The Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has said his administration is carving a new direction for economic growth and development anchored on maximising the state’s cultural heritage and tourism potential.
Obaseki said this at a dinner organised by the state government for the United States’ Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Stuart Symington, and officials of the Smithsonian Museum of African Arts at the Banquet Hall, Government House, Benin City.
The event held after the Smithsonian Museum of African Art in conjunction with the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) and the state government exhibited 10,000 royal photographs at the National Museum Benin.
Obaseki said the state government prioritises the promotion and exploitation of art and culture for the benefit of the people, describing the new approach as being pioneered by a new set of actors, who he said are championing the course of Benin arts through the ‘Edo way,’ a thinking that places premium on the cultural and human capital of the Edo people.
He said there was a need for synergy among stakeholders to sell Nigerian arts and culture to the rest of the world.
According to him, “This November would mark my one year in office. When we look back at the past 10 months and see what we have been able to achieve, how we have been able to change the narrative, you would agree that we have carved our own way.
“We have several actors and elements coming together to begin to make things happen. In the last 10 months, we have been trying to define a new direction, we have been trying to carve out our own way. And when we think back from the beginning, you would see that we have truly carved our way — the Edo way.”
He said Edo State was endowed with sufficient assets to lead the cultural revolution in Nigeria, adding “It is a way that is defined by our past, by who we are and where we are coming from, and by what we have achieved. The pointers are showing us that the future has just begun. It is coincidental that at this point in time in our country, when we are battling with several elements, we are here today to celebrate something that shows us who we are or who we were 500 years ago.
“It is very clear that we are the most endowed people in this country, not just by location or because of the wealth beneath the land, but the wealth of our culture. So, we have partners like you, who have decided to dedicate themselves to help us find who we are, we can only say thank you.
“We must thank the Ambassador and the Smithsonian Institute and Nigerian artists that are involved in this work. My colleagues and I, in government, assure you that we will chart our way. And we would need your support and investments as we keep to this path.”
In his response, Ambassador Symington said Nigerians were endowed with gifts and culture to command influence in the world, but advised that it must define and set the parameters by itself, and not by others.
He said: “It is not the fact that you have a gift that sets you apart; it is what you do with it that stands you out. I want you to know that what I saw today was extraordinary. And I am excited that the people of Nigeria share their culture and talent with the people of the United States.
“I want to remind you how far we can go together in the days ahead, but Nigeria should do it, your way.”