OLUSEGUN RUNSEWE: WE MUST CHANGE THE CULTURE NARRATIVE
Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, the DG National Council for Arts and Craft (NCAC) in this interview with Stanley Nkwazema gave insight into the quiet revolution going on in the commission and plans to make Nigeria a hub for arts and craft. Excerpts
The National Council for Arts and Culture has been idle before your appointment. How do you intend turning it around?
Recently President Muhammadu Buhari commended me on my appointment as the President of World Craft Council. And, I have promised that with this new appointment I am going to move the council’s headquarters to Abuja.
How where you able to get to that stage. I know that you were the Director General of Nigerian Tourism Development Commission (NTD’C)Now you are in NCAC, what are the targets you have set for yourself…?
Basically, there is a disconnection about the understanding of this sector. Interestingly, I got a N300 million grant from Bank of Industry (BOI to harness talents in the arts and crafts industry for economic development. I have also concluded plans to start in Lagos an exhibition on Nigerian crafts. There is no way you can open up this industry without a regular exhibition to showcase individuals, because, the creative industry itself is about individuals.
Besides, I have found out that every part of the world has its own strategy of reaching out to people, particularly the creative industry.
I keep saying it that I want to use culture to replace oil because the emphasis on Nigeria’s oil wealth is too much, and our focus on oil is becoming like a disadvantage to the point of people killing themselves over it.
You may not be aware that if you sell 100 barrels of oil today, only four families will benefit. The family of somebody in Maitma, Ikoyi, Victoria Island and Lekki. I am giving you a real fact on the ground. But if you spend N100 million on the arts and crafts industry, you will be shocked that over 10,000 families would have benefited because most of the industry players need just N20,000, N50,000 or otherwise to do engage in craft amongst others.
This is the sector that creates jobs than any others industry in the world. It may interest you to note that this is the sector where even if you pass out secondary school with F9 grades, you are not useless. Most times we undermine the returns from this sector because we do not know.
Maybe for the first time I am going to tell Freshfacts that the only secret remaining in Africa is on the benefits of this sector. It is the fact that the sector will change the GDP and fortune of the continent.
This, is where I want to commend President Muhamadu Buhari in terms of his administrations focus in developing and helping the ordinary Nigerian with a view to realising his/her potentials
We have been showcasing our inadequacies before now and for a very long time we have been talking about our weaknesses.
In Burj Arab Hotel Dubai, a seven star outfit, one young man is being rated as the best Bed Spreader in the world but I told them in Dubai that we I have over 10,000 Nigerians who can spread bed better than this man. Meanwhile, he earns more money than PhD holder.
I have to tell them that if they want I can provide Nigerians who can do better that him. What the rating of the Dubai bed spreader means is that they have succeeded in building a brand for themselves.
In this vein, I have just developed a document titled the 37 wonders of Nigeria. I picked one cultural edifice from each of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory , Abuja to showcase their cultural potentials.
By the grace of God by October we will organize NAFEST (Rivers 2018) in Port Harcourt. It is an annual festival that is unique, unites the nation as well as showcase the strength of every state and Abuja.
For me, a new beginning has started in the sector and when I came in I took a look at the financial base of every sector and that was what informed the N300 million BOI facility.
How were you able to secure such amount from the Bank of Industry?
Once you meet their criteria they support you. And, in our own case we do not keep the money we only recommend eligible people to access the fund from the bank
So, because of that the industry is moving forward and we have never had it so good. For the first time a monthly exhibition will be introduced in Lagos and Abuja
Do you know that people from other West African countries come to buy arts and crafts from our country and make a lot of money by exporting them to Europe and Asia and the Americas? This is why I disagree with Duty Free shops at Nigerian airports because which European will buy whisky, perfumes amongst others to take back home? What they want is our crafts and these are things that showcase us to the rest of the world.
Nobody ever thought of my presence at 2018 World Cup in Russia. when I was about going people did not understand what I was up to. Football is only played for 90 minutes, so, what happens after that? Some countries like Italy came with their motor show, others came with bikes and other things.
Some previously unknown talking drum artists from my office where taken to Russia where they thrilled people by singing Nigeria’s National Anthem with the talking drum. Before then people know little or nothing about them. So, the time has come for us to celebrate our potential in the sector.
I am assuring you that with my leadership at the World Craft Council Nigeria is in for a big business in this sector. I have succeeded in changing the narrative by placing Nigeria where it should be. Also, my target is to build the biggest entertainment centre in the country with some service apartments and the cultural centre remains. We must create a place to sell our arts and crafts.
What is it about you? When you were in the NTDC you raised the bar of Nigeria’s tourism. Here you are refocusing the craft sector
Let me be honest with you the first and fundamental thing is the grace of God which is beyond any human imagination. What drives me is the believe that money is not everything but if you leave a legacy behind , you will be remembered for ever. Azikiwe, Awolowo, Sardauna and Tafawa Balewa are being remembered for the things they left behind. And, today there great grand children are benefiting from their good names. Name is important in everything you do. So, my driving force is the fact that I look at myself as not being the best but somebody with the opportunity to excel
I have received so many commendations for my good works at NTDC.
A friend of mine Distiguished Senator Emmanuel Anosike was in Kenya recently and the people there kept asking after me. That is the kind of thing we should be celebrating not mediocrity. So, my vision is to work for the benefit of mankind and the unborn Nigerians.
If you do not give what you have people will take what they see. So, my job is to change narrative of culture in Nigeria.
I have heard of one Pastor Chijoke in Kenya who sucks women breast in the guise that he wants to deliver them from demons. please quote me ; I am taking that issue up, that that Pastor is not a Nigerian. The lady in question who interviewed him does not know the difference between the Nigerians and others. we are being given a bad name and nobody is doing anything about it.
Recently, Governor Ambode of Lagos State gave a directive that all the schools in the state should set aside a day to wear traditional attires. Similarly, his Edo State counterpart Obaseki directed that every school in the state should set up a culture club.
Also, Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike has set up a Committee to review a cultural policy for the state. All of these are coming because somebody at the centre is coordinating. Before I came in people see the sector as a regular job but it is not so now because you have to be committed and show passion for the job.