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NAFEST as calabash of Nigeria’s unity

Day by day, it is becoming glaring that the discourse on the importance of the value chains in our culture industry is not a mere academic exercise but rather a keen contest to practically cover the nexus of the various windows of our way of life in order to rebuild our nation on all fronts.

I may be wrong on the grounds that studies of our cultural components can only find meaning in academic narratives embellished possibly to subject our age-long socio-economic advantages over certain historical perspectives forced down our throats by powerful slave masters within the walls of global historical expressions and on the other hand a kind plea to our people to stop this mad rush to the classroom and give a thought to real-life, practical expressions of our diverse cultural content to reshape our socio-economic policies and present people-friendly governance.

Olusegun Runsewe, director-general, National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), has this organisational frame of mind that sometimes pits him against common-line leadership anywhere he finds room to bring fresh ideas that connect government policies to the benefit of the common man. When he was the boss of the NTDC, Runsewe threw spanners in the works of academic expressions of tourism value chain and rooted a structure to reboot the Nigerian nation and people to tourism business, which we lost to adjustment to fiendish political rascality.

Today, Runsewe is back again in familiar terrain, with the same frame of mind to bring common sense to re-energise and repackage of our huge, diverse cultural economy to empower the people. Hate Runsewe or love him, he has this uncanny body language, which he would not sell to you as a dummy but provides you a barometer to evaluate the end result of his intentions and aspirations.

Connecting our people to rekindle the very essence and deep content of our culture as a government objective and dividend of development may soon become an export commodity, if only our leaders could find time to listen to the NCAC boss.

After spending five glorious days in Kaduna to witness the National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST), this columnist will not waste space to recap all the vibes and colourful razzmatazz of the festival, which went viral on global and Nigerian television networks, the social media and the newspapers, but to carefully interpret the message of the 30th edition of NAFEST and its enigmatic messenger, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe.

My takeaway was that this government, particularly the office of the President, should call for the tapes of NAFEST in Kaduna and also the African Arts and Crafts Exposition held in Abuja in September, to practically find a way to fund the true emergence of our culture industry as a business.

The ease of doing business in culture can be seen practically at NAFEST in Kaduna and the breakthrough for me in this quest lies in connecting Nigerian children to our traditional poetry, paintings, dance and what I would call interpretative musical expression. It is a profound message at this time when our nation is at a crossroads of political uncertainty, so that culture can become the vehicle of expression of national diplomacy and socio-economic revival.

With a well-thought-out theme, “Nigerian Peace and Unity: Our Pride,” Runsewe carefully navigated through some established strides in the past with a systematic blend that connects the Nigerian people to the all-hands-on-deck agenda to salvage our nation.

Indeed, one need not have a third eye to see that there are intricate cultural bonds between the tribes and tongues represented at the Kaduna NAFEST. I can proudly beat my chest to the fact that Nigeria remains the nation to watch and visit as a cultural tourism destination in the world.

At AFAC and NAFEST, Runsewe seems to have successfully linked the Nigerian people and their culture to the very essence to which this government has vowed to provide jobs and showcase new culture entrepreneurs through arts and craft skills acquisition policy, as over 350 participants joyfully swelled the ranks of new business pathfinders in the culture economy.

Runsewe told me on the sidelines of a very glorious NAFEST that he was in government to connect the Nigerian people with the untapped treasures in Nigeria’s culture. He noted the missing link in the culture value chain and promised to work hard to restore hope and give succour to the rural poor and make life better for them through strategic engagements that would change their perception and understanding of the various windows in the culture economy.

Towards this dream, Runsewe has sent out letters inviting all the 36 state commissioners in charge of culture to a practical meet where solutions would be found to drive grassroot promotion of culture as a business and tool to empower the people.

There is no doubt that the message and the messenger can be seen in the public space and for those who pretend that Nigeria cannot be united, a free call to Runsewe for the video documentation of NAFEST tells the true story of our deep connection to our roots and, like the Chinese did many decades ago, Runsewe has began a pragmatic culture revolution that will break down strongholds of foreign influence on our people.

To end this piece, one must not fail to present Nigeria as a calabash where our cuisines, dances, folklore and fashion are fused with our people’s legendary strength and determination to live in unity and contribute to national development.

Significantly, Runsewe adopted the calabash as the tool and hold bay to rebrand NAFEST and showcase same as a melting pot not only for future investments in culture but as also a strategic reconnect, which the rural poor all over Nigeria can easily appreciate.

Soon, maybe very soon, leadership at various levels of governance in Nigeria may endeavour to replace plaques with decorated calabash as government mementos to local and international visitors, for herein lies the practical connection and institution of our cultural products as serious business.

On security, NAFEST gained Kaduna and confirmed that Nigeria’s centre of learning is peaceful and ready for new investment breakthrough. Governor Nasir el-Rufai was a perfect host and as NAFEST unveiled River State as host of the 2018 edition, what Govenor Nyesom Wike will do can only be imagined as all roads lead to Nigeria’s treasure land next year.

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