By McPhilips Nwachukwu
It was another time to speak to truth, and to set an agenda for the newly constituted government of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, penultimate week, when renowned cultural icon and first class royal father, Oba Gbenga Sonuga, Fadesewa of Simawa-Sagamu and other prominent culture patriarchs gathered at the instance of the National Institute for Culture Orientation, NICO to recommend ways that the present administration can gainfully benefit from culture in the task of furthering democratic politics.
The workshop attracted the presence of many other important stakeholders in the culture sector including; Prof. Sofia Oluwale, retired professor of Philosophy,
former Performing Musician Association of Nigeria, PMAN, Bolaji Rosiji, Deputy Director, Consultancy Services Division, Industrial Training Fund, ITF,Garba Abudu Ganger and Bob Manuel, who stood in for the lead paper presenter, Rtd. Maj Gen Mathias Efevbokan.
Speaking at the one day quarterly media workshop organized by NICO for art journalists on the theme; Sustaining Nigeria’s Democratic Progress, the up scale culture icons were unanimous in the thinking that the present Government should properly educate itself about culture and how it can be used in furthering good governance.
Particularly, Oba Gbenga Sonuga, who also was Director of Culture, Lagos State tasked government to embrace culture education stressing that good cultural orientation would enhance the newly appointed leaders in the discharge of their duties.
The respected royal father also called on NICO to liaise with National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, NIPSS so that together, both institutions can train and produced for the nation, high caliber and result oriented technocrats.
“NICO is a place , where our leaders should go for re- training in the nation’s cultural values.” He said adding that illiteracy constitutes the greatest threat to the development of culture.
According to Oba Sonuga, “Most of those appointed to culture ministry do not know what they are doing there. They feel that that they are in a distressed ministry; and prefer the so called lucrative ones.”
He however, commended the tenure of Col Akogun, who later became, an Honourable Member of the House of Representative and Prince Tony Momoh as two culture leaders, whose leadership visions showed deep understanding of the immense resources of culture.
Lending his voice to the debate, culture pathologist, Ben Tomoloju maintained that democritisation of culture should come from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation.
In line with the theme of the workshop, Tomoloju argued that culture provides a better platform for mobilization and dissemination of information and therefore, opined that, “ there should be one cottage theatre in every local government council in the country.”
This approach, he said, will not only help to take theatre to the people in the country sides, but also, help address unemployment and revenue generation.
“In every cottage theatre, at least 40 artists will be employed. All that they need is a take off fund. Democratisation of culture means establishing concert halls in every local government area, where people should practice their arts.” He insists.
In his lead paper presentation, Maj Gen Efevbokan tasked writers to make their art a nexus for positive societal transforming. According to him, “There is need for us to re- examine the issue of Nigeria’s image.
It is the path for all Nigerians and not the journalists alone. Significantly, there is need to know that the nation’s image, whether good or bad is relaying a message to the outside world.”
Also, Mr. George Uffort, Director of Culture, Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, who represented the newly appointed Minister, High Chief Edem Duke , while arguing that culture business is a partnership thing that should not be left alone in the hand of one unit also tasked journalists to help government and the Ministry in the realization of its visions.
“in the 1988 policy… we had a vision to promote and develop culture to get to all parts of the country. Today I can’t say we have got it right. But we’re still working at it.” He said.
In his remark, Executive Secretary of NICO, Dr Barclays Ayakoroma explained that the idea of bringing the workshop was part of the decision of the parastatal to rotate the programme round the country as a way of also, selling the culture and tourism potentials in each host state.
He also revealed that Federal Government has bought into NICO’s media workshop for culture journalists and has therefore agreed to partner with the agency in hosting subsequent media workshops.