Opinion

CULTURE AND ENTERTAINMENT: A BONE OF DISTRACTION.

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu gave us a sign of what he possibly has in mind concerning the tourism economy under his administration. His adviser on Culture and Entertainment economy is Hannatu Musa Musawa.

That’s all to it, and industry observers and operators are apprehensive. Activities have slowed , investment kept on hold, planned recruitment of persons in most of the frontline sectors, are kept and suspended. Nothing cheering anywhere and the killings and kidnappings not abating.

When appointments are made, usually businesses, local and international, react either way, supportive or farlon. In Hannatu Musa Musawa case, her relationship with the sector can not meet with the tourism industry integrity test. On Culture and Entertainment field, where is she coming from? Is she an investor? Has she the character, perseverance, the mobilization spirit, and temperament to stay on her feet through a week’s culture festival and to run deep into the night at the forefront promoting culture and entertainment in Nigerian. Can she speak the language of the sector, or is it another learning curve for a pretty lady? Hannatu, welcome!

Honestly, we must admit that the president need not consult us on his team of advisers, but again, in this sector, we have seen even some of our perceived best brains fail on the beat.

There used to be an Edem Duke,and he failed and fell like Humpty Dumpty. Munzali Dantata, came, and failed, lai Mohammed, we saw angels falling from heaven and folarin Coker, make we no go there. Sally Mbanefo, oh dear, we nearly lost it

This sector is a slippery ground. I mean culture and tourism, so established technocrats, not portfolio influencers, must be sought to drive it. We just lost eight years in the classroom of culture and tourism, with forced marriage with information, which boomeranged. There was no doubt that lai Mohammed simply could not grapple with the basics of managing the sector and another failed opportunity in Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation, renamed a tourism authority.

But for NCAC, Nihotour, Nico, and the National Troupe of Nigeria, Nigeria, possibly could have ended on the wrong side of the tourism economy. The efforts of these agencies to keep our cultural tourism hope should count and matter as we count days to the expected appointments of ministers.

However, the above structures are within government good strides, yet the failing link is the private sector. This sector is huge but disorganised and dismembered, operating on life support of creativity and passion.

Indeed, the confusion heralding every government seeking to define which of multi sectoral presence, powering our tourism space is as old as biblical methuselah

We had during the military regimes experimented on commerce, trade, and tourism. Usually, under these contraptions, tourism opportunities at the ministry were relegated to a departmental affair, and knowing the civil service management ecosystem, such departments hardly attract trained professionals. However, the gains lay with having an encompassing agency such as Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation ( Authority), which, in such scenario, takes over the promotion and marketing of tourism activities within and outside Nigeria.

South Africa Tourism gives a better picture of what Ntdc or is it NTDA should possibly put in practice in terms of operational delivery. Unfortunately, sadly, ntda slothfully failed. The fellow there went to sleep for eight years.

Clearly, I have no doubt that the totality of culture, arts, history, tradition, music, festivals, food, fashion and language remains the major critical component of our tourism economy, far richer and bigger than oil sector, which we must invest our hope and faith to drive our tourism today and tomorrow economy.

As earlier stated, to be swayed by emerging acceptation of our breakthroughs in music, or generally put entertainment sector as worth a plank to relegate our tourism space, is not only hasty but simplistic.

Let us even look at the semantics inherent in defining Where and what drives or should not drive our tourism. In agreement that culture is key, should we second guess that entertainment is the ” feel process” that is embedded in the tourism ecosystem?. Indeed, culture, particularly the festival varient, has the most vibrant, unifying, and security vitamins that could impact more positively on our diversity, both in gain of job creation and return on investment.

No worries about the huge impact and revenue supposedly generated under the entire tourism economy, to which entertainment is just part of the component and competition, am convinced that the government is merely being souped in the glee and glory of the entertainment fever, such as music and Nollywood to stir up emotional controversies instead of deep down policy ethos which could sustain a tourism economy, highly competitive and complex in the dynamic global market.

Let me try to situate a free fall definition of entertainment and do the breakdown and imagine the possible administrative confusion that may tail a supposed Ministry of Culture and Entertainment economy if one could rightly guess where the heart of this administration bellows.

