A lecturer at the Department of Theatre Arts and Director of Centre for Cultural Studies, University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Professor Effiong Etim Johnson, has challenged the National Theatre, the National Troupe and other related Parastatals to reposition themselves in a way that they could meaningfully engender national development.

Johnson stated this on Friday, 15th August, 2014, in a Convocation Lecture, titled,
“Repositioning Nigeria’s Cultural Industries for Economic Empowerment and Social Security,” which he delivered as part of the Convocation programme to mark the graduation of the 2012/2013 academic session graduands of National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) Training School, at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Victoria Island, Lagos.

Demonstrating erudition and theatricality that were well applauded by the audience, he urged the Federal Government to invest wisely in tourism development and the broadcasting industry, stressing the need for the relevant agencies to be also more proactive and not see themselves more as mouthpieces of any government in power.

While berating the Federal Government for initially contemplating selling the National Theatre, the university don said the institution as well as the National Troupe should be symbols of the people’s consciousness, saying, “If we can wake up and make a move to sell the National Theatre, then the same fate awaits the National Museum. Then, Nigeria itself should be ready for the highest bidder. The National Theatre should not just be seen as promoting government activities alone; that is ‘mis-positioning.’ The National Theatre/National Troupe should be going around different parts of the country and outside to showcase the ideals of the nation. It should conduct investigation and organise events to promote cultural ideals that unite us. It should, once in a while, gather experts to brainstorm on solutions to national challenges.”

To develop children’s interest in indigenous languages, Professor Johnson advised government to re-engineer the education curriculum, and urged parents to show good examples by speaking the languages to their children: “There should be deliberate injection of cultural elements into our educational system. Many pupils have English as their first language. This is not ideal because it is not the black skin that gives you identity. It is the language you speak. A man without an identity is going into extinction even when he is still alive.”

Many leading culture scholars and promoters that were gathered to celebrate with NICO and the graduands, like veteran scholar and Director of Research, National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru-Jos, Prof. Olu Obafemi, the Director-General, Centre for Management Development (CMD), Dr. Kabir Usman, the Artistic Director of the National Troupe, Mr. Martin Adaji, the Head, Department of Theatre & Cultural Studies, Nasarawa State University, Keffi (NSUK), as well as NICO’s Executive Secretary, Dr. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, while also reflecting on the state of the industry, commended the guest lecturer for his vibrant presentation.

Endorsing much of Johnson’s argument, Professor Obafemi recalled that the supposed Cultural Policy for Nigeria was revised in 2001, but that it was still lying somewhere between the Honourable Minster’s desk and the National Assembly, saying, “Let us find a way of getting the policy out first;” while Dr. Kabir commended NICO for its efforts to revitalise the country’s culture and tradition, noting that, repositioning the cultural industries will serve as a catalyst to Nigeria’s rapid development.

On his part, Dr. Ayakoroma recalled that the first edition of the lecture held in Abuja in 2010, and that the event was organised in consonance with NICO’s objectives of carrying out enlightenment campaigns on the various facets of Nigeria’s culture to effectively mobilise Nigerians towards a culture-oriented lifestyle.

© Nico News