Madam Minister, is national theme song the priority for the arts, creative industry?

Hannatu Musa Musawa: Madam Minister, is national theme song the priority for the arts, creative industry?

Following their long-awaited swearing-in ceremony on August 21, 2023, ministers of the Government of Nigeria under the leadership of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu immediately began the performative photo-ops display of visiting their ministries to lay down the marker. Madam Minister Hannatu Musa Musawa, the Minister of Art, Culture and Creative Economy, proceeded to do the same as her colleagues did.

Upon her arrival at the ministry the following day after her swearing-in, Musawa got the ball rolling by meeting with the permanent secretaries, directors and other staff of the ministry. She subsequently unveiled her plans to sustain the current momentum of Nigeria’s creative industry globally and drive in motion President Tinubu’s master plan for the industry.

According to the minister, one of her priorities is to create a national theme song for the Nigerian brand. In a statement issued by the media office of the minister, Musawa said the song will bolster the belief of Nigerians in the Nigerian project.

“The Minister pointed out that one of her key plans in the immediate is to have a National theme Song for the Nigerian brand. She, therefore encouraged Nigerian Songwriters and Music Artistes from the Six Geopolitical Zones of the Country to begin to think in that direction,” the statement read.

The statement also noted that the minister has associated this plan with her efforts to to rebrand Nigeria’s image.

While it is appreciable that Musawa has begun work in earnest – despite the raging controversy over her NYSC status – as a minister, the question that must be asked is: Is the creation of a national theme song an urgent priority for the creative industry in Nigeria? Certainly NOT!

On the face of it, Musawa seems to have gotten her priorities wrong or confused about the mandate she is expected to execute in office. While the arts are one of the biggest and most efficient ways to positively project the country’s image, there is already the newly renamed Ministry of Information and National Orientation that should be tasked with performing such a task. It is the Information Ministry that should be busy with “bolstering the belief of Nigerians” and sensitising Nigerians on social values and patriotism, not the Art, Culture and Creative Economy Ministry that Musawa is currently leading.

Dissecting her plan critically, will a national theme song likely change the orientation of Nigerians to Nigeria? Probably not. Under the Goodluck Jonathan administration, the late Professor Dora Akunyili, the then Minister of Information and Communication, the Federal Government launched the “Good People, Great Nation” mantra to rebrand the country’s image in a more positive light. Years later, “Change Begins With Me”, another rebranding campaign, was spearheaded by Lai Mohammed, the immediate past Minister of Information and Culture, under the Muhammadu Buhari Presidency. Did these rebranding campaigns have the desired impact and alter Nigerians’ perception of their country? Your guess is as good as mine.

Rather than getting blood out of a stone, there are many more germane issues for Musawa to address as the Arts and Culture Minister. Interestingly, the creative economy has been added to her portfolio at a time when countries are taking into consideration the contribution and potential of creative assets to contribute to economic growth and development. The creative economy encompasses all economic and social activities concerning arts, design, culture and the media.

Advertising, architecture, arts and crafts, design, fashion, film, video, photography, music, performing arts, publishing, research and development, software, computer games, electronic publishing and TV/radio are the lifeblood of the creative economy. Thankfully, Musawa is a recognised spoken word artist and author, and that is why some members of the creative industry were delighted when she was announced as the ministry’s head.

To manage this dynamic sector of the economy and ensure it turns the potential for wealth creation into a money-spinner, Musawa has a catalogue of challenges to address. They include but are not limited to the following: Lack of infrastructure and government support, more patronage and monetisation of Westernised entertainment content over indigenous art content, copyright and piracy issues, job sustainability (particularly for non-artistes/non-performers in the industry) and ensuring the streamlining of revenues generated by artistes into the local economy.

Talking about the last point, Nigerian musicians are excelling across all genres and they are currently the rave of the moment across the globe. These musicians release songs and albums via streaming platforms and go on tours in numerous countries. It is, however, instructive to note that the majority of the income earned by these performers is not ploughed back into the Nigerian economy because their contracts for international album releases or tours are largely domiciled abroad.

Also to consider is that due to numerous constraints, many Nigerian singers, particularly A-list artists, now prefer to shoot their music videos abroad. Social media is constantly filled with complaints by actors, filmmakers and content makers over the extortion they face at locations before they can shoot their videos. These are drawbacks that laid-down policies and guidelines by the ministry could address if they are drafted and implemented.

Also, aside from the log of talents bristling in the aforementioned areas of the industry, the creative economy has numerous micro, small and medium delving into production and other ancillary services in the industry. These MSMEs are the cutting-edge of creativity in the knowledge-based economy order, providing a new paradigm for how businesses are organised and value is measured.

And what about the Arts and Culture Ministry collaborating with the newly created Ministry of Tourism to boost the country’s tourism potential through art? Many Nigerian artists have created several art pieces in terms of paintings, sculpture and handcraft but there are not enough places to exhibit them. The Federal Government-owned museums are in dire need of rehabilitation and rejuvenation. Also, there are several national monuments on display at these semi-moribund museums and their potential as possible tourist attractions and income earners are going down the drain because of poor management.

In addition, there is a lack of art exhibitions for artists to exhibit their artworks. This worrisome trend can also be associated with the craptastic nature of the economy currently. Unfortunately, this issue cannot be discountenanced as it affects the income of the artists.

The creative economy is front and centre at a time when creative solutions are needed to overcome global challenges. The sector can help diversify production, build competitive advantage, attract investment, support entrepreneurship and innovation and promote cultural diversity and well-being.

The realistic goal for Musawa is to focus on developing and implementing targeted strategies to bolster the GDP of the creative economy rather than dwelling on issues considered to be trivial. If the minister can take the courage to reshuffle her priorities and live up to fulfilling her word that “this is the right moment to project it in a new exportable dimension for improved foreign earnings”, the Nigerian creative economy can boost job creation, exports earnings and revenue in four years.

To “expect innovative and inspiring concepts that will drive and support this Sector in the coming weeks” – as the minister alluded to in her statement – and sustain the current momentum of Nigeria’s entertainment rave globally, Musawa must facilitate the creation of an enabling environment for all stakeholders in the creative industry, ensure government support for creatives, initiate discussion on increased monetisation of content and flowback of income into the Nigerian economy and resolve all legal issues in the industry.

Musawa, kindly start on a good footing as there is no need to spit in the ocean with a national theme song when you already have so much on your plate. Please, get serious, madam minister.

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Gabriel is a trained political scientist, and a qualified and versatile communications professional who has worked as a journalist and Public Relations executive. He has a knack for content creation and development and is a keen digital native interested in all things good.
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