Two stories were linked to Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture in the last few weeks.
The first one raises a lot of hope for the Arts and Culture Industry as the Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, reportedly promised that Nigeria will partner with the Art of Living Foundation to host the World Culture Festival 2022.
The Minister said this at an event to commemorate the 2022 International Day of Happiness at the Happiness Centre in Lagos.
He said the World Culture Festival 2022 will mark the 40th anniversary of the Art of Living Foundation, which is a volunteer-based, humanitarian and educational non-governmental organization.
“The date and venue of the event will be announced later”, Alhaji Mohammed said, adding that the last edition of World Cultural Festival was held in India in 2016 and attracted 3.5 million people.
The Minister observed that the Art of Living Happiness Centre, which is a kind of contribution to the well-being of Nigerians, offers several stress-elimination and self-development programmes based on breathing techniques, meditation and Yoga.
“I found this very impressive, because it reminds me of the popular saying, ‘A sound mind in a sound body’, which explains the interconnection between physical exercise, mental equilibrium and the ability to enjoy life,” he said.
Alhaji Mohammed, who welcomed the establishment of the Happiness Centre especially in a mega city like Lagos, where residents seem to be in a perpetual state of activity, said the alternative health and holistic wellness place offers a range of services which Lagosians in particular and Nigerians in general can take advantage of in order to ensure optimal living.
“I commend and congratulate the proprietors of this centre. Their decision to establish the centre is an affirmation of their willingness to contribute to ensuring the overall well-being of Nigerians through a holistic approach to health that brings harmony to body, mind and soul” he said.
The Minister expressed delight that ninety percent of the patrons of the Happiness Centre are Nigerians seeking to harness the power of alternate medicine, herbal remedies, yoga, breath-work and meditation to achieve physical, emotional and mental balance for individuals.
In his remarks, the Managing Director of the Happiness Centre, Askay Kumar Jain, said the Art of Living Foundation, which was founded in 1981 by Gurudev Ravi Shankar, has centers in more than 156 countries, touching more than 450 million people.
He said the Centre has taken the mission to bring smiles to people’s faces and build bridges across cultures.
As against the first, however, the second story linked to the minister raises a lot of mixed feelings, particularly in view of the silence over it from official quarters in the last few days.
The story, published by an On-Line news outfit, alleged that the: “Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has been ‘accused’ by staff of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) of securing presidential approval for radio licences for 30 unprocessed and not vetted companies.”
According to the story: “The staff, who described themselves as Concerned NBC Staff, allegedly made the allegation in a petition dated 19 March and addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari.”
“The licences were awarded without the knowledge and input of the NBC, which they described as unprecedented in the commission’s history”, the petition allegedly said.
“Broadcasting in Nigeria is in grave danger and national security has been breached, because no company is expected to be issued a licence ‘before’ passing through the processing by the regulatory agency, the NBC; and only after such a company has been thoroughly vetted by security authorities in Nigeria.
“In the case of the 30 new companies that the Minister of Information has just secured approval for, they are companies owned by friends, political associates, and cronies of Alhaji Lai Muhammed. They are being offered radio licences as political and personal freebies without the normal procedures of the NBC being followed; without the knowledge of the NBC, the regulatory body normally charged with the responsibility,” the petition allegedly read.
“We urge President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the relevant security agencies to wade into these controversial activities of the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Muhammed,” the petition allegedly said.
There is the temptation not to be taken by this petition, if such exists. For instance, most staff of the NBC kept sealed lips, but the allegations are too weighty to be swept under the carpet. So, for now, Nigerians are waiting if such a dangerous dimension has actually being introduced to the issuance of broadcast licence. Definitely, the public deserves some explanations!