The year 2017 screeched to an end with fuel scarcity and frustration-driven travel frenzy. Nigerians, inevitably, had to face their nemesis, the fuel scarcity spoiler that cast a grim pall over a period that otherwise should be sunny. We all were condemned to a cheerless Christmas in a year scalded by recession. Sadly, the petroleum albatross that brings the Nigerian life to a grinding halt especially at festive periods has become a habit.
Nonetheless, everybody is fed up with the petroleum palava and the wreck it is causing to our country. Now, everyone knows the petrol-dependent economy is a mirage.
There is no harm in trying another option. In doing so, we have to work within the quadrants of our comparative advantage. Agriculture already is having its day. Another potent option is cultural tourism, which several countries––from Tunisia to Thailand––have been milking for years.
We not only have natural resources. Our country is amply blessed with cultural resources. Check it out: Calabar now owns the bragging right to Africa’s biggest carnival. Osun Osogbo has the claim to Africa’s strongest religious tourism. Ojude Oba and Ofala have no rivals as royal fiesta. With a mammoth population of over 180 million and a mosaic ethnicity, the most populous black nation is an el dorado of culture, festivals, art and crafts.
And we have seen flashes of the possibilities. For instance, 2017 was the year the National Council of Arts and Culture (NCAC) reinvigorated, galvanized by a new helmsman bent on turning culture and crafts into a new ore and the fulcrum of growing the economy. The council’s strategic repositioning, as attested to by its Arts and Crafts Festival in Abuja and the National Festival of Arts and Culture in Kaduna, were apertures to the prospects of a culture-driven economy.
To get it right requires a superstructure, which entails harnessing the components––monuments, resorts, festivals, arts, crafts and carnivals––and by God, we have enough to bring the world to our shores––and putting in place the basic infrastructure required, to build a self-sustaining cultural tourism complex.
How do we now build a pagoda of economy out of our cultural resources? What it takes is getting the mathematics right, connecting the dots to turn the country into a Disneyland of culture and festivities.
Who’s to do it? There is no lack of tested hands. There is for instance the NCAC boss, Otunba Runsewe whose mantra is “Culture, the new oil.”
A caveat though. It is not enough to have a man who can do the job at the helm; he must not be given targets only; give him the needed resources, nay, a hefty budget, but also an elastic institutional support and a reasonable timeline to deliver.
We might just discover that it is easier done.
This 2018, let’s try cultural tourism.