Message For Lai Mohammed As Culture Minister


Nigeria is not a jumbled, jangling multi-cultural profusion, unassimilable into anything whole. Nigeria is a shattered country, a wasteland only to a mind too depressed to endow it with any organizing meaning. Our culture has always been our most powerful asset. One without culture is like one without roots. It is the culture of a people that drives the policy decision of any nation. In the Cultural Policy for Nigeria, culture is defined as the totality of the way of life evolved by a people in their attempts to meet the challenge of living in their environment, which gives order and meaning to their social, political, economic, aesthetic and religious norms and modes of organization thus distinguishing a people from their neighbours.

It goes on to state that culture consists of material, institutional, philosophical and creative aspects. The material dimension entails all that has to do with artifacts such as tools, clothing, food, medicine, utensils, housing. The institutional deals with the political, social, legal and economic structures erected to help achieve material and spiritual objectives. The philosophical focuses on ideas, beliefs and values; while the creative concerns a people's literature as well as their visual and performing arts which are normally moulded by, as well as help to mould other aspects of culture.

Culture is, perhaps, the most important ministry. Unfortunately, previous government never saw it in that light. Our culture is all that we need to drive our economy and distinguish ourselves as a people. The impoverishment of the cultural sector, especially low funding, is alarming. The Federal Government has viewed arts and culture as unworthy financial patronage. There is a sense of defeat and chaos in the cultural sector utterly unredeemed by wisdom.

I believe the appointment of Alhaji Lai Mohammed is about to change this vital sector. His appointment is unimpeachably precise. The man is electrically authentic. I am of the view that this bright-level headed man will solidify Nigeria position on the African art-map. Most ministers in the past had no idea on how to run this ministry and their prescriptions were too wooly minded and impractical. Mohammed will invest the culture ministry with his star power and his credibility. His high-wattage advocacy will help the cause of the sector. It gladdens my heart that the Culture Minister is an ambitious man. He has always been: ambitious is how Lai Mohammed rolls. As man of a socially conscious streak, I believe he will uplift the sector.

There are certain institutions in the Federal Ministry of Culture vested with power to promote and sponsor arts and artistes in Nigeria. These institutions have been ineffective and virtually moribund for reasons best know to them. These include The National Council for Arts and Culture, the National Institute for Cultural Orientation, National Commissions for Museums and Monuments, Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization, the National Gallery of Arts and National Theatre and National Troupe of Nigeria. Apart from the last two that has impacted a bit on our cultural space ,others have failed woefully over the years. We need vibrant men at the helm of these institutions so as to inject punch and vitality into them.

The National Council for arts and Culture (NCAC) is supposed to be the engine room of the cultural sector but over the years the institution has proved to be a failure. The National Council for Arts and Culture(Amendment) decree no.5 of 1987 vests NCAC with powers to establish with the approval of the minister, cultural centres, theatres, arts galleries and craft centres, for the promotion of arts and culture. The body is also empowered to establish for the purpose of carrying out its functions under this act, a national endowment for the arts. In view of this, the NCAC is primarily responsible to promote the development of music, traditional dancing, drama, opera, films, photography, folklore, oral tradition, literature, poetry, painting, sculpture, architecture, town planning and general arts, woodwork, embroidery, weaving and similar crafts-by offering financial grants and logistic support. The minister should appoint a competent hand for this institution.

Alhaji Mohammed should strive to bring grace to the entertainment industry. This man of a stern but sincere look should encourage the government to have a new and healthy look at the sector. This is necessary now that that Nigerian music has struck her poppiest most contemporary note. Nigerian artistes are unstoppable founts of creativity, driven to follow their impulses and present their art to an appreciable audience. They are busy unleashing a set of tantalizing new materials. Our music is layered and deep on every release.

Nigerians obsession with motion picture is one of a kind and over the top. Nigerians are voracious movie watchers. The minister should ensure that the movie industry gets all the necessary assistance from the government. He should also encourage the growth of cinema because it is practically at its lowest ebb in the country. Collectively, Indians buy 4 billion cinema tickets every year why Americans buy 1.2 billion. I wish our new minister outstanding success and may the grace of God and that of our Lord Jesus Christ abide with him.

Written by Ikechukwu Orji a Journalist and Media Consultant.

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