A lot of positive recognition has greeted your appointment as the special assistant to the governor on tourism; do you think your career as an actress will continue to get the same level of acceptance in Nigeria?
I want to believe so, because since my appointment to serve my state, I have had so many calls from producers, actors calling to extend their hands of fellowship in building the Nigerian project. Again, I have been invited to play different roles in the movie industry.
Do you think your appointment will impact Nollywood?
I think it is a plus to the producers and actors that one of their own has a government appointment again; I am not the first to be so appointed in Nigeria.
Other notable movie actors had been appointed and they contributed their quota to the development of the industry and this is what I aim to do.
How will you describe your work in government?
My work in government is basically to assist my state Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, in the area of tourism development. This entails how as a state we can harness the rich tourism potential into a world class money-making venture that will also attract direct foreign investment into the state and increase tourist traffic into Akwa Ibom State.
Is there any challenge combining it with acting?
Certainly, nothing good comes easy but I still try to do my work religiously and I put in my very best to uphold the confidence reposed on me having been so appointed to serve my state.
How will you describe the government’s approach towards tourism development in the state?
Among Gov. Emmanuel’s five-point agenda, tourism is encapsulated in the industrialisation drive and as such he is very keen in developing t h e vast tourism potential that abound in the state and this gave impetus to his endorsement of the Ibomfest Heritage Festival which is coming up from December 15 to 17.
For us, developing the tourism sector will increase tourist traffic to our state, increase the IGR and employ a lot of our youths and others of employable age.
What is so unique about Ibomfest?
Ibomfest is unique in many ways. At first, its theme is ‘Our Cultures Beyond Borders,’ so I would like to say it’s not a carnival of some sort.
It is a festival to showcase our way of life, our natural endowments, our rich cultural heritage and our most widely celebrated cuisines.
Every local government area in the state is blessed with huge deposits of natural resources; all of these will be showcased to the admiration of spectators, tourists and visitors during the festival in December.
What challenges did you have to surmount to get the project to this level?
Well, I did not see challenges other than I needed to get the right people, the right team to work with to achieve this task. That I have got, and so far our team is working night and day to make sure the project succeeds.
Since our governor runs an all-inclusive government, he endorsed the project after my presentations to him. Having been convinced of the economic benefits accruable to the state, he gave his nod and endorsed it.
What plans do you have for visitors coming to Akwa Ibom State for the festival?
Our state is the safest place now in Nigeria, as such visitors will not have problems of security as our armed security personnel are everywhere in the state offering maximum security to all persons. Our hotels a r e all mobilised to clean up their environment in readiness to receive visitors.
All hospitality business owners have also begun to train their staff in preparation for the festival. Local tours will be organised to allow our visitors see Akwa Ibom and its beauty.
What activities have you planned for Ibomfest?
The festival has four components. One of them is the parade of colours where all local government areas will parade in the streets of Uyo to showcase their rich cultural attires, masquerades and natural endowments within their locality giving room for prospective investors to see the availability of such and the abundance of it and then invest.
Then the cultural attires can be rebranded for export into the international markets.There is also The Beach Fashion Show. Our Ibeno Beach is the longest stretch of sandy beach in the coast of Africa, yet in the past, it did not receive any recognition; we intend to host a fashion show there to enable our visitors to appreciate the beauty, its ambience and tap from the economic activities there.
Our Akwa Ibom cuisines are widely accepted and appreciated, we shall host a food fair to showcase our local delicacies and rebrand for export.
Then there is a boat regatta. Since we are a riverine state, it’s important to showcase our strength in boat building through this colourful boat regatta competition.
Are you expecting a huge partnership with corporate bodies on the project?
Yes, Ibomfest is expected to be a public private partnership driven project as such we call on all corporate bodies in the country to come and be part of it by way of sponsorship or partnership to make this vision a reality.
Already some corporate organisations are beginning to make enquires while some have indicated strong interest to participate.
What legacy do you plan to leave behind after your appointment?
By God’s special grace, I plan to build the Ibomfest Heritage Festival to be self-sponsored, attract tourist traffic yearly to the state, increase the IGR and create employment and partner development agencies and government to develop tourist sites in Akwa Ibom State.
What nuggets of wisdom will you want to share with budding actors in Nigeria some of whom your career has inspired?
The primary advice I will offer any budding actor is that selling yourself for roles to a producer to get ahead does not work in the long run, not as well as hard work and talent.
Develop your craft and always give everything in depicting any roles you accept to play whether big or small. That’s what gets you noticed and that’s what wins awards.