By Osa Mbonu
The Director-General of National Council for Arts & Culture, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, is a household name in the world of arts, culture, and tourism administration. Only few people know him to be an excellent golfer. Now, true to his innovative mind, Otunba Runsewe is exploring ways of interfacing the golf game with the Nigerian culture, most notably, by localizing the golf costumes with the Nigerian adire fabric. He spoke to OSA MBONU, Arts Editor and other journalists in Port-Harcourt during a Golf Tournament staged in commemoration of the 31st NAFEST tagged ‘Rivers 2018’:
What is the relationship between culture and golf?
The biggest tourists in the world are golfers. They travel all over the world. That is why most airliners allow you to carry your golf bags free; you don’t pay, no matter how heavy the bags may be. But most recently, that privilege has been abused, that is why they are reviewing it now.
If we have to spend over $600 million every other month buying golf kits, then you have to appreciate that it has something to do with culture. As I am standing here, I am culturally dressed (in Nigerian fabric) to play golf. I have saved money that would have been taken abroad (to buy foreign made kits), now you can see that what I am wearing is truly Nigerian.
So, culture is about the people, about heritage. Heritage is a combination of believing in the natural, and the most natural game in the world is golf. You can see the beauty. To me, Nigeria is disconnected. There is about $7 billion in golfing environment between now and 2020, and no single Nigerian is involved; no single Nigerian is in the circuit where this money is circulating.
So what are you trying to do now; interfacing the Nigerian culture with golf should be a means; what is the end?
What I am trying to do is to use culture to build and open the doors for Nigerians. Let me remind you; Nigerians were nowhere to be found in football until Otto Gloria, Father Tiko, and Westerhoff came in and started taking our children abroad. Today, Nigeria has the highest number of footballers in Africa playing in the European league. Somebody has to start it.
Are there many Nigerians into golf?
Yes there are. The highest number of Pink and Callaway clubs in the world is being sold in Nigeria. You saw all those cars outside, they all (belong to) golfers.
But golf is an elitist game.
No, golf is not only for the elite. It is like when you are buying a car; you can buy a Rolls Royce, Jaguar, Mercedes, etc. At the same time you can also buy a beetle, Peugeot 504 or 404. It is the same thing with golf. People just ascribe golf to elites because they want to drive some people away from it. But for health reason, the best game in the world is golf.
So what message do you have now for Nigerians regarding golf and culture?
My message is that more Nigerians should key into this game because there are so many benefits. It is friendly. Golf is the only game that can take you to any conference in the world and they will ask you: what is your handicap? Once they know your handicap, it is like a family. If golf can unite the entire world, why can’t it do same for Nigeria?