Ambassador Yusuf Maitama Tuggar is the head of Nigeria mission in Germany. He recently facilitated the visit of three Germans to Nigeria, touring such places like Abuja and Lagos. ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA encountered the team on the Lagos visit during a boat cruise where he spoke with the ambassador on the gains of such a visit
What is the lesson from this trip facilitated by you?
Well, beyond the usual cliché, ‘seeing is believing,’ I will say that the take home is the memories, the experience, which is not something that you can explain verbally.
It is not something that you can read and experience, no, you just have to live it and that is what our guests are going through. For instance, on the boat, one of them said to me, just sitting on that boat, the breeze, the whole scenery was something that he has never experienced before and this is somebody that is widely travelled and has lived in different continents.
Nigeria is unique in that regard. We have been distracted, even we, Nigerians, have been distracted from enjoying and projecting this side of the country. We have been too busy with life, without realising that tourism itself is an industry that has enormous potential that can really form the bedrock if not a bedrock of our economy.
This is just the beginning because we need to attract the right sort of people, the right sort of influencers that will come and experience Nigeria. They have been in Abuja and now they are in Lagos then they can take the message out.
But why hasn’t the embassy been engaged in this kind of undertaking over the years?
We have been doing this maybe you are probably not aware of it. We have to take advantage of circumstances as they present themselves and then use that to bring in people to experience Nigeria.
As we speak now there is another delegation that came but focusing on agriculture. Information technology driven agriculture and we put them in touch with the right people. While they are here they will also experience a bit of Nigeria.
The hospitality aspect of the country is boosted by this kind of visits because they have to sleep in hotels, they have to eat Nigerian foods, they listen to Nigerian music and if they are here on weekend they have to go out.
So, this is what we have been doing. There was another German team that was with me and the head of our economic and commercial section in Abuja. They are exporting ginger out of Kaduna.
They were there just a few days ago and we break our fast together (Ramadan period). They asked questions, people always think that the whole of the north of the country is Muslim and the whole of the south of the country is Christian.
But then they begin to realise that on the table was a Christian from the north breaking fast with us and then you a Muslim from the north. Then they start asking questions. So, it inspired their curiousity. That diversity.
As we were coming to Ilashe, there was a mosque on the Atlantic Ocean and so too when you go to Nigeria border with Niger Republic you will see churches. All of that diversity is the strength and potential that need to be harnessed.
And then it completely changes the perception.
With this kind of exchanges, do you think that the narrative about Nigeria will be better told?
The story has always been there and always been told but sometimes you don’t have listeners. If you look at Nigeria’s history, we have history. People have been telling this story and letting people know that Africans’ history and story does not start and end with the perspective of outsiders.
No, look closer and listen to us and if you listen to us then you will understand that we have a sense of history and the solution even, if you will, to our problem. We just need that partnership to be able to achieve our potential and also solve our problems ourselves.
We are not saying that we don’t have challenges, we are a developing country. But we have home grown solutions to our problems and the way to engage African is not to come with the approach to say I know how to solve your problem or coming with an altruistic approach to help.
Nigeria is not typical of Africa, of what people, especially in Europe perceive African to be. But we are saying we are the giant of Africa, let us meet half way and address our problems and by addressing our problems helping you address your problems and helping you to benefit.
It is a symbiotic relationship.
For how long have you been be at the mission?
I have been there for over one year.
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