By Usen, Polycarp
There is a popular dictum that the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
While in a distant land (somewhere in Nigeria) when Akwa Ibom State was administered under the leadership of former Governor Godswill Obot Akpabio, CON now the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, the State was known to be the headquarters of “World Conferences”, owing to infrastructural renaissance, renovation and development of new tourism sites.
Indubitably, government in the last few years has been on efforts to give the sector a new face, yet, most of the tourist attractions in the state which could have earned a spot for state and Nigeria at large on the global tourism map, have remained a sad tale. Akwa Ibom has been strategically positioned by nature, where secret treasures are kept with beautiful scenery across its geographical boundaries. Again, the people that occupy these boundaries are known to be industrious, intelligent and outstandingly hospitable which makes it a plus for tourists to visit, as well as explore.
It could be recalled that in August 2021, the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly passed a Bill to establish the State Tourism, Arts and Culture Endowment Fund (AKSTACEF) into law. This, however, was to dedicate funds in order to give tourism a facelift across the state while developing new ones, to preserving and maintaining tourism and historical sites. It is to the writer’s amazement that the Bill is yet to be assented by the sitting Governor.
Tourism is one of the critical sectors of developed and developing economies. And having been endowed with beautiful landscapes and historical sites, developing and repositioning the existing tourists centres in the state would transform our economic fortunes. Therefore, the GOAL project takes into cognizance, efforts of the past and present administrations in revitalising the Akwa Ibom Tourism sector as a choice destination for tourists from across the globe. Considerably, the establishment of Ibom Air which is a major driver that tourism could thrive through the aviation industry, remains a practical approach to sustainability.
The aviation industry has great potential to impact tourism and improve on our local economy for the prosperity of the people and the State. In that regard, our Governor hopeful in 2023, Rt. Hon Onofiok Luke, is well prepared with a clear vision of taking the State to a new height.
Having served in, and had been instrumental to the successes of past and present administrations, the GOAL project would consolidate on what his predecessors were not able to achieve within their time in the tourism sector and develop new ones that would set the state back on the global tourism map once again. It is common knowledge that Onofiok Luke has been with the people and knows where and how to recoup the tourism sector for our common and collective good. Suffice to say that the human development programme at a time when our youths have lost a sense of belonging would be awakened only with a man whose track record speaks volume from his past and present public service roles in and outside the state.
The youths of Akwa Ibom yearn for a young and vibrant leader that they can relate with and are on the same pedestal. Arguably, the GOAL project covers other critical sectors as Agriculture, Industry, Health, Education, Information and Communication Technology etc. It is debatable to say that the foremost legislator has the capacity and over time had sponsored people-oriented Bills. The GOAL project is another opportunity for him to lead at the top for our collective interest(s).
Conclusively, tourism, I believe is one of the priorities of the GOAL project when the courageous and outspoken lawmaker takes the centre stage come 2023. We are hopeful that the governorship ambition of Onofiok Luke would come to light. It is convincing to maintain that economic growth and quest for global recognition of our dear state as a tourist destination are in-line with the GOALs which will seek to open opportunities and play host to the rest of the world through tourism and other important fabric that makes our common heritage.