Nigerian Cultures and Traditions: Full of policies but lack of direction @ 50

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It has become a culture and tradition that every October 1st Nigeria will celebrate her Independence Day from the grip of the gluttonous British colonialists who invaded this West African coast known as Nigeria today, over One Hundred years ago. What makes this year's celebration unique is the Golden age Nigeria has attained, not that Nigerians are not still walking on the streets with sobered hearts of failed promises by the different administrations that came and are gone. The 'promise and fail' habit of the politicians has become a syndrome: A bad culture not to be acknowledged or practiced by anybody who had centred his lifestyle on honesty. Nigerians psyches are affected by this habit or culture of genuflection of the politicians who only care for themselves, families and cronies. The question of where the different envied cultures and traditions of Nigeria are navigating to have always occupied the centre stage of the Pan-Africanists discourse – from domestic to cosmetic levels. The different administrations in Nigeria had only given consent of the people's cultures and traditions merely in the nation's Constitution, but these are not in respect, adhered by the divergent ethnic groups that made up Nigeria, which were forcefully brought together by Sir Lord Lugard in 1914. These cultures and traditions are virtually on extinction from the towns and villages. Name them: Language, communalism, brotherliness, belief, humanism, hospitality, trust, meek, reverence etcetera are all African cultures and traditions that are fast fizzling out for the occupancy of alien cultures and traditions – also forcefully imposed on Nigerians and virtually on all Black Africans during the period of colonialism.

But, how many people are thinking towards bridging the clash between modernization and the traditional cultural values of Nigeria? Should the cultural and traditional values of Nigeria be left to be gasping for air? Should there not be radical developmental changes in retrieving the cultures and traditions of Nigeria that have been ignorantly thrown into everlasting dungeon? For example, should the cherished and envied local music be replaced with pop-music that has mostly made the youths skyrocket in dissident practices? Where are the development and establishment and growth of cultural and traditional education in Nigeria?

While most of the behaviours of today are learned either in the Mosque or in the Church or in the Western school, the family values and the rights of lineages are pummelled to the soil. People hardly or no longer develop their cultures and traditions. The crestfallen this non-challant act has elicited posited questions thus:

1. Where are the Nigerian cultural life and cultural values and cultural needs and expectations of the people that was enshrined in the Constitution?

2. Where did the people understand that the only affirmation of the authentic cultural values and cultural heritage is by destroying them in the name of religion?

3. How far have the different governments in Nigeria gone in building up a national cultural identity that would be in consonance with the different cultures of the different ethnic groups in Nigeria?

4. What law has the governments enabled in parallel to the artefacts destroyers' views?

5. How far have the people been given education between cultures and religion?

6. Where and when have the national cultural policies been regarded in the towns and villages as an instrument of promotion of national identity and Nigerian unity?

It is as shameful as it is perturbing that the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation (and Social Welfare), or whatever it is called, had created the core cultures and traditions for the people to only read as fiction in the papers than being practiced in reality.

In the 90s, the two departments responsible for administering and implementing the cultural policies were the Federal Department of Culture and the National Council for Arts and Culture, yet there is little or none they encouraged. As Nigerians know, these Ministries were responsible for the formulation and execution of the national cultural policies, for the financing and promotion of all national cultural organizations and for international cultural relations and for encouraging and developing all aspects of Nigerian cultures and interact with private or public organizations. However, the people may exonerate the Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Education which are partly involved in cultural life and policies at least, for the Ministry of Information, being loquacious in defending the government it has served in the past and serving at present.

Notwithstanding, how far have these organizations – the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, National Library of Nigeria, Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization, National Gallery of Modern Art, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, Nigerian Television Authority, Film Corporation of Nigeria – gone in rejuvenating the cultures and traditions of Nigeria in reality and educating Nigerians the core need to embrace and practice their cultures and traditions as done to the awareness on the Human Immuno Virus (HIV), Cholera Prevention, Girl Child Education, Gender Equality etcetera by the organizations it was their duty to do so. Do these organizations forget that they are sectors that are covered by the statutory bodies at the federal level? What about the Federal Ministry of Culture (and Social Welfare) that is in charge of cooperation and coordination among various bodies at the national, state and local government levels? Cultures and traditions are not only read on books but enforced to be practiced.

