From Magnus Eze and Adanna Nnamani
In spite of the declining fortune of the Nigerian economy, the creative industry sub-sector remained bouyant. Its 11.7 per cent growth has been quite vital to the nation’s exit from recession.
Deputy Governor of Edo State, Philip Shuaibu, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, acting Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Dr. Habiba Lawal, Head of Civil Service of the Federation, (HOCSF), Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, Director General of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Otunba Olusegun Runsewe and several other visitors and participants at the on-going 10th African Arts and Craft (AFAC) Expo were united that culture and tourism was the nation’s next economic mainstay.
In fact, Edo Deputy Governor on the side-lines of the programme in Abuja, charged the public and private sectors to exploit ‘this new crude maximally.’
The minister, while inspecting the pavilions in company with Oyo-Ita and the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Grace Isu-Gekpe, restated the administration’s commitment to exploiting the creative industry in its drive to diversify the economy.
“We have gone to pavilions, individual galleries and also (those belonging to the) states and countries. I think the whole idea is to let Nigerians know that this government believes in this diversification of its economy and that the creative industry in particular (films, arts and craft and the likes) is one area which is under-exploited and it can employ more people and create wealth.
“What you have seen today is just the skills and talents of Nigerians,” he quipped.
He commended the artistry, expertise and creativity of Nigerians, saying he was impressed that the industry was now attracting young people with talents and skills.
“To me, the most important aspect of it is that Nigerians are now getting more involved and they are now seeing the value of creativity. They now see that the economy is not just about white collar jobs or even blue collar jobs. Today’s economy is more of talent-based and knowledge-based.”
Mohammed enjoined the exhibitors to always enveadour to improve the quality of the packaging of their products in order to to compete with other products, while imploring them to use the social media to effectively showcase their products to a global audience at minimal cost.
Acting SGF who opened the event on September 5, urged Nigerians to patronise made in Nigeria goods.
She noted that N200 million was set aside through the Bank of Industry (BoI) to train Nigerian youths interested in arts and culture.
DG of NCAC, Runsewe, described Nigeria as the most culturally diverse nation in Africa, where every community has a unique cultural product.
He assured that those unique products must be harnessed to project the best of Nigerian culture. “The council under my leadership is compiling a list of cultural product in each of the state of the federation into a compendium to be known as the 37 Wonders of Nigeria.”
He further revealed that these 37 Wonders, representing the 37 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), shall serve as the unique selling point and face of Nigerian culture, based on the comparative advantage of each state.
Meanwhile, the agency has identified cultural diplomacy as a potent tool in the fight against insurgency in the country.
At an investment forum which formed part of the on-going AFAC, Runsewe decried the spate of hate speeches in recent times, attributing it to lack of knowledge of the nation’s history.
He admonished those canvassing for separation of the country to first consult the forefathers of the nation and seek their permission, since according to him, Nigeria was not a mistake.
“We will even use cultural diplomacy to go to Sambisa and for those that were proposing division in the country, I will suggest they first go and wake our forefathers and ask them if we should divide. Only when they say yes that we should divide that we should, otherwise everybody should keep shut,” he said.
Mrs. Oyo-Ita after visiting the various pavilions expressed delight at the abundant talents in Nigeria and the critical role they play in reviving the nation’s culture and tradition.
“It’s very exciting to know that we have this level of arts work and talent in Nigeria. You can see a lot of traditional items that we thought have been phased out are being rejuvenated,” he said.
AFAC which entered its second week on Tuesday has continued to attract visitors from different segments of the society, especially the diplomatic community.
The expo indeed brought together marketers of arts and craft from all over Africa to exhibit and sell their products, exchange knowledge and expertise as well as network for investment partners.