The Honourable Minister, Federal Ministry of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, High Chief Edem Duke, has expressed optimism that in the face of the peculiar insecurity situation in Nigeria, people could fall back on the country’s cultural diversity, dialogue and development as the panacea.
The Minister, who stated this in an address, read on his behalf by the Director of Planning, Research & Documentation in the Ministry, Alhaji I.S. Garba, on the occasion of the 2014 World Day for Cultural Diversity, Dialogue and Development, known as, World Culture Day, organised by the Ministry in collaboration with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Federal Cultural Parastatals, at the Main Auditorium of National Women Development Centre, Abuja, acknowledged Nigeria’s cultural diversity as its strength that could help melt down prejudices, ethnic conflicts and discriminations, if properly applied.
He added that, “It will further address the challenges of gender inequality, social exclusivity and stereotyping which are polarizing our world today,” and enjoined State Governments to use the World Culture Day platform to highlight the contributions of culture to national development as well as its contributions to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country.
Earlier in her opening remark, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Mrs. Nkechi Ejele, represented by Mr. Seyi Womiloju, a Deputy Director in the Ministry noted that the event was designed to showcase Nigeria’s unique cultural heritage in line with the United Nations proclamation of 21st May as the World Day for Cultural Diversity, Dialogue and Development every year.
The Perm Sec said the theme for this year was, “a positive indicator to the fact that transforming the culture sector to an enterprise would enhance the economic potentials of the sector, create jobs, reduce poverty, and create a conducive environment for economic mobilization of our people,” noting that this year’s World Culture Day was expanded to create more awareness and sensitise Nigerians on the key role of culture in the youth, women empowerment and job creation.
In the same vein, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director/Country Representative, Abuja, Nigeria, Professor Hassana Aidou, in her Goodwill Message, advocated for peace in Nigeria taking advantage of the country’s cultural diversity and heritage, emphasising that our culture should be able to make us better and not to mar our unity and peace.
In her words: “For us to build the consciousness of the importance of culture and peace, we must start from the family. Culture should protect us, as people that construct and people who do not destroy but make, people who could make, produce and involve all, are people who will make their lives better than how we meet it. Our world is dance, drama and art that constitutes our way of life and should be harnessed to promote peace…. This is why our National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) is organising a conference for traditional leaders (as custodians of culture) to discuss how culture can be used to recreate peace in our country.”
The Country Representative also reiterated that UNESCO’s partnership with the Federal Ministry of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation was, “to build peace in the minds of men and women,” and called on all to commit themselves to the preservation of Nigerian cultural heritage and use culture to promote peace and stability in Nigeria, further informing that the newly-launched UNESCO Club for Global Education was to develop School Curriculum that is culture-sensitive, so as to produce individuals, who are proud of their identity and extend the importance and usefulness of their diversity and in the process reduce conflicts that are based on ethnicity and belief.
There were competitions in some cultural events, namely, fashion parade, art exhibition, and dance by some Secondary Schools from the Federal Capital Territory, just as a children’s Cultural Troupe from Kwara State performed, and Mr. Ayo Ayanwale of the UNESCO office also did poetry rendition to mark the day.
Dignitaries that graced the occasion included the Guest Lecturer, Professor Emmanuel Dandaura, Head, Department of Theatre & Cultural Studies, Nasarawa State University Keffi, who delivered a paper, titled, “Cultural Entrepreneurship Development in Nigeria;” the First Lady of Kwara State, Her Excellency Mrs. Omolewa Ahmed; Executive Secretary, National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Dr. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma; Director-General, National Centre for Women Development, Ms Onyeka Onwenu; the Nollywood Icon, Mr. Francis Duru, who was Motivational Speaker at the occasion; the Keynote Speaker and a Clinical Director, Department of Ophthalmology, State University of New York, Downstate Medical Eye Centre, USA, Dr. Bernice Dema; representatives of all the Parastatals in the Ministry and a host of other dignitaries.
Njideka Justina Dimgba
NICO HQ, Abuja