At Nico Public Lecture, Stakeholders Push for Cultural Diplomacy

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Yinka Olatunbosun

Stakeholders in the culture sector have made an emphatic call on government to appropriate culture as a tool for foreign relations. This is one of the highlights at quarterly public lecture organised by the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) on May 14 at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Victoria Island, Lagos.

NICO, a parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, was established in 1993 through a joint initiative of the federal government and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Hence, the lecture was conceived as a platform for stakeholders to deliberate on how to use culture as one of the building blocks for economic and national development.

In his welcome address, the Executive Secretary, NICO, Louis Eriomala observed that culture can be positively deployed in foreign relations to create understanding; promote our national heritage and market the Nigerian brand.

For the Minister of Information, Alh. Lai Mohammed, the theme of the lecture is timely, coming at a time “when government is concerned with entrenching its foreign relations with other countries of the world, through strengthened cultural diplomacy”.

To this end, the guest lecturer, Dr. Sharkdam Wapmuk, a senior research fellow and foreign affairs expert at the NIIA spoke on the roots of culture in trade and migrations. Asides the nation’s indigenous cultural heritage, Wapmuk observed that Nigerian film is one of the most influential and accessible media of cultural diplomacy.

“Some of the films have been deployed by the Nigerian missions abroad to respond to the negative perceptions about Nigeria. Given the cultural, diplomatic and economic significance of the film industry, the Nigerian state should work in synergy with the industry to further achieve its national interests at continental and global levels,’’ he said.

He also urged the Nigerian government to support Nigerians in diaspora who are willing to open restaurants for indigenous cuisine.

On the impact that Nigerian writers have made on improving the Nigerian brand across the globe, he made references to the likes of Chinua Achebe, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Ben Okri, Helon Habilaand Chimamanda Adichie and how they have exported Nigerian culture through their literary efforts.

Quoting the words of the renowned critic, Prof. Charles E. Nnolim, he pointed out that politics and business have brought some measure of scandals to Nigeria in the eyes of the world but Nigerian writers have redeemed Nigeria’s image.