There is no gainsaying the fact that the culture sector occupies the backroom in our national affairs. People are wont to see everything relating to culture as being fetish, at best only good for never-do-wells. For us to effectively harness our culture for national development, there is need for the media to partner with key stakeholders in the sector to promote its activities. This attention from the media will act as an impetus to create a synergy aimed at effectively propagating sustainable development of the sector.
In this paper, it is posited that the Quarterly Media Workshop for Arts Writers and Editors, which was created by the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) as an imperative for mutual understanding with the media to promote the culture sector, is a veritable platform for Arts Journalists to learn from veterans, enhance the job performance of in-house media practitioners in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), and provides an avenue for collaboration with international agencies for the culture sector to generate revenue. It is observed that while the culture sector needs the media to achieve its set objectives through their reportage and criticisms on cultural events, arts journalists cannot also do without key personnel in the sector from whom they will always generate stories in the practice of developmental journalism.
In the first place, it is pertinent that we briefly look at the concept of “culture,” the nature of the “media,” and the whole idea of “sustainable development,” especially in a country like Nigeria. We are doing this because the mention of culture brings to mind thoughts of negative or primitive pre-occupations synonymous with rural dwellers or “natives.” The Cultural Policy for Nigeria defines “culture” as:
the totality of the way of life evolved by a people in their attempts to meet the challenge of living in their environment, which gives order and meaning to their social, political, economic, aesthetic and religious norms and modes of organisation thus distinguishing a people from their neighbours.
It is interesting to note that the policy states that culture comprises material, institutional, philosophical and creative aspects. The material aspect referred to include, artefacts like tools, clothing, food, medicine, utensils, housing, and so on; the institutional deals with the political, social, legal and economic structures erected to help achieve the material and spiritual wellbeing of the people; the philosophical is concerned with ideas, beliefs and values; while the creative concerns the people’s literature (oral or written) as well as their visual and performing arts, which help to mould other aspects of culture. Thus, culture encompasses arts and other ways of life of a people that give meaning and order to the environment they live in.
According to Newhill and La Paglia, culture has been called “a blueprint for living,” in the sense that it is a pattern of living that is expected of people. Every person is born into an existing culture, which must be learned and which shapes his/her life. This explains why the social scientist sees culture as the entire way of life within a society. In other words, the way a people think about problems of living – the tools, houses and customs they have adopted as their own are part of the culture of a people.
Man as a social being cannot live outside his society and the order governing the conduct of affairs. Cultures emerge as shared historical experiences of a given society which, of course, is continuous and ever changing and developing (Jimada 1). Culture is not merely a return to the customs of the past. It embodies the attitude of a people to the future of their traditional values faced with the demands of modern technology which is an essential factor of development and progress. Cultures do not exist in isolation as human groups relate to one another, which result to borrowing and fusion. For example, a culture could evolve from that of others who are their immediate neighbours. This could be deduced from the language, religious worship, festivities, and other cultural elements. Thus, it could be said that cultures cut across identities and boundaries because of historical relations between groups in terms of trade, inter-tribal marriages, and diplomacy, which lead to borrowing in terms of language, religion, arts, dresses, and so on.
As Groh rightly points out, the merging cultures are usually of different degrees of synthesis and therefore, they are concerned, to different extents, by the deletion of cultural elements caused by the transfer of elements from the respective other culture. One culture loses more of its own elements than it receives others. The inferior has nothing to oppose the superior, and consequently, in the course of synthesis, their inventory of cultural elements with its respective information is deleted more or less completely and replaced by the externally induced equivalences. Cultural dominance that one culture exerts over another is a function of the relation of both overall efficiencies, in the sense that a flood of cultural elements pours from the dominant culture on the dominated (6-7).
Media and Culture
The media, as instruments of mass communication, are the avenues through which information is communicated to the general public at the same time. The mass media messages are so influential that they in turn influence the thought processes of the receivers. They could influence the value systems of the audience positively or negatively, depending on the intent of the mass communicated message.