It is not encouraging that the promotion and development of cultures and traditions of Nigeria have become the exclusive responsibility of individual Nigerians or groups in the villages who are hounded by the alien religious fanatics to drop the practice, and they won't abhor such admonishment or ordinance from their 'tormentors', but would succumb to the 'pressure' because they lacked education or are misinformed.

Although, the Federal Government finances and offers administrative support for culture to each state, but how many people in the towns and villages are benefiting from the 'structure'? Do the offered finances not end up in the coffers of the cultural authorities that were set up by law? Do these art councils remember that they have responsibilities to develop, administer and promote state cultural policies with the finances orchestrated for them?

It is a pity! The preservation of the Nigerian cultures and traditions is not when cultural organizations are enforced to spend money through registration with the federal, state or local authorities before they operate. If these organized cultural organizations, which often westernize Nigerian cultures and traditions, are permitted to operate because they have registered, what about the unorganized cultural organizations that is unblemished with the undiluted Africa's cultural dividends in the villages? Nigerians should think twice, and by extension, Africans.

Is Nigeria not one of the socially and culturally most diversified African countries and the largest geographically? Nigeria can't be the most populous country of Africa and potentially one of the richest, yet quarter of the population estimated at 150 million can't decolonize their minds. For how long shall Nigeria highly depend on external cultural and traditional sector's directives, therefore abandoning the endowed culturally and traditionally natural resources in the villages and towns? For how long shall Nigeria which got her Independence in 1960 abrogate the dominance of ethnic and regional frays?

At Fifty, Nigeria is supposed to be in the process of re-engineering her cultural and traditional values and a drastic approach on her socio-economic wellbeing. That Nigeria has 250 identified ethnic groups shouldn't be the country's bane in operating a functional public and semi-public bodies dealing with culture, which will bring inputs in cultural infrastructure. These infrastructural inputs should not only remain in the building of museums, theatres, establishment of libraries and so on, but have meaningful cultural and traditional values from the villages and towns. Organizing of large events such as national or literary festivals by government agencies of culture is not enough. There should be planned cultural activities and measure seen that the establishment of cultural infrastructure is linked to the practices in the rural areas.

As the Nigerian Constitution has the provisions regarding the rights of Nigerian people to develop and promote their cultures and traditions, the Legislature and all the agencies responsible for enforcing the cultural and traditional laws should as a matter of urgency make sure that the Locals apply their cultures and traditions as an instrument promoting national identity and unity, and anybody found forcefully destroying any people's culture or tradition in the name of religion should be brought to face the law. The body of the National Assembly of Nigeria specialized in dealing with culture and tradition should in earnest define the role and functioning limit of religious fanatics to the cultures and traditions of Nigeria.

The cultures and traditions of the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria should be seen as heritages, not bequeathed by demons or satans, as religiosity wants people believe. Nigeria's cultures and traditions are widely nature's given endowment and should be recognized as the most important input in defining the national and ethnic cultures in Nigeria. From Abia to Abuja, from Lagos to Lokoja Nigeria inherited great cultures and traditions that are not supposed to be toyed with. Notwithstanding anybody's or groups' developmental orientations the preservation of Nigeria's cultural and traditional heritages should be sacrosanct. Much as there are the National Archives, the National Museum, the National Library and all the existing universities, the task to work on research, restoration and preservation and re-orientating the people of the cultural heritages should be extended to the villages.

The mass media have a great role to play in this task by spreading the message that Nigerians should protect their cultures and traditions and motivate people to be bold with their heritages. Please, politics should be separated from education. Movies should promote the cultures and traditions of Nigeria and see that people develop in them instead of marring them. Why should the Nigerian movie makers promote movies with the art of guns and other weaponries which are other people's way of life, to the detriment of Nigeria's? Intellectuals should teach the people why cultures and traditions should be practiced and be seen as very important. There is need to integrate cultural activities and values in all the schools and spheres of life in the post-independence development of Nigeria, so that at 100 years Nigeria will be celebrating her Independence, it will not only be a celebration from the grip of the rapacious colonialists, but from the grip of Western cultures and traditions.

Odimegwu Onwumere, Poet/Author and Media Consultant, is the Founder of Poet Against Child Abuse (PACA), Rivers State. Mobile: +2348032552855. Email: [email protected]

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Articles by Odimegwu Onwumere