-By Benedict Masade
It is a truth today that African cultures are under threat. These cultures are in fact been pushed beyond their limits of tolerance in manners that suggest danger.
Some cultures are in fact already surviving at the merging. Unfortunately the time to begin to appreciate and re-appreciate the cultural importance to regional growth is critically now as experiences suggest that the pathways to Nigerian and African development are strategically hidden in the cultures and cultural-political determination and resoluteness of the country and the region. The cultures hold the key to growth, oneness, integration, identity and development ultimately. There is thus a strong interrelationship among culture, growth, progress, development and even national integration. Even though Nigerians, and many African nations, may not consciously appreciate this fact, the unprecedented pace and degree of cultural neglect in the nation(s) is unrivalled.
Culture as viable tool of development are under-estimated and not annexed even when the Americans and European Union (EU) are doing everything possible to annex their many cultures for national and regional sustainable development drive. Brazil, India and China (BRICS Nations) as well as South Korea, Indonesia, and Singapore all built their paths to development on traditional values and culture. Interestingly, the BRIC Nations and the Asian Tigers (so called) all started the journey to development with Nigeria but they have since left Nigeria far behind on the race to development. The gap is very wide and is still being widened as the missing link in Nigeria is still not being annexed. What is the missing link? The Culture of people as veritable Social Capital that could be deployed for growth and development and even translated to economic and technological capitals. Culture is a cure-all for growth and development. Nothing is achieved and could be achieved except it is operated within culture.
These cultural backgrounds affected the cultural and political systems adopted by the people and it determined their conception and approaches to development. The groups defined development, move towards development and were developed in their own right to the extent that their needs are met and they related with others on the basis of co-equals and mutual benefits in social relations. For instance, the Igbo culture was patterned along gerontocracy and decentralization/acephalous arrangements. Decisions were taken in a village square setting in manners that accommodated all. Decisions were taken democratically and immediate and distant environments were exploited for the common good. For the Yorubas of the west, the political system was monarchical and structured with consultative mechanisms in-built. The decisions for the communities were taken after due consultation with the Oye Mesis in a political system that has come to be known in Yoruba historiography as the Oba-in-Council. Decisions are never taken unilaterally and the common good and efforts are articulated for group development. In related version, the Hausa of the Northern part practiced Emirate system that was very and sharply hierarchical. Power and authority flowed from the top (from the Emir) and followers were expected to follow.
Many things are deniable today but not that globalization is having profound effect on Nigeria and its cultures whether in centrifugal terms and centripetal terms. These effects have both positive and negative forces and one could be more than the other depending on which side of the divide you are. Globalization is propelled and driven with utmost specificities by the mass media. The Mass Media today turn out targeted information with profound intended and unintended outcomes. The unmitigated exposure to foreign cultures through the mass media has come to be known as the CNN Effect resonating the huge influence of the popular Cable Network News with base in the United States of America as the original epicenter of globalization in the contemporary terms. People today are exposed to cultural ideals and values alien to their societies and are encouraged or forced or lured to internalize such values even when in conflict with dominant cultures. International stations are many today and they enter peoples’ homes and mentalities as well as cultures through satellite technologies as physical barriers to information are broken. It does not take much to watch stations like CNN, BBC, Sky News, Channel O, MTV Base, Super Sport, Sky Sport, Hollywood and Bollywood with profound homogenizing and cosmopolitanism impacts on cultures. These could be seen in the areas of fashion, taste, consumptions and individualization across the world whether in the centre of periphery or Metro-poles and satellites.
This article has attempted the exposition of the role of culture and cultural diversity on national growth and development. Related issues have been raised with critical importance for regional growth. It has been observed that people generally, and Nigerians in particular, have not demonstrated enough capacities to interrogate cultural elements prior to adoption, this is eroding the culture and growth space in the region. People are seen in part and adopt in full to the detriment of themselves and the indigenous cultural systems. Policies and development efforts are being adopted without sufficient recourse to traditional and indigenous cultural capitals that will determine policy outcomes ultimately in the nation. Cultures, indigenous values and social thoughts in the region must be sufficiently appreciated and interrogated for policies and actions to support and drive change. Cultures and indigenous values must evolve bottom-up policies and approaches to growth and development in the country. Every culture in Nigeria has unique diets, mode of dressing, mode of production, language, greetings, marriage, mode of socialization, political systems that could be annexed for development. Even values like love, hard work, honesty, bravery, care, extended brotherliness and filiations are now negatively rationalized as individualism and profit concerns take the center stage as imported through globalization. In fact, everything is unique from one culture to the other but modal systems could be discovered and appropriated for national development.