By VICTOR NZE
Director-General, Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC), Dr Ferdinand Anikwe, has attributed the current downturn in the nation’s economy to the continued neglect of the cultural and creative industries.
According to Ankiwe, the rapid growth of the Asian economies was heavily leveraged on their cultural and creative industries which Nigeria must exploit if headway is to be made in revamping the economy.
The CBAAC boss made the submission during an event to kick-start the 40th anniversary of the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC ‘77) at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential library, in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, Friday.
The event tagged; 40yrs of FESTAC ’77; Rolling Out 40 Drums, was organized by CBAAC to also pay tribute to former president, Chief Obasanjo, the major facilitator of FESTAC ‘77 whose 80th birthday celebrations coincided with the commemorations.
“Since FESTAC’77 aroused a new consciousness in Black and African Cultures it will certainly not be out of place to say a few things on the role of cultural industries and the creative economy in revamping Nigeria and Africa’s ailing economies.
“The current economic quagmire of Nigeria is the fallout of the neglect of her cultural industries and creative economy. Nigeria is very rich in such simple things as pottery, leather works, textiles, blacksmithing and a host of others.
“These in addition to others could be creatively harnessed to drive an economy that is vibrant, solid and sustainable. This is certainly not a lecture on how to grow African economies but I must state that Africa has a lot of lesson to learn from countries of South East Asia popularly called Asian Tigers. These Countries have grown very robust economies and are making breathtaking contributions to their Gross Domestic Products (GDP) by developing their cultural industries and creative economies,” Anikwe stated.
The CBAAC boss then showered encomiums on Obasanjo for facilitating FESTAC ’77, a cultural event which he said ‘rekindled African cultural consciousness and provided a rallying point for Africans’ and ‘aroused a new consciousness in Black and African Cultures.’
“It is a curious coincidence that as we are celebrating the 40th Anniversary of FESTAC’77, the pillar and driving force of the epoch-making festival is equally celebrating his eightieth birthday.
“In paying a deserved tribute to this iconic hero, it is very difficult to identify the specific aspect of his life to start from. One readily calls to mind that here is a man who has been a Soldier/Statesman, an ebullient administrator, a successful farmer, a profound thinker, prolific writer and a quintessential crusader for the total emancipation of Africa and the Black Race from the last vestiges of colonialism, neocolonialism, oppression, domination and from man’s inhumanity to man.
“Though, the history of FESTAC’77 and CBAAC go deep into the history of the Black race, yet, one recalls gratifyingly that the plans to host FESTAC’77 was reinvigorated following the ascendency of General Olusegun Obasanjo as Head of State and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“It is to Obasanjo’s eternal credit that FESTAC’77 covered the entire gamut of Black and African cultural heritage, but more importantly, he ensured that the event had an academic dimension to it, through the Colloquium tagged the ‘Arts and Civilization of Black and African Peoples’. I am glad to say the product of that FESTAC Colloquium has been published in Ten Volumes.
“Apart from the Colloquium, FESTAC’77 showcased a Black and African cultures in hitherto unimagined dimensions. It rekindled African cultural consciousness and provided a rallying point for Africans. For once, Black and African peoples took pride in their cultures and expressed it to the admiration of the world. For this, thanks and special gratitude must go to a rare son of Africa, a colossus and man of history, Chief Aremu Okikiade Olusegun Obasanjo.
“In a rare understanding of the contributions of the festival towards showcasing Black and African cultural heritage, he quickly made wise consultations, reorganized the International Festival Committee and other Committees, putting square pegs in square holes, made funds available and eventually, a festival that could be described as the largest assemblage of Black and African Peoples worldwide was held from the 15th of January to the 12th of February, 1977,” Anikwe said.
The CBAAC boss equally recognized other notable figures who played important roles towards Nigeria hosting FESTAC ’77, just as he explained the format which the 40th anniversary celebrations will take.
“As we appreciate the valued contributions of other FESTAC’77 heroes like Admiral O.P. Fingesi, then FESTAC President, Senator (Dr.) Ahmadu Ali, then Chairman of Opening Ceremony and Federal Commissioner for Education, we want to state that CBAAC is presenting the debut performance today with a display of Forty Drums to herald the commemoration of FESTAC’77 @ 40.
“Unlike FESTAC’77, when the events were centralized, this year, the experience will be spread the whole year from March – December, and the venues are located in many states across the country and other African countries. By this, we intend to also take FESTAC’77 @ 40 Anniversary to other African countries that may not be able to come to Nigeria for the celebrations,” he said.
The event attracted top dignitaries like Admiral O.P. Fingesi, Senator (Dr.) Ahmadu Ali, Ms Tracy Roosevelt, the great grand-daughter of late United States President, Theodore Roosevelt, former U.S ambassador to Nigeria, Andrew Young, among others.
The commemorations which kicked-off March 3 with the birthday celebrations of Obasanjo will now move to Abuja, Lagos, Enugu and Kaduna featuring colloquiums, art exhibitions, boat regatta, metal works designs.