The first crop of politicians, nationalists, freedom fighters, and later leaders, as Anyaegbunam rightly observes, happened also to be first generation of journalists in the country. Thus, it can easily be conjectured how a strange journalist’s culture, a culture of partisanship, intolerance, ethnicity, and so on, must have been institutionalised right from the onset (25). Of interest is the fact that the media get special mention in every Constitution in Nigeria, and have their roles clearly defined as, “the watchdog of the society,” to ensure the faithful implementation of the rest of the Constitution. Journalists, more than any other professionals, have (or are supposed to have) the most exposure to the world, ideas, and general human tendencies, in that whatever thoughts a leader generates, no matter how articulately presented, such thoughts must make sense at those familiar and reducible levels of developmental issues. Thus, as the gate-keepers and watchdogs, by looking out for these elements and highlighting them, journalists sustain their relevance to society. This explains the view that journalists must be the visionary in their societies, that issues which are peculiar to given societies, which can unite a people and give them a purpose and sense of common identity can only be locally sourced and by the local journalists (Anyaegbunam 26).
In everyday communication, the understanding of the receiver of a message is very much dependent on the medium and the field of experience of the message sender. A word, a concept, an understanding is potentially brimming with layers of meanings, allusions, possibilities for further adaptation, and so on, depending on the historical/cultural background of the decoder of such information. Therefore, information managers, processors and disseminators like cultural journalists must constantly get the type of training which makes us more and more familiar with our background, those features and phenomena which we take for granted as our own and therefore have not cared to critically analyze. On the contrary, when they allow their minds to be completely cluttered by concepts processed externally, there is no doubt that they will see the world through other people’s world view. The dangerous implication here is that as mass educators, they will be carrying the masses along with them in a path of self immolation (Anyaegbunam 28).
There is no arguing the fact that the media in Nigeria need a kind of re-orientation or re-direction, being devoid of undue government influence, rising above the level of being mere propaganda instruments for the government of the day, and moving beyond projecting political or regional interests. This is a sure way through which the media could speak to the people and the people, in turn, can express their true feelings to the media. This explains why Isa posits that:
Those aspects of our culture that are autochthonous, for example, language, art, dressing, kinship, etc. should be promoted. Nothing interests the people so much like seeing their local activities reported in the media. The moment different ethnic groups in Nigeria begin to appreciate their various cultures to such an extent that such cultures receive media coverage, it would be very easy for the nation to adopt, develop or evolve a national culture.
It is in the above light that Isa also observes that in the Northern part of Nigeria,
apart from the central role religion plays in their culture, the unifying factor of the Hausa language is a positive development that could be encouraged in other parts of the country. Meanwhile, the Hausa flowing gown popularly known as “Agbada” is assuming a national mode of dressing because of its acceptability.
Interestingly, with Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan assuming office as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, there is a gradual paradigm shift, as the “woko” and “etibo” dresses with the accompanying bowler hats, which are peculiar to the people of the Niger Delta, are fast becoming the popular dress pattern of most top government functionaries. Understandably, there has been status conferral on these dresses as Mr. President adorns them every time. But suffice to say that in every culture, there are certain characteristics or traits which still remain very important, no matter how the culture changes. The role of the media, in this circumstance, is to identify these aspects of the culture and emphasize their import to the people, so that they would preserve, maintain and uphold such. The world has since adjusted to the Asian miracle, and to the fact that they would set the pace of development in the 21st Century. According to Anyaegbunam, their magic formula was partly their cultural insularity: the fact that they dream, and recreate in their particular mother tongue and idiom. She goes on to state that:
The Asians were more down to earth more concerted and collective in their attitude. They reduced the principles and components of technology to the humble level of their tribe and tongue, and therefore to their very own level of years of aspiration, hope, desperation and curiosity…. Japan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia are all doing that in the various everyday consumables ranging from cars, generators to food and wearing apparels.
As it were, if Nigeria could give serious attention to the promotion of culture, as it is has been with Christianity, then there would be sustainable development of the sector. The giant stride made in Christian religious practice in the country is captured by Anyaegbunam thus:
Nigeria took in Christianity, remixed and passed it through our particular human crucible, and is now re-exporting it around the world.
