Harnessing humanities, cultural heritage for better society
Last week, eggheads in the humanities converged on Osun State University, Osogbo, Osun State, as Nigerian Academy of Letters (NAL) held its yearly lecture. It was titled ‘Cultural Industry and the Contributions of Humanities to National Development: A Case Study of the Durbar.’
The lecture drew scholars from different institutions as well as traditional rulers to the venue, Olagunsoye Oyinlola Auditorium of the university.
Before the lecture, members of NAL met officials of the state, where NAL president, Professor Olu Obafemi, called on the federal and state governments to diversify the economy, using the cultural sector and applied humanities.
The don noted that countries across Europe, America and Asia were leveraging on their culture to boost tourism and earn huge foreign exchange, adding that Nigeria should learn from these countries and harness the abundant resources in the sector.
Obafemi also commended the state governor, Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola, for the introduction of Opon Imo (a portable e-learning device) to aid teaching and learning in the state, aside giving a lift to cultural activities that have put the state on the world map.
He noted that the impact of the state’s educational policy and cultural activities would not be immediate, but would surely have a positive effect on the people in future.
While speaking on behalf of the state governor, the Chief of Staff, Alhaji Adegboyega Oyetola, said the governor is passionate about education and learning, adding that it was for why he set up a committee, led by Prof. Wole Soyinka, to draw a blueprint for the state’s primary school, middle and high colleges.
He stated that the governor, despite the paucity of funds, had equipped these schools with adequate teaching and learning materials and that the students could compete favourably with their peers from within and outside the country.
He listed other achievements of Aregbesola and said over 3,000 students are currently on the school-feeding programme and that the governor would increase the number.
He added that massive renovation was ongoing in health and other sectors. Oyetola also stated that the governor had acquired about 25 amour vehicles and helicopters for security purposes, apart from tracking kidnappers. He said the state is secured for tourists and investors to do business.
He said: “As long as we pursue a mono-cultural economy based on oil and gas, whose features are subjected to the vagaries of international trends, we cannot dream of a sustained economy. This may have informed government’s increasing awareness of the need for economic diversification, which requires concrete policies and strategies, including the exploration of the domain of culture.”
While delivering his lecture, guest speaker, Mohammed Inuwa Umar-Buratai, a professor of Theatre and Performing Arts at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Kaduna State, called on government and the elite to go back to the country’s various cultures, as a departure from them has resulted in the various maladies Nigeria is currently experiencing, both in the political scene and elsewhere.
He noted that no nation could properly develop its economy if it jettisoned its culture, which includes its core values and norms that bind the people. Umar-Buratai noted that the Nigerian society would do better if developmental programmes and project were targeted towards the revamp of culture and festivals.
According to him, such programmes and projects would not only be easily understood by the people, but would be easy for them to relate with and carry out because they were planned to reflect who the people are or how they live and think.
Umar-Buratai lamented the general attitude of looking down on local cultures among the elite, saying traditional belief systems, values and the norms have a telling effect on how the people do business, govern themselves, check crime and foster orderliness in society. He emphasized why the country’s culture should not be ignored, adding that no nation, no matter how sophisticated it may be, could help Nigeria and Nigerians develop their culture, as the power to do so solely lies with Nigerians.
He urged governments at all levels to set up machinery that could help promote the various cultures, adding that the best way to do so is by providing the right facilities and resources with which traditional festivals and ceremonies could strive. Umar-Buratai urged the elite to also encourage their children by getting them involved in traditional festivals, aside speaking their local languages.
According to him, “Many people see our culture as something that is outdated and never to be dealt with. They do not realise that it is yesterday that made today, and that today will make tomorrow. So, unless you know where you are coming from, where you are today, it will not be possible to realise where you will be tomorrow. This is why we must not abandon our culture. It is that aspect of us that defines who we are.”
THE don urged government to tap into the rich resources in the creative and culture sector to create employment for the teeming youths, empower the people to develop their talents, boost small-scale and cottage industries and disseminate messages to the grassroots.
He added that Nigeria’s various folklores contain didactic messages that could help reorder society for peace and tranquility and, therefore, bring about good governance.
Umar-Buratai stated that the Durbar, which has become a household name in the northern part of the country, unifying families and tribes while also attracting tourists, but was introduced in Nigeria by colonial administrators with political objectives.
According to him, Durbar was first linked to the coronation of the Queen of England in the late1800s and later served as the ceremonial assembly to mark the proclamation of Queen Victoria, as the Empress of colonial India in 1877.
He noted the ceremony was first held in Nigeria in 1911 and later took the form of linking together pre-colonial aspects of martial display, celebration of important events and for entertainment.
According to Umar-Buratai, Durbar has become a yearly festival in the country, even though it has deviated from its original objective.
He noted that the festival is now used as a religious event to mark the end of Ramadan and entertain people during other Muslim holidays, as well as welcome important guests in some northern states.
He noted that its observation begins with prayers, followed by a parade of the Emir and his entourage on horses, accompanied by musicians, and ending at the Emir’s palace.
The don noted that the festival has become a tourist attraction for northern states, pulling crowd, encouraging small and household productions and providing platforms for the locals to showcase their talents and make some money.
He then urged governments to key into these festivals to promote local traditions and cultures, adding that the long period of neglect of local cultures by government, especially by the elite, has done great damage to the various local traditions, folklores and values.
He observed that the neglect had submerged the creative and culture sector, making people, including government not to pay attention to the huge potential and economy surrounding these festivals, which if properly harnessed, could increase the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of most states.
Umar-Buratai called on members of NAL and the academy to begin a campaign that would rejig the creative and culture sector, expunge the negative aspects associated with local cultures and standardize them to the level of national acceptance for development.
In his remarks, Vice Chancellor of Osun University, Prof. Labode Popoola, called on the academy to be in the forefront of proffering solutions to the various challenges confronting the academia and the country. He blamed government and the private sector for placing great attention on science and technology as well as ICT at the expense of the creative sector and the humanities.
He noted that no society, whether developing or developed, could do without the humanities, adding that both the humanities and the sciences should work in synergy to bring about a better society and promote creativity, be it in literature, theatre, music, films and others.
According to Popoola, the humanities, be it history, literature, theatre, music, and languages are as important as any other field in the sciences because the sciences cannot dwell in isolation but feed on the aesthetics of the humanities.
He affirmed that the humanities help to create reason, make people ask valuable questions, record and recall events, as well as keep the society on its toes.
Popoola added that the humanities would continue to sharpen the world and human reasoning, as it enables man learn about others, their culture, history and ideas. He stated that a world without the humanities would be lopsided and hopeless.