Relations in GPAD between 2006 and 2007, and served as a team member in Project PACE-SMS, CP Core Process Teams between 2005 and 2006.

From 2001 to 2005, he served as Supervisor, Budget & Planning in GPAD. He also doubled as Supervisor, Audio Visual, between 2000 and 2001. His versatility was brought to bear on the print side of the corporate communication business when he diligently served as Editor, NNPC News, a monthly publication of the Group Public Affairs Division from 1998 to 2000.

Between1993 and1998, Dr. Obateru was the Protocol Officer to the then Honourable Minister of Petroleum Resources. He cut his teeth in the Corporation as a Protocol and Consular Officer between 1992 and1993.

He is an alumnus of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Lagos; University of Ilorin and University of Stirling, Scotland, United Kingdom, where he obtained a Certificate in News Reporting, a B.A. (Hons) Performing Arts and an M.Sc. in Public Relations respectively.

In 2012, Obateru joined the doctoral club of eggheads when he was awarded a Doctorate Degree in Management (Honoris Causa) by the Commonwealth University, Belize.

He has attended numerous professional courses and conferences at home and abroad which included three (3) International Public Relations Association Conferences, five (5) World Petroleum Congresses (WPCs) and 15 OPEC Ministerial Conferences among others.

Dr. Obateru is a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants, a member of the International Public Relations Association, a senior member of the Africa Public Relations Association as well as a member of the Nigeria Institute of Management.

His hobbies include Lawn Tennis, Table Tennis, reading and dancing. Dr. Obateru is happily married and his union is blessed with four children.

Dr. Obateru bows out after 29 years of meritorious service to the NNPC.

Obinna Nwachi, a public commentator and analyst, wrote in from Abuja.

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Column / Opinion

Osun: Celebrating ‘the cradle of Yoruba civilisation’ at 30, by Zainab Suleiman Okino




Ignore the irony in the title of this article. Osun state is home to Oduduwa, the progenitor of Oranmiyan, the prime-heir of Ile-Ife who returned to claim his grandfather’s throne and became king. I’m not about to stir any controversy over Oranmiyan’s place in Yoruba folklore, but to state clearly that Osun state is a reservoir of a rich history beyond 30 years, though its creation is now a part of that rich chronicle. 

With Osun’s remarkable past, it is no surprise that the state’s founding fathers sought and fought for its creation which came to fruition on August 27, 1991 when ex-military president, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida created the state.

30 years after, under the leadership of Governor Isiaka Adeboyega Oyetola, the state rolled out the drums not just to celebrate, but to create more history, with series of events to mark the 30th anniversary of the state’s creation. One of such events is a colloquium held on September 8,2021, and where yours truly served as a panelist. The colloquium was described by the governor as the “intellectual arm of the 30th anniversary of our state, to interrogate the performance of the state so far, examine possible gaps and project for a sustainable future that all crave for as a people and desire to bequeath”. 

The colloquium was moderated by renown scholar, Professor Niyi Akinnaso, who together with the panellists discussed the keynote address presented by a former governor of the state, Chief Bisi Akande whose speech revolved around the dreams of the “founding fathers and past leaders of the state for achieving an optimum community and laying a foundation for the prosperous future of the state”, in a paper titled “Osun @ 30: Celebrating Milestones, Building a Prosperous Future”.

The event was chaired by the Sultan of Sokoto, his Eminence, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III who said that the state’s decision of a colloquium to celebrate its landmark 30th anniversary “is a significant strategy for linking the past with the present and the future to build a sustainable enterprise”. And the audience did get a good dose of history and its relevance in charting the course of their future” adding that “ it was no surprise that in Osun’s years of statehood, it has produced a galaxy of stars in all sectors and areas of human endeavour” as the state is blessed with both human and natural resources.

