It’s a new day for residents of this sleepy village as the Ministry of Culture and Tourism commissions a Cultural Industry Centre, writes Oji Onoko
Tucked away in a suburb of Abuja, Orozo is known more for its proximity to the famous Loyola Jesuit College than anything else. But your destination this Tuesday morning is Gidan Ajia which you had been told is close by. Not so close you discover as you turn in to Government Technical College and begin a bumpy drive on the narrow earth road which sometimes meanders to almost a foot path. It is the music blaring from loud speakers that indicates the venue of the event as you take in the several mud houses interspersed with few modern ones and the only Primary School in the village. The residents are well dressed for the occasion you notice. Still, some of the women had only wrappers tied to their chests oblivious of the incongruity to the gay atmosphere. Meanwhile, cars of various make drop the Special Guests one after the other as officials of the Federal Ministry of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation put finishing touches to the official commissioning…
And at exactly, 1.30pm, Mrs Ibukun Odusote, Permanent Secretary of the Culture Ministry, (she has just been redeployed to the Agric Ministry) representing the Honorable Minister, Chief Edem Duke flanked by the Seriki Gidan Ajia, Sule Baba , the director of Culture, Alhaji Muktar Abdulkarim, wife of the Ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago to Nigeria among other dignitaries, cut the tape declaring the Cultural Industry Centre open. It was an emotional moment for the residents of Gidan Ajia, whose head, Baba heaped praises on the Ministry for setting up the Centre in his domain while pleading with his people to make good use of the Centre which he said is “a gift from God”!
Besides the main hall which Odusote said could be used for town hall meeting, cultural displays, art exhibitions, story telling among others, the annex has stalls for Traditional Hair dressing, Tailoring and Bead making. At the back is a kiln for Pottery and a Dyeing pit for Tie and Dye. The fully fenced Centre also has a 20 kva generator to ensure power supply and a bore hole. Earlier, Odusote and other dignitaries had been led round the facilities by Mrs Lizzy Ihueze-Iwuamadi, Assistant Director, Cultural Industries who explained the functions of the various sections. At each stop, the local people were seen happily carrying out their various trades with the equipment laid out for them. There was also a demonstration of the tie and dye process by the resource person to the admiration of all.
Goodwill messages came in torrents from stakeholders present. It was flagged off by UNESCO (by the way, it was UNESCO that first made contact with the village before the Ministry stepped in) which congratulated the Ministry for establishing Cultural Industries in Nigeria. The Country Rep in Nigeria represented by Mr Ayo Ayanwale, said UNESCO has a programme to fight terrorism through the empowerment of youths. Bello Hamid, representing Sokoto State, commended the Ministry for not only establishing the Cultural Industry Centres but also equipping them. He disclosed that his State has already engaged 10,000 youths through skill acquisition and that the Federal Government’s effort would complement what the State is doing.
There were cultural displays by the Afri Theatre Group with enthralling Swange dance and an energetic Bata dance by two skillful male and female dancers. A grateful Gidan Ajia community would not be left out as its troupe showed promise in its Farming dance as well as the Regal dance. There was wild applause as the group in a short drama sketch mimicked Ihueze-Iwuamadi whose frequent visit to the village to make the Centre a reality saw her being adopted as one of them.
The official commissioning was the climax of the activities of the Culture Ministry which in 2009 initiated the Cultural Industry project tagged, “Developing Cultural Industries in Nigeria” to empower the youths and women in line with the transformation agenda of the present government especially in generating employment and creating wealth. The Cultural Industries were deliberately located in mainly rural communities to benefit the women and youths who otherwise would not be reached.
The Cultural Industries besides that at Gidan Ajia, Orozo, FCT, are located at: Ibi and Bali, Taraba State; Inyi, Enugu Sate; Abeokuta and Odeda, Ogun State; Auchi, Edo State; Owo, Ondo State and Sokoto, Sokoto State. “We believe that our youths and women need to develop skill and capabilities to become successful”, Seyi Womiloju, Deputy Director, Cultural Industries explained. ”We believe the key to being successful is the Cultural Industry which comprises job making than job taking”.
• Onoko writes from Lagos