One of the greatest drawbacks in the quest to promote and turn around the Nigeria tourism fortune is the absence of strategic national and international cultural and entertainment events in Nigeria. The Abuja carnival which was tailor made as Nigeria’s version of Rio carnival in Brazil and Notting Hill Carnival in London, was shot down at its prime when Runsewe left and its sudden and cheering surge and calendar rating dragged down to the mud due to lack of operational sustainability and absence of enduring futuristic benefit(s).
Sadly significant, the failings of Abuja carnival has never attracted any notable inquest, public hearing or town hall meeting by government or concerned Nigerian cultural exponents and enthusiasts to ask questions and proffer solutions to the demise of this key cultural gathering of the Nigerian people.
At its heights and prime in 2005/6, the Abuja carnival was strategically branded, presented and interpreted to revive and promote Nigerian culture, arts and crafts, an end result that gifted Nigeria a new positive image as livable place and a destination with the greatest black Africa diversified and rich cultural discoveries.
The tourism world watched and waited, not sure Nigeria can keep its head to sustain its new found strength as Africa’s cultural tourism hotspot and at same time, prayed that Nigeria do not go back to its vomit of failing when its matters most. Even though we did and reduced the Abuja carnival to mere cultural naming ceremony to which our people gather friends and families to name their new born baby, some of us who witnessed the Abuja carnival at its original intention and pole height manifestation, have never failed to dream for its revival and rebound in whatever form or disguise.
Oh, yes, the good news is here and Nigerians will again witness another frontal and aggressive showcase of Nigeria’s culture, arts and crafts like never before. This breakthrough can only be well measured and understood if all of us will find time to grace the official opening of the African Arts and Crafts Expo (AFAC) on September 5th to which National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) intends to build into a new cultural bridge across our diverse frontiers but again with 25 other African nations as active participants and collaboration outposts.
To this dream, NCAC under Otunba Segun Runsewe, Nigeria’s new Chief Culture promoter and marketer, has deployed the combination of experience, collaborative methodologies and strategic placements and positioning of the Nigeria cultural and tourism community to present an event that is employment creation sensitive and a bankable sector to the bargain.
In its tenth edition, AFAC is not a pepper soup, butter and bread affair but a cultural investment market where sculptures, artists, fashion and fabric designers, creative dance troupes and Nigeria’s key cultural attributes and that of other sister African nations will be on showcase and also form a basket of presentable and marketable tourism products to a world largely distressed at the blood lets on the streets of Europe and America.
The event, a test case of how willing and ready Nigeria can host and welcome visitors to appreciate our best cultural value chain and invest therein, has seen the deployment of over fifty mobile toilets, a world class media centre, medical centre manned by seasoned medical volunteers with National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) as back up, formidable security round the clock at the Arts and Crafts village venue of the exposition, not forgetting the fleet of buses to convey participants to and from their hotels to the venue and a tour of Abuja.
Indeed, its money making time for local taxi operators and other service providers in outdoor catering and souvenir makers who will be organized and documented by NCAC to fill up operational gaps deliberately created to engender the rebirth of a culture driven tourism economy.
Otunba Segun Runsewe whose times at Abuja Carnival and Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) witnessed the most significant and gainful periods for Nigeria’s tourism domestic and global tourism identification and revival and now heads NCAC told me at the sidelines of soft opening of AFAC on Monday that NCAC will work hard to restore Nigeria’s lost cultural glory and called on Nigerians from all works of life to enthrone a purposeful culture economy.
Runsewe informed that AFAC will be reviewed at the end of its three weeks life period and gains made, will be used to build effective collaborative time lines with various state governments and serious private sector organizations in order to sustain expected achievements and also improve on areas that may need new touch up.
On Abuja carnival and other notable festivals in country, the NCAC boss who has zero tolerance for fetish and occultic contents in public cultural events, advised that time has come to do away with such practices if Nigeria must attract international visitors and sustain domestic interest, adding that he would find time to discuss with the Minister of Culture on the best way to rebrand Abuja Carnival.
Indeed, yours truly shall bring you the best of AFAC’s three weeks showcase – the beats, the people, the world class exhibition stands and sideline money spinning ventures.