The Director-General of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, has given insight into while he is battling nudity and indecent behaviour in the country. Amongst other issues, Runsewe explained why he frowned at the recent incidence of nude girls dancing in the Lekki axis of Lagos, the ongoing BBNaija TV reality show and why the nation cannot tolerate the strange nature of cross-dresser, Bobrisky.
According to him: “I am the custodian of culture and also, I preserve and promote the right culture for this country. This idea of nudity has taken a new dimension like it has never been before.” In this interview, he concisely stated his position.
You have been in the forefront of the campaign against nudity in the Nigerian public space. Why are you doing this?
One, you have to agree with me that I am the DG (Director General) of National Council for Arts and Culture. I am the custodian of culture and also, I preserve and promote the right culture for this country. This idea of nudity has taken a new dimension like it has never been before. Within one week, we have had three serious cases: One girl came out nude in Ikeja Plaza. Nude! Stark naked! The guy that went out in Lekki dancing with nude girls––
Are you referring to Tekno?
Yes, Tekno. And also, Bobrisky has turned himself to a woman. Look, all these things could be seen as a joke, but I want to prepare the minds of Nigerians; it is like making economic benefits today, but destroying our tomorrow. I want to assure you that if we didn’t react to this, we would have had multiple issues coming up too.
Was that the reason you also recently picked on cross dresser, Bobrisky?
Yes. That was the reason. I had to tell him that it remains in him as far as we are concerned that if he wants to change from who God has made him, he has to go back to the countries that practise and allow this. But in Nigeria, we don’t. It is not part of our culture. We respect the way we’re made by God. We respect our daughters, our mothers and our young ones. So, this is a dangerous dimension. I will not allow it to fly.
If Bobrisky continues on that path, what will the government do to him?
It is a clear that Nigeria has signed a bill against homosexuality and anything related to it, which was signed by former President Goodluck Jonathan. So, if he does not desist from this, we will definitely do the needful. We will get the security agencies to treat such as a criminal case. Don’t forget that our fundamental approach to this issue is to protect our youths. Definitely, we don’t want them to imbibe such negative attitude.
Why are you against sex on BBNaija?
I am first and foremost against it because a lot of Nigerians don’t know what is going on today. Over 49 or 52 percent of our youth live on drugs now. And I want to tell you that most people that today do all these things are on drugs. Nobody in his right senses, a normal human being will start stripping himself or herself naked. So, it is our responsibility as a government agency to speak out and to enlighten those who don’t know the damages.
What measure in specific term is the government going to put in place to curtail the trend?
We have already made a formal complaint to the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC. The NBC is the regulatory body for that. We won’t go outside the law. Our job is to alert the public of this negative attitude. It is for the NBC to monitor them. The NBC will not definitely act without monitoring and getting proper information.
But some people may ask that how did all these fall within the purview of your organisation?
I am in charge of culture like I said. Culture is what makes a people. People without culture are like a tree without leaves. Somebody asked me this question, that is my agency new? Have we just started? It is because this agency has not made such impact before. That is why it is a bit difficult for people to see what we are doing. But I want to tell you one thing: the President appointed me to be in charge of culture, not for local or state government, and not for any religious sect. It is for the entire country. So, I am going to do it to the best of my ability that my conscience will judge me that during my tenure, an impact was made in this sector.
How convinced are you that culture can be a major revenue earner for Nigeria?
It is. Look, there is a serious relationship between culture and tourism. Tourism has only two jobs to do. What are the two jobs? The two jobs are to market and to promote, while culture is a brand identity that brings out the best in any country. And once you get that right, the economic returns are enormous. That you cannot fault. We are going to stand our ground that nobody can destroy the fabric of our culture. We won’t allow it. And this is the crux of this battle we are into now. Look, I am prepared. When you want to fight this kind of battle, there will be some people that want to test the waters to make sure you retreat. No! That was before.
So, it is like light against darkness?
Yes, it is. It is light against darkness. Let me share this story with you because it will help the readers. A woman sent her daughter to go and study abroad. The lady is now married to a fellow lady. She is a lesbian abroad. Her mother is in the hospital in Maitama now.
Is it because of this issue?
Yes, she suffered a stroke.
These sets of people you are fighting are very strong, well connected and very rich. How prepared are you to battle them?
There is no wealth, there is no connection that is beyond that of the Almighty God. What I am fighting for now is morally right and it is spiritually right. It is something that even God will smile at us.
