American rapper, songwriter, actress and TV personality, Belcalis Marlenis Almánzar, better known professionally as Cardi B, left Nigeria on Sunday, December 8, 2019 after three days in the nation’s commercial and entertainment capital city of Lagos.

During her brief stay, Cardi just couldn’t get enough of Nigeria. Home girl bloody put Nigeria on the map all over again. And with some style as well.

Just saying.

Her Instagram stories dwelt on how lovely and enjoyable Nigeria is, how industrious and energetic its people are, she went on and on about Lagos’ charming nightlife and frenetic pace, she was treated to a cocktail of lap dances from exotic dancers at a strip club, got herself a Nigerian name (Chioma B), sampled Nigerian beer and jollof with praises to boot, checked into a supermarket and orphanage, and sold Nigeria to her over 70 million social media followers as a tourism destination worth checking out.

Cardi B left Nigeria for Ghana on Sunday and she appears to still miss Nigeria, its energy, endeavour, people, nightlife, food, landscape and charm.

“This is like New York...This is like Disneyland...the hustle don’t f**ing stop...Nigeria is lit...I like this country a lot. You can find everything that you are f**ing looking for in this country. Nigeria reminds me of the Caribbean Island with a touch of New York because everybody is busy. Everybody is going somewhere. The streets are always crowded,” Cardi B said through a mouth full of censored words.

No international celebrity has been this vocal about their love for Nigeria during a visit.

You can wager that thousands of foreign nationals who hitherto avoided Nigeria like a plague, no thanks to stories of terrorism and brigandage, would be booking flights to Africa’s most populous nation in the nearest future because Cardi B--one of the best rappers on the planet at the moment and a multiple award winner--said so. It is the kind of destination branding that the presidency and its Information and Culture minister, Lai Mohammed, have failed at.

Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed has been unable to articulate a coherent tourism policy for Nigeria in years [Twitter]
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed has been unable to articulate a coherent tourism policy for Nigeria in years [Twitter]

No one can argue that Nigeria is blessed with enormous natural and human resources. Like Cardi B noticed, Nigerians love the hustle, there are beautiful tourism sites littered across every state in the country with amazing cultural relics to boot. What this country has lacked is the right kind of policies and enabling environment from government to convert all of these potential human and natural energy into economic gain and Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Instead of leaning on its hard working and intelligent people to drive the economy, government would rather depend on one product--crude oil. Rather than develop its numerous tourism destinations into revenue earners, Nigeria sells off its theaters, abandons its picturesque natural sites and allows game reserves to rot.

In the photo: The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr Timipre Sylva, governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi state, Mohammed Badaru of Jigawa state, Bayelsa governor-elect, David Lyon, President Muhammadu Buhari, APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole and Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti state. [Twitter/@BashirAhmaad]
In the photo: The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr Timipre Sylva, governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi state, Mohammed Badaru of Jigawa state, Bayelsa governor-elect, David Lyon, President Muhammadu Buhari, APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole and Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti state. [Twitter/@BashirAhmaad]

In the end, a people brow-beaten to breaking point by one misguided government policy after another or a lack of one, resort to losing hope in the commonwealth, stealing from government and hustling just for themselves. It is why only few Nigerians back home speak well of their country or are proud of the land of their birth. They see no hope because government inspires none.

Mohammed’s ministry oversees the country’s tourism milieu, but he is yet to coherently articulate the nation’s tourism blueprint six years on, asides proposing to sell off the national theater edifice in Lagos. In 2019, a nation fixated on one non-renewable resource to survive still doesn’t understand that you can develop tourism to fund a chunk of the annual budget.

In 48hrs, besides shoving her bum in our faces, Cardi B did more for Brand Nigeria than Mohammed, the presidency and successive administrations and state governments have done since independence in 1960. We didn’t need a rapper to remind us of our enormous tourism potential and human capital, but here we are.

Cardi B’s message is a kick up the backside (pun intended) Nigeria badly needs. And it’s a crying shame as well for those whose job it is to put the country on a pedestal and drive its economic agenda.