The Director General of the National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR), Alhaji Nura Sani Kangiwa, before his current appointment as NIHOTOUR’s DG, had functioned as the Special Assistant to the Kebbi State Governor on Tourism and Argungu International Fishing Festival.
In an interview with Gbenga Aderanti on the challenges of running NIHOTOUR, his passion for polo, among other issues.
About few months into your appointment as the Director General, National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR), how would describe this national assignment?
I would say it is challenging. More so because NIHOTOUR, the apex tourism and hospitality training institute in Nigeria, has been established for over 27 years but it is still finding it difficult to carve a niche for itself. You will be surprised that not many people know about its existence, yet it is crucial for the development of tourism in Nigeria.
I see my appointment as the Director General of the Institute not only as an opportunity to serve my beloved country in my chosen profession but also to turn around the fortunes of the institute.
What do you think should be the role of this parastatal in developing the tourism industry?
I agree with you that the tourism industry in Nigeria is still developing. And it is my belief that no amount of investment in infrastructure or in the expansion of tourism capacity will make it successful unless the necessary manpower in the required numbers and at the required levels of knowledge and skills are provided to manage the sector.
NIHOTOUR was established to do just that. I don’t see us doing anything outside this mandate. However, what I see us doing differently is to provide world class training for personnel in the industry, and to proactively partner with stakeholders in making Nigeria a sustainable tourism destination.
Tourism is the mainstay of some countries like the United Arab Emirates, The Gambia, Ethiopia and others. How can the Nigerian economy benefit from tourism like these other countries of the world?
Immensely, I must say. We must focus on world class personnel training, which NIHOTOUR is geared to provide, and competitive tourist product development in Nigeria. These two elements go hand-in-hand in global best practice of tourism destination management. My years in the tourism private sector has revealed to me, among other things, that Nigeria is not yet an attractive tourism destination because we have not strategically built on our tourism comparative advantage, which is our cultural diversity. You see, with over 300 ethnic groups, we can create attractive cultural tourism products, hence promote Nigeria to inbound Africa tourists, as the one-stop-shop to experience African cultural festivals, fashion, music, religion, and so on. No other African country is as culturally diverse as Nigeria.
My point is that Nigeria’s tourism unique selling points ought to be cultural tourism products. Countries in eastern and southern Africa have done the same with their wildlife safari. Additionally, policies and programmes must be tailored to make Tourism and Hospitality industry a key priority in the growth of our economy. It is only then that the country will benefit from the great export earning capacity, employment generation, wealth redistribution, infrastructural development and inter-sectoral linkage incentives derivable from tourism globally.
Before your appointment as DG, you were SA to the Kebbi State governor on tourism and Argungu. How did that prepare you for the current task?
A lot of things prepared me for the current task. Yes, as the SA to the Kebbi State Governor, I was literally giving the marching order to ensure that the Argungu International Fishing and Cultural Festival held after a decade of no-show. This was an enormous responsibility and we delivered. We rebranded the festival and till now, people are still talking about it.
There were others too that prepared me for the current task. Remember, I was the Head of Marketing and Public Relations of Abuja Carnival 2005/2006/2007; Secretary, Exhibition Sub- Committee, Nigeria at 50 2009/2010; Secretary, Publicity Sub Committee- United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Commission for Africa Meeting in Abuja – 2002; Secretary, Media and Publicity Sub Committee- 2nd Commonwealth Tourism Ministers’ Meeting in Abuja 2005; Secretary, Publicity Sub- Committee UNWTO Regional Conference on Tourism Communications (TOURCOM), Lagos 2005 and Vice President of FTAN North-West Zone. All the experience gathered
both in the public and private sectors have prepared me for this task
You are a scion of the illustrious Kangiwa family. Could you talk about your growing up years?
I am the first male child of Ambassador Sani Kangiwa (Turakin Kebbi). My father believed so much in a child’s education and so he spared nothing to ensure that we got the best. He made sure that we took western and Islamic studies seriously. As a sport lover himself, he also encouraged me to play football and polo since I was in primary school.
You are a polo royalty with Nura Sani Kangiwa (NSK) Polo Club. How did the Kangiwa name influence your foray and passion for polo?
I grew up watching my father, his brother and friends play the game. I also started playing from Primary 5. Do you know that my father had “HORSE LOVER” imprinted on all my T-shirts (laughs)? Out of the two games (football and polo) I started playing in primary 5, polo is my favourite and it is no wonder that I am passionate about the game. The laurels I have won over the years are a testament to this. On the administrative side, I also work hard to make the game better. Not too long ago, I got re-elected as 2nd Vice President of Nigerian Polo Federation.
Polo is believed to be the game of the rich. Can an average person engage in polo sport?
