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Midweek Arts: How to revamp governments’ support for Arts, Culture



A cross section of participants at the meeting

The 42nd Meeting of the Chief Executives of Culture of the Federation (CEC) held last week in Abuja ended with a plea for greater commitment to the culture sector by state governors.

The nation’s culture representatives went further by urging the Managing Director, Chief Executive/ Officer, National Council For Arts And Culture (NCAC), conveners of the meeting, Mrs Dayo Keshi, to, as a matter or urgency, embark on states tour with a view to having personal interactions with state governors on the imperative of supporting cultural activities at both state and federal levels.

This step, they envisaged, would also expose the governors to the economic prospects of arts and culture beyond entertainment.   The CEC meeting is organized annually by NCAC and attended by states’ commissioners for culture and tourism, directors of arts council/history bureau as well as permanent secretaries in the ministry of culture and tourism with a view to brainstorm on issues affecting the development of arts and culture at both states and national levels.

Although, it is rotated among states and hosted by a volunteer state within the first four months of the year, but this year’s General Elections in March and April appeared to have uttered the regular time of the meeting and that NCAC had to take up the responsibility of hosting the 2015 edition when no volunteer was in sight to host it.

The Guardian also gathered that the states’ inability to host the two-day meeting was not unconnected with the harsh economic situation in the country.

Surprisingly, this edition witnessed a high turnout of states’ representatives in the recent time with almost all northern states and a total of 27 out of 36 states in attendance.

Also at the meeting were heads of parastatals in the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation including the Director General, Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilizations (CBAAC), Chief Ferdinand Anikwe; Director General, National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR), Mrs. Chika Balogun as well as the Executive Secretary, National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Dr. Barclays Ayakoroma.

Declaring the meeting open, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Mrs. Nkechi Ejele, expressed the need for stakeholders in the culture sector to focus attention on using programmes and activities to address some of the nation’s socio-economic challenges.

She said: “Our primary concern at this time should be how to use our culture for the promotion of peace and national growth.”   While congratulating the newly elected state governors, Mrs. Ejele urged them to foster the promotion of culture and tourism sector towards economic development.

Earlier, the Director General, NCAC, Mrs Dayo Keshi, said the forum has consistently provided a broad base for exchange of ideas that could lead to improved programmes and projects in various states.   “Furthermore, it has raised awareness in policy issues that would drive our collective resolve towards making Nigeria a prime culture and tourism destination in Africa”, she said.

The D.G also used the opportunity to appreciate Ebonyi State for successfully hosting the 2014 edition of National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST).

She equally commended all the States’ Councils for Arts/History and Culture Bureau of the 36 States and FCT as well as other stakeholders that participated in making 2014 NAFEST a success.

At the end of technical session, the meeting rallied support for the forthcoming NCAC’s 40th anniversary celebrations. It was also agreed that this year’s NAFEST should tentatively hold between October 24 and November 1, with the theme, Our Culture, Our Art, Our Wealth.

The year’s syllabus also endorsed seven competitive events for both adults and children such as indigenous poetry, drama presentations, traditional wresting contest, traditional furnished apartment, traditional cuisines, essay writing as well as visual arts.

The concern, however, is the realization that no state has indicated interest to host this year’s NAFEST. Consequently, it was resolved that states that are yet to host since inception should be approached.

This is not the first time the socio-political situation in the country was affecting states’ willingness to host the one-week cultural fiesta. Similar situation was experienced in 2011 after general elections, which ushered in many new governors.

It took the intervention of the then Minister of Culture and Tourism, Jibril Gada, to convince former Akwa Ibom State Governor, Godswill Akpabio to accept the challenge.  For now, all eyes are on Edo and Delta states, which are yet to host the festival.

And considering that Delta State has a new governor in place, there is every indication that Edo State, which is rated high in the propagation of culture and tradition would be the appropriate host for this year’s outing.

