In fairness to the staff of Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation, NTDC – they have the energy and zeal to work but they have not been trained in ages, much more given an opportunity to prove themselves – that is on the one hand, and on the other, they are not disciplined. Majority of them are not.

I have often asked if the way some of them behave is linked to mental depression resulting from poor welfare or lack of proper reward system, selective goodwill and injustice by management or lack of proper administrative control and disciplinary mechanism to put them under check. If the former and the latter is the problem, it then means that NTDC is in serious danger.

The administrative arm of government charged with the implementation of policies can not afford to have young men and women who are not mentally stable and disciplined to drive it’s affairs.

Unruly attitude negates the principle or acceptable behaviour required to be a good tourism practitioner or executive. The sector need executives who are  courteous, hospitable and accommodating. It is very key.

If the staff of the corporation are not disciplined as widely claimed, the ripple effect would be that, in the future or near, they would pick up gauntlets to disrupt public service, fight the private sector and work contrary to the rules of partnership for just no cause but to show their lean ego and dominance. In fact, they would run down the public service and ruin any good thing that comes their paths if they are not checked quickly.

Life needs systematic approach and implementation of ideas, that is, if anyone want to have a headway in the business of tourism. If you are not trained properly to handle a particular assignment or task there is no way you will be able to apply, sustain, improvise or readapt when faced head-to-head with difficulties in the course of duty.

I dare say that within the NTDC house, the chain is not broken yet. The chains of affliction. The chain of bondage that binds down knowledge, imprisons good conduct and the reasonability of not only doing the right thing but seen as doing such. The chain seems very intact.

Is the current trouble in NTDC a management-incurred crisis resulting from wrong handling or discharge of responsibilities or a hoax? If not, why are we experiencing ‘NTDC House of Commotion’ every now and then?

The call to serve one’s country within the ambit of administrative governance dictates certain acceptable conduct and responsibility(ies) to duty-call. Government and the act of governance and the management of the process must be all-inclusive. No one should be left out.

There are rumours that the staff of the corporation are being intimidated and coerced  to forgo their benefits by the management. Another rumour has it that it is the other way round. Whatever the case may be stakeholders need to intervene. The problem need to be pinned down and taking care of ones and for all.

The question everyone’s asking is whether the problems of the corporation is linked to incompetence on the part of the leadership and management of the corporation or if it is linked to undue use or abuse of power, mismanagement of public funds, or outright absence of confidence. The issue of trust, poor working environment and lack of motivation maybe another factor or reason behind the hullabaloo. Until both conflicting parties speak out we would never know exactly what the problems are.

Regardless, as practitioners we must be able to distill the root-cause of the confrontation in the corporation from secondary issues before solutions can be recommended and applied within a space of time. This must be done dispassionately to avoid conflict that would lead to bodily harm, arson or throw the sector into darkness.

The upper lever of governance: the office of the Honourable Minister of Culture and Information or the Presidency should wade in the conflict if the management of the corporation can not sort out itself. After all, in the era of ‘Change’ it is very easy to get to the bottom of issues and take care of them practically based on the ‘zero tolerance for corruption’ mantra before they get out of hand.However, the darkness looming in NTDC shows that trust and confidence between the management and staff is already in a coffin.

From my own candid experience and position of findings, I can say that some staff of the corporation have unruly attitude. That feeling of not being concerned, that care-free attitude to work is very much palpable in that filthy village that housed the head office. That terrible attitude was the first brash from the union leaders of the corporation the very first day Dr. Paul Adalikwu resumed work as the Chief Executive in an acting capacity of the corporation.

We were there with him, myself, Charles Ukomadu , the former Secretary General of FTAN, and Mr. Cornel Agim in those meetings. As an intelligential, Dr Adalikwu instantly spotted the underlying strength of unionism and that air of confrontation based on the kind of questions some of the staff were asking, and the way and manner they asked those questions. For Dr. Adalikwu who is an astute and well-trained tourism professional and administrator per excellence, he instantly knew where the problem was going to come from. He made a remark after the general meeting with the staff that very day that the entire staff of the corporation were ill-equipped, and need reorientation, exposure and training to prepare them for greater challenges ahead.

He said they were under-engaged. And that with the level of their reasoning it would be difficult to drive tourism through NTDC without reformatting their minds and thinking, uploading them with fresh and meaningful data with the knowledge of how to deal with modern tourism matters. And that as a leader he owes them them the duty to train them and improve their welfare, and that he would not leave anyone of them out of his agenda of turning the corporation into a an economic power. When he said that, spontaneously there was an ovation, they  started clapping (including some of the union leaders who were initially asking stupid questions).

Thereafter, they started sharing information with him without hesitation, outwardly. He brought everyone on the same page with him. he acknowledged their problems and fears in their presence and assured them that collectively they would work take care of all pending issues together on the ground that they are supportive and ready to change their attitude towards work. That is a leader. That was it. Unfortunately, it is the same problem he identified that is erupting into chaos now in the corporation.

