The Honourable Minister for Arts and Multi-culturalism of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago, Dr. Lincoln Douglas, has said his country is offering scholarship to ten (10) Nigerians to learn the art of making, tuning and developing steel bands as well as costume design and development of carnival arts in Nigeria.

Douglas, who made this known in his remarks at the opening ceremony of the 2013 edition of Abuja National Carnival on Saturday, 23rd November, at the Eagle Square, Abuja, said he believed in what Nigeria was doing to support carnival development in the country.

According to him, he was in Nigeria because he believed that, “what Nigeria is doing in terms of supporting the carnival is of enormous benefit;” and that it was, “a great opportunity to bring the nation together, to have a celebration, to create opportunities for the young people to participate in something meaningful, to create more industries and opportunities for tourism and the development of the culture industry.”

Continuing, the minister said, “Trinidad and Tobago is indeed happy to be part of this experience. To this extent, I have made known to the Honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture that, in addition to the costumes that we are dedicating this year, we are also giving scholarship to a few Nigerians to learn how to make steel bands. These scholarships will be made available to the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, and it is an honour for us in Trinidad & Tobago to continue to participate in the development of the carnival here in Abuja.”

In his remarks, the Honourable Minister for Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke, thanked Dr. Lincoln Douglas specially for the scholarship awards to enable creative youths in Nigeria to go to Trinidad & Tobago in order to learn, not just the art of developing steel bands, but also the creative ability to design and produce costumes for carnivals and many other things that will improve carnivals in Nigeria.

His words: “We are truly proud of our partnership with Trinidad & Tobago, a country that has turned carnivals into an economy and when I see my brother and his president and prime minister dancing during a musical concert, it was the event of the carnival in Trinidad and Tobago, it was not so much that they have the best dancers but because they are propelling an economy and today we have shown eloquently that there is a great potential in this direction.”

Describing the contingents that participated in the display of carnival floats at the opening ceremony from the states of the federation and the FCT, Duke said they have showcased that culture, creativity, national cohesion, and national unity are indeed in the front burner of our national life.

“Tonight, we have shown eloquently to Nigeria and indeed to the entire world that this is one great, strong, indivisible country. This is a country that for the 100 years of our amalgamation, we have continued to grow from strength to strength and culture; using the platform of carnival continues to offer the opportunity of the expression of our diversity as the expression of creativity of our people;” he said.

Duke maintained that it was because Nigerians see culture as the biggest collateral for national unity that they continue to hold firm to, saying, it was important for the nation to begin to grow culture as an enterprise, to use the various platforms that the carnival provides to mainstream culture and tourism in the economic agenda of Nigeria, further stressing that it was important for all stakeholders working in the public and private sectors to be able to leverage on the prospects and the possibilities that culture and tourism provides.

Disclosing that the World Bank had in its 2012 Report identified Nigeria as a country with great prospects for the growth of culture and tourism, Duke expressed confidence that culture has continued to be the biggest soft power for Nigeria and it was time for Nigerians to see the milestone of the centenary to use culture again to solidify the country, strengthen the economy, and for Nigeria continue to take her rightful place in the comity of nations.

He was of the opinion that as one of the biggest producers of oil and gas and the second economy on the African continent, Nigeria does not need to wait for 2015 to overtake South Africa, but can actually deploy culture and tourism; and that the country can identify the prospects today and develop fiscal policies to ensure that even before then, it could create a great revolution in the culture sector.

Caleb Nor
Corporate Affairs
NICO, Abuja