Kalanne is what this beauty and brains Rivers born Stella Ibiene Fubara is popularly known. She is the daughter of HRH Alabo Prof Dagogo Michael Fubara and Alabota Dr Vinolia Fubara. This Mother of 4 is the Director-Africa International Operations Dubai Tourism.
She had worked in many multinational companies like Deloitte and Touche, Walt Disney World, Wyndham Vacation Hotels & Resorts and Wakanow. com before her present place Ministry of Tourism, Dubai.
She believes Tourism is necessary and every Country should tap into it to showcase what they have and bridge relationships with other Countries. Kalanne is strict on the Youth. She advised hard work for benefits and no handout. City People’s Business Development Manager, BUNMI DUROJAIYE interviewed her recently in Port Harcourt.
Let’s run through your background.
My name is Stella Ibiene Fubara. I was named after my Grandmother, so they call me “Kalanne,” which means “Small Mummy”. My parents are from Opobo, Prof. Dagogo Micheal Fubara and Dr.Vinolia Fubara. I was born in United States, and very early as children, my father wanted us to have a true identity as Nigerians, to understand our culture, so when I was around 10 years, we all moved back to Nigeria.
I started my primary school in Enugu. I went to Ekulu Primary School, proceeding to Federal Government College Enugu; I did 3 years then transferred to Federal Government College Abuloma where I got my WAEC Certificate. I was a very handy person and initially, I wanted to be a pilot but my father thought that was not a suitable profession for my character because I was a little bit out there (wild).
I used to be a risk-taker but no longer. I took Jamb for engineering and started Electrical Engineering at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (UST), I did it for 3 years and I realized it was not truly my calling I didn’t want to finish it and my Godfather at the time, Dr. Eugene Ibe said to my parents, she looks like a business person, finance or Accounting.
Why doesn’t she switch to that? So I did graduate from the United States Franklin University in Columbus Ohio, with a Bachelor’s degree in Administration with a major in Accounting and I did my MBA as well. I married, and I have four children. I focused on the children quite a bit but I was able to align it with my career at Deloitte & Touche and got employed to Walt Disney World as the Project Finance Controller and Walt Disney World then took me as a Finance Manager. I stayed with them for about six years before moving to Wyndham Vacation Hotels & Resorts in Orlando, Florida to be Director of Marketing Operations. I really enjoyed been involved in entertainment, hospitality, travelling and tourism.
In 2013, I was here in Nigeria for my father’s 75th birthday and I was approached with a lot of opportunities, so I moved down to Nigeria to Wakanow.com as the Chief Products & Marketing Officer and stay with them for 20 months. Dubai Tourism called me up and asked me If I would join them in Dubai to Head up their Africa Operations in the Ministry of Tourism for Dubai. So I moved to Dubai in 2015 and became the Director of International Operations Africa and that is what I have been doing for the past five years.
Talk about tourism in Nigeria and compare it with that of Dubai
Sadly, you cannot compare but it is not an issue of money but vision. There is nothing you can achieve without having a goal, a target, a plan and a vision. That is something Dubai excels at. Right now, we are working on our 50-year plan in Dubai, we are done with 2025 and His Highness is telling us all,” what is your 50yr plan for tourism for Dubai”
I urge all African countries, not only Nigeria to plan. Do not have one source of revenue for income. You need to multiply your sources of income, so if your country is into Oil, Gold, Diamond, and Agriculture you need to prop it up with tourism.
Tourism is something that every country can embrace, so you advise to Nigeria as a country and the individual states, start to support your local communities and your local entrepreneurs in taking pride in their state or cities by showcasing, and make sure their environment is pushed forward to showcase what they have. Ghana is a wonderful example of this. Ghana launched: the “Year of Return” a year ago and pushed it to the International communities to say all Africans in Diaspora whether you claim to be a French African or Black American or born in the UK come back to Ghana in the year of Return, we will embrace you and show you where you possibly came from and how you got to the country you now call home.
Advise your own state government (rivers state) on tourism
The Director-General (DG) of Rivers State Tourism Board is Yibo Koko and I know him very well, we have worked on projects, he understands tourism. Rivers State should enable him, give him the platform, give him the finance, give him an opportunity and the time to build the vision to national voice and he can take Rivers State to the next level when it comes to tourism. I also urge all African communities to embrace specialists that they have living in other countries to come back home and encourage growth.
I live in Dubai they embraced me and gave me the platform and I am doing what they ask me to do for their country. It means that there can be collaboration or partnership between Dubai and other countries to bridge tourism. Bridges ….that is what I am here for. But the African Governments have to support the local communities.
I am here right now in Port Harcourt; Dubai Tourism is supporting Port Harcourt Polo Tournament because Dubai Polo Habtoor Club wants to build a relationship with Port Harcourt Polo Club. The Rivers State Government should be involved and support Port Harcourt Polo Tournament as much as Dubai is doing, that is the way to build tourism relationships. Nothing ever happens without a relationship. It is very important.
Advise the youth on tourism…
On the issue of youth. I am going to be very harsh because I have children in the 20s and they are youth too. I have to be harsh with them because is reality.
There is no shortcut in life. Put in creativity, work hard to create yourself as a special breed, do not wait for handouts. Everywhere I go youths are begging for jobs and I give them opportunities and they do not embrace it. It is really, really painful.
This happens in Nigeria, Ghana South Africa everywhere you go even in the United States nothing will be given. Believe it or not aside from the privilege of my birth and my parents, there was nothing else that was handed to me. I had to work and be in the right position and show myself, prove to people around that I am capable. Youth, you have to do the same thing. Who is going to hand you a job? You send me an email, dear Ma; you are looking for a job in anything. There is no such job as “in anything”.
What did you major in the University? What are you passionate about? What are you good at, what will you wake up in the morning and do 24/7? I am alert 24/7 that is the way in tourism. You need to wake up… no handouts. Lots of the graduates here cannot even complete a sentence in English and you want me to engage you, how?
They are very rude. I mean it just blows my mind. I see what is going on and I am double harsh on my own children because I do not want them to embarrass me. Work hard in what you do, and then the benefits will come. What I did yesterday, I am reaping the benefits of being in this industry for 30 years plus.
Aside tourism what do you do at leisure?
Working has now become a hobby, but when I am not working, I listen to music. I really love music; I listen to music a lot. I also love to watch National Geography and Crime shows.
I can sit while doing my work and watch this all day long. Believe it or not, people see me as a very public person but I love being myself. I love “me” time. When am on a flight for 6 hours I do not put on the Television, I will Just be myself. Fashion-wise, my friends says I have zero fashion sense. What am I wearing right now…a simple Bubu.
Jeans! That is me. I love to wear Jeans. I learnt how to make up only 4 years ago (in my 40’s). My friends, when they know I am going out, constantly ask me what I will be wearing and they tell me,-it is not a Jeans event O! I do not want people to focus on my public person, that is not how I am. I am very hospitable, I love hosting people, just chilling with friends.