The Internet is the best thing to happen to Nigerian culture. But we are missing the opportunity
According to the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture’s (FMIC) website, its mission is, “To establish and maintain a robust information dissemination mechanism that promotes our tourism potentials and enhances our cultural values.”
So how is the ministry working towards this mission?
Well, if social media is anything to go by – and in the era of unprecedented interactive digital ecosystems, then the ministry is not doing a great job of maximising the potential. With a suspended Twitter account and an Instagram page (bio “Fed. Min. of Info, Nig”) that has zero posts and nine followers, it is hardly succeeding at the first part of the mission – to provide a “robust information dissemination mechanism”.
The ministry’s Facebook page is in a healthier shape, but few of the page’s posts are all about culture (i.e. philosophy, art, literature, film, music etc.) per se. There are posts about malnutrition and child marriage, to name a few topics. However important these issues are, they are not exactly congruous with the ministry’s second aim, which is- to promote tourism.
Furthermore, if the ministry’s mission is indeed to promote “tourism potentials[sic]”, then a broad display of pot-bellied male politicians on flickr, which is the social media platform that the FMIC engages the most with, is hardly the country’s key attraction.
But I digress. As for the last part of the ministry’s mission statement, that it “enhances our cultural values” it’s the one whose online neglect is the most upsetting. The Internet and social media in particular, could be used in truly exciting ways to work toward this goal, but alas.
Culture is the means through which a society forms its identity. It is a key tool for enlightenment, pride, well-being and healing. In missing such obvious opportunities to enhance cultural values via social media, it is hard to envision the diligent execution of bigger plans to diversify the creative economy that Minister Alhaji Lai Mohammed recently announced. I hope that the current state of the ministry’s online presence is not indicative of its commitment to Nigerian culture. But I’m not holding my breath and neither should you.
While we hope for the best and prepare for the worst, this is a good time for citizens with the interest, skills and resources to capitalise on the power, beauty and wisdom of culture in order to position Nigeria as a global cultural leader.
By capitalise, I don’t only mean for profit. In fact, any large-scale cultural platform initiative needs to be socially-mindful rather than capital-driven. It would also need to include all Nigerians and not be sexist, tribal, ageist, homophobic or bigoted in any other way. It basically needs to be a platform that prioritises collective civil interest over money making.
That said, for venturesome and forward thinking social entrepreneurs, there certainly are gains to be made from culture. Especially because of the Internet and social media, many traditional overhead costs can be bypassed to create an impactful and indeed, robust, cultural institution- a Nigerian Cultural Foundation.
Whether it is contemporary literature, dance, music, poetry, arts, theatre, film or the heritage of traditional knowledge – history, mythology, philosophy, architecture, arts etc., Nigeria is a treasure trove of culture. The product is there, the problem is that those who are supposed to invest in it, perfect it, then present and deliver it not only to Nigerians but to the world, so as to increase our global influence, are failing to do so. For those who could fill those shoes, and many good but small organisations indeed try their best to, the creative use of the internet can aid in the creation of cultural spaces that will enable a paradigmatic shift. Let’s come together to make it happen with or without the ministry.