Although, he was armed to the teeth with a blueprint of how he wanted to transform NTDC from a relatively docile and obscured agency into a lucrative and super tourism work-house anyone would be proud of, but he also felt and quickly realised how difficult and impossible that would be with the kind of staff he was to deal with – who are not mentally detailed enough to house strong tourism knowledge, talkless of how to apply them . Instantly, he began the identification of the smart and intelligent staff, the not-to-brilliant ones , as well as the ‘fallen angels of NTDC’. He connected with everyone on the same frequency and shut his doors to cheap talks and gossip.

He had to readjust his plan of action – adopting clear and practical terms – beginning from within, based on the nature of what he met. He was set to change how the staff of the corporation perceives tourism as a mere talk-shop and file-carrying services to something very grand and rewarding.

He was set to break the jinx and change the course of history of the corporation for good. We spent two to three weeks with him at NTDC, and during his short stay he had conducted extensive research – readapted his plan of actions to fit into the realities on the ground – which needed instant action.

The momentum of the plan of action he carried was already up high and running – identifying key problems not only in the corporation but the entire sector that needed to be urgently tackled. He was/is very much acquainted and passionate with solving the major problems of the sector, especially the destructive tendencies of untrained human capital. He knew what he was going to do and those who would need to help him achieve his goals.

He knew he needed highly skilled workforce that would help him deliver the content of the well-researched and thought-out strategic action plan from one phase to another – cutting across short, mid and long term approaches.

It was also clear that the national tourism development master plan (NTDMP) and the NTDC bill , not excluding others – were key to his tourism agenda (activities/programmes) for the corporation and successes. He knew also that there was no time available to waste. While awaiting the review of the NTDMP he thought it was wise to begin the mind-development and intellectual preparations of the staff of the corporation so that when the NTDC bill is passed and assented into law and the NMDMP launched the they would already have been prepared to handle effectively the task of tourism administration/management from the public end in Nigeria.

Dr. Adalikwu came from within the system – as the firmer Director of domestic/ecotourism department of the defunct federal ministry of culture, tourism and national orientation. At the time of his appointment he was the substantive director of planning, research and statistics at the federal ministry of environment. So it was easy for him to locate where the problem was and tackle them squarely.

He said it many a time during meetings with staff of the corporation that there is no way Nigeria would have a healthy and active NTDC that is capable to delivering on it’s goals and mandate if the staff were half-baked, disenchanted and demoralised, undisciplined and not courteous. The depth of their low morals was further than what words would ever be able to explain or tell. But the signs and indicators of lost hopes were telling in the entire environment and offices of the corporation. The terrible state of NTDC was so glaring. The whole place, in and out were all filthy and the air of indiscipline and anger was everywhere, and uncontrollable.

It would shock everyone to know that virtually all the light bulbs in the offices of the corporation were dead, and the air conditioning units were not working. Pathetically, Dr. Adalikwu did not even have a table and chair to sit on to work when he resumed work. He was working from the boardroom. His predecessor had bolted away with those public properties claiming they were given to her personally by a client of the corporation, coupled with the fact that NTDC was hell broke – surviving on debt, there was no funds in sight. Yet,  he carried on with dexterity like a man on an exclusive mission to make things happen, creat impact no matter what.

In two weeks after taking charge of the corporation you could see and tell that the staff were beginning to trust the system again, not because of anything but so much for the fact that they had someone they could believe in, someone they could trust and count on as their Chief Executive, a man that means well.

If they no longer feel that way anymore or have lost the zeal and enthusiasm to work or have gone into relapse, then we should ask ourselves what the problem is or why. The attitude of staff of the corporation is no longer news but the way forward should be the primary concern of government and the private sector.

Let me state it clearly here that, it is God that gives positions and power, therefore, there are no basis for comparison of two separate and distinct leaders; one’s weakness may be the other’s strength but the issue in question is one that affects the sector and the country at large. The chaos in NTDC must be stopped.

The current Chief Executive of the corporation may be trying his best but he should be advised to be patient and develop restraint and tricks of handling the stubborn staff of corporation. He has to watch his excesses if any and build on his own strength of knowledge while tapping from those who can help him succeed.

Naturally, the principles of growth in life is hinged on continuation of a process. So the continuation of administrative processes of the corporation from where Dr Adalikwu stopped would have helped the new management a great deal to break new grounds for the sector, help discover bigger opportunities. The concentration and efforts needed to move the corporation forward would not encourage conflict and confrontation between staff and management because everyone would be busy.

No one knows it all but consultation and research to root-cause of issues could help take care of practical problems and prevent them from reoccurring in the future. Reaching out to those who can help is not a crime. But any chief executive that relies on his own knowledge and strength would not be able to achieve much or go far.

It is said that no man should venture into a strange land without a human guide at best or else in a matter of time he would be lost and consumed by the deceit of his own compass .

It is from tourism we earn our living, so NTDC is ours to savage –  for ourselves and others, and for the growth of our country.

By Mall Isa Yusuf Sago

ISA YUSUF SAGO is a tourism communication practitioner. He is the President and Founder of W2Ni – Welcome2Nigeria Initiative, a pro-people and country project for Nigeria.