The role of culture in any society cannot be overemphasized on account of ability to empower economically and provide social security. Also the need to harness every sector of the arts and culture sector of the economy for the benefit of nation-building was once again stressed.
These were borne out at the fifth annual public lecture of National Institute for Culture Orientation (NICO) and the second convocation ceremony of the foremost culture training school in Lagos last week. Diploma and Postgraduate Diploma in Cultural Administration were awarded for graduands of the 2012/2013 academic session.
These events were held at Nigerian Institute of Internal Affairs (NIIA), Victoria Island and Cinema Hall, National Theatre, Iganmu-Lagos respectively and had as theme, “Repositioning Nigeria’s Cultural Industries for Economic Empowerment and Social Security” and was delivered by Prof. Effiong Johnson of the Department of Theatre Arts, University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
In the lecture, Prof. Johnson articulated the economic potentials of the culture sector, which are largely untapped as yet and stated that they were far more lucrative than oil. He explained that for Nigerians to understand their culture, they must be grounded in their different languages.
According to him, Nigerian schools fit into the description of cultural industries since they could showcase the country’s cultural idiosyncrasies through the language, food, fashion, architecture, festivals and hospitality. He noted, “They can be repositioned via curricular reviews that teach our values, belief systems, histories and many artistic, agricultural, architectural and technological endowments.”
Johnson pointed the National Theatre, the Arts Councils in the states of the federation, the tourism industry, broadcast industry, textile and fashion houses as Nigeria’s cultural industries that must be harnessed for maximum benefits, saying, “Tourism could be developed to be one of the highest foreign exchange earners in our vast, potentially capacitated nation. But unserious approach or calculated reluctance or over dependence on oil, or crass misplaced priority clad the engagements of governments against the exploitation of tourism potentials in the country”.
While hammering, especially on the tourism sector, Johnson highlighted two problems troubling the sector. According to him, “the usual government hard-to-implement policy syndrome, as earlier captured by Angya, that government’s known posture as characterised by neglect, poor budgetary provision, institutions mired in bureaucracy make for unrealisable goals”.
Johnson also said perennial security challenges in the country militate against tourism success in the country. He pointed out that national strikes, insecurity of lives and property, terrorists, cultists, militants, robbers on the prowl, high cost of petroleum products and bad roads, advanced fee fraud among others, as impediments to realising tourism goals.
The theatre don noted that the blank Atlantic shoreline was roaring and splashing in colossal tourism waste that stretches from Lagos, Rivers, Cross River and Akwa Ibom States, adding that the historical and archaeological sites and monuments, such as Lord Laggard’s colonial ruins in Ikot Abasi and Zungeru, King Jaja of Opobo, tombs and memorial sites of the Aba Women Riots of 1929 among others, which make Nigeria a unique tourism place far outweighs any other country in Africa. “Yet”, he lamented, “they lie fallow, uncultured and uncultivated. Yet upon activation, they could have provided responses to unemployment challenges, tourism gains and inter-cultural exchanges of social, political, economic and cultural counts”.
He concluded by identifying and criticising the country’s unhealthy attitude in the implementation of policies. He pointed out certain criticisms level;ed against Nigeria Cultural Policy (1988) and called for grassroots input to the document before any meaningful debate on the draft review by the National Assembly.
The resounding ovation that greeted Johnson’s lecture meant it was well received by the diverse audience made up of government functionaries, students and friends of the culture institute.
On his part, Minister of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke, who was represented by the Artistic Director, National Troupe of Nigeria, Mr. Martins Adaji, commended NICO’s governing board, management and staff “for creating an authentic platform to enlighten, educate and demonstrate to the general public the critical role of culture in national development”.
Earlier, the institute’s Executive Secretary, Dr. Barclays Ayakoroma, called on Nigerians to take advantage of the cultural dimension of development for the needed advancement in governance and in every area of national life so that the country could stand tall among the comity of nations.