Why FG should support NCAC at 40 celebration, by culture experts
As the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), one of the oldest parastatals under the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation marks its 40th anniversary, stakeholders are unanimous that President Mohammadu Buhari’s government should make appreciable impact.
Aside contributing in the funding of most of the programmes and activities lined up by the management of the Council, the new administration is expected to leverage on the celebration to articulate its position on the national question from the perspective of culture.
Established by Decree No. 3 of 1975 and amended by Decree No.5 of 1987, National Council for Arts and Culture as one of the statutory organs of the federal government, is charged with the responsibility of coordinating, preserving and promoting the nation’s arts and cultural heritage at both national and international levels.
Beyond this, the Council came into being shortly after the Nigerian Civil War as one of the instruments of national integration and true reconciliation among the country’s three major ethnic groups that were psychologically and emotionally traumatized by the war. No wonder it was tagged a Unity Forum by those who midwifed its birth.
Four decades down the lane, one cannot but conclude that the Council has kept faith with the dreams of the founding fathers. Through some of its programmes and activities, especially the yearly National Festival for Arts And Culture (NAFEST), the Council has served as custodian of the country’s arts and culture.
Although along the line, it suffered a major setback as the government tended to undermine its relevance in building bridges of friendship among Nigerians, some Nigerian culture activists including the former Deputy Editor of The Guardian and Culture communicator, Ben Tomoloju, rose to the occasion by using the media platform to resuscitate the yearly celebration
In fact, pioneered by Tomoloju, culture writers took it upon themselves to visit directors of Art Council across the country on the imperative of reviving the festival.
Since then, the cultural fiesta has brought together countrymen and women under one cultural umbrella annually, using arts and culture as vehicle to propagate peaceful co-existence and national unity among Nigerians.
Regrettably, in spite of its socio-economic and cultural potentials for national development, the entire culture has remained an orphan in the hands of successive Nigerian governments.
The entire parastatals in the culture sector suffered the worst time ever during the immediate past government, especially under the watch of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of Economy. The former Minister did not consider it worthwhile to allocate funds to cultural activities and programmes.
Her ignorance of the relevance of the sector led to the death of various cultural activities and programmes of the Ministry and its parastatals.
However, when The Guardian approached the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Council, Mrs. Dayo Keshi, she revealed that indeed, preparations are on towards the celebration of NCAC at 40.
She reiterated that as one of the oldest parastatals in the country, it was only imperative to use the occasion of its 40th anniversary to showcase the economic potentials of Nigerian cultural industries.
She said: “We need to show that if properly funded, articulated, if we create an economic framework for the growth of our cultural industries, they will contribute significantly both in job creation at the grassroots as well as economic diversification of the country”.
It is no longer news that a number of countries including China have shown how well the cultural industry can contribute to economic growth of a nation. Little wonder then Keshi was excited about the Council at 40 event. Even though she only recently assumed leadership of NCAC, she is not alien to the position of the culture sector in the nation’s scheme of events having served for over three decades in the mother ministry and rose to the position of a director.
Her opinion was that the Council in its 40 years of existence has done a lot in terms of identifying the nation’s major arts, crafts as well as in the promotion of products of cultural industry. This includes the creative industry which is drawn from our heritage.
“The cultural industry is rooted in the life of every Nigerian, showcasing what a Nigerian stands for as we see in the motion industry, music, literature and fashion. Also deep in our cultural industry is the festival which is present in almost all the geo-political zones of the country and which if looked into, could turn Nigeria to a tourist destination of choice”, she said.
Adding: “In the celebration of NCAC at 40 therefore, we are looking at ensuring that we begin to see the potentials in the arts and crafts industry that should be promoted”.
Culture communicator and activist Ben Tomoloju also spoke on NCAC at 40. He equally expressed excitement at the management’s plan to celebrate the Council and its achievements. In fact, he could not agree less with the Chief Executive of the Council on the import of rolling out drums to celebrate Nigeria’s cultural heritage, using the celebration as platform.
According to Tomoloju, NCAC at 40 is worth celebrating as the second national cultural agency after the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) as well as the second largest in terms of strength and programmes.
He believed that the Council has also contributed immensely to the unity of Nigeria by making people to appreciate their culture. “It has also built institutions such as Durban, boat regatta and masquerade around the country. “In spite of all the impressions that surround culture, it is still standing. I know that there is a lot to be done. Some of us are concerned about strategic programming.
“I know that they have also evolved some programmes such as Honours Lecture and Award as well as African Arts and Crafts Expo (AFAC) – that is a major programme that should be sustained because it has a commercial dimension.
“So, there is so much to celebrate. Whatever criticisms we have, whatever suggestions we have, we can use the opportunity of the celebration to articulate views that can move the agency forward”.
“And we only ask those who are running the parastatal to have listening ears and not demonstrate aristocracy of knowledge. Nobody has a monopoly of knowledge. We are very strong stakeholders. We were the ones who fought in Lagos that NCAC should not be removed from the premises of National Theatre when somebody wanted to do that, because it is our heritage and it must be celebrated.”
Recalling President Buhari’s contribution to cultural development in his first coming, Tomoloju has since exonerated him from among Nigerian Presidents that will treat the sector with levity in his second coming.
He therefore called on him, not only to make physically presence at the celebration but also support the funding of the celebration. His words: “In 1983, Buhari was the one who opened the door for the basic structures that gave us such things as Cultural Policy and Copyright Commission but he could not complete most of the programmes he had for the sector before his government was overthrown. So, I do not believe that he would be the one to treat culture with levity in his second coming.
“Hence, I expect President Buhari’s government to first and foremost, finance the celebration in line with the extant National Policy on Culture and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which stipulates the right for the culture sector to enjoy the support and promotion of the federal government.
“I also want to see the federal government use the celebration to articulate its position on the national question from the perspective of culture – cultural imperative of national development.”