By Frank Meke
Ben Akabueze, Nigeria’s budget office boss, is one the government official. that kept to his call of duty like a missionary.
He is not confrontational or controversial. From lagos state government, where our president with eyes for technocrats picked him when he was Lagos governor, Ben Akabueze held his head above the waters. He represented well, played by the roles, and guided the then administration of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu well in lagos.
There’s one other fellow who brought the same reach to lagos state government then, though not in the financial sector but on the Transportation ecosystem, Barrister Muize Banire.
As a young reporter interested in true governance and citizens mobilization, these two gentlemen in the Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu government in lagos were true to their calling, and results were unmistakable.
While Ben Akabueze headed up to the centre and has held the budget office for eight years, Muize Banire, who initially held the APC legal apparatus at the centre, left and chose to be a columnist on good governance with the sun newspapers.
Banire till today, irrespective of whatever political situation that took him out of Asiwaju political family, is one of the best technocrats that the President head hunted to deepen lagos Transportation ecosystem.
I met Banire through indefatigable Gani Tarzan Balogun, who’s one of Nigeria’s best private sector boat transportation investor and operator but didn’t have any close relationship with Ben Akabueze either in lagos or at the centre. I was just an interested follower of Akabueze dedication and commitment to best practice in his assigned duties.
Ben Akabueze last week rolled out a long the list of registered entities, particularly research institutions, and added up the National Council for Arts and Culture as one of the government agencies that must be man enough to turn Nigeria’s economy around without government funding.
I really don’t know what informed that decision or listing and in truth has no objection to it if only the Budget office has been more thorough or clinical with its reasons considering the fact no country or nation even China which loans Nigeria money has removed their cultural tourism economy from government support and funding.
Imperatively and going forward, stakeholders in the sector have always bemoaned poor government funding of entire complexities of Nigeria culture and tourism ecosystem, summed as traumatic as part of the fanciful year to year lip service paid to deeping the true value chain of the sector as Nigeria’ s next oil.
And talking about investing and positioning of economic endposts, funding in the oil sector which failed us due to a highly corrupt system and plenty thieving hands in the oil soup, same funding interest was never devoted to our culture sector as the next oil.
I beg oga Ben Akabueze to please correct this assertion. Our cultural tourism economy was treated with some kind of simplistic tolerance in government budgetary allocation and had struggled to impact despite its famed socioeconomic and political correctionness.
I will want Ben Akabueze to compare our government cultural tourism funding with South Africa or China, which is all over Africa using and strategically deploying its cultural tourism power to woo the young persons in Africa.
Check out the massive and strategic Chinese economic partition of Africa, powered by its cultural tourism evangelism across Nigeria nay Africa. Maybe Nigeria Budget office will better think of revising and deleting ncac from the list of agencies to benefit from government funding.
While the British colonial merchants came with religion as the soft copy of its economic partition of Africa, the Chinese undoubtedly chose cultural tourism exchange and message to break the walls of any perceived resistance to its economic mission in Nigeria nay Africa.
History has taught us that any nation that can not hold effectively its history and culture is as good as gone. I believe time has come for Nigeria budget office, and indeed, this administration to help shape and determine the culture beyond gains of monetary returns and job creation, stepping up the security and national cohesion imbibed in our cultural diversity.
I was at the Ojude oba Festival in ijebu last week and wept at the dangers of wholesale foreign influence on the dance and dress sense of our children. They rebelliously dressed and danced against the cultural intent of Ojude oba. While their parents and uncles proudly dressed in native attires to pay homage to the Awujale, these children simply went “unbashedly naked, stylishly and shamelessly provocative,” telling the likes of the Budget office, to come see how far foreign entertainment influenced lifestyle has swallowed our so called leaders of tomorrow.
Fortunately, Ojude Oba, like many other festivals in Nigeria, showcases our cultural tourism diversity, which must be accorded special funding status by the government. To play hide and seek with the funding of our cultural tourism expectations will only bring us pain and calamity.
If Ben Akabueze and others who pretend not know the values of protecting, promoting, and marketing our cultural diversity will require serious funding and support from both states and federal governments, then we have nothing to bequeath to our children who have already shown capacity to go the way of Armageddom.
There must be no playing to the gallery about serious funding for our culture sector. From the east, west, south, and north of Nigeria, there already exists manifestations of rot in the morale, mental and spiritual ethos of our youths, many of them as students of drug addiction and champions of lewd ways of living.
While the Chinese and the Japanese are on hot trail and pursuit of arresting morale decadence among their young persons through cultural intellectual engagements and funding the same heavily, our budget office is playing funding downsizing with what’s left of our cultural institutions.
And until Nigeria invited segun Runsewe to come repair our culture refinery ( NCAC), this same critical driver of our socioeconomic and political culture agency was nowhere within the eyes of government attention.
In the past five years, Runsewe has transformed the culture agency rightly, propelling it to address societal morale decadence, particularly among our young persons. His interpretation of the values and benefits of enthroning a strong futuristic political space driven by cultural ethos unsettled many strange deviant proponents of warped ways of living in Nigeria.
I wonder where Akabueze was when Runsewe deployed the power of cultural righteousness to confront the community of promoters of same sex marriage, lizards of religious intolerance, and creeping agents harnessing the virtues of our youths through satanic entertainment offerings?
To properly situate the cultural diversity of each state in the country, it was this same NCAC that went around the country and preached to our governors the importance of protecting our diversity through hosting of National festival of Arts and Culture. From kaduna to Rivers, Plateau, Edo, and Lagos state, the hosting of the festival in the aforementioned states was deliberately targeted to change perceptions on national security, peace and unity.
Is it then out of mere political expediency that our new president has taken to both local and international podium to assure us that our cultural diversity is the game changer in his determined intent to enthrone a government of national competence?
The sociopolitical and cultural message of Emi lo’ kan ( it’s my turn ) today has positively impacted the life of young persons who once gave up on nation and people but suddenly rose up to confront challenges and bring changes to their lives and community.
The president’s branded cultural cap revealed again how our leaders can be champions of cultural revolution through showcasing the importance and values in our ways of dressing.
No doubt culture can help change our political engineering beyond merely having our traditional musical arts heralding campaigns and victuals of interludes at our conferences and state banquets.
Indeed and significant, the totality of our cultural tourism diversity is a strong hold to rebuilding our nation today and tomorrow. However, there should be no denying how we can redeem the future of our people, our children, through cultural reinvention.
Ben Akabueze should cost the intrinsic values of our cultural diversity and rightly fund the future of our nation. Indeed, NCAC could go beyond the present expectations, turn the social media platforms of our culture refinery to a gold mine.
Runsewe, competently, fearlessly, and passionately has gifted us the way to go about turning our cultural values into a mint. We now have an address, a one-stop shop identity, proudly telling our story in Abuja,at the Nigerian Culture House .
I won’t tell of all that will be on showcase in that convent of our cultural limitlessness, so I will advise Ben Akabueze and our economic team to visit the Nigerian culture House to behold the true essence and spiritual meaning of Emi’ lokan.
NCAC must be sustained through adequate funding because its mandate is a Nigerian citizen cultural mobilization mandate. The President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in seeking solutions to many problems facing our youths need to go Nigerian culture House and see competence on showcase and it can only be culture. The Jagaban of Borgu should stand with our culture. Interestingly, that’s how other nations, the Chinese in particular, became both economic and political giants.