Repositioning culture, tourism for a new order
A three-day summit on repositioning culture and tourism in a diversified economy has been held in Abuja. Governors and other top government officials, members of the academia, captains of commerce and players in the creative industry gathered at the event to chart the way forward, Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME reports.
The Culture and Tourism sector is a big industry; it cuts across many sectors, such as agriculture, business, transportation, health, sports, aviation, information, technology, architecture, etc. It is arguably the biggest means of economic growth. Nigeria cannot afford to fold her hands, ignore the culture and tourism sector while other nations are reaping the immense socio-economic benefits derivable from this global vibrant sector.
“Consistency and continuity in government policies at all levels are non-negotiable to develop the sector. To this end, Nigeria should muster the political will to accord the sector preferred status to effectively develop it.”
These were part of the resolutions reached at the close of a three-day national summit on culture and tourism in Abuja last week.
In a 34-point communiqué, the summit recommended that to “create positive image for our national buildings, corporate offices and edifices, there is need to adorn them with Nigerian artworks. The interior and exterior decorations (of private and public corporate) offices of our political leaders, chief executives and Nigerian Embassies should make strong cultural statements. The Presidency should lead the way by ensuring that the furniture in the President’s office and others are designed by our master carvers’’.
It also recommended that action must be taken to make the reviewed National Policy on Culture, Tourism Master Plan, Tourism Development of Fund (TDF) and the National Endowment Fund for the Arts functional for effective development of the sector. Also on the list is the call for the resuscitation of the Presidential Council on Tourism (PCT), chaired by Mr. President with all the State Governors as members. This, according to the statement, is to ginger accelerated development of culture and tourism. The lingering call for the transfer of Nigerian Copyright Commission to Ministry of Information and Culture was re-echoed at the summit for maximum efficiency.
The communiqué also recommended that Nigerian cultural icons, both living and dead, be celebrated to inspire the younger generations to strive for excellence. According to it, the change mantra of the Federal Government can only succeed if the sector provides the fulcrum to drive it. Community theatre projects, musical concerts and visual designs are very effective tools for reorientation from bottom-up.
Other issues raised include: Stakeholders need to imbibe the culture of research and documentation, so as to increase availability of RECORDS and statistical data on the sector to aid planning. The availability of empirical data enhances funding opportunities;
- Government should engage stakeholders in concluding the nationwide Mapping of Creative Industries whose pilot was conducted by the British Council, NBS and SONTA in 2013. This is imperative because verifiable statistics on the performance of the sector will demonstrate clearly the viability of the industry and attract more investors.
- The MOPICON and Theatre Arts Regulatory Council bills need to be harmonized into one bill, which government could present to the National Assembly for timely legislative action. This is in line with the need to urgently regulate the sector and maintain high ethical standards;
- More stringent legislation need to be in place to protect national monuments from the growing cases of trafficking and willful destruction across the country. Measures should be put in place to protect the nation’s cultural sites during times of conflict by engendering communal ownership of such sites.
- In view of difficulties encountered by prospective tourists, businessmen, conference participants, pilgrims, travelers in acquiring Nigerian visa, there is need for a more friendly visa regime.
- In recognition of the strategic role of security to sustainable tourism development, effort must be re-doubled to provide the much-needed confidence for tourists and travelers visiting Nigeria.
- The current name of the ministry does not properly portray Nigeria as a country where culture and tourism is at the front burner of development. The ministry should be renamed Federal Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism to adequately reflect its mandate.
In tandem with the present administration’s drive to diversify the nation’s economy, the communique recommended that museums and indigenous languages/cultural/crafts centres should be made part of requirements for building schools across the country in order to orientate our younger generations on our history and cultural values as part of their education. Also, a law should be promulgated to compel Local Government Councils to establish and maintain community museums and craft centres and fund at least one community festival yearly.
Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed described the summit as a thorough learning curve, which showed that there are many outside the ministry that can teach us about the sector. “It is really a market place of ideas,” he added. He said a smaller committee would be set up to harmonise all the issues raised at the summit with a view to come out with modalities on how to implement the policies.
Mohammed disclosed that beginning from last Saturday in Jos, an average listener and viewer will view 15 channels free to air with better resolution. This, he said, would take away the challenge of signal while producers of programmes would concentrate on content. He added that the ministry would soon organise a night to honour our heroes in the creative industry along with new talents.
The first day of the summit witnessed an exhibition and gala night, which featured a dance performance from the National Troupe of Nigeria (NTN), entitled, Nigeriana, written and choreographed by Arnold Udoka. The summit had two plenary sessions, breakout sessions for the culture and tourism sub-sectors, and presentation of reports from the respective breakout sessions. Africa’s first Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, represented by Dr. Wale Adediran chaired the first plenary session.
In all, six papers were presented at the Summit, namely Culture in a Diversified Economy by Mr. Frank Aig-Imoukhuede, Tourism in a Diversified Economy by former Governor of Cross River State, Mr. Donald Duke, Tourism in a Diversified Economy by President of Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN Chief Tomi Akingbogun, Culture in a Diversified Economy, by Prof. Sule Bello, Developing Data Bank in the Culture and Tourism Industry by National Bureau of Statistics and Private Sector Perspective of Nigerian Culture and Tourism by Bolanle Austen-Peters of Terra Kulture, Lagos.