A university don from the Department of Theatre and Cultural Studies, Nasarawa State University, Keffi (NSUK) and former Honourable Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Nasarawa State, Hajia Lantana Ahmed, has identified misunderstanding of the basic ideals of what culture is as a discipline by our leaders and policy-makers and to an extent, culture practitioners themselves, as one of the major challenges militating against the maximum benefits the nation can draw from the culture sector.
This was contained in her presentation at the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) organised 5-day Workshop on, “Repositioning Cultural Workers for Improved Productivity,” for staffers of the Department of Culture, Federal Ministry of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation which took place at the Oasis Garden Hotel, Mararaba, Nasarawa State.
According Hajia Lantana, Nigerian leaders and policy-makers do not understand what culture is, largely due to the fact that, often times, the culture sector has Ministers who are not in the core culture sector, which denies them the full knowledge of how the sector should be run, saying, “Sometimes, you have a Minister who is a lawyer. In the State Ministries, you may have a Commissioner, who is an economist and as a result, we don’t put round pegs in round holes. You will find out that they don’t even understand what we do as cultural officers.”
“Take, for instance, you are going to NAFEST and your Commissioner goes to meet the Governor; the first thing they will ask you is: ‘How much is the money involved?’ When you tell them the amount, they will shout and say, ‘We can use that for something else! Is it not just dancing that you are going to do?’ Without realising that it is not just dancing that the cultural sector does, while we have so much to offer in our artefacts and the rest; but they believe that we are just there for entertainment and nothing else,” she said.
She lamented that while footballers are usually kept in very good hotels whenever they go to play matches, for culture workers, whenever they have cultural programmes, they are taken to primary or secondary school classrooms to sleep, a situation which is the typical example of what is happening in the sector at all levels and not encouraging for culture workers.
Hajia Lantana further attributed the blame to cultural workers, saying: “There is also the basic misunderstanding of concept of culture by us practitioners of culture. We should tell them that this is who we are; we are creative but most of us just take it as a vocation. It is a calling and we need to have the consciousness that we have the talents to do it; not people who are there to say: Is it not just to work and get my salary out of what I am doing?”
Other challenges identified by the university done were the challenges of environmental investments, low budget allocations, risky working conditions without insurance and the lack of motivation for the culture worker.
She therefore admonished culture workers to ensure they specialise in their area of calling, saying for the sector to witness development, there is every need to be creative in their specialised skills stressing that our cultural heritage is our unifying force and due to the heterogeneous nature of the country, there is every need to live together and encourage unity in diversity.