By Anote Ajeluorou
WHILE those in the culture sector are still trying to come to terms with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s appointees to culture agencies in the Ministry of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy, as to their suitability or otherwise and what is expected of them in their respective agencies, signs of trouble are already afoot at the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO). On resumption of duty last Wednesday, January 17, 2024, the new Executive Secretary, Otunba Biodun Ajiboye, has indicated that his appointment is not just politically motivated, but that his policy direction is politically-oriented and leans away from the norm. In fact, he has gone ahead to announce his own mandate that may conflict with what NICO stands for.
A statement posted on the institute’s verified Facebook page and credited to Media Assistant to the Executive Secretary, National Institute for Cultural Orientation, Abuja, Mr. Caleb Nor, rather than train managers for the various parastatals of the Ministry of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy, Ajiboye would rather dabble into the uncertain area of value re-orientation for politically exposed persons and leaders in government positions instead.
According to Nor, “The newly appointed Executive Secretary/CEO of the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Otunba Biodun Ajiboye has disclosed that the Institute under his watch will focus more on training political leaders, legislators, diplomats, military and para-military leaders in Nigeria. This is in line with one of the institute’s objectives of serving as a focus for orientation in cultural matters for Nigeria’s policy makers and other government officials.
Executive Secretary, National Institute of Cultural Orientation, Otunba Biodun Ajiboye
“According to him, NICO has a lot of responsibility, particularly in the area of cultural training where more attention should be channelled to leaders of thought to ensure that all political leaders in the country get exposed to cultural orientations that will reignite our values in them.”
And in his own words, Ajiboye told staffers of the institute, “We need to reactivate the idea of training and make it more profound among political leaders and legislators. We will take it to Mr. President to give us support and find a way to get through the leadership of the National Assembly to recognize that fact. These are the kind of trainings that we need; trainings that will lead to change of attitude, national cohesion and change of behaviour among the citizenry.
“It is important for us to get our cultural values right because it is one of the most important psychological ways to fight societal decadence and get citizens to be more behaviourally responsible. So, I am more interested in training military leaders; I am more interested in training legislators; I am more interested in training a college of trainers because we need to, first of all, inculcate in them the right culture and none of them should go without receiving our cultural training.”
Ajiboye did not hide his partisanship in the last election, and told his audience that his appointment is a political settlement. He then issued a veiled threat to the workers, saying he would compel compliance to ensure his success at the institute.
“I want to succeed,” Ajiboye said. “All I know is that I was at the forefront of that campaign (for the election of Tinubu), and we are lucky that we won the election where we have the president produced by us, and I owe him every molecule of my efforts; every pint of my blood to support him to succeed. I don’t care about anything or whatever any other person says. In carrying my vision along, I will drag anybody that is relevant without any apologies. I don’t believe in failure nor excuses.”
While Ajiboye’s quest may be a desirable one, he might be taking on more than he can chew and may be usurping the role of National Orientation Agency (NOA) ostensibly set up to ensure a proper value orientation of Nigerians. But for as long as anyone can remember, NOA has been in deep slumber and failed to do its work. Perhaps, Ajiboye’s challenge to NOA might be the catalyst that the sleepy agency needs to wake up to its duty of constantly reworking the values that should define Nigerians as a people. And when NOA finally wakes up, there would likely be a clash of interests with NICO and its interfering boss for dabbling into uncertain terrain.
While it’s desirable that whatever values that Nigerians currently uphold have become warped and frighteningly negative, and that something drastic should be done, it’s doubtful if starting from the upper echelon, as Ajiboye has proposed, is the right step. Perhaps, starting from the ground-up might just be the best format since those at the top are perhaps too crooked in their ways to imbibe values other than the wrong ones they already know and are used to. If Ajiboye and his NICO should start with the entire civil service officers in their entry career levels in catch-them-young fashion, he just might record some success. This is also in the understanding that Ajiboye’s quest is genuine and not a chasing after those at the top for some personal and party political gains.
What is of concern in Abijoye’s quest is the possibility of total abandonment of NICO’s core mandate and a chasing after shadows just to please his current employer, Mr. Tinubu. If this were to be the intent, NICO might lose its core character before Ajiboye is done with it. While those in the institute will remain helpless and keep sealed lips during his tenure and cooperate with Ajiboye to save their jobs, it’s the responsibility of civil society to remind Ajiboye of NICO’s mandate and the urgent need not to render the institute out of character while he serves as helmsman!