Every individual strives to leave a legacy where ever they have been. In the case of Otunba Oluwasegun Runsewe, he has worked in three different agencies with the primary duty of shaping the identity of the nation. In his new position, he has the chance of showcasing the unspoken style and culture of Nigerians to the whole world and he is not leaving any stone unturned.
Kindly introduce yourself?
My name is Otunba Oluwasegun Runsewe. I am the director general of National Council for Arts and culture (NCAC) and also the president of World Craft Council, African Region.
Where are you from?
I was born in Kaduna State, to the family of Pa Bankole Runsewe from Ogun State.
How would you describe your fashion and style?
For me, it has been culture all the way having moved from the National Orientation Agency to NTDC and now NCAC. I’m of the opinion that the beauty of a Nigerian comes out from what he or she wears. I don’t see any reason why I should wear a suit, our weather doesn’t even permit that. You find somebody who is not even in an air-conditioned office who is obviously very hot and the person is in a suit. The white man that made suit wears it because of his weather.
I don’t just wear clothes, my colour combination speaks volumes because I love style. I love dancing too, and if you challenge me to a dance, I’ll make you pay dearly for it. I add style to all I do.
When it comes to clothes I ask why I should take the little resources in Nigeria elsewhere. I play gulf and I don’t play gulf with foreign clothes, I do that with Nigerian fabrics (ankara or adire) and I proudly wear them as a Nigerian who believes that our money must stop being spent outside. I preach buy made in Nigeria so I should be the one sampling made in Nigeria products. Believe it or not, so many gulf courses have been calling me across the country and asking how they can get the ankara outfit I wear when I play.
We need to encourage our local producers and products. I believe in my style and I tenaciously stay by it. I do not want to hear ‘‘how they do it in America,’’ no! I believe in my brand, my style and that is my identity
When did you start wearing made in Nigeria clothes?
Few years ago, I condemned men who wear ear rings and plait their hair and there was a serious attack on me. Even the BBC sent correspondents from London to come to Abuja to question my stand on that, it was a serious issue. I was in the Orientation Agency at the time. My response to the reporter was in the form of a question. I asked why he was disturbed about what I said when I didn’t attack an English man. I had to explain to him that I was attacking Nigerians who copy western culture.
I believe in the Nigerian originality, it’s an in-built thing. You have to make some mistakes to develop a standard brand. Recently, I launched two products, which is Culture of Time and Culture of Protocol (CTCP). For a very long time, the white man will say its African time or Nigerian time, excuse me, that’s an insult. Why will you as a journalist go for an event that was scheduled to start by 12noon and because they are expecting an individual the programme starts by 4:00pm? It happens a lot. If you know that that special guest is more important that the 200 guest waiting why don’t’ you just wait for just the important guest. Abroad you do not rent a hall for a whole day, you rent per hour. Culture of time is important for activities and events, so also is culture of protocol. People use more time recognising special guests at events, why is that? What is ladies and gentlemen meant for? Who is not a lady and who is not a gentleman? Ladies and gentlemen will capture everybody. Travel anywhere else in the world and you find that ladies and gentle suffices.
Would you say Nigerian artists still have and exhibit originality?
That is what I am championing. For the first time in the history of this industry, I got some money from the bank of industry, not for fake artists but to support originality in our artists.
Tell us about your programme in NCAC
Every human being on earth that is proud of his/her existence has a culture; that is a fundamental fact that you can’t take away from anybody. If you don’t have a culture, then you are not fit to live. Culture is the basis of uniting us together as a people.
Last year’s African Arts and Crafts (AFAC) was tremendous and you are taking it to international level this year. What should we expect?
I met AFAC when I assumed office and decided to fly with it. I chose to capitalise on the strength and also re-adjust where adjustment was needed. This is what metamorphosed to the international level that we are taking it this year, a level higher from the African level it used to be. I realised that so many countries that have embassies in Nigeria don’t really have a platform to showcase their strength, cultural beliefs and what unites us in the world. So we introduce International Arts and Crafts (INAC) Expo.
This morning, an ambassador called in and said this was the best news he has heard in recent time. So far, we have about 15 embassies who are ready to key into INAC. We make them understand that there is a difference between a trade fare and an expo, which most people do not know. At a trade fare, you want to trade, sell and buy. But an expo is for networking and creating a window for a follow-up. We can’t keep doing the wrong thing and still continue to lead with it.