Apart from starting afresh to search for entertainment administrators and technocrats, there may also be a cross fire nose up from culture administrators, largely due to professional misgivings usually seen when two extreme undervalued economies are merged.

Notably, and if we are right in our perception, the two components of tourism, may work at cross purpose in the next four years, not because the idea is not fanciful and doable but knowing the Nigerian factor, petitions of all kinds may ambush the culture and entertainment experiment. The entertainment sector is hugely disorganised and quarrelsome.

Before he passed away about three years ago, late Dr Victor uwaifo disclosed that he would not share the same musical podium with any musician who has not spent about fifty years on the music scene. The musical genius believes that the rave and boosted image of most musicians on the music scene can only be tested by experience, character, and staying power other than celebrations, merely driven by commercial reasons, which will fade with time.

Except President Bola Ahmed Tinubu comes to terms with a deeper understanding of the sustainability strategy and features of a stand-alone Ministry of Tourism, the current kitting of culture and entertainment economy may back fire, regrettably another wasted effort looms.

Nollywood is great, the third biggest film industry in the world after Hollywood and Bollywood, but has anyone bothered to see emerging downward free fall of the film sector due to sudden protectionism by Africa countries of their film industry, thus targeting the Nigerian film makers from distribution and sales of their films outside our shores.

The Web of Protectionism against Nigeria films also includes tough approval timelines to requests to shoot films in most African countries or to even partner to share creative ideas. At home, various government agencies and non state actors have made it extremely difficult for nollywood to look sustainable. They are hounded daily for taxes even when they pay their bills.

Recently, at a meeting in lagos, with Nigeria film and Censors Board, Nollywood stakeholders presented a very sad story about the once vibrant sector.

Music, cinema, films, comedy, museums, live entertainment, advertising, broadcasting, gambling , sports, and a long listing of entertainment ecosystems, all components of tourism, needs urgent professionalism of their environment, no doubt but to dream to advance its policy matters without addressing the challenges, will only create more schism.

We can confidentially speak of the two billion dollars revenue generation from the music sector and the grand good image our artists bring to Nigeria on the international scene. Our nollywood producing 2, 500 films yearly is equally enticing, but in truth, the gains from these breakthroughs are all in foreign hands.

How impactful economically is the entertainment sector considering the fact that it is driven by entertainment mafia outside our shores, who are glad to allow us celebrate the image gains but smiles to the bank with the end game real money.

There is nothing on the home ground suggestive that we can sustain our entertainment sector as part or frontline driver of tourism in Nigeria.

The global entertainment engagement circuit with our creative artists on the front page tells where the market is and where the spending power finds home.

Our cinemas host box office breaking flicks from outside our shores, and with Neflix, it is a tough place to survive for the indigenous content.

Indeed, I will welcome a responsive Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and Entertainment if government truly desires practical change to work out policy matters that will properly organise and deepen job creation openings in the industry but to run to town, without culturally addressing certain issues affecting the overall market, is to play to the gallery.

In sum, as good as entertainment may sound to ears and its economic impact undeniable, it sadly feeds and flowers the growing traffic of illicit drugs and consumption of drugs among our young persons, with the negative disruptive tendencies, affecting the music produced and marketed in Nigeria. This is, however, not a generalisation but a call that we must brace for unseen side negative impact of any a growing entertainment enterprise economy. NDLEA sure has records in this area.

The Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria has worked hard to sanitise the tourism industry over time, partnering with government agencies to open the flood gate of the richness of the economy and its impactful job gain. There is still much that should be done.

This government should not make the mistake of 2015, a very hasty one, which fretted away all the gains accurable to the cultural tourism economy.

Come July 20th and in Abuja, the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria, will position this discussion on the front burner at its 26th Annual General Meeting, and hopefully the President’s economic policy advisers, may share with us beyond what we know, why Nigeria, wish to toe lines confounding to our cultural tourism space.

The theme of the event is tourism today, tomorrow: setting agenda for the government. ” I can’t wait to hear from the economic policy team of the president and how competence in policy execution and management will take us to the tourism promised land. It is time we take tourism seriously and stop masquerading in addressing tourism components semantics.

By Frank Meke

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