Culture: A Medium of Social Cohesion and Integration

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In spite of ethnic divide similarities of cultural values have remained a strong bond of unity

|  By Chinwe Okafor  |  Jan. 6, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

EVERY nation has a set of values and norms that govern the behaviour of its people. Similarly, every society has a system of social control or mechanism of ensuring that its people behave in consonance with its normative values in order to ensure social cohesion and integration. This is a way of keeping them together as one indivisible entity, with a common identity and destiny. The issue of national unity has become topical as Nigeria celebrates its 100 years of existence.

There is no gainsaying that the greatest challenge facing the country is the threat to its national unity. The reason is not hard to explain because Nigeria is a multi-ethnic nation with diverse cultures and traditions. But in spite of the seeming challenges of the cultural diversity of Nigeria, there have been many institutions promoting values which have continued to keep the nation united. Such institutions include the National Theatre in Iganmu Lagos state, the annual cultural festivals, state carnivals, unity schools, new yam festivals, National Youth Service Corps, NYSC and inter marriages.

Others are cultural sites and monuments, drama, music, education, sports festivals, trade, language, music, film industries, foods and modes of dressing. These values have been used over the years to unite Nigerian citizens culturally over the past 100 years. Language as a component of culture is a means of communication, a central feature of the culture of any community and a reflection of the thoughts, feelings, values, beliefs and the experiences of a community. As a system of communication in speech and writing, the effective study and use of the language of a people is needed for their all-round development, be it social, cultural or economic.

The Oguta Lake
The Oguta Lake

Many Nigerians have also realised the importance of promoting unity in the country through their way of dressing. This helps to rekindle interest and pride in the indigenous dress patterns in order to encourage unity among the different ethnic groups through integrated dress culture. It also encourages socio-economic growth of local textile industries to create jobs for Nigerian youths and to promote patriotism among Nigerians. The various attires, like agbada, babariga, jumper, shokoto, adire, etibo, woko, opu shirti, akwete, and so on, reflect the various cultural backgrounds of Nigerians.

Nigerian foods also play a role in uniting the different ethnic groups in the country. There are various Nigerian fast food companies which prepare Nigerian cuisines. Such cultural dishes or food items from the hundreds of ethnic groups are part of the rich cultural heritage of the country. Nigerian indigenous cuisines are natural, with all their nutritional values intact; original and direct from their various sources, unlike most Western foods, which are canned, therefore, containing a lot of preservatives, which could have harmful effects on body systems. Nigeria is reputed to have a wide variety of cuisines, which are not only appealing to the citizenry but a delight to foreigners.

The Nigerian film industry, popularly called, Nollywood, has projected the image of the country to Africans and, indeed, the whole world. The Yoruba and Hausa tribes have produced several films showcasing their different cultures, languages and traditions from the covering genres like rituals, ghetto life, love and romance, crime/gangster, gender, Christian, comedy, political, as well as thrillers, horror and adventure. The Igbos are also stepping up that as a way of promoting unity in the country. With such enlightening films, the industry has created many cultural ambassadors for Nigeria.

Cultural sites and monuments have also contributed to the nation’s unity. There are the rainforests, mountains, deserts, beaches, mangrove forests and enormous rivers in different parts of Nigeria which are viable tourist sites that are attractive to Nigerians and foreigners alike. For instance, in the South-West region, there are the popular Ikogosi Warm Spring Resort, the Arinta Waterfalls, Olosunta Hills, Oke Maria at Oka-Akoko, the Ife Museum, the Osun Oshogbo shrine, Olumirin water-falls at Erin Ijesha and the Adunni Susan Wenger’s Art Works Centres, the Agodi Gardens, Ado-Awaye Suspended Lake, Mapo Hall, University of lbadan Zoological Garden, Ido Cenotaph, the National Theatre, National Museum, the site of the fallen Agia tree, Badagry, where Christianity was first preached in Nigeria in 1842, the Bar Beach, Tarkwa Bay, Badagry Beach among others.

The South-East zone tourist centres include the National War Museum in Umuahia, the Azumini Blue River, and the Long Juju of Arochukwu, the Ndibe Beach at Afikpo, Uburu Salt Lake, the Ishiagu Pottery works, the Oguta Lake Holiday Resort with its sand beach and 18-hole golf course, the colonial building with its attractive scenery and the rolling hills of Okigwe while the South South region has the the Mobil Tank Farm, the Oron Museum, numerous beaches, the Oloibiri oil well, boat, the Obudu Cattle Ranch, the Agbokin Waterfalls in Ikom, the Etanpim Cave in Odukpani, Mary Slessor’s Tomb and Tinapa Resort in Calabar among others. Tourist attractions in Edo State include the Oba’s Palace in Benin, the Benin Moat, Emotan statue, Okomu Wildlife Sanctuary, and Somorika Hills in Akoko-Edo.

The Northern region comprising of the North East, North Central and North West has the Kyarimi Park in Maiduguri, Sambissa Game Reserve and Jaffi falls, the Sukur World Heritage Site, the Mambilla Tourist Centre which is part of the mountain chains of Adamawa, Obudu, Shebshi, Alantika and Mandara, the Barup waterfall, the Yankari Game Reserve, Owu Falls at Owa Kajola, the Jos Wildlife Safari park, the Zoological Garden, the Nok Cultural Site at Kuwi, the Maitsirga Water falls in Kafanchan, the Legendary Lord Lugard bridge in Kaduna, the Kerfena Hills in Zaria and the Palace of the Emir of Zaria. Kano has the Ancient walls, the colourful annual Durbar, leather works and craft among others.

However, there are also many festivals among different cultural groups in Nigeria, some of which date back to the period before the arrival of the major religions. Festivals are usually very meaningful events in the lives of the people and such festivals include the 2nd World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture also known as FESTAC ’77, National Festival for Arts and Culture, NAFEST, Durbar Festivals, Argungu Festival, Sharo/Shadi Festival, Osun Oshogbo Festival, The Eyo Festival, the Abuja carnival, Calabar carnival.

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