I didn’t quite know how to take Mr. Chameleon, the senior bureaucrat from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, when he proposed that we revive our moribund tourist industry by importing tourist attractions from abroad. Is this some sort of weird joke?
“You have to remember,” he said, “that Nigeria manufactures nothing, and imports virtually everything. And with all due respect to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and their Buy Made in Nigeria campaign, nothing of significance will be manufactured in Nigeria between now and year 2020.” “Maybe so,” I said. “But exactly what tourist attractions do you propose to import?” “Oh, all the main ones. You see, Nigeria is at the central focal point between north and south, east and west of inhabited Earth.”
“Actually,” I said, “Ghana, being squarely on the Greenwich meridian and equally close to the Equator, is closer to that equicenter.”
“True, but Ghana has neither the land space nor the population. Anyway, a new International Convention on Tourism stipulates that nations may borrow and exchange tourist sites—much the same way as museums have been doing for decades. Nigeria can become a meeting place for east and west. Instead of traveling all the way to the Far East or Far West, tourists can just come to Nigeria to do their sightseeing. Some nations may be tempted to clutch tightly to certain of their tourist sites, but the Convention stipulates stiff penalties and sanctions for such old-fashioned nationalist selfishness which is a throw-back to bygone 20th century pre-globalism.”
“But UN sanctions are a dead letter,” I said. “The powerful nations never get sanctioned for any of their acts, however egregious. They use their influential media to justify themselves. They make and enforce the rules, and indemnify themselves for all past and future offences. That is the nature of global power. For their part, the moderately weaker nations usually ignore the sanctions, and nothing happens to them in the end. Anyway, I don’t think I’ve heard of this Convention. And I have pretty big ears.”
“Not as big as Barack Obama’s. But trust me, Mr. O. J., you don’t hear hardly half the things spoken in your own establishment.” “Now, I resent that. Take that back.” “I take it back.”
“That’s better. Now, what were you saying? What exactly do you propose to borrow and import, and from where?” “From east, I propose we borrow the Great Wall of China, all 6000 kilometers of it.” “My dear man, you just can’t carry it.”
“Technology, dear sir, technology. . . . We would also borrow the Forbidden City, but I don’t think the Chinese will let that one go even for three months. Their entire tourist industry would collapse.” “What would you borrow from India?”
“The Taj Mahal, of course. I would add the dacoits, but then we have bandits and murderers of our own. Same with their spectacular yearly orgy of sectarian violence between Moslems and Hindus—we have our own twice-yearly outbreaks of violence between Moslems and Christians.”
“And what would you borrow from South Africa?” “Soweto.” “What? You’re not looking to have any of our musicians gunned down like Lucky Dube, are you?”
“Well, I would have gone for President Jacob Zuma’s 5 wives and 2 fiancees, especially since Fela is gone and his 27 wives have scattered. But you see, polygamy is going out of style. I don’t think it will survive this century. The National Council of Women’s Societies (NCWS) is fighting it hard and bent on winning. Importing such an item just to boost the tourist trade in Nigeria will bring us no end of trouble. It will provide the women a rallying point and a new war cry—and a worse than Biafran civil war might well be the result.
“You’re a pessimist, Mr. Chameleon.” “I’m a realist.” “What would you take from west and north?”
“Europe has so much, but it’s all so shop-worn and soiled that I doubt that anyone would travel to Nigeria just to see the same tired old Eiffel Tower, Westminster, Versailles, Bastille, Alhambra, Beefeater palace guards and sauerkraut. That evil-tasting Russian borscht as well as the Kremlin itself might be more like it. And Siberia too. The Russians are so hungry for Nigeria’s oil money they’d sell half of Mother Russia.” “But they have oil and gas of their own.”
“Yes, but greed is hard to contain, especially if it became your national policy so very recently.” “Would you take anything from America?” Oh plenty. Despite all its noise and media over-exposure, America is still an undiscovered country even to Americans. I promise you they will travel to Nigeria just to see their own sites.” “Like what?”
“Like the unreconstructed hole in the ground where the twin towers of the World Trade Center used to stand. They won’t let go their White House or Capitol even for a month—the entire country will collapse. But they will lend us, I’m certain of it, the Empire State Building, Mt. Rushmore, the San Francisco Earthquake, the Grand Canyon, and the trans-Mississippi bridge that collapsed in the state of Minnesota a couple of years ago.” “Na wah for you, Mr. Chameleon. Where will you put all these great imports?”
“Easy. You can’t scatter them all over the countryside because no road and no safety. We must confine them to Abuja and the state capitals—the accessible ones, that is. You line them up on both sides of Airport Road, so that the one-hour journey to the city will now take 12 to 72 hours. Some tourists might choose to skip the city altogether since there is little to see but slums, go slow, mammy-markets everywhere, and eardrum-splitting noisy generators spewing carbon monoxide into the air. . . .”