Repositioning museum to drive tourism
Tourism contributes substantially to the Gross Domestic Products (GDP) of many countries around the world. And it has been argued that Nigeria could also toe this line and benefit hugely from tourism revenue.
This proposition is anchored on the fact that Nigeria is blessed with huge natural and cultural items and monuments, which could yield tourism revenue.
In spite of the vastly natural and cultural resources, tourism revenue for the country is insignificant.
To probably fast tract the process of the country benefiting maximally from tourism, especially in the midst of dwindling petroleum revenue, last week, Professor Toyin Falola called for the setting up of a task force for the whole country to unearth and document hidden assets of nature and culture in order to explore them for sustainable development and economic turnaround.
Delivering the Second Chief John Agboola Odeyemi Annual Lecture by Natural History Museum (NHM), on the theme, Museum for sustainable society, in Ile- Ife, Osun State, Falola maintained that natural and cultural resources generate points of attractions, which are linked to tourism.
He noted that tourism is an industry that generates books, photographs and training of experts in guided tours to visit sites. He however argued that natural and cultural resources on their own will not generate employment unless they are developed and announced to the world besides anchoring them to tourism, which in turn will depend on uninterrupted electricity supply and good roads.
“Nature and cultural values can be commercialised in positive ways. Many are very well connected to the tourist industry, very many others to daily practices.
“In Bahia, Brazil, the Ile-Aye, a training ground for carnivals, is a school, a club, an apprenticeship and many more providing jobs for hundreds of people.”
Falola stated that culture is powerful and its impact can be seen in all spheres and sectors of society noting that a number of analysts mistakenly believe that change will come only when Africans create a distance with their older traditions and belief.
He therefore observed that rather than throw away the country’s heritage and other enduring aspects of its nature and culture, it is more fruitful to preserve them and to seek the means to adapt them to contemporary demands and circumstances.
“Indeed, what takes place on a daily basis is a creative adaptation to local and global changes, the invention of new ideas and values to meet new challenges, the acquisitions and multiple uses of Islamic and Western education for self- empowerment.”
He said that the country’s heritage will continue to serve as powerful reminders of the country’s contributions to civilization.
“More importantly, heritage and culture have been the main source of constructing identity, reinventing ourselves in the face of external imposition and the subsequent changes that followed.”
Falola argued that sustainable development requires the ability to relate nature with the economy and politics.
He therefore said that cities and villages should promote natural history, set up societies that will keep records of plants and plant use, fungi, birds, insects and animals. “The Nigeria Conservation Foundation should encourage activities at the local level. Natural History Societies will improve the interest in our surroundings, and enable our natural history museums to extend their collections on specimen.”
He also felt there is a need to train more heritage professionals who in turn will teach people at the grassroots level as well as enhance capacity in research and heritage values and create new forms of natural and cultural entrepreneurship.
“Constant reminders to those who manage museums and borders that selling pieces to treasure hunters and raiders is like selling one’s birth right and heritage. Once sold, they may never be recovered.”
Dr John Odeyemi, in his remarks, thanked all who made the programme a success, especially the organising committee.
He also commended the Director of the NHM, Dr. Adisa Ogunfolakan, for his doggedness in ensuring that the NHM building, which had been abandoned for over 30 years, got completed.
Odeyemi noted that if not for the push of Ogunfolakan, though he provided the link, the building would not have been completed.
The Vice Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University, represented by the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Administration, Prof Omotayo Ajayi, commended Odeyemi for his passion and commitment to cultural issues which are reflected in its many contributions to the university.
“Worthy of note is the fact that these series of lectures have been conceived to honour a very worthy friend, philanthropist and resolute supporter of not just the Museum, but of the university in general.
“Chief Odeyemi is an enviable contributor to national development and has an unalloyed love for the preservation of nature, culture and the multifaceted development of the society in general.”
The Vice-Chancellor said that the lecture is in accordance with further fulfilling the museum’s mandate especially in the area of tapping from the wealth of natural and cultural resources of the country for the sustainable development of the society.
On his part, the Director of the Natural History Museum, OAU, Dr. Ogunfolakan, stated that the theme is apt as it came at a time when the nation needs to be reminded in more than a subtle manner of the vast natural and cultural resources available and how they could be harnessed for sustainable development of the society at large.
Ogunfolakan disclosed that the museum has over the years excelled in various endeavours in line with its mandate especially in the area of research, which has put the museum at the forefront of conservation research in Nigeria.
He however appealed for partnership to help the museum further move the nation forward through research on natural and cultural wealth that are abound in the country.
According to the director, the Natural History Museum of the university came into being first as only an idea in 1971 and by January 1974, the idea became a reality, which is now a leading natural history museum in West Africa.
He listed the objectives of the museum to include conducting research and serving as a repository of natural and cultural objects as well as creating scientific awareness on natural and cultural resources of Nigeria through annotated exhibitions for public enlightenment.
In a chat, Odeyemi revealed that the annual lecture was a product of a request from the university to honour him, which he felt was borne out of his contributions several years back to the university.
“I donated a Museum of Antiquities and Contemporary African Arts to the university in 2004, in the name of my father, Martins Odeyemi. I also linked them up through Chief Philip Asiodu with the Leventis Group and Leventis Foundation, for the completion of the Natural History Museum (NHM). The building of the NHM was started about 35 years ago but the university could not finish it, the plan was elaborate but there was no money.
“So they needed interested foundations and individuals to finish it. They were lucky, they got Leventis and it is the best building in the university today.”
He also disclosed that he has been serving the university in several areas and capacities; patrons of some organisations in the university; Chairman of the University Investment Company for five years.
According to Odeyemi, the university rightly thought he has done so much and decided to honour him by instituting an annual lecture in his name.
He said he gladly accepted the honour because he has a strong commitment for the university, the best university in the country, the most beautiful and renowned.
He further said that as an Ile-Ife man, he takes personal pride in the university. “Also, I felt it was going to be part of my forever giving back to the society, because I have to be putting in something every year to keep the lecture going.
“It means even after death, I will still relate with the university. I thought of it as a good cause, aside that I believe in arts and culture, Yoruba history and continuity of the museum.”
To ensure the continuity of the lecture, even after he must have passed on, Odeyemi, said, “There are two ways for sustainability, one is to agree with the department of the university, to set up a commercial aspect that could generate income year to year. The second is that I have a foundation, Agboola Odeyemi Foundation, an endowment from my will can be given to the university to be added to what is got from the commercialization efforts. So, it will go on.”