Akin Olowokere is a retired naval lieutenant and real estate developer who also sees himself as a philosopher, counselor, and entertainer. He is the Chief Executive Officer of the National Unity Museum and Trade Tourism Village, Panda, Nasarawa State. In this interview, Mr Olowokere spoke about how the village was set up to primarily promote the entertainment and tourism potentials of the nation and other matters.
PREMIUM TIMES: Tell us a bit about yourself
Akin Olowokere: I am a native of Akure from Akure South local government area. After my secondary school, I had all my training in military institutions and my services to the nation came through the Nigerian Army, Navy and the National Guard. My exit from the military was predicated on the phantom coup of 1995 during which I and others were condemned to death by firing squad.
The sentence was commuted to 25 years imprisonment and after 4 years in the prison, we regained freedom due to the demise of (Sani) Abacha. We were given full freedom after which I retired from service.
Thereafter, I picked the bit and pieces of my life and moved on. I made incursion into religion, entertainment and property development. I also made a foray into the political sphere.
I am also into music. My stage name is D. Domblobolo which can be googled to see my live performance. I play musical instrument and also write music. But I am more of a producer because of my busy schedule.
PT: What is the National Unity Museum located in Panda, Nasarawa, all about?
Olowokere: It is fully called the National Unity Museum and Trade Tourism Village. It is all about miniaturising Nigeria, having a micro of the macro where we have a location called NUMTTV where all local governments would have their liaison offices, all embassies would have their traders and where we have residential quarters at the end of the day. It is an ongoing project.
We refer to it as united local government city of Nigeria. This place at the end would have all aspects of entertainment and tourism to develop without us borrowing or depending on anything besides the stakeholders. And we are looking at all aspects of tourism to develop the city.
The city in ongoing/developing and I am happy to inform you that I have been there since April 2016. In the area of agro-tourism, we are really making waves and we are producing/farming to feed the nation while in the area of educational tourism, the Zion Business School has taken off.
The concept is having students major in mathematics, then have agriculture as a minor and a vocation as an elective subject, so that students can be developed all-round. If you are not employed along mathematical disposition, one can be self-employed as an agro entrepreneur.
At National Unity Village, we have the micro of the macro Nigeria, as I said. If you have to travel through Nigeria, going through 774 local governments spending your weekend at each local government, it would take you about 16 years but the concept here when you come, you would end up having an internal interface with all the local governments.
From January 4 to 7, every year since its start, we have an open-air trade tourism fair called National Unity amalgamation trade tourism fair, where we run a national unity marathon and the winners are given free plots of land. We also have what we call ‘half price carnival’ where goods that are donated at the carnival and are sold at half price. We already have investors who are coming in, in addition to the funds we are also investing.
PT: Why this focus on entertainment/tourism?
Olowokere: The entertainment industry concept as the name implies is an industry that can be compared to no lesser level than the oil and gas industry as it is even more everlasting. Even at the war front, there is still the army band, navy band, police band etc. Entertainment still goes on in all facets of human endeavors.
Talking on what we do, we concentrate on the tourist attraction of different locations in Nigeria, showcasing it to the world to see how it could be driven into an entrepreneur effort that would be rewarding to participants.
When it comes to hotels, it is part of the potentials that the entertainment industry sets out to develop. When it comes to the clubbing activities, we do believe that there is nothing like a nightclub, it should both be day and nightclubs because there is no time when people should dance.
We have a 24-hour concept, where people would be ushered into a realm of kind of music. We also set out the mood at any particular point in time. Asides investing in clubs, hotels, we also invest in audio and music content development and storage, also marketing and propagation of it. We are into film-making, music production, anchoring television. We work with NGOs and we have projects like ”Telephone to heaven”, a programme to be anchored by me.
PT: How do you think entertainment generally can be made more attractive for revenue purposes?
Olowokere: The entertainment industry can only be made attractive when it is paying. Today, everybody wants to go into football, boxing, fashion all because it is rewarding. Any profession that is very much rewarding would get people dwelling more in that area.
When the government has something to gain from the entertainment industry, they would invest in it. For instance, the oil and gas sector, the government invests a lot into this because they know what potentials it means in the global market and what accrues to the nation on annual basis.
In the entertainment industry, right from where we are in our environment where we practice, we need to showcase it is a rewarding industry, we must fight all the ills that prevent its potentials. For me, the attractiveness of this industry is that we must concentrate on proper pricing and appreciation of our actors, actresses, and musicians. We should also have a way of cooperating with the marketers, and it should also not be marketers enjoying and the practitioners suffering.
Entertainment industry supports programmes and promotions to the extent that in the unity village we are building, we have given free plots of land as complimentary gifts to people who have paid their dues in the entertainment industry in order to give them our support and to drum the awareness, that entertainment practitioners are being rewarded and we are also trying to let the government know how to do more.
PT: Talking about the pitfalls, what is your take on the issue of piracy?
Olowokere: Piracy cannot be talked about without marketing. The need for marketers and practitioners to come together and fight piracy becomes imperative and the only way is to make sure that whatever intellectual property is produced, millions of copies should be produced to ‘undersell’ the pirates.
When the original copies are selling at a lower price, the pirate would be out of the market and this can only be achieved when we come together and work as one having in mind to fight the evil force called pirates. Piracy is the robbery of people’s sweat.
PT: What about the nation’s under-utilised tourism potentials?
Olowokere: The answer is in the question. What needs to be done to preserve the nation’s monuments and attract tourism is to develop the potentials. The Nigerian television channels need to give priority in showcasing the potentials of what we gave.
The nation also needs to get it right as far as policy articulation and implementation is concerned in the tourism sector. When it comes to policy and theory, we are getting it right but when it comes to practical, we are not getting it right because a lot needs to be done in interpreting relevant policies be it in tourism or entertainment.
Again when people are honest in interpreting the policy without bottlenecks or corruption, we would get it right.