At the ongoing African Arts and Culture Expo (AFAC) 2017, arts and culture experts have claimed that the sector in Nigeria has the potentials to replace oil and gas and sustain Nigeria’s recent economic growth if properly harnessed just as the country is said to have exited its worst recession in history.

This statement is coming on the heels of the news that Nigeria’s worst recession might just be over as the country recorded a 0.55 GDP growth in the last quarter. However, arts & culture experts who were in attendance at the AFAC 2017 Expo all agreed that the sector needs to be given more prominence by the government and all stakeholders for the sector to become more relevant in an economy that has been solely reliant on oil & gas.

According to the Director General of the National Council for Arts & Culture (NCAC) Dr. Otumba Olugbenga Runshewe, Nigerian arts and culture has the capacity and potential to replace crude oil in Nigeria as the number one export of the country. For him, Nigeria is greatly blessed with diversity and beauty of various cultures and if the country can harness the sector optimally it will not only create the needed jobs which Nigerians are lacking at the moment but it will also become a credible alternative to our mono-dependent economy.

The DG while speaking at the opening ceremony of the event in NCAC Centre in Abuja called on all well meaning Nigerians to embrace the sectors potential not just as a means to project or promote our diverse arts & culture but as an integral sector which can contribute immensely to the country’s GDP.
During the opening of the calabash that replaced the tradition of tape cutting during public events, the DG stated that our arts & culture must be given top priority if we are to be taken seriously by the global community. For him, the world today is fast becoming a small village and everyone wants promote what is unique to them to others and also generate revenue from it, Nigeria must not be left out that is why we are having this expo to showcase our rich cultural values to the world.

One of the special guests in attendance was the Deputy Governor of Edo state Hon. Rt. Hon. Phillip Shaibu who was dressed in a full white regalia representing a Benin monarch. He pledge the Edo state’s government’s continued support to the arts & culture as it remained one of the cardinal principles of the state government to promote the ancient culture and values of its people to the world.

Other dignitaries who were in attendance included the Ag. Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Dr. Mrs. Habibat Lawal, who said during her address that Nigerians need to begin to invest more in the arts & culture to further expand the economic base of the country. According to her, she said that arts & culture can be used as an entrepreneurial business where artifacts exhibited at the expo can be sold to the global community and therefore generate huge revenue which otherwise closes the unemployment gap in the country.

She also stated that government has also decided to take the lead in this initiative as it has domiciled N200 million with the Bank of Industry (BOI) specifically for entrepreneurs within the arts and culture sector to access these funds for their creative enterprise.
According to her the focus is to encourage youths participation and involvement in arts and culture activities with the view to promoting our indigenous heritage. She also insists that arts & culture is important to the youths as well because it helps us keep record of our history as a people and above all showcase it to the world while earning foreign exchange. The Ag. SGF also appealed to Nigerians to patronise Nigerian arts & culture as well as made in Nigeria products because she believes that we as Nigerians must first appreciate our own before foreigners begin to follow suit.

There were several side attractions at this event which included the opening of a National Peace Park by the Governor of Ogun state Sen. Ibikunle Amosun who was represented by his Commissioner for Culture and Tourism Hon. Muyiwa Oladipo. There were five sculptures in display at the new National Peace Park which were symbolic of various cultural heritage of Nigerians from different parts of the country which included the famous bread seller girl turned international model Ms. Olajumoke.

By, Uchechukwu Ugboaja

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