Nigeria: Cultural Policy And National Development

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Tue Sep 25 13:50:45 UTC 2007

 *Cultural Policy And National Development*

Daily Champion (Lagos)

24 September 2007
Posted to the web 24 September 2007

By Chuma Ifedi

CULTURE is the complex of distinctive attainments, beliefs, traditions and
other ways of life constituting the background of a racial, religious or
social group. An objective examination of Nigerian culture shows that it has
the resilience to adapt to changing circumstances.

Our culture can offer genuine and lasting solutions to our pressing problems
and provide us with respect, sense of purpose, direction, fulfillment and
pride which only our indigenous system can bring about. Culture has to be
dynamic to cope with phenomenal transformations in the economic, political
and social environment of the modern world. It cannot therefore be static.

The World Cultural Day is celebrated every year on May 31 during which
citizens join the rest of mankind in marking the primacy of culture. We
engage in cultural exchange programmes with the other countries in the
course of our international diplomacy. Among other communities, we have
established cultural relationship with black America. Such contacts and
interaction bring us nearer to other nationalities and are likely to
influence us positively in mapping our way of life.

Festac 1977 was the climax in our national endeavour towards cultural
resurgence. It made Nigeria the veritable vanguard of African and black
peoples in a world prejudiced against them. The National Festival of Culture
(NIFEST) held annually is aimed at highlighting the role of culture in
instituting democratic traditions in Nigeria. Our national troupe projects
Nigeria abroad. What is required now in it is to make it more comprehensive,
to attract greater international recognition.

Nigeria parades some significant cultural organizations. We have the
National Institute for Cultural Orientation. At the federal and state
levels, there are the councils for Arts and Culture. Among the duties
assigned to these bodies is the writing of a comprehensive history of
Nigeria and organizing a national festival of Nigerian toys, rhymes and
games. In the universities, the centres for cultural studies study,
document, promote and preserve all aspects of our civilization for
posterity. The National Archives are also there. The commission for Museums
and Monuments supervises the national museums at Lagos, Ife and Benin. Mbari
houses are located in various parts of the country to show various samples
of indigenous crafts and arts. Recently, some arts patrons requested the
creation of a new ministry for arts and traditions at the federal level.

Cultural activities are on the increase. At state, local government and
community levels, cultural days are held annually. The Mmanwu festival,
celebrated by Enugu and Anambra states, manifests the high esteem accorded
to native masquerades in our cultural setting. They represent our link with
the spirit world inhabited by our ancestors. Local trade fairs allocate
stands for cultural products in the form of artifacts. In Imo state, the
annual Ahiajoku lecture generates an intellectual exercise by Igbo scholars
to unravel the cultural norms of societyand develop and document them for a
wider beneficial purpose. Traditional choreography is gradually emerging
with its transforming impact on our dancing patterns. The Ewu-Ukwu custom
celebration confers social honour to women who have given birth to at least
ten children. Thanks to the birth control campaigns, this tradition is,
however, dying. Nigeria cannot afford a baby boom in the prevailing dire
situation we find ourselves.

Nigerians are divided on the issue of lingua franca, even though the English
language is considered inappropriate as our common means of communication.
Teaching in the vernacular is also debatable because of the hundreds of
languages and dialects in the country. It is high time we resolved these
issues. Several schools of thought compete for attention on what role
traditional rulers should perform. The proposed National Traditional Council
proposed by President Musa Yar'Adua is being criticized in many quarters as
undesirable. The predominant opinion is that traditional rulers should be
limited to only traditional matters and totally excluded from political
activities. Most traditional rulers are today very well educated
intellectuals and professionals. They want to extend their scope of power
and influence. The National Assembly should consult widely before there is a
constitutional review on this subject.

Squandermania at funerals is obviously wasteful and utterly naïve. The rich
should channel their wealth to charity and poverty alleviation rather than
on reckless display of affluence and conspicuous consumption. Legal sanction
should be imposed on such profligacy. Circumcision is considered
traditionally defensible as a means of maintaining feminine purity but
medical doctors frown at it due to health complications such as scarring,
bleeding, infection, keloid formation, infertility and prolonged labour at
child birth. The practice should therefore be made optional. Child marriage
which still prevails should be discarded and banned because of its
physiological and psychological problems as well as its hindrance to female
education. Similarly, facial tribal marks smack of primitiveness and
retrogression. It must be prohibited. So also the fattening scheme for
prospective wives and categorization of some citizens as Osu and Oru in Igbo
land. Nobody should be treated as inferior in our contemporary world of
freedom and equality. These relics of the past should be eradicated in our
ongoing cultural evolution.

The cultural metamorphosis should extend to foods and drinks. Experts in
nutrition say that our native food items are more nourishing than imported
European and America diets. Our exquisite palm oil and palm wine are
classified as the best. In the spirit of "boycott the boycottables"
therefore, preference must be given to indigenous menu. This will reduce the
crippling import bill and improve our health status.

Traditional medicine, regarded as alternative medicine, is gaining rising
acceptance and patronage. Both the federal and state governments have
accorded it official recognition and financial support. For its
popularisation and efficacy, it should be documented, disseminated and
rationalized. The primordial secrecy attached to native medicine should be

The extended family system which provides social insurance and stability
should not go under in the face of western influence and economic pressures.
Nigeria still lacks en effective social security system to provide for the
aged, sick and disadvantaged in the society. Our traditional reverence for
the elderly must continue. We should encourage the admiration of native
fashions and architecture. Our black complexion is precious and should not
be polluted with bleaching creams. Black is beautiful.

Nigeria possesses rich folklore. These touch upon our customs, moral values,
architecture, food, dressing, languages, music, dances, tales, games,
festivals, fairs, mythology and basic ways of life. Our folklore has been
employed to serve social, religious, educative and entertainment purposes in
our traditional societies. An African Folklore Centre will serve as a
coordinating base for research and publication of creative works of African
peoples all over the globe. Cultural activities should not be left alone for
governments to fund. The private sector should invest in that worthy

Nigeria should take a cue from Japan and China in projecting culture
positively towards national development. The economic advancement of the
Asian Tigers has been largely attributed to the fusion of pragmatic cultural
philosophy into their managerial, scientific and technological operations.
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