NIGERIA is blessed with abundant resources and cultural festivals that reflect the country’s diverse cultures and rich heritage. Among such spiritual enactments and communion are the Eyo festival, Calabar Christmas Festival, Argungu Fishing Festival, Durbar, New Yam, Osun Osogbo, to mention a few.
There is no gainsaying that these cultural festivals, if properly harnessed can pull in imaginable revenue for the country and enhance tourism, but unfortunately, not much has been done to convert these assets into economic wealth. This was the thrust of discourse at the quarterly national workshop on Repositioning Nigeria Cultural Workers for Improved Productivity held last week in Lagos. The National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) organized it.
With Cultural Festivals as Tools for Socio-economic Transformation as theme, it was the fifth in the series of presentations by the culture agency.
NICO’s choice of the theme couldn’t be more appropriate, as other countries have harnessed their cultural heritage and transformed their economies.
At the opening, a director of the Institute, Prince Bamidele Olusa, said the quarterly national workshop is focused on repositioning the culture workers to identify opportunities and to take actions that would bring positive changes and benefit to the society.
In his paper, Between crude oil and cultural festivals: which way Nigeria, the Executive Secretary/CEO, NICO, Barclays Ayakoroma, used one of the late Sunny Okosun’s songs, Which way Nigeria, to illustrate his dream for Nigeria. In the song, the late musician talked about the situation Nigeria has found itself, since the discovery of crude oil.
The NICO boss took participants down memory lane on the agricultural products that came from each region of the country before independence. “As an agrarian economy, Nigeria operated a Federal system of government, where all the regional governments controlled their economic resources and only contributed a given percentage to the central authority.”
He gave the example of an Ijaw saying that, “if the neck looks only in one direction, it bends towards that direction.” He used the saying to give an analogy where the petro-dollars from crude oil had for many years captured the undivided attention of the managers of the economy, to the extent that there had been no conscious efforts to explore other sources to improve the revenue base of the country.
He said the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala had warned that Nigeria needed to diversify its the economy in view of plummeting oil earnings, noting that the country was not isolated from pervading global economic uncertainties.
Having established this fact, he went on to state the importance of cultural festivals as the basic ingredients that animate tourism.
He said visitors would not throng to any town, unless there are tourism programmes and activities of interest.
He referred to Afuba, which is the portrait concept that gave rise to such catchy promotions as, Malaysia Truly Asia, Incredible India, and Get Going Canada and that for a state like Anambra that only recently began to shelve the toga of a failed state, tourism could offer a healing journey in self-rediscovery and self-renewal.
Though his presentation also revealed that, it is Afuba’s contention that with its rising profile as an investor’s haven, Anambra State is entering the tourism market with an inspiring story of recreation, security and stability.
“Among the variety of folk ceremonies, the Ofala Festival represents the face of popular entertainment, because it embodies the people’s heritage, reflecting their theatre, colour, music, dance, as well as being a social commentary.”
In conclusion, he advised managers of the economy to look towards other directions to diversify the revenue generation base.
“One of such platforms that come to mind is the instrumentality of cultural festivals.” He reasoned that, they are people-oriented because they celebrate the rich cultural heritage of the community; they are not capital-intensive; and they have the potentials of stimulating the local economy.
In his Festivals as a Vehicle for Nigeria’s Cultural Diplomacy, the Deputy Director, NICO, Oladipo Kajaiye, used Osun Osogbo, Eyo, Argungu and the Dubar festivals as events that could easily serve as vehicle for cultural diplomacy.
He also made suggestions on how such activities and culture workers within this area can benefit from proper planning; implementation and packaging of festivals for the realisation of effective cultural diplomacy. He said organisation of festivals would bring more financial gain to communities and the country at large.
Kajaiye said cultural festival would always give room to soft diplomacy that would make the challenges of hard diplomacy, which is the core of foreign policy much easier. The challenges of staging festivals in the 21st century digital age are not insurmountable. Federal, state and local government must cooperate in the areas of planning, publicity, packaging, quality and infrastructure. Festivals, apart from being vehicles for cultural diplomacy, could serve as foreign exchange earner. In this case, we see them contributing to what can be termed “festival tourism.”
In the paper, Promoting Traditional Festivals for Cultural Tourism, Law Ikay Ezeh, lecturer and Director, Administration and Human Resources, NICO, lamented the negligence of the art and culture sector by the government.
“The phrase government does not support arts and culture has become clichéd in the country but it is pertinent to continue to drum the socio, cultural and economic benefits of the sector to government.”
He stated, “any plan to develop cultural tourism without promoting traditional festivals would obviously not succeed because traditional festivals encompass arts, culture, historical heritage and natural offerings of the host communities and these are the attraction to cultural tourists.”
“It is very essential now, more than ever, to promote these festivals because that is the only way to avoid establishing the Western view that Africa belongs to a race of people without history, culture, knowledge and heritage; a people who are lazy, complacent and corrupt; a people who cannot think in the abstract; or chart a path for themselves.”
Head, Lagos Liaison Office, Brigitte Yerima’s presentation, was on Marketing Cultural Festivals and challenges that come with marketing such events. According to her, their being community based and cannot be transported out of their localities and some being deity or shrine centered, and still exhibiting very cryptic and ritualistic content has made them not attractive to secular enthusiasts.
She said, “Festivals all over the world have been noted to be great revenue generators. Using the Noting Hill Carnival, the Rio de Janeiro Carnival and the Emancipation Day in Trinidad and Tobago, she said provide classic example. “They have been noted to yield billions of dollars each year for the economies of these countries.”
Director, Admin and Human Resources NICO training school, Abayomi Oyelola’s presentation hinged on the challenges to transforming cultural festivals for economic development.
One major point that he noted is that, the value people place on cultural festivals is what would determine its worth in economic and traditional terms.
Boosting the economy of States through cultural festivals was presented by the Director NICO training school, Bamidele Olusa who mentioned what other countries have done with festivals. “Many Caribbean countries depend on leisure winter holidays, site visits, and cultural festivals as tourists attraction and as the major contributors to the gross domestic income of the state. The countries even use cultural festivals to whet the appetite of tourists for a repeat experience of their visits to Caribbean tourists destinations in and out of tourists seasons.”
|< Prev||Next >|