By Terese Tse
There are no appendages to the name of the Benue State Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism. Ngunan Addingi is her one and only identification and there is in this a sense of tradition. Even in America, this was the introduction she made of herself: Ngunan Addingi; Many wonder whether she has other names because this native identity is not very common in the present century particularly with the women folk. Nevertheless, trying to find out the right words to describe this cultural woman is a puzzle that very many people have been attempting to solve, particularly at the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism where she is domiciled. Being a rare Nigerian who regards service to humanity as gratification, it becomes difficult to come up with a single nomenclature that represents her norms. Her reign is certainly impactful on the Ministry in particular and the Benue people at large. She is a passionate advocate of culture and a better Benue who is irrevocably committed to serving humanity. A woman of proven integrity and dedication to duty with requisite training and experience; she seems to have the best credentials for the job of a commissioner for information. That explains why attempts to define her generate a lot of controversies by her protégés. Some refer to her as a Game Changer while others prefer Revolutionist and there is yet another group who are more comfortable with the appellation of The Innovator. Despite all her dimensions, she is no doubt a woman of impeccable character! She says a thing and does it and she is very accessible; virtues that are rarely seen in our world today.
Obviously, the ministry has recorded so many changes since she took over as the commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism on the 22nd of July, 2019. Mrs. Addingi has made modest contributions in the ministry. Under her tutelage, the ministry had witnessed unprecedented development. With the enabling environment and unflinching support of Governor Samuel Ortom, the Commissioner has been able to actualize monumental transformation on many fronts.
The establishment of the Benue Online Television, the renovation and furnishing of the ministry’s headquarters for maximum productivity, the provision of a 300KVA Generator set to Radio Benue to enhance the quality of its service delivery to the people of the state, the commissioning of the National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR), the only one in the whole North Central Zone to boost the Culture and Tourism potentialities of the state all happened to the ministry in the Ortom administration under her superintendence. It is also in her time that Kwaghhir is now recognized globally as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural heritage of the state.
Worthy of note again is her influence at the Makurdi Zoological Garden. Since she came on board, even the wilds have been smiling because their feeding system has improved greatly. Within a month the lion and hyenas know that they have two cows to eat not forgetting the goats that she brought and kept at the zoo for such animals that feed on flesh. Through her efforts, the zoo can now boast of a yam farm as well as maize farm. This is in trying to boost the feeding of the inmates at the zoo. Her sense of development touches on the staff as well. Despite the paucity of funds occasioned by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, she is able to renovate the Ticket House, procured working implements for the zoo keepers, and an erection of mesh wire fence to secure the zoo from intruders, Poachers and encroachment from the Benue State University.
During this short time in office, she has called for a truce between the Zoological Garden and BSU; the arrangement that is yielding positive results. Only last semester, BSU used the zoo to secure accreditation for Biological Science courses. BSU too extended her hand of friendship by agreeing to pump water to be used at the zoo easing the stress of trying to purchase water at the Water Board. Because of time and space, we will not be able to talk about the halls the Garden has judiciously given to the university to ease her lecture hall and office accommodation problems.
The former state lawmaker has given a face-lift to many other aspects which are nonphysical but which impact is greatly felt by staff of the ministry. At the Ministry Headquarters, she has changed the orientation of the Information officers by digitalizing their operations with the introduction of the Ministry’s website and email addresses. The website is www.benuemoict.be.gov.ng while the Email is firstname.lastname@example.org to enable them to disseminate information faster, wider and better. This has never been so in the history of the Ministry; preceding her coming on board, Information officers were operating analogically such that reports from various Departments and Agencies of their domiciliary were brought forth to the headquarters in hard copies, making it difficult and cumbersome. There are enormous testimonies from Information officers in this regard; she encourages transparency and prompt reportage of activities and policies of government in all the Ministries, Departments and Agencies. She has always tasked Information officers to take pride in their own government by amplifying its programmes and inventories: Let’s sing our song, let us project a positive image of our state. There is every need to change our narrative, to tell our story and be proud to align with our government. We ought to give our government a better image else nobody will do it for us. Even in developed countries like America and China, you could see potholes and dilapidated structures but these countries are able to tell their stories well, so much that one thinks they are free of such mess. In one of her courtesy calls, she urged information officers to make themselves relevant in the areas of their coverage. She has been paying courtesy calls on Heads of government Departments and Agencies to ensure that there exist a cordial working relationship between the Information officers and their bosses so that Information about government flows freely and without distortions. And there are so many good testimonies to this effect both from the heads of Agencies and their Information officers. Some Heads of organizations in the past seemed not to be conscious of the Information officers but today the story has changed.
She is overly concerned about our culture, people, and traditions and she has one hundred percent trust that we have all the qualifications and abilities to make our story delightful for everyone. She keeps reminding everybody about the need to celebrate our own people and be positive in our thinking: We have the superstars, the brilliants, the high achievers, those with head-turning good looks and the naturally gifted athletes here in the state that are breaking grounds and making differences in the world and we owe a responsibility to celebrate them. Let us use our platforms to highlight our society in a positive light. Let’s show the beauty to the world instead of highlighting the ugly aspect. Let us be mindful that people out there depend on us for information about government and the impact we had on society and the lives of others is very significant.
She is a true mentor in every sense of the word; in as much as she wants the right things to be done she does not chastise one in an event one fails in one’s obligations. She believes that whatever one does whether good or bad, it is for oneself and there is a reward or punishment for that from God. She has been a constant source of inspiration and strength to many who care to listen to her. A good servant who steers the people towards a collective prosperity; the Ministry has witnessed even moral growth under her reign through the morning religious services she introduced between 9:00 and 9:30am daily. This has awakened the spirit of very many staff and has drawn them closer to God.
The 30th Benue Information Commissioner has given prominence to many aspects that were often taken for granted in the time past; one case in point is the promotion of Herbal Doctors. She believes that Herbal Doctors have considerable potentialities and tendencies to finding solutions to many complications and there is need for government to give them genuine support. She has been making ways for the state to fund, promote, and prioritize researches about local herbs. It is to this intervention that plans are underway by the government of the day to create a department of Traditional and Alternative Medicine under Culture, one of the bureaus of the Ministry. At the moment, she has made possible the assemblage of Herbal Doctors across the state to carry out their operations under one roof at the Aminu Isah Kontagora Arts Theatre Complex for easy accessibility and collective research. She views that Herbal Doctors require doing some preliminary research as a team for more productive outcome.
The Commissioner has been working round the clock to ensure that all the hospitality suites in the state are brought under the supervision of the Tourism Department as it is done in other parts of the world so that they pay their taxes to the state government through the Tourism arm of the Ministry which will serve as a source of revenue for the government that has been relegated to the background over time.
For the Council for Arts and Culture, the Commissioner has been promoting the rich cultural potentialities of the state by ensuring the performance of the Benue Cultural Troupe at every public event that is being organized in the state, so that Benue people and visitors to the state would be privileged to maximum entertainment. She makes sure that the songs, music, kwaghhir, and every other show that is meant for entertainment is digitally preserved so that generations unborn could also benefit from.
She is a confirmed cultural woman who pays attention to cultural dresses and anything that would add value to the beliefs, customs, and arts of her people. Members of staff of the Information, Culture and Tourism Ministry and the general public should sustain their support for the Honourable Commissioner so that more could be achieved.