Absolutely, a person of the average class can play polo. There are professional players who don’t even own a horse, yet you find patrons giving them mounts (ponies) to play for their team due to their prowess in the game. Just like other competitive sports, polo has a long economic value chain. Tournaments attract hotel patronage of both players and spectators, local transporters, restauranteurs, veterinary and equine supplements providers, horse feeds sellers, night clubs and other recreation centres owners, etc.
How did you become the Turakin Argungu?
I am the fifth in my family line to be turbaned Turaki. Others who had held this title before me were my grandfather Ambassador Mohammed Bello; my uncle Governor Shehu Kangiwa; my father Ambassador Sani Kangiwa. I was turbaned Turaki on the 5th of February 2011, after the passing away of my father in 2010, by His Royal Highness the Emir of Argungu Alhaji Samaila Mohammed Mera, CON.
What influences what you wear?
This is a question I’m often asked. To be honest, what influences what I wear are my mood and the occasion or event I will be attending. I don’t see myself as a fashionista, albeit I like to look good because it makes me feel good. I also realise that looking good is a confidence booster.
What is your vision for NIHOTOUR?
My vision is for NIHOTOUR to become indisputable centre of excellence for hospitality and tourism personnel training and capacity development in West Africa in the like of Utalii College Kenya which caters for East Africa. Remember, this is the vision of the founding fathers. I will not rest on my oars until I’m able to achieve this for the institute.
What is your life philosophy?
To do unto others what you want them to do unto you I suppose it is called the Golden Rule.
As a blue blooded northerner, how much privilege did you enjoy while growing up?
This is a common misconception. I have heard a few people, mostly from Southern Nigeria, expressing the same opinion and, I wondered what gave them that erroneous impression. However, I realised that most people with such mindset have either never been to the North, or they came to that conclusion because they saw that more Nigerians of Northern extraction have constantly been in position of power, politically, post-independent Nigeria. But that situation is easily explainable. The answer is politics. And you know politics is a game of numbers and it happens that Northern Nigeria, as it is presently constituted, is the most populated region in the country. To my mind, the average Northerner is, comparatively, more politically savvy, especially when there are demands for popular votes.
Yes, I was brought up with a silver spoon, but my father never let that get into our heads. He raised me to believe in the dignity of labour. Growing up, my parents impressed it upon me that a man must strive to do the right thing and be responsible for his actions. My father was a hardworking civil servant, and he rose through the ladder because his parents invested in his education. I thank God he did the same for me. I am not privileged. I am a hardworking man.
What would you describe as your greatest challenge in life and how did you surmount it?
I have had a few challenges, but I will speak about the challenge of leadership and the responsibility it bestows on me. With the passing away of my father, I was turbaned the Turakin Kebbi and I suddenly had to switch from my reserved, shy nature to an out-and-out people’s servant. So, every day now, I am concerned with how best to improve myself for the service of my people.
The same challenge continues with the additional responsibility given to me now as the Director General of NIHOTOUR. You know, I have a personal disposition of excellence on every task I set my heart on. So, my latest challenge is to meritoriously lead NIHOTOUR to massively equip the manpower with skills to sustain Nigeria’s tourism development.
Banditry and kidnapping are gradually becoming part of us. Many ‘comfortable’ people live in fear. Do you sometimes have this feeling that you could be a victim?
Come to think of it; who doesn’t? However, if we live our lives in fear, we would never achieve anything. Shakespeare once said that cowards die many times before their death. As a Muslim, I believe in the will of Allah; that what will be will be. Having said that, I want to believe that this is a phase and I am confident that banditry and other organised crimes shall, at some point, seize to become a part of our lives in Nigeria. I strongly believe both the Federal and state security organs will gain momentum and eventually destroy every stronghold of criminality in every enclave across Nigeria.
How has insecurity in the country affected your industry?
Insecurity is bad for every industry and the tourism industry is no exception. Besides, no society is totally immune from insecurity, no matter how advanced the society is. For the Tourism industry in Nigeria, one of the greatest damages insecurity has done is the international perception that Nigeria is a country of pervasive crime and criminality. As it is said, perception is reality. When a tourist destination is perceived to be generally insecure, the destination’s tourism offerings will lose its inherent attractiveness. Today, even domestic tourists do not want to travel around Nigeria. It is as bad as that.
Do you regret not playing football considering the glamour associated with it right now?
No, I do not. I am now fulfilled as a Polo player.
What period would you describe as your lowest moment and how did you come out of it?
The loss of my father. By God’s grace, I found solace in Islamic scriptures revelations about life, living and the afterlife.
What is your attitude to polygamy?
Polygamy is permitted in Islam. I am a faithful Muslim. So, I do not question the right of a Muslim that chooses a polygamous life.