By Nkiru Ifeajuna
By most accounts, Nigeria’s mono-product economy, which is largely dependent on crude oil, is not the best.
Economic experts insist that tangible efforts should be made to reduce the country’s overdependence on oil as its major source of revenue.
However, the Federal Government appears to be thinking along those lines, as it has been making efforts to develop the country’s arts, culture and tourism industry and generate revenue from it.
To that end, the government has been striving to attract tourists into the country and showcase its vast tourism potential.
In more specific terms, the Federal Ministry of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation is striving to place Nigeria on the world tourism map by marketing the country’s arts, culture and tourism potential.
The ministry has some parastatal agencies with specialised functions that promote arts, culture and tourism.
The agencies include the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) and the National Troupe of Nigeria (NTN).
Others are the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC) and the National Gallery of Arts (NGA).
Over a period of time, the Federal Government has initiated various policies to create an enabling environment for the development of arts, culture and tourism in the country.
For instance, Nigeria is currently implementing its tourism master plan which, among other things, markets the country’s tourism centres and outfits.
Some of the tourism centres and outfits are Tinapa Business and Leisure Resort in Cross River State, Farin Ruwa Waterfalls in Nasarawa State and the Olokola Cultural Resort in Ondo State.
The ministry has also developed a cultural policy for the nation, and the policy is now being implemented in line with the current economic realities.
However, the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Chief Edem Duke, said that the Nigerian Motion Picture Industry and the arts sector had become very dynamic tools for promoting Nigeria’s cultural heritage.
He, nonetheless, stressed that over the years, the ministry had performed creditably in efforts to preserve the nation’s cultural heritage.
Duke said that in 2009, the ministry initiated and developed six cultural industry centres in Taraba, Enugu, Benue, Ogun, Ondo and Sokoto states.
He said that the centres were developed, as part of efforts to harness the abundant local talents, generate employment and stimulate the growth of the national economy.
The minister said that in the same year, the Nigerian Cultural House in Salvador, Brazil, was also established to boost Nigeria’s external image.
He also said that the ministry’s Department of National Orientation, which oversaw the National Orientation Agency (NOA), had been making appreciable contributions to the socio-economic development of the country.
Duke said that the department recently carried out a survey of Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones in an attempt to create understanding and harmony among the different religious and ethnic groups in the country.
Besides, the minister said that the ministry had developed a vibrant relationship with UNESCO, European Union, Africa Union and other developmental partners for the advancement of the country’s culture and tourism sector.
He said that the Nigerian film industry and the cultural sector had witnessed a phenomenal growth in the last couple of years.
“Nigeria’s Motion Picture Industry is now ranked the second largest in the world and there is no debate on the ranking,’’ he said.
Duke stressed that Nigerian films and other cultural products were assets, which were considered to be the most influential media for entertainment, education and cultural export to other countries.
“It behoves us to take advantage of this to launder our international image and draw worldwide attention to Nigeria as a fascinating tourism destination.
“It is imperative that the stakeholders see themselves as our cultural ambassadors and work assiduously to use film as a medium to project Nigeria positively to the international community,’’ he said.
Duke said that the Federal Government was very much concerned about the challenges confronting the film industry.
He said that government was doing everything possible to check the menace of piracy and copyright infringement to enable the stakeholders to fully reap the fruits of their labour.
“Nigerian dances, music and tourism are attracting the attention of other countries and we have a lot of exchange programmes with other countries,’’ he said.
A renowned artist, Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya, said that Nigeria had a lot of arts, cultural and tourism resources which could effectively be harnessed and utilised.
Onobrakpeya said that the time had come for Nigerian arts and culture to be rated among the best in the world.
“Promoting unity through the arts is a critical ingredient for the country’s development. Arts have a lot of potential that could be harnessed.
“An art is a thought and creating it gradually to enable it to tell a story and send a message to the people is very vital.
“Nigerian arts and culture could be used to enhance national integration and speed up national development,’’ he added.
Mrs Biola Alabi, the Managing Director, M-Net Africa, underscored the need to tell the nation’s stories through the channels provided by arts, culture and tourism.
“We have a lot of tourism sites in the country that ought to be developed; we should make the sites appealing and attractive to foreign tourists.
“A lot of individuals have talents. It is how to support their arts and creativity that appears to be the missing link,’’ she said.
Mr Dotun Alabi, the Chairman of the Lagos State chapter of the Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA), described arts as educational tools which could facilitate the country’s development.
“The Federal Government has not funded the arts sector as it ought to. In other climes, governments spend a lot of money on the development of the arts industry.
“Arts and culture cannot be relegated to the background because they can be used to make the youth look inwards.
“Arts can be passed from one generation to the other; pragmatic efforts should be made to preserve the people’s culture,’’ Alabi said.
All in all, analysts urge the Federal Government to fund the development of the country’s arts, culture and tourism industry.
They also want the government to encourage the citizens to participate in efforts to develop the industry via purposeful public awareness strategies.