Olusegun Runsewe presenting insignia to governor Wike
Less than three months to the ‘scheduled’ Rivers State hosting of National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST), no date has been fixed for the cultural fiesta.
The Guardian gathered that the Chief Executives of Culture of the Federation (CEC) meeting, which should have preceded the festival, has not held.
It was also gathered that the CEC meetings normally hold between February and April every year, but this year, nothing in that regard has happened.
If CEC had met, there would have been facility tour of the host state to assess its readiness. More so, the state directors would have had opportunity to make proper contingency arrangement for their states.
At the CEC, culture executives and administrators deliberate on dates for the festival, as well as the syllabus’ contents and themes. The CEC introduces innovations and creativity in designing, packaging and interpretation of the syllabus contents.
The meeting also brings together stakeholders in the culture sector, particularly, directors of states arts council and history bureau. Commissioners of Culture as well as permanent secretaries also attend it.
Among issues that engage their attention at the three-day meeting are, activities of the sector in the previous year and programmes for the current year as planned by each state. National festivals and dates are also tabled towards a hitch-free outing.
More importantly, biddings for the hosting rights for NAFEST are deliberated and after due considerations, the right is granted a state with pre-requisite facilities for hosting festival of that magnitude.
The relationship between governors and culture administrators in individual states are also discussed and expert advise and suggestions given on how to foster closer working relationship between governors and culture commissioners, particularly those who do not see any viability in culture to warrant funding.
They also canvass effective funding of cultural activities, because it is central to improved strategies for cultural promotion and presentation.
After every deliberation, culture ambassadors come out with a communiqué on measures and policies that would position the sector.
The Guardian gathered that over the years, there had been gradual decline in attendance at CEC meeting.
At the 44th meeting in Kaduna, culture chiefs and administrators had to come with a statement, which emphasised that robust attendance was crucial to synergising action plans among stakeholders for improved sectoral task delivery.
Speaking with The Guardian on the implication of not holding CEC for NAFEST and the culture sector, Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, Associate Professor, Department of Theatre & Cultural Studies Nasarawa State University, Keffi (NSUK), Nasarawa State and immediate past Executive Secretary of the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), said: “I don’t know whether it is right to blame the convener (NCAC) or government, but the truth is, these meetings are mandatory.”
He continued, “NCAC should not be blamed because of this. The way funds are released, may not make you blame the chief executive.
NAFEST is run based on capital budget and till now it has not been released. To organise a meeting of such, it means the chief executive has to look for other avenues to get money.”
Ayakoroma, a former director general of Bayelsa State Council for Arts and Culture, said: “What we would have had is a second meeting, where state directors would have had opportunity to make hotel bookings and reservation and building their pavilions.”
He said the unfortunate thing now is that everything may have to be rushed and it affects preparation. The first one should have held latest April, where syllabus has to be agreed, by now,
The NCAC, which is responsible for calling CEC meeting, has equally not announced a date for African Arts and Crafts Expo (AFAC) for this year.
Last year, the expo held in September, with about 25 countries and an unprecedented 150 exhibitors showcased their unique arts and crafts products during the 20-day event.
Meanwhile, as part of Nigeria’s outing at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, NCAC mounted a cultural exhibition in Moscow, Russia.
The Nigerian stand, which had a lot of the nation’s arts, crafts and historical materials, was the central point for rallying support for the Super Eagles in Moscow.
It also provided a platform for showcasing Nigeria’s cultural strength in the former Soviet Union.
The high point of NCAC outing in Moscow was the decoration of foreign fans of the Super Eagles with Green-White-Green Nigerian mufflers and Nigerian hand flags.
Earlier in the year, Director General of NCAC, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, had launched a Three Million Culture Friendly Supporters for the Super Eagles during which he vowed to storm Russia to project Nigerian culture and mobilise support for the team in their World Cup campaign.
In January, Runsewe presented the hosting certificate of the 2018 festival to the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike.
In his response, Wike thanked the NCAC boss for giving Rivers State the hosting right for NAFEST 2018, promising that the state government will do everything possible to ensure that it is the best ever organised fiesta.
He said Rivers State would change the country’s cultural landscape through a showcase of the best of its rich culture.
At the reception, Wike also granted Runsewe’s special request that Mrs. Wike be permitted to receive the Nigerian Children contingent that world be participating in the festival.
“The best of cultural performance, exhibition, arts and craft of the rich people of the state would be showcased through a big window for the world to see at the 2018 edition of NAFEST holding in October in Rivers State,” he had said.
He suggested that NAFEST 2018 be held in October, because July, as proposed by NCAC, would have lots of rains and this would affect culture showcase.
According to him, the state has taken a right step to encourage, reactivate and support the people’s love for cultural norms and values which the only identity that unity and promote coexistence among the diverse people in the state.
In marching words with action, the governor inaugurated Executive Committee to organise the NAFEST 2018. While inaugurating the committee, Wike advised that the 2018 event to be held in Port Harcourt should be of world class to showcase the cultural beauty of the country.
In readiness for the festival, Rivers State has commissioned an ultra modern cultural centre in Port Harcourt.
The contract for the centre was re-awarded in January and the governor made money available and ensured that the contract was completed in record time of less than 120 days.
NAFEST is a post civil war strategy of the federal government of Nigeria that is based on the concept of using festivals to promote national unity.
NAFEST is a veritable cultural promotion platform not only to attract domestic and foreign culture enthusiasts to explore the richness of the people, but also to make a big statement to the world on the readiness to open window of investment opportunity to outsides.