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‘My dream for art, culture, tourism sector’

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor
30 January 2022   |   4:04 am
In the wake of the current economic realities and with the breakdown of the COVID-19 pandemic globally, nations of the world are exploring various means of growing their economy.

Otunba Olusegun Runsewe

Otunba Olusegun Runsewe is Director-General of National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) and the President of the World Craft Council (WCC) African region. He is passionate about the culture, creative industry and believes that it is one sector that can save Nigeria from its troubled economy. Sometime last year, he brought together stakeholders in the arts, culture and tourism sector and the media to an interactive session to exchange views, opinions, knowledge and experiences on how this very important sector can be strengthened as a vehicle for creating wealth and driving sustainable economic development of Nigeria. GREGORY AUSTIN NWAKUNOR was there.

• Beyond The Oil Economy: The Diversification Option For Nigeria

In the wake of the current economic realities and with the breakdown of the COVID-19 pandemic globally, nations of the world are exploring various means of growing their economy. With the rich and diverse cultural resources of Nigeria and given the abundant tourism resources, it stands to reason that if we must diversify our economy, we have to look outside crude oil, which is the current major foreign exchange earner, and focus on arts, culture and tourism as one of the key players in our economic development.

The near total dependence on crude oil exportation as the source of our foreign exchange earnings has greatly slowed down the pace of development in other sub-sectors of the economy such as agro-allied industry, manufacturing, solid minerals, and the service industry, among others.

The progressive fall in the prices of petroleum products and its attendant shock on the economy of Nigeria has made it highly imperative for Nigeria to pursue a sustained process of economic diversification, if we must attain the much needed economic stability and development. It is now clear to all that Nigeria can no longer continue to depend solely on crude oil exportation.

While serving as the Director-General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation between 2006 and 2013, my policy thrust was encapsulated in the slogan “oil is good, but tourism is better because oil is exhaustible while tourism is sustainable and environment friendly.”

At the leadership conference held at the International Conference Centre on April 28, 2009, I had the privilege of speaking on the topic, Beyond Oil: Diversification Options. In that paper, I drew attention to the need for Nigeria to begin to look outside oil in her quest for development. I also shared these thoughts at the ECOWAS Congress on Sports Development in West Africa, held in Abuja on August 10 to 11, 2011.
Nigeria Economy Before the Advent of Oil

The pre-oil Nigerian economy was based on agriculture. During the 19th century, when Great Britain was transiting from agriculture-based economy to industrialisation, Nigeria thrived on its strong agriculture based economy. In the 1950s and early 1960s, agriculture retained its position as the biggest contributor to the Nigerian economy. By 1959, cocoa had become Nigeria’s biggest single foreign exchange earner. Nigeria was also one of the three largest producers of groundnut in the world at that time. There was a high production of both cash and subsistence crops like rubber, which accounted for about six per cent of the total exports in the late 1950s, coffee, cotton, guinea corn, beans, yam, maize, cassava and rice. The Mining, Manufacturing, Commerce, Trade and the services sector accounted for about 25 per cent.

Before 1970, agriculture contributed more than 75 per cent of Nigeria’s export earnings. Since then, however, agriculture has stagnated, partly due to government neglect, poor investment and ecological factors such as drought, flooding, disease and reduction in soil fertility. By the mid-1990s, Agriculture’s share of the nation’s export had declined to less than five per cent, thus, giving way to crude oil as the mainstay of the economy.

The Discovering Of Oil
The 1950s can generally be regarded as the decade of major petroleum discoveries. The discovery of oil in commercial quantity in Oloibiri in 1956 was a major economic breakthrough for Nigeria. From a modest beginning in the 1950s, oil production accelerated rapidly in the 1950s. The increase in the demand for oil was a great boost to Nigeria’s economy at a time when its traditional cash crop income was decreasing due to a fall in the World Market price.

In 1974, after the first oil price increase, Nigeria was producing 2.2 million barrels of oil per day. The 1970s was a period of significant boost in the nation’s economy arising from the oil boom.

While the prices and production of oil dropped dramatically in the 80s Nigeria again experienced a windfall in crude oil exportation during the Gulf War. Ever since, the nation’s economy has remained largely crude oil dependent.

The Danger Of Mono Product Economy
For about five decades or more, crude oil exploration and exportation have dominated Nigeria’s economy. While in most other oil producing countries, crude oil exportation provides the needed revenue for developing and strengthening other sectors of the economy; it would appear that the discovery of oil in Nigeria has come with its attendant woes.

