Dec 26, 2015

Tourists' Attractions or Lies

Assop Fall
On December 26, 2014 my craving for honey took me to a place called Forest, at a portion of the boundary separating Plateau and Kaduna States. I turned up at Forest and was redirected backwards to a travelers’ stop I had passed along the road to Abuja. Coincidentally, the very traveler’s stopover overlooks the Assop Fall. 

Assop Fall often gets featured on tourism discussions and listed in tourist brochures as one of the places you wouldn’t want to miss when visiting Plateau State. 

I decided to use the opportunity to go see things for myself. A small rundown shade stood as a reception. Till today, it is still the only building there. As I descended, two young men I had mistaken as straying jobless youths from the village approached me, introducing themselves as staff of Plateau State Tourism Corporation. They looked so deprived and I felt sorry for them getting stationed at a place completely lacking of any form of sophistication.  They told me that going down to see the fall wasn’t free. So, I bought a ticket and I was allowed to walk down the valley to see the fall. 

Besides the fall, there was nothing to be proud of. What makes me proud of where I come from is what we have been able to do over and above what others had done. The rundown nature of the reception was just one reason why I was moved to think deep about the carefree attitude of our leaders, leaders who kill our pride by their political actions or inactions. Other reasons were the fact that the place never attracted tourists, since nothing has been done to develop it beyond the potential that it has, and the fact that any person wishing to visit would have been turn off by the obvious fact that the place is a rendezvous of miscreants. These miscreants often meet there in the nights, in the name of partying. It was possible to see real tourist attractions in the form of human wastes littering the place.

I climbed out of the valley with my mind pregnant with thoughts. It was the only “fun” I had.
This neglect isn’t peculiar to Assop Fall, but all the “tourist resources” often quoted in tourist’s guides, the printing of which is often awarded to a girlfriend or some other close friend or relation. 

Another “attraction” is the Mado Tourist Village. The Mado Tourist Village is a collection of chalets that was meant to provide accommodation to tourists. At first, it was a novel idea that was abandoned by subsequent authorities. Eventually, sprawling slums engulfed it and homeless people occupied them, after the furnishings had been stolen. Today, crazy officials still quote the place as a tourist’s resource. 

 There is also the Jos Wild Life Park. I was there on Christmas of 2010. There were foreigners, mostly from Hill Crest School. Their faces showed a mix of desperation for recreation and the discontent of not finding one. There were wastes from the snacks visitor often brought in, a lot of the animals had died without being replaced and those still alive appeared malnourished. The scenario made me ashamed and let down.  
 The story of neglect is the same with Rayfield Resort, Rockland Hotel, Wase Rock, and many others. These are places either occupied by wild animals or homeless people, but still quoted as destinations for fun seekers.

The danger of telling lies to tourists is that it undermines their faith about what we claim to have. Back home, they tell it as it is and we get wiped off the world’s tourism maps.

This culture of incompetence has been the reason why creativity is lacking in the states in Nigeria as a whole. This has resulted in the inability of states to generate revenues, waiting only for cheap subventions that come from the central coffer, a coffer that is dependent largely on erratic oil money. 

We have to wake up and work to attract tourists, even if they are local tourists. There is the craving for recreation even at home. If the sites are good, foreigners who stray into them would tell the tale back home. Eventually, we’ll show up again in the maps again

Nov 20, 2015

The Crab Talk about Scraping the NYSC

NYSC members on parade

As far back as 1993 when I was a corps member, there was this suggestion by some colleagues that the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) should be scraped. 

The sad truth is that the suggestion often comes from the naive juveniles, just coming out of the university or an equivalent institution. A lot of them are actually in a hurry to show that, now that they are educated, it is about time they showed how intellectual they are. The discussion is, thus, considered by such youths as a platform on which to show how intellectual they have become.

There is freedom of speech, no doubt, but some expressions that are tolerated on grounds of freedom of speech are so jarring that they hit one with the impact of treason. The fact is: the financial burden of sustaining the NYSC is not on the shoulders of those who criticize its existence. The worst such interlocutors should do is to ask that the scheme be made optional: if you don’t like it, other people like it.

In October, 2015, something carried me to the vicinity of the NYSC Orientation Camp on the road to Mangu, in Plateau State. The spontaneous question that came to my mind was: “So, Nigeria pays all these people?” The scheme causes the nation a huge financial commitment and scraping it should have been a relief to the Federal Government of Nigeria, but since the Federal Government knows the benefit of the scheme to the nation, it is the reason why no government ever contemplated doing away with it.

These are the reasons why I think the scheme must last till eternity. First, I served in Benin, Edo state. Prior to going to Benin, the photo of the city in my mind was rife with armed bandits going round and making the lives of innocent people miserable. This impression was a result of the story of the notorious armed robber, Lawrence Anini, who terrorized the city of Benin and infused fear across the nation in the 1980s. Thanks to the national youth service. It was the reason why I went to Benin and discovered Benin was not exactly what we thought it was.

By the fact of its diversity, Nigeria is a complex country with a spectrum of cultures. There is the tendency to see a people as alien, or to not understand them, when you haven’t the opportunity to live with them. This reality feeds the absence of rhyme between the tribes and threatens the unity of the nation. Some critics of the NYSC scheme are actually persons who hate the country as a unit. Traveling to another part of the country, living and enjoying its hospitality help you to appreciate the people. This helps to fade the lines that divide us, the line that makes us relate to ourselves as strangers. On my return to Plateau State, I felt homesick anytime there was the mention of “Benin” on the Network News. I will remember Ring Road, Ekenwa Road, Third East Circular Road, Akpakpava Street, Ikpoba Hill, etc.

Part of the objective of the NYSC scheme is to prepare the youths for a life of their own, ending their dependence on their parents. I attended University in my native state . So, I was always by the bosom of my parents. Truly speaking, the NYSC to break away from the dependence on my parents. Eventually, I came to cherish the flip side, when I started reaching out to help my parents. Many corps members, as a matter of fact, continue their lives in the state where they served, having learned how to live independently.

The NYSC has inspired a lot of people to acquire higher education. There are people who would say “I must wear those uniforms.” To them, wearing the NYSC uniforms represents a milestone they must accomplish in life. Since what qualifies one to take part in the NYSC is a University degree or its equivalent, the scheme became the lure that pushed many to acquire higher education, something that we need if we must build the beautiful country that God has given us.

 Education is not just about professional knowledge. Education is a mindset that helps you to understand the world better. It would be an irony to claim to be educated and demonstrate ignorance of your country. Coincidentally, traveling happened to be part of my hobbies. I love traveling because it affords me the prospect of understanding the world, its different people and their cultures. The diversity of our world is what makes it a kaleidoscope, a source of beauty that brings calm to our minds. After my national youth service, I later traveled and lived in other parts of the country. Since then, I have known and spoken about the country with more maturity. So, the NYSC is the beginning of understanding the world. 

Critics of the NYSC did site the death of corps members during the post-election violence in 2011 as one reason why the scheme should have been dead and buried. The death of those corps members is highly deplorable and we must guard against such, in future, but it shouldn’t be the reason why the NYSC should be done away with. The death of those corps members was an outcome of our general recklessness as Nigerians. This is what we need to do away with.

We are multi-ethnic, but must strive to be uni-cultural. The NYSC is one road that leads us in the direction of realizing this goal.  

Finangwai Dreams Big for Plateau State

Dr Hosea Finangwai. Source Dr Finangwai There is that saying that “the things that people desperately seek are always with them.” If ...