As the custodian of the people’s culture, the Ooni of Ife, His Imperial Majesty Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi paid glowing tributes to the past and present leaders in the state, while expressing happiness over the progress the state has made in the last 30 years. He also cautioned politicians not to play politics that could divide the state: “Osun is better today than when it was created…the journey of 30 years began with some people’s efforts and we appreciate the founding fathers, past administrators  and incumbent governor, for their contributions to the growth and development of Osun. Osun is greater than every single individual, and it has become necessary to stress this fact for our people to be careful not to allow politics and other interests to disintegrate us”

Chief Akande described the “the Optimum Community as a definable people’s settlement capable of raising and sustaining a minimum of a standard secondary school…a youth educational secondary institution…in other words, such a secondary institution would accommodate students population of between 420 and 850 youth. In this way, community development architecture should reasonably be designed to target people around every corridor of such standard secondary schools which become the nucleus of an ‘optimum community’ and a major development unit”.
The optimum community concept has ensured the rise and rise of such development units and all-encompassing development of the state especially in the area of education, which has expanded the frontiers of the state to other sections of  society’s strata. Osun state boasts of at least 14 higher institutions among them , a federal university, Obafemi Awolowo University, a state university, seven private universities, one federal polytechnic, one state polytechnic, one college of technology, two state colleges of education and a newly approved federal university of health sciences to make it 15. This exceptional stand in education has put the state in a good stead. It is therefore no coincidence that the state boasts of the highest number of professors and PhD holders in Nigeria. 

Education of the mind presupposes a positive social construct of the people. As a first-time visitor to Oshogbo, the state’s capital, I looked out for anecdotes that piece together to make the people who they are. There is no gainsaying the fact that their education has contributed in no small measure to their exposure and urbane traits. I must say I was impressed by the way the people I met conducted themselves. My initial reluctance to make the trip soon gave way to cautious optimism when the protocol people picked me from Ibadan airport to Oshogbo. Then came the day of the event. Then I saw the overwhelming joy of the people—old and young, who gathered at the state’s event centre for the occasion.

Governor Oyetola demonstrated his commitment in the service of the state in his speech and deed. Compared with some governors who attend only the opening ceremony of such events, the governor sat through an almost four-hour event. he said: “as an administration, we have instituted this colloquium to celebrate our shared values and our collective resolve that have delivered the Osun that we desire and to give vent to our dream to prosecute our development agenda which is our strategy and road map to put our dear state on the part of sustainable development. We are confident that just as the foundation laid by our forefathers 30 years ago has earned us a viable place in the national and international space, our decision to lay bricks of contemporary governance structures will build a prosperous and sustainable future.

“This 30th anniversary is the end of a phase and the beginning of another: the beginning of  sustainable governance and development, the beginning of a new era for a generation of Osun citizens that will ride on the wings of knowledge, technology and entrepreneurship to realise their potential, shut the door against unemployment, create wealth and radically transform the economy of the state”. Indeed, with the colloquium and the coming together of sons and daughters of the state, Governor Oyetola has further enriched the history of Osun and the embodiment of Yoruba civilisation.

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Column / Opinion

Wada Maida’s touch on journalism, Oche Echeija Egwa




On Thursday, September 16, 2021, headquarters of News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) in Abuja was formally renamed Wada Maida House, a befitting honour to a veteran journalist, who worked most of his life for the agency. Until his death, August 17, 2020, Malam Wada Abdullahi Maida, 70, was the Chairman of the NAN Board.

Before then, Wada, as he was popularly and preferably known, was Managing Director of the news agency for eight years, after working as Editor-In-Chief. The former Editor-In-Chief, who was a pioneer staff in 1978 with eight others, following the establishment of NAN in 1976, also served variously as Zonal Editor, Kaduna, in charge of Western States, Political Editor and Western Europe Correspondent, London.

Wada’s career trajectory reflects the history of NAN in its 45 years of existence. For the period of his appointment as Chief Press Secretary to then military Head of State, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari in 1984, and retirement to start a private media business of consulting and publishing a newspaper, Peoples’ Daily, Wada’s his image continued to looms large. He influenced many appointments and recruitments, facilitated access to government, states and federal, and used his international network to the advantage of NAN.

To Wada’s credit, his predecessors and successors, NAN remains the most webbed media institution in Nigeria, with a reputation for accuracy and balance in reporting. NAN has hundreds of reporters across 30 states and a metro office in Lagos, many district offices covering major towns and villages, and foreign offices, that until recently, were active as European Office in London, North American and UN Office, New York, West African Bureau, Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire, North Africa, African Union Office, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and South African Office, Johannesburg.

Wada played a major role in the structuring and sustenance of the agency’s global spread to gather news to enrich the content of bulletins and increase subscribers, which include almost all media houses in Nigeria, partnerships and exchange agreements with Reuters, AFP, Xinhua Chinese News Agency, DPA of Germany, Pan African News Agency and Rossiya Segnodya of Russia.