This is because the Nigerian oil wealth has tended to becloud our sense of initiative and economic vision, while promoting a national culture of unbridled corruption, laziness, opportunism and primitive acquisitive tendency.

Apart from the effect of near total neglect the oil economy has had on other critical sectors, the fluctuation in the world prices of petroleum products has continued to pose great threat to the stability of our economy, thus making effective planning on a sustainable basis extremely difficult. For example, while the International price of crude oil rose to over a 100 dollars per barrel in 2013, it came down to as low as 28 USD dollars per barrel in 2016 far below the 38 USD per barrel budgetary benchmark for the 2016.

Culture, Tourism And Economic Development
Culture has to do with the sum total of the beliefs and ways of life of a people in a given society. It includes their customs and costumes, their language, festivals, food, folklores, dance, drama, songs, arts, artifacts and so on. There is an intricate relationship between Culture and Tourism. This is because Culture provides the basic content for Tourism.

In fact, there can be no sustainable tourism without a strong cultural content, as almost all tourism activities are culture based.

A cursory look at tourism-rich economies such as the United Kingdom, Israel, China and France reveals a common and consistent pattern of culture-based tourism with culture being the single biggest motivation for tourism.

In Europe, the role of culture in development shows that the arts enrich the social environment with stimulating or pleasing public amenities. In the same vein, China and Australia have underscored the fact that the culture and tourism sector contributes to economic development by facilitating creativity, innovation and self-reflection and as such recognises culture as a key component of society’s wellbeing. In fact, cultural industries have become for China, the base station from which it develops and updates its technological advancement and wellbeing.

Nigeria is known to be one of the most culturally diverse nations of the world. It has over 250 distinct ethnic groups, each with unique culture and cultural products. The rich and diverse cultural assets of Nigeria have the capacity of sustaining a robust Tourism industry and driving the process of socio-economic development if adequately explored. In what follows, attempt shall be made to explain some aspects of Nigerian culture that could serve as key drivers of sustainable tourism and the economic development of Nigeria if fully harnessed.

Cultural Festivals
Nigeria has rich and fascinating cultural festivals. Many of these festivals are already in the world cultural map and are attracting the patronage of international audience. Some of the prominent festivals in Nigeria include, Osun-Osogbo Festival in Osun State, Eyo Festival in Lagos State, Argungu and Nwonyo Fishing Festivals in Kebbi and Taraba States respectively, Pus Kat and Bit Geomai festivals in Plateau State, New Yam Festivals in various parts of South Eastern Nigeria, the Durbar in the Northern part of Nigeria, Boat Regatta in South-South and the National Festivals of Arts and Culture (NAFEST) the yearly cultural festival of NCAC.

It is important to note that festivals events serve as a catalyst that attracts recreation seekers to destinations with great Tourism potential. This means that visitors are likely to spend more days in a given destination when attracted to the cultural festivals in that destination. This long stay helps to improve the revenue base of the people thereby also impacting on the local economy.

For a nation as large as Nigeria with rich and diverse culture, one festival per state would go a long way in attracting tourists into the country thereby contributing to the development of the economy through spending in hotel lodging, patronage of local cuisines, transportation, purchase of arts and crafts products among others.

Accordingly, the NCAC is developing a festival calendar to enable tourist know when to take holidays in Nigeria and savour the rich cultural manifestations it has to offer.

Nigeria Music and Songs
Another related product of our cultural industry that can be harnessed and developed to boost arrivals is our Traditional Music. The people’s art is an integral part of their daily activities. This rich cultural heritage, which includes myths, legends folklores and traditional music are cherished within Nigeria and in other parts of the world. The unique selling point of our indigenous music as a tool for Tourism lies in their flavour and the Nigeriansness of their rendition. This peculiar and distinctive feature of our traditional music has attracted tourists from far and wide. If greater and more conscious efforts are made to harness and develop this aspect of our heritage, it could serve as a major driver of our Tourism industry.

It is noteworthy that Nigerian music is about the most popular in the world. From Fela’s Afrobeat, through Chief Ebenezer Obey, King Sunny Ade to the most recent 2 Face, Wizkid, Burna Boy, Nigeria boasts of musical icons of international repute. For example, Burna Boy, a Nigerian musical artist won the best global musical album 2021 at the Grammy Awards with the album titled, Twice As Tall. In the same vein, Wizkid has also recently won the best musical Video in his song with Beyonce titled, Brown Skin Girl. The above underscores the global exploits Nigerian musical artists are making and the popularity and patronage of their music worldwide. Sustained musical concerts in the ambience of Nigerian cities could attract the music-loving world to Nigeria and serve to impact on our economy positively.