Other issues highlighted at the meeting included financial challenge faced by virtually culture parastatals in all the sates; merger of some states’ cultural infrastructure; insecurity especially in the North-East geo-political zone, successes and strides made on the establishment of schools’ cultural clubs as well as discovery of new cultural phenomena such as new caves in FCT and new festivals in Bauchi.

Speaking shortly after the meeting, Keshi attributed the impressive turnout to need to articulate survival strategies for culture sector in the face of daunting challenges.  “The first one was that the leaders of the sector, our stakeholders are beginning to create an awareness that if we have a short fall in oil, it means an economic gap has been created and everybody is looking for ways and means to fill that gap and this sector is one of those sectors that involve people right from the top to the grassroots.   “Secondly, stakeholders have been anxious about this year’s African Arts and Crafts Expo (AFAAC), which has been there for the past nine years.

No one was sure of the way forward.  “They were worried that the sector as usual would be neglected or ill funded, that means big events such as AFAAC and even NAFEST which unfortunately had zero budget at the federal, if allowed to die, will affect their own roles at the state level because incidentally, the states rely on the leadership at the federal level.

These are festivals they have engaged in for decades and suddenly, under a new dispensation, there was a strong feeling that all these might go. So, it was about fighting for our constituency, that we should be expanding and not decreasing, that we should be bringing the economic potentials of our arts and crafts.

So, they all came out together to say that this is the time for products of Nigerian cultural industry to thrive; that this is the time each state must arise and showcase what they have and which can contribute to the development of the nation’s economy.  “Everybody was depending on rumour and they needed to hear that at the federal level, the new government will protect institution that have been built over time”, Keshi said.

The D.G further described the enthusiastic spirit of culture ambassadors as captured during the meeting as renewed efforts at the state level. According to her, the states were also looking forward to participating actively in the celebration of NCAC at 40.

They are all looking forward to NCAC celebration to tap into it. Each of the states was clear on the fact that no matter what happens and irrespective of how lean the economy is, the nation’s culture and heritage would remain a bedrock for love, peace and harmony in Nigeria.

They have articulated a number of programmes but just as we are at the federal level, there is a challenge of fund to enable them role out their programmes.  “They even suggested I go round and pay advocacy visits on the governors so that we can get them to buy into cultural programmes and activities and then, we show them we need their corporation in building this new avenue for wealth creation in Nigeria.”

Keshi however assured that although it is equally challenging tracking down state governors, she would nevertheless do everything possible to undertake the tour.  “I assured them that I would do that though it may take some time because as we know, it entails booking appointment which is a bit of a long process.

I also assured them that as much as we can, we will keep speaking about the goal and gains of the sector.  “There is no governor that does not want to succeed.

What they have to do as we explained to them was to articulate properly their agenda without putting a cost to it but the results. That is the way to get the governors to buy in.

We also admonished them to carry their Permanent Secretary along because they are the ones to push their agenda to the Commissioners who have more opportunities than directors in terms of meeting with the governor. But I will do all I can to reach out to the governors as pleaded.”  NCAC boss used the occasion of the chat to plead with governors to appreciate the contributions of the sector.

I want to use this medium to beg our governors to see the culture sector beyond dance and entertainments. In each local government all around Nigeria, there is a product they can build industry around and the fund to start them up is not large. I believe that every governor wants to grow his state, therefore, no sector should be neglected especially now. Governors should join in advancing the course of economic diversification.”

On the 2015 NAFEST, Keshi affirmed that irrespective of zero budget in the 2015 appropriation, the festival will hold. “We are looking for states that will volunteer to host. We all agreed that we would approach those states that are yet to host the festival.

This is because while some states of the federation have hosted more than ones, there are others that have never hosted and the idea is that every state in Nigeria should host NAFEST for at least once.

And we have started approaching those that have not hosted at all since 1971 when the festival began and we are confident that one of them will agree to host NAFEST 2015,” she said. Quote:

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