Prof. Olatunde Babawale, a former Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC), says arts and culture remain viable options to promote economic growth.
Babawale spoke on Friday in Offa, Kwara, while delivering a lecture at the ongoing Ijakadi festival organised by Offa community.
His lecture was entitled:” Indigenous Arts and Culture as viable Options for Economic Growth.”
The don said Nigeria must begin to explore the potentials available in arts and culture with the imminent depletion in the nation’s oil reserves.
He said: ” With the imminent fate of oil on the global market, culture is a major product and viable alternative to oil to drive the economy towards sustainable development.
” Great nations of the world do not joke with their culture, there is so much to reap in cash and kind from it.
” Apart from the monetary gains accruable from the promotion of cultural products, culture also confers uniqueness, identity and respect.
” There is no dividend or respect in the comity of nations for countries or people who thrive on imported language, religions, food, dressing, products, etc.
” We import everything, up to tooth pick, we even import petroleum whose raw material we have in abundance.
” Ours is a dumping ground for everything, there was a time in the 80s and again in 2017 when toxic waste was imported and dumped in Koko in Delta State for a compensatory sum.
” That unfortunate dumping underscores our receptiveness to rubbish from all over the globe.
” When recently the Federal Government closed the Nigerian borders, not a few countries of the world caught cold and began counting their losses in billions.
” Our resolve to stop the indiscriminate inflow of foreign products caused jitters worldwide.
” To fill the gap created by our gluttonous consumption of foreign goods and underscore our nonchalance to produce and promote our indigenous products, plastic rice, plastic fish, adulterated palm oil, chemical drinks and all sorts of expired products are being imported.
” Little wonder, there are now strange cases of illnesses that cannot be explained within our cultural context.
” This narrative must change, we must earnestly begin to counter every foreign product with indigenous ones.”
According to Babawale, Nigeria first shot into international limelight through its arts produced in mediums such as wood, stone, terracotta, metal and ivory.
Many of the internationally acclaimed and coveted masterpieces, he said , had been looted and taken into private and public collections in the West where they had been generating income for ” the heirs of the stolen cultural properties.”
The don urged relevant agencies of the state government, community associations, traditional institutions and the media to organise and promote cultural festivals.
Babawale also said there must be conscious efforts to sensitise the people against the belief of perceiving cultural appreciation as paganism.
In another paper, Prof. A.B. Areo of Crown University, Ilorin, advocated that the Yoruba heroine, Moremi, be given a pride of place in Ile-Ife and Offa.
” Moremi remains a strong cultural nexus between Ife and Offa. To the Ifes, Moremi was a symbol of unity, fearlessness, courageous and loyal individual.
” Moremi’s story can be likened to the story of kola-nut as a unifying factor in Nigeria.
” This is simply because the Yoruba nation cultivates and markets kola-nuts (economic gains) while the Hausa nation is the major consumer of kola-nuts (buyer and consumer) and the Igbo nation celebrates kola-nut on all great occasions ranging from child naming,
marriage to all epoch making events or landmark achievements,” he said.
Areo’s paper was entitled: ” Moremi: The Legendary Amazon of Yoruba Nationality.”
The Chairman of the occasion and a former Acting Managing Director of Bank of Industry, Mr Waheed Olagunju, expressed gratitude to the guest lecturers at the occasion.
He gave an assurance that the recommendations at the forum would be implemented by the community.
Dignitaries present at the event included the President of Offa Descendants’ Union, Dr Funsho Oladipo, Vice Chancellor of Summit University, Offa, Prof. Hussein Oloyede and Prof. Bayo Lawal of the University of Ilorin.