Rotimi Aiyetan: Farewell To a Tourism Advocate.

By Frank Meke

Rotimi Aiyetan was a tall, handsome, and intellectually gifted tourism professional. Unassuming, friendly, and engaging, he lacked the typical arrogance seen in some government officials. Instead, Aiyetan was disarming and approachable.

He dedicated his life to Nigeria’s tourism sector, ultimately succumbing to the frustration and toxicity that often plagued the industry. Rotimi Aiyetan was only 59 when he passed away, leaving behind his wife, children, and relatives who now face a future without him.

Rotimi was a dear friend. He played a crucial role in the vibrant Planning, Research, and Statistics team at the Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) during Otunba Segun Runsewe’s dynamic leadership. It was a joy for industry professionals to visit the NTDC then. Runsewe transformed the place into a welcoming, inclusive space for all Nigerians, not just key industry players.

Rotimi was an integral part of this transformation, and his office, along with that of Akin Onipede—a former Tribune editor and the NTDC’s media director—became our gathering spot. Onipede, both our official and unofficial leader, worked closely with Rotimi to make the ‘wahala’-bearing tourism journalists feel at home. Even after Onipede retired, his influence remained strong, though Runsewe’s open-door policy continued to foster a sense of community.

Rotimi thrived under Runsewe’s leadership, contributing significantly to the NTDC’s success. However, when Runsewe left in 2013, Rotimi faced relentless attacks from envious colleagues who portrayed him as a ‘Runsewe mole’ to the new Director General, Sally Mbanefo. Despite his impeccable record and excellent performance, he could not escape the hostility of the new administration.

At a relatively young age in his career, Rotimi contemplated leaving or transferring out of the NTDC due to the toxic environment. I advised him to persevere, and we prayed for divine intervention. Eventually, Mbanefo transferred him to Osun State, a move that many saw as punitive.

Despite our dismay over the situation, Rotimi’s resilience and passion shone through. He transformed Osun State into a thriving tourism destination, restructuring and rebranding the Osun Oshogbo Festival, advocating for a Ministry of Tourism and Culture, and leading significant initiatives like the Osun Hotels and Tourism Enterprises Authority Bill. He also served as vice chairman of the National Forum of Federal Government Agencies in Osun State, spearheading efforts to attract investment to the region.

Although Femi Adeshina, President Buhari’s spokesperson, intervened to ease tensions between me and Mbanefo, I couldn’t bring myself to request Rotimi’s recall to Abuja. By then, Rotimi had established another successful tourism enclave in Osun.

When Folorunsho Coker took over in 2015, I discussed Rotimi’s situation with him. Though Coker promised to address it, we eventually had a falling out due to differing views on leadership. Despite this, Rotimi remained supportive, understanding that my differences with Coker were not personal.

Rotimi Aiyetan, a man of immense humility, dedicated his life to Nigerian tourism. Even in the frustrating environment under Coker, he excelled as the Zonal Coordinator for the Southwest. We met a few times recently, and there were no signs that death was near.

As Rotimi Aiyetan leaves this world on Friday, it is the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria that has chosen to honor his dedication. I pray the government remembers his family, though our agencies and ministries often lack such care. May God, in His infinite mercy, accept Rotimi’s soul and grant him peace.

Roti, good night, my brother and friend.


the authorAV1 NEWS

Leave a Reply