How prayerful are you?
I am very prayerful. I am a child of God. That is non-negotiable. You see, because nobody has been talking, that is why this thing is growing. It is a spiritual networking. And I have made up my mind against it.
People may also tend to believe that you are just trying to score some cheap political points. What is your take on this?
Otunba Runsewe has made a name in this country, home and abroad. I am the President of World Craft Council. I have been in it. I have a national honour, Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON). This is beside the point. The point I want to put to you, today, somebody accused me that what is my business with Bobrisky?
Are you serious?
Yes. Somebody did. I said to him; let him pray that the daughter will be walking naked, in Lekki, Lagos. He accused me of cursing him. I said no, I want to make a sense out of our conversation. And I prayed that his son will become like Bobrisky. He said no, no, no, no. The same person called me less than ten hours after and apologised because he didn’t know. Look, go online now. All the people who are for what I am doing are over 92 percent. Not more than three percent and just some characters are doing this.
You mean some miscreants?
Some miscreants! And we are not going to allow them to destroy this country. Do you know that right now, the reason why you see criminals all over the place is because they are on drugs. What causes drug abuse? It is this new trend that they are following.
You have a record of great achievements in tourism and now in culture. Did you study this in school or just something innate in you?
God gave me a special calling for this sector. People like us that are passionate about what they do, they don’t come all the time. You asked a question and I want to deeply reply you. They don’t come all the time. I am telling you, what I read in school was marketing. I was once a journalist too––or I am still a journalist. I started my career at the New Nigeria newspaper. But you see, the issue is, most people that are supporting this thing, their children are in the best schools abroad. I am telling you today, most people that are telling us why are we doing this, they send their children to the best institutions. As far as I am concerned, a change has come and they must take it.
You are a man of ideas, what’s next on your agenda for NCAC?
You know I have NAFEST (Nigerian Festival for Arts and Culture). After NAFEST, we have INAC (International Art and Craft Expo). So, I have national programmes, international art and craft expo. We have products ongoing. My next point is that we are going to bring out a bill to fight nudity in Nigeria. The one for 2008, we are now going to revisit it, beef it up and make it stronger because we cannot allow this to continue. And I know that every responsible Nigerian will be against this. And I hope you know this because The Sun newspaper published the story. An NGO in Kenya commended Nigeria for taking this decision. You know what it said? It said if this happens in Nigeria and nothing happens, then Africa is in trouble.
You are everywhere, a workaholic of sorts. Do you rest at all? And how do you relax?
I rest when the time is right. But what I want to achieve, I must achieve it first. I want to see our country to be seen as a serious nation, to be respected as we used to be. Enough of this mediocrity.
You have passion for golf. Why?
I just said let me try it and then, all of a sudden, it has become part of me. I love it. And I have brought about two or three innovations to golf. I am the only one that wears native dress to play golf.
Oh yes. I use native material.
You are also a powerful dresser, what informs your choice of fashion?
Normally, I like good things and I am lucky to be married to a wife who respects and understands fashion. And my wife understands the indigenous and local fashion better. So, it makes the job better.
Do you wear suit?
No. Suit is not part of me. I can’t wear suit. And I can’t give my money to any foreigner. The money must remain at home. You can’t see me wearing suit.
What is that fashion accessory you can’t do without?
Grace of God. I am being honest with you.
So, it is not material thing?
(Laughter) Because that makes everything to work better for all of us.
Do you have time for your family at all in view of your busy activities?
Any man who is successful in life cannot have 100 percent time for his family. The family has to suffer the gains of the society.
What do you eat while you are abroad?
That is a good question. I went somewhere abroad and I ran into trouble. There was no food at all. Every food available was from flour to all these things. But I managed to eat bread.
So, what type of food do you like?
Beans and plantain.
Why not amala and gbegiri?
No. Beans and plantain for obvious reasons. As you grow up, you have to watch what you eat. I can’t eat amala at night when I am going to bed, but you can eat beans and still be ok.
Where is your holiday destination?
My holiday is where we are having NAFEST. That is what I adopted.
With your family or alone?
Sometimes, my family comes in briefly, stays for few days and goes back.
Do you plan to have something similar to South Africa’s Travel Indaba?
I have started it. That is the expo I am telling you. I started it in a big way for this country. Last year, we had 29 ambassadors and over 17 countries in attendance.