By Albert Akota
The National Council for Arts and Culture yesterday in Abuja publicly presented a drive to raise three million, culture friendly football lovers to passionately support the Super Eagles during the matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals taking place in Russia this summer.
Director –General of the council, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe contended that it was time that Nigeria used the tool of football and its abiding passion to promote and celebrate Nigeria’s rich culture internationally.
“For far too long, we have under employed the power of football and sports generally in promoting our culture, in promoting our arts, and in promoting our heroes. The time to start doing this, and in a big way, is now.
“Nobody will celebrate us for us; we have to do it ourselves. We must re- awaken the spirit of promoting and projecting our arts and cultural items in such a way that even domestic football will benefit. I have strong faith that we will raise even more than three million Nigerians who are ready to project our culture and wear the green-white-green anytime Nigeria is playing. We will also distribute miniature Nigerian flags to all these supporters. ”
Chairman of the occasion, Chief Olusegun Odegbami (MON) lauded Runsewe for “opening a window to allow us to see that football is much more than playing a 90 –minute match,” adding that just like education, religion, politics and the economy, culture is one of the most potent instruments to dominate the world.
“Our human capacity tells us that we can do it; our quality of population, given the number of Nigerians doing very well in different areas of endeavour globally, tells us that we can do it.
“We need to start to have a full appreciation of who we are, and this concept has come at the right time with the FIFA World Cup – the biggest football showpiece in the universe – just by the corner. We need to take Nigeria’s arts and culture to the world the same way we are the second highest exporter of football talents to Europe after Brazil.”
The 1980 Africa Cup of Nations winner recommended that in every hotel that the Super Eagles will stay during the FIFA World Cup in Russia, a stand should be allocated to conspicuously display Nigeria’s arts and cultural materials.
Speaking on the economy, Runsewe underscored the need for the country to sustain its diversification agenda to move the nation away from mono-oil economy.
He said the arts, tourism, culture and entertainment sector was a low hanging fruit that should be explored to replace oil in generating revenue for the country.
“We must think outside the box and not oil all the time; some day, this oil will dry up, but arts and culture will never dry up.
“I was at the Brazilian Embassy sometimes ago and somebody was requesting for Pele’s painting in millions of dollar.
“Why should somebody not ask for the painting of Rashidi Yekini, Emmanuel Okala, Jay-Jay Okocha or Christian Chukwu?
“These are things we are working towards to happen in the arts and culture sector,’’ Runsewe said.