We have decided to have this expo in an air conditioned hall with in built facilities; from restaurants to a media centre, and so on. For the media, you don’t have to come with anything. All you need is to just transmit from our centre because we will have live streaming of our programme on our website. We will also operate a data base where journalists will just pick from and develop their stories. We intend to make a difference. It is going to be just exactly what you see when you travel abroad.
What can you tell us about NAFEST?
I applaud the executive governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, for accepting to, not only host NAFEST this year, but also for having one of the best cultural edifice in African history, the main hall where we shall celebrate NAFEST. The governor has also instituted a powerful team with commissioners and all, to work together to change NAFEST from what we used to know it be, to one that will unite the nation.
At this year’s celebration we shall have skill acquisition, waste to wealth management, free medical services; all so that we can impact on the people. We will also be launching a few products like NCAC garri, NCAC yam flour (elubo). All these is our own way of creating jobs for the grassroots.
What is your agency doing to see that arts is discovered early and nurtured in young school children?
We have been collaborating with schools and we are coming out with new products to support this course. We go from school to school to educate pupils on our culture because we believe that if you don’t give what you have, you leave room for people to pick what they see. Imagine the trending dance they call shaku, shaku… and also the one-corner from Ghana. Don’t you think it’s scary and should scare school children? We want to go to schools and teach children our cultural dance instead.
We are also taking cooking to schools and considering making school uniforms from NCAC. You hear some schools saying we bought these uniforms form Germany and you must buy it, why can’t we make uniforms from adire? Does going to school in a suit help you make straight As? Certainly not!
Where do you get sponsorship from with all these programmes?
A lot of us are pretenders when we say there is no money. If there is no money, leave the job for another person to do and go back home. The little you have, have you used it judiciously? It’s a matter of management skills and leadership style. Manage the little you have and when there is more, do better. That has been my strategy, the money is not enough but I assure you, I am utilizing it.
I must however commend the committee on culture in the House of Representatives and the Senate. They have been tremendously helpful. They made a statement during our budget defense “Otunba has performed.” If I had not done well, the chairman of the house committee on Culture and Tourism, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, will not be insisting that they find ways to help me to do more. The chairman of the same committee in the Senate, Chief Fatima Raji Rasaki, will not ask for ways to help me do more either. It’s important that the little you have, you use to do your best, and then, more will come.
What is the secret to your ever young, stylish look?
It has been the grace of God upon me. When there is the grace of God on you, the anointing springs like fire, and that grace can only come from the Almighty God. I have also learnt to leave the things of yesterday in yesterday and focus on the future because if you don’t, the problem of the past will make you age faster.
Then I build people with capacity so that we can build institutions not individuals.
How do you unwind?
I unwind when the time permits. But when I do that, I do it with all seriousness as if I’m at work. I play gulf, I play tennis and I love dancing. Life is about what you can enjoy.
What is your best choice when we talk of food?
When you get to a certain age in life, you relax about somethings. You don’t expect a man my age to eat pounded yam two minutes before going to bed. Recently I changed my eating pattern. So if you give me fresh or dried fish with a lot of vegetables and plantain, the day is done for me. All three are medicinal. For me, no too much meat anymore.
What genre of music do you listen to?
Again, as you get older, you realise you like lyrics that are a bit philosophical like those from Ebenezar Obey, Sunny Ade, Victor Olaiya and all. The days of no woman no cry, Bob Marley amongst others. I dance to all of them but I dance in a decent way that will not subject me to immorality.
Where would you say is your best tourist location in Nigeria?
As a man who sells locations to the world, every location in Nigeria is great. I have a book I developed called 37 Wonders of Nigeria. I got one wonder from each state plus Abuja. My job is to make sure every location in Nigeria is the best. Nigeria is unique and every state has a unique location that can sell Nigeria and boost her GDP.
Tell us about your Family
Nigerian youths should get married in good time and have children in good time too, if God permits. It will not be good for a 70-year-old man to be doing school runs and also be looking for school fees when he is supposed to be enjoying retirement. I am married to one wife and I have a daughter and two sons. I am a unique Nigerian, I am married to one wife, I have one daughter, I have one sister and of course, one mother.
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