Postgraduate students of the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) Training School in Lagos were the cynosure of all eyes inside Lecture Hall II of the Institute’s complex, National Theatre Annex, Iganmu-Lagos, on Thursday, 20th October, 2016, as they proudly took their turns on the podium to educate the audience with incisive presentations from their understanding of the relationship between culture and diplomacy.

The seminar presentations on Culture and Diplomacy were thrilling and informative because several topics were presented on how to use culture as a ‘soft power’ to positively influence others, like indigenous foods, clothes, languages, dance, music, television, film, sports and other cultural products of the Nigerian people.

claypreIn kick-starting the seminar, the course lecturer, Dr. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, the Executive Secretary, National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), who is also an Associate Professor at Nasarawa State University, Keffi, the seminar was designed to deepen understanding of cultural diplomacy and improve on existing knowledge of culture and its methodology; and he enjoined the students to speak to their papers, within the time allotted for the presentations making use of index cards as earlier instructed.

The papers presented during the seminar were on various areas of culture but one of the most dazzling presentations, titled, “EU Cultural Diplomacy: France’s Gains, Nigeria’s Losses”, was delivered by Mr. Obumneme A. Nwafor, where he argued that France has been a major player in the European Union, and uses the EU platform to propagate its economic and cultural interests in Nigeria and the rest of Africa.

According to him, so ubiquitous are French cars, French foods and drinks, French textiles, French household and daily products, French Language and French Schools and cultural Institutes in Africa that, presently, Nigeria’s enormous economic and cultural potentials as ‘the giant of Africa’ shrinks compared to the vast French business and cultural empire.

However, the eloquent paper presenter remained optimistic that Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage was strong enough to overcome the economic and cultural aggressions against our Nigerian indigenous languages, foods, dresses, and other cultural products.

Nigerian museums artefacts, he stated, are among the most treasured in the world, saying that their varieties and cultural significance speak volumes of Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage, adding that some European countries being reluctant to return them (stolen Nigerian artefacts scattered all over Europe) is enough testimony about the cultural diplomacy gains they (the artefacts) make for these countries.

He recommended strict that measures be rolled out by the Nigerian government and conscious execution of the Cultural Policy of Nigeria to the letter, positing that by an enabling Act, Nollywood should produce its films in Nigerian languages with sub-titles in English, French or any other language, where the works are marketed and that the Act should also provide that dress, music, food, and so on, in these films should depict at least 70% local content.

He also recommended that Nigeria should utilize at least 75% local content – foods, drink, language and 100% dress – in all public functions hosted by Nigeria, locally and internationally, and that Nigeria should grant scholarships to French citizens to study Nigerian languages or take the NICO Cultural Administration programmes which the Federal Government should upgrade into degree and post degree programmes run by all Nigerian tertiary institutions.

The final recommendation by Mr. Nwafor from his paper was that government should make it mandatory for its citizens to dress Nigerian and play indigenous music during all social gatherings (birth, death, naming, wedding, town and union functions), and that they should do this with the active support and corporation of traditional rulers and the leadership of town unions.   

It is noteworthy that the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) already has a dress policy, “Dress Nigeria”, which makes it mandatory for its officers and students to wear Nigerian dresses on three out of the five working days, specifically, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and to all programmes of the Institute.

Participants at the seminar included the Director, NICO Training School, Lagos, Mrs. Brigitte Yerima; Director, NICO Liaison Office, Lagos, Mr. Louis Eriomala; Lecturer and SA to the ES, Mr. Law Ikay Ezeh; Asst. Lecturer of the course, Mrs. Jane Ofili; Mr. Perekeme Odon of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC); as well as NICO lecturers, students and members of staff.

Anthony Okafor and Lanre Arepo

Corporate Affairs Unit

NICO Training School

Lagos, Nigeria