THE National Council for Arts and Culture, NCAC, a parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture has in the past one year, witnessed a turn-around with the appointment of Otunba Segun Runsewe (OON) as Director-General of the Council. There are visible evidences to show that President Muhammadu Buhari indeed put a round peg in a round hole.

Segun Runsewe

With his appointment in the last week of April and assumption of office in the first week of May 2017, industry watchers and stakeholders in the culture ministry knew that the National Council for Arts and Culture was set to be taken to a higher level. Otunba Segun Runsewe, on assumption of office immediately convened a meeting of all the Chief Executives of Culture all over the country. The meeting was held in Yenegoa, Bayelsa State, to discuss his new roadmap and strategy for the Council.

Few weeks later, Otunba Runsewe, realising the importance of stakeholders in achieving his goals, met with the major stakeholders in the Culture Industry in Planet One Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos. At this meeting, stakeholders ranging from Reading Association of Nigeria, RAN; Abuja Body of Comedians; Deejays Association of Nigeria; National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners; Society of Nigerian Artists, Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria, Cane Weavers Association of Nigeria and  others too numerous to mention were not only represented but all made useful contributions on how the National Council for Arts and Culture could be properly positioned to meet international standard. It is on record that this meeting with the stakeholders recorded over 90 percent participation.

The following month, the new Director General, Otunba Segun Runsewe, had a 3-day retreat in Abuja with all the management staff and zonal directors of the Council. The retreat was to review the mandate of the Council under the new dispensation for the purpose of repositioning the Council for improved efficiency and better performance. At the retreat, the management team and the zonal directors brainstormed on the new vision of the Council which is to use Arts, Crafts and Culture as a veritable tool for job creation, skill acquisition, and income generation that will stimulate rapid socio economic growth and development.

The month of August witnessed the implementation of one of the flagship programmes of the Council, the African Arts and Crafts Expo (AFAC) In pre-colonial times, the cultural Industries played critical roles in fast tracking the growth of arts and crafts found in Ivory, Bronze, Glass castings, Pottery, Leader works, Textiles Basketry, Cane/Raffia works, Leader designs, Ceramics, Pottery works, Coral beads, Textiles etc. All these were manufactured in different parts of the country and distributed by itinerant traders. These measures contributed to the economic growth of the country, but were relegated to the background with the advent of colonialism and the discovery of crude oil. It was on the bases of the desire to recapture the very essence of this industry and to re-enact its wealth and job creation potentials that the National Council for Arts and Culture initiated the African Arts and Crafts Expo held every year in Abuja.

Other objectives of AFAC Expo are to promote Import and Export business of African Arts and Crafts buyers worldwide, show case some aspects of African cultural heritage, impact requisite knowledge of import-export guidelines to the Arts and Crafts producers and marketers, establish an international Arts and Crafts market place, attract and sensitize investors on the need to invest in the Arts and Crafts sector and finally promote regional integration in line with the spirit of African Union Charter.

The last AFAC Expo held in August 2017 under Otunba Runsewe and his management team witnessed many significant innovations. Before now, AFAC used to be a quietly celebrated event with little or no publicity. But as soon as Otunba Segun Runsewe came in, realizing the importance of the media in promoting and marketing such product to meet international standard, he quickly arranged courtesy visits to Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) African Independence Television (AIT) Channels Television and all the major national print and electronic media to seek partnership with National Council for Arts and Culture for maximum publicity of the event.

All these efforts metamorphosed into a very successful outing for the 2017 edition of African Arts and Crafts Expo. Over 15 West African countries, 20 States of the Federation, 60 Nigerian based Non-Governmental Organizations, 6 Foreign Non-Governmental Organizations, and 7 Institutions of higher learning participated in the 2017 edition of AFAC, making it the best in the history of the Council.

