Government has been called upon to stay action pending in the National Assembly concerning the National Cultural Policy until it receives the blessing and input of people from the grassroots, professionals in the culture sector and, perhaps, the people who contributed to the original document, to make a presentation that will reflect a comprehensive view of the culture of the people.
Professor Effiong Etim Johnson, a Professor of Theatre Arts and Director, Centre for Cultural Studies at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, gave this charge at the Nigerian Institute of International Studies (NIIA), Victoria Island, Lagos on Friday, 15th August, 2014, while delivering a Pre-Convocation Lecture for graduands of the 2012/2013 academic session of the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) Training School, Lagos.
In the paper, titled, “Repositioning Nigeria’s Cultural Industries for Economic Empowerment and Social Security,” the university don maintained that for Nigeria to make head-way with culture in the country, the grassroots need to make contributions to the Cultural Policy and assemble those who matter professionally and otherwise as well in the sector to brainstorm and bring out what could be universally and nationally accepted as the document that represents their collective interest.
Taking a critical look at the existing Cultural Policy for Nigeria, Johnson regretted that beginning from the onset when the document was made available to Nigerians, as a reference material, it had attracted very serious constructed criticisms.
Further making reference to theatre scholars like Dapo Adelugba, Mike Emeji, Austine Asagba and Sam Ukala, who, in terms of scholarship, experience and practice in the cultural sector, are authorities whose opinions mattered, Johnson said they had, at one point or the other, expressed disappointment with the content of the policy, arguing that about 80 per cent of the original input into the document had been discarded by government.
According to him, more worrisome was the view of Emeji, who had said that not only was the document lacking debt, but that he was worried because of Nigeria’s problem of not implementing its policies; that even when that document may have become something substantial enough, given its antecedent, it may not be implemented as it should be done.
He further disclosed that another scholar, Professor Ayo Akinwale even agreed that the cultural policy should be revisited and after that has been done, government should make bold by implementing it, especially in setting up the Arts Academy and the Endowment Fund for the Arts so that the cultural sector can be given a lease of life to practice.
Noting that although the topic of the lecture suggested economic empowerment and social security as assignment for Nigeria’s cultural industries to carry out, Johnson posited that, no meaningful empowerment can readily take place without educational empowerment.
His words: “Nigerian schools readily fit into cultural industries as they can showcase the nation’s cultural idiosyncrasies, via language, food, fashion, architecture, festivals, hospitality and even curricular, but needs to be repositioned via curricular reviews that teach our values, belief systems, histories, and many artistic, agricultural, architectural and technological endowments.”
“I agree that the curriculum we are using in the primary school has been reviewed but the cultural content of our curricular at the primary school level is too insignificant for a child from your house to really go to school and grab something that is cultural. Not only is the education formatted in the English Language register but there should be an injection into the educational system from the primary school to lay the foundation and create the orientation for our growing up children, culture-wise, so that our children will not lose that genes of where they come from. Nowadays, you discover that some children in the nursery school, their first language is the English Language; and that is not a good position.”
He therefore stressed that research into the indigenous ways of life and occupation should be taken seriously because they have the capacity to engender the birth of cottage industries directly by the universities in collaboration with the private sector, Local, States and Federal Governments, maintaining that the gains of such collaborations could impact positively on social security and economically empower people and the institutions respectively.
Corporate Affairs Unit