By Frank Meke
From the opening ceremony to the closing, there were no indications which state could come up more than strong. National Festival of Art and Culture (NAFEST), Nigeria’s unity festival in its 32nd outing in Edo state was colourful and full of excitement.
There were no competitive over drive, it was absolutely captured in the true likeness and expressive candour of the Nigerian cultural offerings. Dances, poetry, cuisines, traditional wrestling, Ayo, fashion, sports, all interpreted and linked to our strength and advantage on royalty and monarchism.
Indeed, the Edo royalty counts with me, brought to fore the richness of Edo history and tradition, its wars, the people and the power of her women inside and outside power. Oba of Benin, Ewuare II certainly is mile ahead in the century old history of great manifestation of superior knowledge on history and birthing of societal development.
So how does it connect and grow the people, how does our political experience relate to this pass and in expressively becoming a benchmark of developmental process, people to people, kingdom to kingdom? If the federal government through NAFEST thought it expedient to drive national integration and development through NCAC, how than have the state governments in Nigeria related with the Arts and Culture community? A culture expert once noted that Nigeria’s home grown solution lies in our culture economy truly transformed into a tourism product, an advantage which Nigeria has greater reach, better endowed and therefore should become a tool of economic advantage and solution driver.
Indeed, and significantly, that was the message, the game changer and strategic rebranding to which Otunba Segun Runsewe brought to bear with NAFEST in the past two years. As the federal government influencer on culture and the Arts, Runsewe knew that our states governors, the local government administrators must be challenged to see this over abundant national offering beyond mere drumming and dances.
That message was not captured on Billboards, not in Port Harcourt, neither in Edo state. It was stamped on the peoples mind, starting with the artistic community, changing their perceptions about culture and its potent power to change fortunes and persons and community. While Oba Ewuare showcased deep connection to this vision through his foundation and Royal academy specially set up to capture the young minds and expose them to the power of tongues and cultural education, same possibly could be said with the now obvious determination of Rivers state government, under Nyesome Wike to free the Rivers state cultural community and the entire spectrum of the people from cultural slavery.
How I do mean? Rivers state so far seems to be ahead in this all important national reawakening to the reality of culture as a critical economy and a transformative tool to re-engage the people to gainful activities and integration.That Rivers state under Governor Wike has won NAFEST overall best performing state back to back possibly calls for a national searchlight to what he has done or doing to push this frontier of socio-economic and historical engagement into national discuss.
The Edo event was indeed a testament that investment could be strategically generated to better the lots of the rural poor and break the strangulating hold of urban unemployment, yet Rivers state under governor Wike has remained the poster boy of this NAFEST narrative. Next year, the event moves to Jos, Plateau, the undisputed home of nature and culture.
In the past five years, Plateau state governor has paid more than a passing interest in reviving tourism in the state.Though burdened by the many challenges of conflicts, aids herders/farmer restiveness,the governor has encouraged investment and investors in this critical area of national development and notably drawing the repackaging of the various festivals across the state, with Nzem Berom powering the effort to restore the lost tourism and hospitality offerings of the state.
And with NAFEST heading to the Plateau, peace will return, integration of the various ethnic groups would witness better understanding and above all, Nigerians from all walks of life would descend on the Plateau, with greater understanding of the language, tradition and cuisines of the people, providing the country an advantage to practically grow its unity, foster national development and integration.
Back to Edo state, next year, also repositions the state on the local and international map and calendar, providing the platform for the people of the state to rebrand its sports infrastructure, power the discovery of new talents and honour icons who once made Edo state the poaching ground for sports brains in swimming, football and athletics.
Oba Ewuare the second: Won’t forget the grace and royal touch he brought to NAFEST Edo 2019. The Oba of Benin deserves our praise, particularly in breaking from tradition to speaking the open and host Nigerians, making all the visitors and delegates to Edo NAFEST to feel greatly loved and welcomed. Jos on our minds. Thank you Edo state.