Among some significant milestones and legacies, the former Managing Director ensured that the agency owns its operational buildings in New York, Johannesburg and Abidjan and a five-storey marble edifice in Abuja, which he supervised completion and upgrade of working tools. President Muhammadu Buhari approved the naming of the headquarters after the former Chairman on November 26, 2020.

Conveying the approval, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said it was in recognition of the immense contributions of Wada to the growth of the agency.

“I write to convey my approval for the naming of the NAN headquarters building after the late Wada Maida, who served the agency in many capacities, including Foreign Correspondent, Editor-in-Chief and Managing Director.

“It is my sincere belief that the decision to honour the late Wada Maida is well thought out and that he deserves such a great honour, considering his immense contributions to the development of NAN,” he said.

At the ceremony, Mohammed commended management and staff of NAN for immortalizing Wada. “Wada played a strong role in NAN. The man who built this edifice deserves to be immortalised.’’

“He believed journalism served a higher purpose for peace, harmony and development. If a country goes down everything goes down, with it,’’ Mohammed said. “I appeal to media houses to put Nigeria first. Yes, we have challenges but this administration is working.’’

Wada’s love for journalism started in Secondary School, says his longtime friend and colleague, Sen. Ibrahim Ida. Ida disclosed that the former Managing Director was named Abdullahi Maida at birth, and only got Wada as a pet name while growing up. Wada, taken from “Wadata’’ meant influence and affluence.

The Guest of Honour and Katsina State Governor, Hon. Aminu Bello Masari, said the naming of the NAN House after Wada was well deserved, considering his contribution to the development of journalism in the country and penchant for helping others.

“You can live for 120 years in this world, but what matters is the courage you brought to life and how many people you touched. With this naming, Wada’s life will continue to the end of time.

“That’s a life worth living. He lived for others. Anytime he visited me it was because of the needs of others and his community, not for personal reasons,’’ he said.

Masari noted that the former Managing Director of NAN contributed to the emergence of many media houses, both print and broadcast, in the country, particularly in the Northern part, adding that “the whole of Katsina remains proud of his achievements and many would have made it to Abuja for the ceremony, if they were informed.’’

Senior Special Assistant to the President, Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, described Wada as “an elder brother, mentor and a facilitator.”

“He lived a life of patience & integrity. We should learn to be patient. Good things will come as we wait. Wada thought us not to rush the story; to be thorough. I recall, as editors, we will always wait for the NAN bulletin before our newspapers will go to bed.’’

The passion for reporting, editing, publishing and Public Relations saw Wada through trainings in London School of journalism, Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Aberdeen College of Technology and University of Salford, Manchester and Nigerian Institute of Journalism. He was once President of Nigerian Guild of Editors, and later became a Fellow of the guild.

He was a member of other associations like the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Commonwealth Press Union, Amnesty International, Executive Director of International Press Institute and Chairman of Pan African News Agency (PANA) and Katsina State Broadcasting Corporation.

Wada’s contemporaries in the newsroom, who are also veterans in journalism, his mentees, some former administrators in NAN and other media houses across the country, traditional rulers and political leaders, friends and family were all at the renaming event.

The Managing Director of NAN, Mr Buki Ponle, affirmed that Wada’s leadership guided him to get a first degree and a Master’s degree while working and the former pioneer staff also encouraged him to get a Ph.D, if he wanted.

Ponle said the agency had suffered financial hardship over some years, forcing it to scale down some operations and dream projects for expansion, while thanking Wada’s vision for the progress recorded.

Wada’s family led by his wife, Hajiya Amina and son, Dr Aminu Maida, joined in unveiling the signage, and received a plaque from Governor Masari.

Aminu, witty, reticent and unassuming like his father, thanked President Buhari and the Federal Government for the honour done to his father, telling everyone that the entire family remains grateful to NAN.

 “NAN will continue to be part of our family, and we will always be part of NAN,’’ he said.

Like the Wada Maida House in Central Area, the former Managing Director of NAN continues to stand tall in our memory and a physical structure.

Oche Echeija Egwa, Senior Editor, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) and Chief Information Officer, Office of the Special Adviser to the President, Media and Publicity.

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