By Osa Amadi, Arts Editor
MOSCOW, RUSSIA – The National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) led by the DG, Otunba Segun Runsewe, has continued his mission of selling Nigeria to the world via the 2018 FIFA World Cup tournament in Russia, declaring that the World Cup is beyond a 90-minute affair.
Otunba Runsewe made this declaration in far away Russia when NCAC, accompanied by some journalists from the Nigerian media visited the Nigerian Embassy in Russia on Friday, June 29, 2018.
“Your Excellency,” Otunba said, “I sat down and said to myself: It seems that Nigeria is a bit disconnected from the world. Why did I say that? Football is only played for 90 minutes…you can make much more out of it. Many countries miss this opportunity to showcase their people, history, heritage, etc. I took it upon myself and my management and I said, look, we need to repeat what we did in South Africa.
“All we have been doing here is to push Nigerian culture and we thank God for the overall resounding success of this project in terms of people getting to know us. This particular trip has opened our eyes to see that the World Cup is the biggest networking event in the world that other countries take advantage of.
“Unfortunately, up till now, we still see the World Cup as a 90-minute affair. But it is beyond that. This Embassy has made us proud. Though we are going back home with a little pain, but we give thanks to God. It could have been worse than that. Imagine how it would have been if they had given us about 8-0. With 2-1, we can say we are going home peacefully.
Otunba Runsewe said NCAC decided to visit the Embassy and the Ambassador, because the embassy has been nice to NCAC, so the council decided to come and leave some artifacts there for the embellishment of the Embassy. “We are here today because we have some symbolic items to leave with the council – the artifact and the cultural items.
Otunba Runsewe who presented a certificate of appreciation to the Nigerian Embassy in Russia for their immense contribution to the success of the Cultural Support for the Super Eagles at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia said NCAC may be coming back to Russia very soon given that he (Runsewe) is the President of the World Craft Council, and Russia is a member. He said NCAC, for the very first time, is presenting a certificate to an Embassy, and that Embassy is the Nigerian Embassy in Russia.
An obviously excited Ambassador, Professor Steve Davies Ugba, responded: “This is a unique opportunity for us as an Embassy to market Nigeria. We have not seen this type of thing before. We had been hoping to see things like this but we have not. Now that they have come, we will make judicious use of them. These are what we’ve been asking for, for a very long time, because ours is to promote Nigeria all around – culture, arts, economy, political, etc. For those of you who are coming here for the first time, you can now see why we are so excited about the prospect in Russia. There have been scary stories about Russia that have kept people away from Russia but those of us who are here think otherwise. We are here to open Nigeria to Russia and Russia to Nigeria.
“I am particularly happy to see the Nigerian media here because there is a huge gap in knowledge about Russia in Nigeria mainly because of the absence of the Nigerian media in Russia. So I am hoping that as you go back you can impress upon your staff and your decision makers the need to liaise with us to help promote Nigeria here in the Russian Federation. It is the media that will drive the exposure. Whatever people see is what they react to. It will also help the Russian media to establish a presence in Nigeria. The West has a presence in Africa but they establish their offices in South Africa or Nairobi. So we say, why not in Nigeria? Russia also has stronger presence in some parts of Africa than in Nigeria. But we are called the giant of Africa with the largest economy. So my hope is that you will take back stories, pictures and sceneries about Russia to Nigeria.
“For us, the World Cup in terms of Nigeria’s active participation has come to an end. But that does not mean that promoting Nigeria has come to an end. I don’t count what has happened to us as a disappointment. I look at it as a missed opportunity and for us to build on that missed opportunity.
“Until you came, we have not seen these types of things you have brought to us – promotional pins, scarves, Aso-oke neck mufflers, Nigeria’s flags, artifacts, etc. I expect Otunba and the National Council for Arts & Culture to come back and build on this exposure to the Russian Federation. Russians are asking: Do you have any concrete information you can share with us? And we keep telling them to go to the internet. But when we start giving them these materials and publications you have brought now we will start having a concentrated approach to marketing Nigeria. These people want to come to Nigeria but they don’t know how, they don’t have information about Nigeria, and they don’t have the time to go to the internet and search. These materials you have brought now are the things they need. Thank you for coming. It is going to be the beginning of a relationship.
The Ambassador also shared the challenges facing the Nigerian Embassy in Russia. “We are overstretched, even in our funds, not to speak of helping over 60 or 70 Nigerians here. Just yesterday (28 June), the police dragged some Nigerians to this place. Someone who needed medical attention was also brought to us here. These are some of the things associated with an event like the World Cup. We must be prepared. Please do your reports when you get home so that we get well prepared for the next event in order for things that went wrong in this one not to re-occur at other events in which Nigeria will participate. We don’t want Nigerians to keep suffering.
“Professor Ugba regretted that in all the venues where the Super Eagles played, Nigeria’s supporters were hugely out-numbered, even though Nigeria is more in population than all the countries that played against us. For instance, he said, there were over 60,000 Argentinians at the stadium while Nigerians were less than 500. It makes no sense.