How underfunding, lack of innovation hinder museums’ contribution to national growth
While the contribution of the culture sector to the N500 billion was not clarified, the development is enough to spur managers of components and contents of tourism into action in the non-oil-revenue drive.Among crucial contents of tourism is museum-visiting culture and many states of the federation have facilities owned by the Federal Government and managed by National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM).Interestingly, museums in Nigeria are not short of diversity and richness in specialised subjects.
For example, National Museum, Onikan, Lagos boasts of ancient art of various ethnic nationalities particularly of African religious origin while Colonial History Museum, Lokoja, Kogi State, specialises in Nigeria’s pre-independence era , mostly British-rule antiques and photographs. From Slave History Museum, Calabar, Cross River State, quite a lot can be learnt about the inhuman Trans Atlantic trade that spanned hundreds of years while other museums of great resource in education include The Gidan Makam Museum, Kano; National Museum of Unity, Enugu; National Museum, Owo, Ondo State; and Lafia Museum, Nasarawa.
However, a major handicap these museums face is poor funding Non-funding of their activities notwithstanding, the National Museum, Enugu and National War Museum, Umuahia, Abia State have continued to attract members of the public for sight- seeing and educational purposes.A visit to the Enugu and Umuahia museums established in 2006 and 1985 respectively shows their services have continued to run unhindered.
Inside Enugu museum’s expansive compound, The Guardian counted from the entrance, about 10 different sheds dealing on various brands of snacks, pastries ,local meat delicacies alcoholic beverages and others whose operators pay rent
Inside the gallery, which is accessed after paying a N200 fee are artifacts used by the nation’s forebears from different parts which The gallery also showcases various works of arts, culture and traditional beliefs that ordinarily cannot be found in today’s society.
The curator, Dr Ifejiagwa Caroline said: “We try to bring objects from different parts of the country and those objects speak of almost the same thing – of our tradition, the way we do things, our method of production and what have you. Even the names given to those objects are similar. We want to use them to propagate the unity of the country and it was opened officially in 2006 to the public. The place is open to visitors from Monday to Sunday 9 am to 5 pm.”
Although she refused to disclose how often allocations are made, she said that some empowerment programmes which the museum was involved with have been irregular due to paucity of funds.
At the National War Museum Umuahia, Abia state, commissioned on January 15, 1985 by former Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, the late Major Gen. Babatunde Idiagbon, a bold inscription: “That they did not die in vain” welcomes visitors to facilities used in the Nigerian-Biafra war, European and traditional wars.
There are locally made armoured cars, a Nigerian naval ship built in the 60’s and some anti-air craft launchers.
A walk through the gallery whose power supply is not allowed to go off unless at the close of duty are pictures of great historical battles, Nigerian traditional warfare and technology including arrows, bows, shields made from woods, grass and feathers, musical instruments like talking drums, charms, automatic guns and more.
The walls of the Voice of Biafra bunker is adorned with portraits of those who played significant roles during the Nigeria-Biafra war, beginning with Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu’s on the left and Yakubu Gowon’s on the right.
Inside the bunker are the remains of the transmitter of Radio Biafra which the guide said was where Ojukwu proclaimed the Republic of Biafra on 30th May, 1967, from.
Curator of the National War Museum Umuahia, Mrs Mercy Aduaku said: “The aim is to show the world what really transpired on the aspect of Nigeria and the side of Biafra at that time and then the peace that came. The summary of it is that we don’t want any more wars.
The equipment you see were used in times of traditional and Biafran wars, some foreign, others locally made.There is the Red Devil armoured tank and many others locally manufactured which tells you the level of technology we have here.
We have the locally manufactured Ogbunigwe, which literally means ‘killer in large numbers’. We really want our people to know that ingenuity is not only in America, it is also in Nigeria and we have to develop some of these equipment for good use.”She said that funding was the greatest challenge facing Museum development in Nigeria, stressing that, “there are many things we will like to do at the gallery but funding remains a challenge.”
The National Museum Calabar was seat of government for the colonial administration and later served the South Eastern region as guest house. The prefabricated building from the United Kingdom and erected in 1884 was declared a National Monument in 1959.
Today, it tells the story of Old Calabar. Artifacts like tools for the inhuman Slave Trade are intact. Even the metal school box left behind by Nigeria’s first President, late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe in Hope Waddell Institute when he was a student there is at the museum. In fact the cell that hosted the exiled Oba of Benin, Oba Ovonramwen Nogbaisi (188-1897) who later died in Calabar is in the Museum.
The curator, Mrs. Ana Effiom told The Guardian: “Managing the museum has not been easy. We have some yearly programmes during which we open to the public. “Most of these programmes require some spending and finance is the main challenge we have. When there is no money you cannot do what you would have loved to do.”
A first time visitor to Lokoja in search of the National Museum of Colonial History with very high expectation may be disappointed as the facilities, location and the edifice have become shadows of their past colonial glory.This is because the colonial relics of interest have been reduced to ancient photographs with no objects that may encourage the sightseer to spend extra time.The museum with about 60 workers is housed inside one of Lord Fredrick Lugard’s ancient senior staff quarters which is as old as 115 years.
The mustachioed Lord Lugard statue on a pedestal welcomes the sight seer.The curator, Mr. Solomon Ibejigba who spoke to The Guardian said he was not in the position to comment on the finance and money coming into the organization as all that were outside their purview.He listed the challenges of the museum to include difficulty in accessing and linking up with other parts of the state where the wealth of cultural heritage of the people are located.
He said Kogi State is lucky with four sites being prepared to be upgraded to World Heritage sites.
On possible ways to manage museums to boost tourism and increase revenue for government he said that could be achieved during exhibitions of the colonial historical pictures and objects.
He said other ways museums can create revenue for the country is when international tourists come with foreign currencies during which all their engagements like medical attention, lodging and buying of souvenirs and other materials bring money into government coffers.”The Heritage Manager of Gidan Makama Musuem, Kano, Mustapha M. Bachaka, who lamented that lack of funding was the major problem facing the Museum, stressed also that public patronage is low.
He told The Guardian in Kano, Bachaka how activities at the museum were fading away due to funding problems.
“Funding is key, “ he stated.According to him, private organizations and individuals should participate in reviving historical monuments. “Just like in the United States of America, museums are being helped by private groups. That is why you find some of the best museums in the world there.”A source close to the National Commission for Monuments revealed that museums in the country were going from bad to worse.
“It may interest you to know that since during the tenure of President Olusegun Obasanjo, budgets of the Nigerian Museums have been going down at a great speed .And now that the oil sector has collapsed, there is need to bail the nation out of the unpalatable effects of age-long sustenance on mono-economy, by harnessing opportunities that abound in culture and tourism.
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