By Wole Shadare
THE screaming, “Nigeria Tourism and Transportation Summit: An event of death? article by Dr. Walter Mzembi published in eTurbo News on March 17, 2020 fits a pattern of tourism antagonism.
It is disappointing because it lacked substance, largely generalizing and the pressing of panic button when there are no reasons to do so. The original April 27 and 28th 2020 dates are not cast in stone and could be shifted if the organizers and the Federal Government find it unsafe to host the two day event which 90 per cent of participants are drawn from Nigeria.
For Dr. Mzembi to raise an alarm over the upcoming event slated for Abuja International Conference Centre, Abuja is preposterous and uncalled for as Nigeria, unlike worst-hit nations has only recorded three cases of coronavirus. Technically, we only have a new case that was announced March 17, 2020.
The index case of an Italian that came into the country last month is recuperating and no longer on danger list. The other case was a man suspected to have had contact with the Italian that later tested negative.
Is Mzembi calling for the outright cancellation of the event? Just last week, European football governing body, EUFA suspended all football matches in Europe for three weeks. That does not amount to cancellation. The events could only be cancelled if Coronavirus continues to spread.
More than 125,000 people had been diagnosed with coronavirus in 118 countries around the world, according to the World Health Organization. The total number of deaths is more than 4,600.
Quoting the former Zimbabwean Minister of Tourism and Hospitality, Dr. Walter Mzembi, now in exile in South Africa, “City walks, Gala and a reward night with Hilton to become one of the winners are all planned. It can be reasonably expected the number of two COVID-19 in Nigeria will go up within two weeks after this conference, but the organizer wants the show to go on, despite the threat of COVID-19 everywhere in the world”.
While acknowledging that it is good to ensure that the spread of COVID-19 is minimized considerably, it is an assumption that holding the event will lead to the spread of the disease except if he has suddenly become a Nostradamus for his prediction to become accurate and on point.
I must equally stress that Mzembi’s use of the phrase , “COVID-19 in Nigeria will go up within two weeks after this conference”, seriously exaggerates the situation in the country. But can the situation get worse than it is presently is? The answer is NO!
The logical question would be why? The straightforward answer will be the that Nigeria is relatively a safer country considering what is, unfortunately, happening in some parts of the world and how governments and various agencies in Nigeria have step up to their game.
It was a similar failure to make these necessary connections that strengthen and embolden panic even though we are not immune from what is a global problem.
Mzembi, thinking in isolations could jolly well have written about his native Zimbabwe, which has a higher number of infections than Nigeria.
Lead Organiser, Tourism and Transportation Summit, Abuja, Chief Abiodun Odusanwo said the call for the cancellation or postponement would be made when the time comes; should there be a need to so and only on the directive of the Federal government of Nigeria, and credible national/international organisations.
He said, “I am deeply saddened about this development as I hold dual citizenship of being an African and European; coupled with the fact that, as an internationally travelled technocrat with families in Europe and the United States, the current Coronavirus pandemic is an unpleasant situation with global ramifications and implications that calls for the collective resolve of all’’.
He lauded the Nigerian government’s response, proactiveness, preparedness and the manner in which the cases identified which he said has earned the country plaudits.
Wole Shadare is Aviation Editor, New Telegraph Newspaper and Presenter, Aviation Watch on NTA, writes from Lagos