It is also important to mention that in the 2017 edition of AFAC, Otunba Runsewe introduced Free Skill Acquisition training and Waste-to-Wealth programmes as the Council’s Corporate Social Responsibility to youths with the purpose of adding value to the life of Nigerian youths, especially the unemployed ones. At the training programme, the following skills were taught: training in 3 major Nigerian languages – Igbo, Hausa, and Yoruba –  Waste- to-Wealth, Crafts and Design, Ankara crafts, Cloth weaving, Make up/Body Adornment, Painting, Tying of Gele, Bead making, Fascinator/ Liquid soap, Traditional Hairdo, E-marketing and a host of others.

A total of six hundred and twenty (620) participants were trained by highly skilled professionals in their respective cluster areas. At the end of the training, all the participants were presented with certificates.  According to Otunba Runsewe, all these were geared towards Economic empowerment, Skill impartation and Job creation.

In another development, the new Director General not satisfied with the level of deterioration and some illegality perpetuated at the permanent site of NCAC, had series of meetings with those doing business in the premises. He pleaded with them to improve the standard of the sanitation of the place and when these meetings didn’t yield desired result, Otunba Runsewe took proactive steps towards taking possession of the place and the steps are yielding positive results towards the long envisaged hope of constructing a world class arts and crafts center dedicated to the promotion of Nigerian arts and crafts.

Another statutory function of the Council is the National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST). This festival began in 1970 as a post-civil war strategy of using cultural festivals to promote National unity. To kick-start this last edition, Otunba Runsewe held another meeting with all the Chief Executives of Culture all over the federation in October in Kaduna to brief them on new innovations that will be introduced to NAFEST. The event was successfully hosted in the month of November in partnership with the Kaduna state government. Again, Skill Acquisition, Waste- to-Wealth and Free medical and dental services were given to the indigenes of Kaduna state.

A total of 580 sick people received free medical treatment while over 500 hundred eye glasses were distributed. NCAC has promised to extend the scope of this programme by making it integral to her flagship programme for national impact. It is hoped that for this year’s NAFEST, participating states will be encouraged to include at least 10 individuals as potential trainees in their delegation for the skill acquisition programme, courtesy of the new D.G of NCAC.

Within the past one year, the National Council for Arts and Culture has hosted over a hundred organizations on courtesy calls, most of them wanting to partner with the Council in one form or the other. The Council has participated in so many foreign mission activities like the first Asian film festival in Abuja and the French Institute animated films festival.

Still within the period under review, NCAC under Otunba Segun Runsewe hosted many foreign dignitaries among who are the African Nordic meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers (This is a meeting of all Foreign Affairs Ministers of all African countries) at the permanent site.

Dr. Naomi Martin Luther King and Mr. Newton Lewis, Civil Rights activists from the United States of America in company of the Special Assistant to President Buhari on Diaspora were some of the dignitaries hosted by NCAC.

Miss Vivian Uche Okoro, the winner of the Kanagawa Bi-Annual World Children Art Exhibition competition organized by Japan Overseas Cooperation Association (JOGA) of Japan was one of the young achievers hosted by the Council.

The Council also organised a Nigerian Culture Day during the three-day competition of the Lady Golfers annual competition held in IBB Golf and Country Club in Abuja.

In November last year, 17 staff members of NCAC went to China for training, workshop and seminar. The Council has also reached out to some head of government agencies like FCT minister and EFCC chairman on courtesy calls and collaboration. It is worthy to mention that the Council has started enjoying some expanded partnership and cultural exchange programmes with notable foreign missions like India, China, Iran, South Korea, Ghana, Gambia, Mexico, Brazil, Cameroun, Russia etc.

The interface with the Russian embassy recently brought to the fore the need to sensitize Nigerians on the 2018 World Cup taking place in Russia next month and Otunba Runsewe being a media guru has set in motion to mobilize over 3million Nigerians to support the Super Eagles towards actualizing their World Cup dream.

With all these innovations in one year, surely there are better times ahead for the management and staff of the National Council for Arts and Culture under Otunba Segun Runsewe (OSR).

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