Now, let us take a brief look at the concept of development before elucidating what its sustainability entails. In the first place, Ajibade sees “development” as a positive change for the better, from conditions (social, economic, political, cultural, and human) that are no longer considered good enough for the goals and aspirations of a society, to those that are most likely to meet such goals and aspirations. He cites the United Nations (UN) Preamble to its Agenda for Development that development is:
a multidimensional undertaking to achieve a higher quality of life for all people. Economic development, social development and environmental protection are interdependent and mutually reinforcing components of sustainable development. Such growth should be broadly based so as to benefit all people through the eradication of poverty, hunger, disease and illiteracy, the provision adequate shelter and secure employment for all the preservation of the integrity of the environment.
In this regard, he posits that “sustainable development” is crucial to the definition of meaningful development. It is seen as the development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This is affirmed by the Wikipedia, the on-line dictionary definition that:
Sustainable development (SD) is a pattern of resource use that aims at meeting human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for generations to come (sometimes taught as ELF – Environment, Local people, Future). The term was used by the Brundtland Commission which coined what has become the most often-quoted definition of sustainable development as development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Put simply, sustainable development ties together concern for the carrying capacity of natural systems with the social challenges facing humanity.
Mass Media Development in Nigeria: A Focus on Arts Journalism
Following the advent of printing in Nigeria, mass media evolved. Literatures abound as regards the growth and development of the media. For example, Isa, Daramola, Oloruntoba, among others, give details on the evolution of mass media in Nigeria, which dates back to November 23, 1859, when Rev. Henry Townsend established the first newspaper in Nigeria, titled, Iwe Irohin, in Abeokuta. However, some newspapers founded in the post-independent Nigeria include New Nigerian (1966), The Punch (1973) by Olu Aboderin, National Concord (1980), The Guardian (1983) by Alex Ibru, The Vanguard (1984) by Sam Amuka-Pemu, Lagos News (1985) by Alhaji Lateef Jakande, Alaroye (1985), The Mail (1986), The Democrat (1986) by a group of investors, The Reporter (1987) by Maj-Gen Musa Yar’Adua, Champion (1988) by Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Thisday (1995) by Nduka Obaigbena, and The Sun (2002) bankrolled by Orji Uzor Kalu, then governor of Abia state.
It could be surmised that over the years, Lagos became the base of newspapers, which started to express nationalist sentiments, characterized by calls for self-rule and vigorous criticisms of the then British Colonial Administration. Apart from what they do in the print, which contributed to societal development, culture reporting was subsequently given prominence in the electronic media. These have boosted arts and culture journalism, which also focuses on cultural institutions and affairs, hence cultural journalism. Alimi traces the foundation of cultural journalism in Nigeria to the introduction of radio broadcasting “tentatively in 1932 and more formally in 1957 as a cultural medium for disseminating information, education and entertainment.” The radio medium gave adequate expression to the cultures of the diverse people of Nigeria. Radio broadcasting popularized Nigerian languages, exposed the music and culture of Nigeria to the international community. The establishment of WNTV, which started transmission on October 31, 1959, the first television station in Africa, further added to the effort of the media to promote culture, through the broadcast of Nigerian songs, dances, drama, for the audience to be entertained. Elsewhere, I have examined the rise and development of television broadcasting in Nigeria, up to the era its privatisation in 1993. The summation is that like the WNTV experience, where Chief Obafemi Awolowo set up a television station at a time the Federal Government had only set up a radio station, political motivations undergird the entire electronic broadcast media ownership model across the country – from state owned ones to the privately owned organs.
Illa has noted that most Nigerian newspapers and Magazines maintain regular arts pages, weekend columns and review pages. The most popular are Arts Column (The Guardian), Arts Leisure (The Champion), and Arts Page (Daily Times). Others are Timesreader (Daily Times), Friday Review (The Guardian), ArtsLife (The Comet), to mention just a few. There is vibrant tradition of arts journalists, who engage in arts and culture reporting. Journalists like Ben Tomoloju, Jahman Anikulapo, Dapo Adeniyi, Toyin Akinosho, Richard Mofe-Damijo (RMD), Uzor Maxim Uzoatu, Lanre Adebayo, Kehinde Young-Harry, Obi Nwakanma, Nduka Otiono, Toyin Ogunsakin, Fola Arogunade and Abdulkadir Ayomaya, have contributed immensely to arts writing in Nigeria. Others include, Maurice Archibong, Olayiwola Adeniji, Steve Ayorinde, Sola Balogun, Segun Ajayi, Juliet Bumah, Chukah Nnabuife, Kabir Alabi Garba, Sina Oladeinde, Akeem Lasisi, Okechukwu Uwazuoke, Amaechi Ugwele, Etinosa Omuemu, Yomi Adeboye, McPhillips Nwachukwu, Oji Onoko, Sylvester Asoya, Mike Jimoh, Edozie Udeze, Tunde Okoli, Damiete Braide, Shobowale Alder, Steve Waidor-Pregbagha, Rachael Eghagha, Opeyemi Osunkiyesi, and Bridget Onochie.
