Developing Nigeria Through Culture and Media

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Developing Nigeria Through Culture and Media

Post  nex on Mon Aug 16, 2010 11:07 pm

National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) organised their National Workshop on Propagating Cultural Values for National Development at Merit House, Abuja. In his presentation at the forum, veteran art journalist, dramatist and culture activist BEN TOMOLOJU, noted how a conscious parley between government the mass media can help Nigeria use culture to propel its development and diplomacy. Excerpt:

As recently as the last two decades of the 20th century, the issue of “Culture and Development” has taken the centre-stage in the Nigerian national discourse. Recalled, the years 1988 to 1997 were dedicated by UNESCO to the universal programme on the World Decade for Cultural Development (WDCD). The participation of the Nigerian cultural intelligentsia in the programme was salutary. It recorded landmark achievements intellectually and in a practical sense.

During the period, the cultural policy for Nigeria – which has now been reviewed – was formulated in 1988. The following year, a major national seminar on Culture, Economy and National Development was organised in Bauchi by the NCAC as the intellectual forum of the National Festival of Arts and Culture. The seminar took a critical look at various sectors of the Nigerian economy, highlighting the cultural imperatives in their development process. In this connection, the financial and industrial sectors, the core cultural sector comprising such areas as traditional skills, arts, crafts, festivals, agriculture, dietary habits, entertainment, copyright, traditional medicine, architecture, among others, were brought into the focus as subjects of intellectual reflection.

More activities, including cultural advocacy and activism took place during the decade with wholesale participation and endorsement by the Nigerian media. Indeed, the democratisation of culture, which was one of the objectives of the WDCD, took a new and practical dimension and bodies such as the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN), the National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP), the Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA), the Arts Writers Organisation of Nigeria (AWON), the Jazz Club of Nigeria (JCN), the Nigerian Filmmakers Association and a host of others joined forces with culture administrators to promote and propagate relevant culture related ideas and values.

Part of the result of their advocacy and activism was the establishment of institutions like the Copyright Council (now a Commission), the National Gallery of Art, the National Institute for Cultural Orientation, which is hosting this workshop, the National Theatre Management and the National Troupe of Nigeria. All these materialised during the World Decade for Cultural Development as measurable indices of role-performance by Nigerian culture bureaucrats and technocrats.

The challenge before us today, however, is not to start proving afresh our capacity to mobilise and create institutions for cultural action. Rather, it is to dig deep and spread our tentacles wide enough to capture the imagination of policy makers, implementors and the larger public on the imperatives of exploring and exploiting our cultural ideas, productions and materials to move Nigeria forward, to attain peace, progress and prosperity. And, I believe, this is one of the reasons why, today, the National Institute for Cultural Orientation, under the able leadership of a seasoned artiste, scholar and administrator, Dr. Barclays Ayakoroma, is setting a fresh agenda in terms of cultural praxis; a new visionary and pragmatic force of appeal that will positively influence public consciousness on the viability of culture in the creation of prosperity for the well-being of the Nigerian populace.

Before now, eminent members of the Nigerian cultural intelligentsia, too numerous to mention, have charted a course in this regard.

But media’s role is crucial. The media has numerous roles to play in applying cultural values to national development. Among them:

Agenda Setting Role

The media should play a significant role in policy formulation by doing a critical appraisal of existing programmes and sourcing fresh ideas from relevant quarters to initiate new, value-laden trends in the development process. The media is very close to the people at all levels of the social hierarchy. They should therefore serve as the barometer of public opinion and voice of the voiceless with the capacity to transmit the yearnings and aspiration of the people to the leadership in all its ramifications.

One example in this respect, especially concerning the propagation of culture is that government is yet to drive the economically beneficial aspect of culture practically. I believe and have stressed over the years that there is the need to establish cultural centres for theatre, visual arts, concerts, operas, etc down to the local and neighbourhood of artists and artisans from every corner of the country with attendant multiplier economic benefits. This should also apply to libraries for a robust literary heritage.

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