By Dominica Toruka
National Institute for Cultural Orientation is the apex Cultural Institute established as a result of joint initiative of the Federal government of Nigeria and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) during the world decade for cultural development (WDCD) from 1988-1997 which acknowledged inter-alia, the cultural dimension of development, the need to broaden participation in cultural life as well as the promotion of international co-operation among nations.
The Institute was set up by decree No: 93 of 1993 with the primary responsibility of promoting positive cultural values and harnessing our cultural resources to meet the challenges of social integration, peace, unity, and National development and serve as a vital force for energizing the various culture establishments in the direction advocated by the World Decade for Cultural Development (WDCD).
NICO as its mandate has super headed Innovative Training, Research and Documentation of our cultural heritage and assists to make culture the vector for national development. Consequently, it has as one of its objectives, the task of carrying out Public enlightenment campaigns on various- facet of Nigeria’s culture for cultural orientation of Nigerians, and provide information on evolving cultural issues to those at the helm of affairs, and policy makers and various stakeholders. It is in furtherance of this objective that the institute according to the Acting Executive Secretary, Mr. Louis Eriomala disclosed that the public lecture was initiated as a veritable platform where renowned Scholars, administrators, captains of industries, policy makers and implementors would avail the nation the opportunity of their vast knowledge and experience for socio-economic and political advancement of the nation.
NICO public lecture has indeed since it was conceptualized in 2010 became a useful platform to spur intellectual discourse on potentials inherent in our culture, to generate knowledge that could widen understanding on what culture constitutes, the resources of culture and culture it-self and how culture is strategic to parlay the overall developmental agenda of the nation. The Acting Executive Secretary posited that the public lecture has so far featured prominent university dons which include Prof. Emeka Nwabueze on “Democratization and the Dialectics of culture in contemporary Nigeria”; Prof. Segun Ojiwuji of South Illinois University USA- Katanfuru: The Illogic of culturenomics economics in Nigeria cultural Administration.”
Prof. Shamsudeen Amali, the former Vice Chancellor Nasarawa State University Keffi on “Culture, Good Government, and Nigerian Democracy” Prof Abdullahi Uba Adama, the Vice Chancellor, National Open University of Nigeria on “Commodification of culture”. The political Economy of the Hausa Popular cultural industries. Prof. Mohammed Akaro mainoma, former Vice Chancellor Nasarawa State University, Keffi on “Culture, accountability and National Development” His Excellency, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, the Executive Governor of Imo State on” promoting culture, developing the Economy” and now this 7th edition on “Culture, Economy and Good Governance, the Nigerian Experience” by no less a personality than the former governor of Abia State and Chairman SLOK group, Dr. Uzor Kalu.
This 7th edition is the first held under this present administration of the Acting Executive Secretary, Mr Iouis Eriomala, since he took over the saddle of leadership in NICO on an acting capacity in November 2017. The number of impactful cultural programmes he has organized since he assumed office is a clear testimony of his high sense of culture, organization, passion, capacity and energy which shows him as a man to watch.
In his address at the event, he reiterated that the public lecture has unarguably become useful platform where eminent scholars, administrators, captains of industries and policy makers and implementors meet to foster how culture can be used to parlay National integration, stimulate economic growth and development. The Acting ES is of the opinion that the choice of the theme “Culture, Economy and Good Governance: the Nigeria Experience is imperative in view of the current economic situation. For him, a better understanding of the intricate relationship between culture, Economy and Good governance by all stakeholders would engender the much needed socio-political development of our nation” He also emphasized that, “Until we make culture the bedrock of our developmental aspirations and political life styles and regulated by our cherished cultural rules, our dream of a better Nigeria would remain a mirage; citing strong cultural foundation as the strong significant source of the economic transformation of the Asian Tigers as they made culture the cornerstone of their development agenda.
The lecture indeed was illuminating and thought provoking, as the guest lecturer, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu took participants to a deep understanding of the nexus between culture, economy and Good governance. The practical perspective applied in handling the theme tells his background and trade that one would conclude that no better person than such successful captain of industry would handle it better. He did not mince words in showing his understanding of the theme as, a businessman, politician and Administrator, while pointing out the Ignorance of some persons about culture and how it co-relates to Economy and Good Governance, he succeeded in taking the participants to a clear understanding of how culture and good governance affects economy, emphasizing the fact that culture has been the missing condiment in our economic development. Culture according to him can be expressed in varied ways, “it is expressed in arts, in music, in dance, in party, in fashion, in food, in architecture, in writings inter-alia, all these make up what we call cultural diversity, which has become a huge gift for economic transformation.
He noted in his words: “we must begin to see the economic opportunities inherent in our cultures. I do not just mouth it I have been putting it into practice. At the beginning of every year, in my village in Igbere, I hold cultural ‘expo’ which brings together thousands of people. I also hold youth conference at the same venue. I do that deliberately. Although the projects gulp huge amount of money, I relish funding them. The two progammes are meant to send a strong message to our youth and society that we need to inculcate our culture in our socio- economic activities. The objective is being achieved going by the result we get at the end of each outing”.
Speaking on the economy, he pointed out that, “the understanding that the economy is just about what the government is and what the Central Bank and Federal Ministry Of Finance are talking about GDP and forex or that the economy will work best because of who the Finance Ministry and Governor of Central Bank are or it takes the magical hands of a President to make a country’s economy great or poor, rather it takes a whole gamut of all activities aimed at boosting trade and commerce, acknowledging the fact that Nigerian mono- product economy suffered recession because we exported mainly oil and with the drastic drop in the demand for oil internationally, we cried”. He believed that from our cultures we can create export items which would help grow the economy away from dependence on oil.
Stating Nigeria experience in its effort to explore the potentials of cultural activities in Nigeria and the extent these cultures can affect the growth of the economy. He said, “but as a businessman and investor, the first challenge you are faced with is cultural within cultural milieu, you find that in some places it is a taboo to sell land to foreigners. You also find that in some places it is culturally wrong to open your shops on certain days and during certain festivals. These are issues investors battle with and invariably affects where their interest would go.
The Examples of Calabar Carnival, cannot be over flogged on how the state government. employed the cultural endowment of the people of the state, developed it to annual festival. Today, it has contributed tremendously to the GDP of the state. Also, from the testimony of the State governor, Prof. Ben Ayade, the 2017 edition attracted not less than two million visitors to the State. He also noted the immense contribution of Arugungu festival to the GDP of Kebbi State: Osun Oshogbo Festival to Osun State GDP. Consequently, he appealed to the opinion and church leaders to desist from denigrating our cultural practices rather they should encourage people to whet their interest in our culture, stressing that investing in our culture will develop the economy more than oil. He further reiterated that this is the only country where state governors do not think of how to develop the economic potentials of their state but rather run to Abuja for allocations. This kind of attitude he advocated calls for mind restructuring. Stating that, “we find it difficult to discover the potentials in our environment, that what we see is only but oil. He decried how Chinese are exploiting our solid minerals while our youth are running the street looking for ready-made jobs. That it is our attitude to our culture that is responsible for our poverty. For good governance, he said propels economic growth, since no society can develop in a state where there is lawlessness, impunity fragrant disobedience to court orders.
Finally, unless we review our cultural beliefs, ethics, it will be difficult for the nation to attain the much needed growth we yearn for as a people.
Toruka (Mrs) is a staff of the Corporate Affairs Unit of NICO, Abuja.