The NICO Initiative
The understanding of the need for the media to contribute its quota to harness Nigerian culture motivated the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) to initiate Quarterly Media Workshops for Arts Writers and Editors in Nigeria. The maiden edition of the workshop took place on May 19, 2010, the second edition took place on August 2, 2010, the 3rd edition took place on November 8, 2010, while the 4th edition took place on March 15, 2011, all at Merit House, Maitama-Abuja.
The workshop provides a veritable platform for arts journalists to learn from veterans, enhance the job performance of in-house media practitioners in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), and provide an avenue for collaboration with international agencies for the culture sector to gain relevance. It is gratifying to note that the programme has drawn attendance from stakeholders in the media and culture sector. Also the leadership of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), traditional rulers, the leadership of arts writers and editors, culture experts, authors, poets, playwrights, theatre scholars, veteran journalists, among others, are always in attendance. It always elicited useful contributions from the participants. The Arts Writers Organisation of Nigeria (AWON), the umbrella body of arts writers, affirmed that they have benefited immensely from the workshop, individually and as a group, hence they saluted the courage of NICO for sustaining the programme, which they describe as “the only media workshop for arts and culture writers in Nigeria.” They have promised that they will effectively utilize the knowledge acquired in the workshop in their reports in the culture sector.
In recognition of the developmental trends in the country, the last edition which took place on March 15, 2011, had the theme, “The Arts Writer in Nigeria’s Democratic Process.” At the opening ceremony, participants were informed that the workshop was packaged to remind them that they are all active participants in Nigerian democratic process and their modest contributions would be vital in harnessing our culture for national development. There was a firm promise that for all arts writers in Nigeria to be part of the exercise, the next edition of workshop will take place outside Abuja. This was premised on the reasoning that the Institute wants a situation, where other arts journalists all over Nigeria will benefit from the programme.
*-As it were, some of the arts editors in attendance in the last workshop are MacPhillips Nwachukwu (Vanguard), Sola Balogun (The Sun), Chuka Nnabuife (Nigerian Compass), Kabir Alabi (The Guardian), Akeem Lasisi (The Punch), Ozolua Uhakheme (The Nation), Yemi Adebisi (Daily Independent), Molara Wood (The Next), Sina Oladeinde (Nigerian Tribune), among others. Some of them spoke about the last workshop in glowing terms. Ozolua Uhakheme, Arts Editor, The Nation, said:
The Executive Secretary is an epitome of high standard when it comes to promotion of arts and culture events in the country. I give kudos to him, because by this gesture, he is providing a forum, other than the newsroom, for the younger arts reporters to tap from the experience of the senior arts journalists. You can see that experienced hands in arts journalism attended the event. Also, the fact that Ben Tomoloju, a veteran arts journalist, presented a paper is a pointer. Even the culture sector is benefitting from the experienced arts journalists in the workshop. So, Dr. Barclays (Ayakoroma) is really moving the culture sector forward through this relationship with the media.
Sola Balogun, Arts Editor, The Sun, noted that NICO is the only outfit that has really facilitated interaction between the media and the culture sector in Nigeria, which the arts journalists cover. He stated:
For me, this workshop initiated by NICO is about the only cultural forum that facilitates cultural interaction between the media, the culture sector, and the bureaucrats. Previously, the culture workers were jittery of the media. They see the media men as enemies. But NICO, under the present dynamic leadership, demystified this. The best thing is for the workshop to be sustained. Anyway, I have no doubt in my mind that it will continue. It can really make the culture sector develop better. It can also facilitate the contribution of the media towards cultural development in Nigeria, because it is a forum that could galvanize the root of our democratic process in the Nigerian indigenous culture.
