“Culture and Tourism is Key to Development” – Wike
National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST), “the Unity Forum,” organised by National Council for Arts & Culture (NCAC), is a socio-cultural activity that promotes the rich cultural diversity and cross ethnic friendship among Nigerians. This is a major boost and it is good for the economy of Rivers State and by extension, Nigeria because the massive participation and influx of people from all works of life will ensure very high commercial activities in the state.
Governor of Rivers State, Ezenwo Nyesom Wike spoke to the media at the recently held National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST) on what his government is doing to promote culture and tourism in the state.
How can culture be part of the country’s educational curriculum?
How can we have a curriculum without integrating our culture? How does any society grow without history? For me, the policy of education in our country is anchored on the Federal Government. How can I have a child who doesn’t know the culture of his people? Because culture is part of development, it is part of growth. Yet, we allow our children to imbibe foreign culture. I think that our culture should be embedded in the educational curriculum, because if we don’t do that, we have killed the culture of this country. It is important that our children know the culture of various people of Nigeria.
What are your plans to transform the abundant resources of this state into a thriving tourism economy?
Rivers State is actually endowed, and that is why I have said to the commissioner of Culture and Tourism that every year, we must have cultural activities to showcase the cultural and tourism potential of the state. You went to Jim Rex-Lawson Cultural Centre; mention one state that has such a facility. We have a partnership with a lot of artistes to come and showcase their trade from time to time. And if you have gone to Pleasure Park, you would have known what is available in this state, which was done by this administration. To me, culture and tourism is key to development. Everything must not be politics, because politics has failed us in terms of unification as a country. The only unifying factors today are sports and culture. If I had my way, I would continue to host this festival, because when you know your potential, you have, to let the world be aware of it. If I have potential and I don’t let the world know that these are the potential that I have or that exist in this state, then I have a problem. Anything that I have to do to promote my state, I have to do it. So, one will have to do what is necessary to promote culture and tourism in Rivers State and that is what I will continue to do.
What plans have you to make Port Harcourt the Dubai of Nigeria?
No tourist will come here without Federal Government’s approval, by giving visa. Today, we have lost so many investors, because the Federal Government believes that River States is in opposition. And that is not supposed to be, because whether you like it or not, if investors come in to develop tourism, the Federal Government will get revenue from it, but that is not the case here. The truth of the matter is that everything is done to frustrate us. We produce the wealth of Nigeria, but nobody supports us and that is why you hear the cries for restructuring. Yes, I have the mind that tourism should grow, but I also have a limitation, a restriction that is dependent on the government in power at the centre level. If you have a government that is hostile to the state how can you achieve it? You can’t achieve it. And this is not what it is supposed to be. So, having the mind or having the idea is different from you actualising it, because of the hostile nature of the government at the federal level. We must be able to tell ourselves the simple truth. The Federal Government does not like my state. In fact, I’m surprised that this event was held here, because I never believed that the Federal Government would allow it to hold.
That is why I said I thank Otunba Olusegun Runsewe so much for the effort that to making NAFEST hold in Rivers State. This state government signed a Memoranda of Understanding with the NFF to host matches here.
But people said why is it that it is Rivers State that is hosting international matches and they took it away even when we have paid. That is the Nigeria we are. Nobody wants to do the right thing. It doesn’t matter because as far as this state is concern look at the areas that we are looking and for the state, this is what we are looking at and in that way Nigeria will progress. But unfortunately, politics has taken the centre stage in everything that we are doing.
We have seen quite a lot of development and improvement in the city. We have also seen how safe and secured it is as we didn’t notice any breach, but most of the things we hear from outside about the state and Port Harcourt are all negatives, how do you intend to sell a new narrative about the state?
When you say a new narrative, luckily you have stayed here for one week, luckily you have seen for yourself, so; you should go and tell the world that it is not correct. I was here and I saw myself. All these stories that they are giving are not correct. That is why I said the DG of NCAC should be applauded for giving us opportunity to host NAFEST 2018. Probably, if this event was not hosted here, you might not have had opportunity to come here. But this event has given you opportunity to see things for yourself. Therefore, what you use to hear is it correct, is it the truth? Now you have come and you have now become the ambassador of truth to go and tell people that it is not correct.
So, there is no new narrative that we can give other than you have come and you have seen for yourself that it is not correct. So, you now go back and give the narrative that it is not correct.