The importance of cultural diplomacy in promoting international relations cannot be overemphasized, a fact made clear, as postgraduate diploma students of National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) Training School presented papers at the maiden Seminar in Cultural Diplomacy recently at the Institute’s Training School Complex, National Theatre Annex, Iganmu-Lagos.

NICO’s Executive Secretary, Professor Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, who is also the course lecturer, set the tone for the seminar by stressing the need to promote a positive image of Nigeria globally, adding that the papers were aimed at examining the use of country’s cultural values and heritage as tools in fostering national development and achieving our cultural diplomacy objectives.

The NICO Boss, whose teaching style usually involves seminar presentations, had outlined the criteria that would be used to judge every presenter, adding that the seminar was to create a platform for students to research into various areas in cultural diplomacy for deeper appreciation of the course.

The seminar featured many speakers, who described cultural diplomacy, in line with the position of the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy (ICD) as, “a course of actions which are based on and utilize the exchange of ideas, values, traditions and other aspects of culture or identity, whether to strengthen relationships, enhance socio cultural cooperation or promote national interests; cultural diplomacy can be practiced by either the public sector, private sector or civil society;” a term they all referred to as, “soft power.”

One of the speakers, Frank Ariwera Otobo, in his paper, entitled, “Chieftaincy Institutions as vehicles for Nation Building and Cultural Diplomacy,” highlighted ways that nation building and cultural diplomacy can be achieved using chieftaincy institutions in Nigeria as a vehicle, noting that the practices, such as, award of chieftaincy titles, promotion of ethnic marriages, contact with foreigners, signing of treaties, mitigation of conflicts, preservation and promotion of culture, population movement and traditional intelligence gathering and sharing system, among others, all serve as veritable means of cultural exchange.

He emphasized that chieftaincy institutions are indispensable instruments in Nigeria’s drive to nationhood on account of the multi-lingual and pluralistic nature of the country, concluding that there was dire need to make provision for definite roles for the chieftaincy institutions in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

In her paper, Lydia Folashade Oladejobi identified the role of traditional burial rites in cultural diplomacy, saying that the various activities that a burial rite entails serve as tools for cultural diplomacy and listed them as, attendance by people from diverse ethnic groups and countries, language used in the ceremony, clothes (uniforms, popularly called, Asoebi) worn for burials, beads with cultural significance, recitation of eulogies by gravesides, and inter-marriage have significant effects on burial rites.

She further stated that the culture of a people is their identity and building on the strength of Nigeria’s cultural practices, such as, burial rites can be used to foster peace, unity and mutual understanding among ethnic groups and nations.

Also delivering a paper, entitled, “Indigenous Language as a Tool for National Development,” Olajumoke Adewuyi accentuated the fact that, language as the identity of a people or ethnic group through which culture is transmitted can be used to foster national development, as well as achieving cultural diplomacy.

She maintained that the indigenous language as a cultural component has the potentials for encouraging tolerance, dialogue and co-operation and can create conducive environment for income generation and poverty reduction.

Present to offer constructive criticisms at the seminar presentations were the Director of NICO Training School, Lagos, Mrs. Brigitte Yerima; Director, Lagos Liaison office, Mr. Louis Eriomola; Special Assistant to the Executive Secretary, Mr. Law Ikay Ezeh; and Lecturer, University of Lagos, Otunba Tunji Sotimirin.

Uju Ukwu

Corporate Affairs                                                                                                                          NICO Training School