Many participants contributed to the workshop through their comments, questions and suggestions. Chuka Nnabuife, Arts Editor, Nigerian Compass, asked how journalists can be engaged in the society to actually perform their professional duties very well towards the democratic process without undue interference from their employers, who are politicians that have the money to finance the media which is capital intensive. Professor Femi Shaka, of the University of Port Harcourt, concurred with Nnabuife, and said the welfare of journalists in Nigeria is a fundamental question which he expected the resource persons to address, wondering why employers pay peanuts to journalists, yet the society turns around to accuse them of indulging in the so-called “brown envelope” syndrome. What elicited these reactions from the participants was the quality of the presentations: Ben Tomoloju speaking on the topic, The Role of the Arts Writer in Nigeria’s Democratic Process, and Maj-Gen. Mathias Efeovbokhan (rtd.), dwelling on the topic, The Journalist as the Conscience of the Democratic Process.
The Honourable Minister for Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Alhaji Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed, who was represented by Mr. George Uffot, Director of Culture in the Ministry, also commended NICO for initiating the workshop, which he said, is a giant stride taken by the Institute to bridge the gap between the ministry and the media. According to him,
The workshop will provide an opportunity for the culture sector and the media to cross-fertilize ideas on Nigeria’s democratic process. The arts writers are intellectuals in their own right. They use their analysis on cultural events in the ministry to propagate culture and democratic ideals. The Dress Nigerian Culture, which the Ayakoroma-led administration in NICO initiated, is quite commendable. It is indeed a welcome development in the culture sector and Nigeria.
Also, Mallam Garuba Mohammed, National President of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), represented by his Vice, Gbenga Onayiga, stated unequivocally that, “the media has resolved to support NICO’s cultural mission towards democracy through arts and culture writers.”
However, the quarterly media workshop is being re-designed as NICO is seeking for collaboration with state governments. Under the new arrangement, it will provide a veritable platform for stakeholders to examine and appreciate their role in government’s bid to make the culture and tourism sector a viable alternative to oil and gas. In the new concept of the event, NICO will mount an Exhibition on Promoting Nigerian Dress Culture, while the State Arts Council will also mount a similar Exhibition of the Dress Culture of the State. After the official opening of the Exhibition, the Ministry of Culture & Tourism will conduct the arts journalists on a Guided Tour of Cultural and Tourism projects and sites in the State. The essence is for them to see the developmental efforts by the state in the sector for necessary media reportage subsequently. The first day ends with “An Evening with the Governor,” preferably a Command Performance by the State Arts Council, to showcase the cultural and artistic talents in the state. This will also form a focus for subsequent reports by the arts journalists.
The Opening Ceremony for Media Workshop proper takes place the next day, and it is to be declared open by the state governor. After this, it will be down to business, as usual, as the Technical session, Interactive Session, and the Communiqué follow. Thus, the redesigned media workshop provides a veritable window for the good people of any hosting state, and indeed Nigerians, to be abreast of the laudable achievements of the sitting governor in the culture sector.
In this paper, it is argued that there is need for the media to effectively contribute in promoting culture for sustainable development. The National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), established to harness culture for national development, organise programmes which the media give wide coverage. This attention from the media has been due to a synergy aimed at effectively propagating sustainable development of the culture sector. This explains why the Quarterly Media Workshop for Arts Writers and Editors, a strategic platform, was created as an imperative for mutual understanding with the media to promote the culture sector in Nigeria.
The conclusion is that the workshop provides a veritable platform for Arts Journalists to learn from veterans, enhance the job performance of in-house media practitioners in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), and provide an avenue for collaboration with state governments for the culture sector to receive the necessary attention. It is observed that while the culture sector needs the media to achieve its set objectives through their reportage and criticisms on cultural events, arts journalists cannot also do without key personnel in the sector from whom they will always generate stories in the practice of developmental jo0urnalism. In the final analysis, the new approach envisioned by NICO to synergise with state governments will go a long way in creating mutually beneficial windows of opportunities for media professionals and state governments.
Ayakoroma is the Executive Secretary/CEO of the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) Abuja-FCT, Nigeria.