A few days after winning an unprecedented treble of the UEFA Champions’ League as coach of the Los Merengues, former French footballer and World Cup winner, Zinedine Zidane shook the sporting world by announcing his resignation. It was totally unexpected, and to the management of Real Madrid, especially its president Florentino Perez, it must have felt like a stab in the heart. Zizou was big a gamble that paid off. Taking over a floundering Los Blancos mid-season, Zizou led them to their eleventh Champions’ League title in 2016. Many thought it was a fluke considering his inexperience as a coach, having only managed Madrid feeder team, but he retained the trophy last year before rewriting the history books this past May 2018. Besides, the European triumphs, there were other victories in the domestic league and at the Club World Cup – all in all, Zidane had won eleven titles in two and a half seasons. It looked like he was going to stay a very long time as head coach of Madrid, but no, not Zizou. He pulled a fast one on Madrid. It was hard to label him a traitor, or deem his act a betrayal – after all, he achieved what no one else had achieved. It is up to Madrid to move on.
I am not a footballer, nor the gaffer of a football club like the French legend; yet for four years and two months, I was part of a team of young men and women who dreamt of transforming the face of tourism not only in Nigeria, but also in Africa. For four years and two months, I played with Team Afro Tourism, the traveller’s guide to untapped Africa. For four years, we toiled together so we can help people see Africa. Yet, on May 31, 2018, I walked away from Team Afro Tourism. Like Zizou did to Madrid, it was time for me to move on.
I joined Team Afro Tourism in April 2014 as a writer, arriving the same day with Ms Nkem Okuoyibo who resumed as Executive Secretary to the then CEO, Mr Ayo Oyewole. It was a start-up; a small family but we were sure we would grow. Over time, the shape of the team changed as people came and others left. We travelled to see Africa ourselves, so that we can paint an accurate picture of our beautiful continent for the people out there. We met other travel and tourism professionals from far and near, across Africa and beyond the shores of our continent. We successfully published our own colourful, all gloss magazine, called S.E.E. AFRICA® promoting and featuring such countries like Zimbabwe, Uganda, Nigeria and South Africa on the cover. We even co-organised the first Nigeria Travel Week in 2017.
The journey has been a rewarding experience for me. I got to see Africa and learn about other people’s cultures. I travelled to several places, met several people, built relationships and made friends everywhere I went. Friends I have come to treasure like family. Friends too numerous to list on a small document like this.
With Team Afro Tourism, I have been to Senegal, The Gambia, Ghana, Zambia and Mozambique, yet, I must appreciate those countries that have invited, hosted and taken good care of me. I am grateful to Team Afro Tourism for choosing me as its representative to countries like Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Uganda. Each country holds a special place in my heart – and I can never forget the wonderful surprise I got on my birthday in Jinja, Uganda from the Uganda Tourism Board.
Like I mentioned earlier, the shape of Team Afro Tourism changed over time, and so did the vision with the realities of the times. The curtains had been drawn signifying a change of scene and all of a sudden, my role in the script has been played. This realisation necessitated my decision. It became imperative to move on. One malaise that has drastically plagued our great continent has been the inability of most of our leaders to bow out gracefully, and graciously move on. Perhaps, if Zidane had not become a Frenchman, he would still be clinging to Real Madrid today.
Once again, I want to thank the management of Afro Tourism for these four years and two months. I want to thank everyone, from the board of directors to the gateman. I wish the team success in all its endeavours.