Oral literature experts spearhead campaign for cultural heritage

The objective of the Campaign for Cultural Heritage (CCH) is to advocate support for Nigeria’s implementation of the 2003 UNESCO Convention for Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) to which Nigeria is a signatory. The Convention enjoins all States Parties of UNESCO to put culture at the centre of all legislation, policies and plans of economic, political, social, artistic, and spiritual development. The Convention contains programmes for the creation, recreation, safeguarding, preservation, propagation, and exploitation of cultural resources and expressions. Elements of intangible cultural heritage identified and submitted to UNESCO by States Parties are eligible for financial and technical assistance by UNESCO, donor agencies and institutions around the world.
Nigeria, with about 500 languages and hundreds of ethnic groups, is a major contributor to the world’s cultural heritage and is, therefore, a beneficiary of the Convention. In the past one decade UNESCO has enlisted several cultural elements and traditions in Nigeria, some of which are in danger of extinction due to destructive factors of globalisation and modernisation/westernisation.

Nigeria’s cultural heritage constitutes the foundation of our existence and identity. Culture is the treasure base of knowledge, languages, ideas, philosophy, skills, creativity, economy, technology, security, morality, ethics, and principles of inter-group relations. Culture is the reason for our humanity. We are human because we create and own culture; we create and own culture to renew and enhance our common humanity.

In furtherance of the above principles, there is an imperative need to establish Nigerian platforms to raise awareness about the primacy of culture in creativity and sustainable national development. To this end the Campaign for Cultural Heritage (CCH) is being set up under the auspices of the Nigerian Oral Literature Association (NOLA). The objective of CCH is to support the Government of Nigeria in the implementation of the 2003 UNESCO Convention and to enlighten governments and the general public to give priority to culture in legislation, politics, economic planning, budgeting, education, business, security, and social affairs. Our advocacy is to ensure that no less than 20% of annual Federal and State Budgets is allocated to Culture and Education.

The Nigerian Oral Literature Association (NOLA) was founded in 2010 as a professional body of scholars, researchers, creators, promoters, and patrons of cultural heritage. Its aims include taking measures to sustain the excellent legacy of Afrocentric creativity and scholarship on Nigerian oral cultural heritage from the 1950s. NOLA members are in tertiary institutions, research centres and professional groups in Nigeria, Africa and the African Diaspora.

NOLA is the premier professional association devoted to the study of Nigerian oral traditions of creativity, transmission, and wealth generation; NOLA is affiliated to the International Society for the Oral Literatures of Africa (ISOLA). Nigeria’s US-based Professor Chiji Akoma is the current President of ISOLA. Nigeria will host the 12th Conference of ISOLA at the University of Ibadan in 2018

The neglect of indigenous culture in Nigeria is responsible for the country’s economic backwardness, mass poverty, corruption, criminal acts, insurgent revolts, and disorientation of children, youth, and adults. Owing to the marginalisation of indigenous cultural assets, Nigerian governments and ruling elite waste resources and opportunities seeking solutions from the very western powers and institutions that caused, and benefit from, our economic woes and socio-political confusion. The implementation of the 2003 UNESCO Convention on Intangible Cultural Heritage will cure this ideological and moral affliction.

It is significant to recall that in 1977 Nigeria hosted the Festival of African Arts and Culture (FESTAC). The festival involved African people on the continent and all parts of the world. The international representation and events celebrated the best and brightest in African cultural heritage from antiquity. FESTAC signalled an auspicious moment of African recovery and renaissance after decades of colonial plunder and degradation by imperialist European countries. But with the boom in providential oil wealth and regimes of military tyrants, Nigeria derailed and frittered away the historic opportunity to lead the people of Africa and the African Diaspora to redeem their cultural heritage, identity, and pride.


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