BY JASON CROSS
Observer staff reporter
QUICK on her feet, new Nigerian High Commissioner to Jamaica Maureen Tamuno, who assumed the post less than a month ago, is already laying the groundwork to help boost tourism and investment in Jamaica.
She told the Jamaica Observer in a recent interview that the Caribbean island must do what is necessary to elevate itself into a one-stop shop for tourists, with a magnetising effect on the people of the world.
Tamuno is pushing for stronger bilateral relations between Jamaica and Nigeria, highlighting phenomenal cultural exchange and business experiences that await both nations. By the time she completes her stint in the next three years, she expects it to be an established fact that Nigeria helped boost tourism in Jamaica by 50 per cent and investments by at least 35 per cent.
Tamuno also wants to be the Nigerian high commissioner who goes down in history as the guru who influenced frequent and direct flights from Nigeria to Jamaica.
“Right now, Jamaica is a destination because it is just for tourism. If Jamaica is able to make Jamaica ‘the destination’, it will boost your economy. What I mean by ‘the destination’ is not one just for tourism, but a one-stop shop where tourists can come and do their shopping, have their weddings, do some level of business, and also relax. That way, more people will come to Jamaica,” Tamuno told the Observer.
She also spoke enthusiastically about bringing the biggest stars from Nigeria’s Nollywood film industry to train Jamaicans in creating their own thriving sector.
“When we talk about movies, Nollywood cannot be shifted to the back. There will be a need to actually have programmes with Jamaicans, teaching them how to act. We’ll bring Nollywood actors and actresses here to help Jamaica advance its own film industry,” she said. “I just arrived and I am visiting the relevant ministries responsible for doing that and we are looking at having the joint agreement meeting held in Nigeria as soon as the global protocols allow us to move. Nigeria is ready to host it at the end of the last quarter [of this year] or the first quarter of next year.”
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Pointing out that Nigerians love reggae and that Jamaicans love Nigerian music, too, the new high commissioner is hoping there can be more “combinations” between the two countries.
With plans to help Jamaicans create their own cottage industries, Tamuno said activities will be held to stimulate interest and equip people with the necessary skills.
“We are planning some virtual programmes that will start running soon. We are already receiving proposals for stimulating their appetite for people to get ready for physical contact. There is going to be a lot, even fashion, from Nigerian culture. Nigerians love their identity.
“You can turn the African tie and dye fabric into suits; people will imitate you,” she said. “We have brought in some volunteers who are working with the Jamaica Business Development Corporation, teaching how to tie and dye fabrics.
“They ask how they could have this going all the time. They have to expand the scope and get it to all the parishes and set up cottage industries for people and let them help with employment. That is also a good response to restiveness of any kind. When people are busy, they don’t have time to get into vices,” Tamuno said.
No stranger to leadership roles in Nigeria, having served in numerous private and public sector capacities and having spent roughly 18 years in politics, Tamuno encouraged women to go after their dreams, even in a male-dominated world.
“I was the first female ever elected local government chairman where I am from. After me, there has been nobody else, at least in the last 10 years. They try to get them to be deputies, but it is important to get women into governance. Women have to place themselves out there, and my advice to them is don’t wait.
“When you display the qualities that they need you to meet, the mantle falls on you immediately, and so my call globally is for women to be deliberate in whatever they are doing,” she said.
She also encouraged women to apply the same enthusiasm to leadership roles as they do when managing households.
“That same attitude we were brought up with, to be concerned, to cook for men, to care for the man and to multi-task at home, when you are able to put it out there in whatever you are doing, you will be suitable for leadership roles,” she insisted.
The Nigerian, who also serves as high commissioner for Belize and ambassador to Haiti and the Dominican Republic, believes she can be an inspiration for Jamaica women.
“At first I was a Member of Parliament for four years and after that, I became a mayor. In fact, I had a lot of things to do for the people as a mayor, ranging from electrifying some communities to other things. One particular community had no electricity supply for over 200 years. As mayor, with 100 days in office, I lit up the community. They don’t even know the organisation that brings light to them. All they know is that this lady brought them light. I did a lot of town halls for them, I did roads,” the new high commissioner told the Observer.
Having already delivered her letter of credence to Jamaica’s governor general, Sir Patrick Allen, Tamuno shared that she is already enjoying her stay on the island.
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