In all my years of travelling around the globe to attend different cultural events, I have come to the conclusion that there is no other country in the world that can rival Nigeria in festivals with our diversity that shows itself in our music and songs, poetry, dance drama, drums that can talk, fashion, marriage and funeral ceremonies even with our over 300 languages that you don’t have to understand the language to appreciate. Be it the marriage ceremony that I attended in Maduguri or the funeral rights that I attended in Kano with the passing of the late Emir of Kano Alhaji Ado Bayero or the funeral right performed by the kingdom of Benin when an Oba passes on his way to journey his ancestors. By the way, in most African countries, Kings and Queen do not die; they travel to join their ancestors. How long it takes them to get there, I may not be able to tell until I get there myself.
As I recall festivals that I have attended, I taken back to a recent one that happened in Abeokuta some months ago. The festival of drums as it was called attracted a number of drums and drummers from across the whole African continent. It was a sight to behold and there were even participants from Europe and the Americas. Most of the activities and colloquium were packaged by our own Nobel laureate – Professor Wole Soyinka and sponsored by the Ogun state government. These are some of the things that can unite the nation; it may also become part of our Education. It will help me slow down those things that divide us especially if we can make some of the festivals a national event
Now, let’s look at those very few things that have divided us over the years; politics and power, sharing resources control, religion and credible census. Most of the results from our elections are now decided in the courts and not by INEC. It is now a case of the winner reaping the dividend of democracy while the loser results to destabilizing the country by encouraging insurgency or boko haram. The law enforcement agencies and the judiciary have become convoluted to suit the rich, corrupt and powerful. In an article written by Wole Soyinka, the convener of the citizen forum, he said and I quote, ‘Trivialise corruption, neutralize justice, then the absence of justice in a society makes the citizen result to self-help.’ I can then deduce from this that there are very few things that have divided us over the years, with the right leadership as was contained in my last week article, “What is happening to my country Nigeria.”
The Rio Carnival in Brazil is a four day event that started centuries ago, everything stops for the celebration; the poor and the very rich must come out to celebrate and dance. This opens the city and its resident to a lot of commercial opportunities, in fact there’s a joke that even the so called unemployed in Rio makes enough during the carnival to last him or her most of the year. The president of the country must also come out to dance. The festival is no longer a Brazilian event; it has become a global event.
In an article I wrote some weeks back that was titled – Let the festivals begin – I talked about my favourite season which is when I start to harvest my yams. It is also when we prepare for the annual yam festival. I had even noted my belief that the Americans must have copied our harvest festivals with their thanksgiving celebration. The latter is a national holiday now viewed as a period to eat with friends and family and share things they are grateful for but what many don’t know is that thanksgiving which is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in America originated as a harvest festival.
Just like our harvest festivals, it is a period of reflection and renewal with nature; and the wonders of creation. It is about the seed that has given us so much joy and food over a short period of time. In accordance with tradition, regardless of yield or harvest – big or small; good and not so good; you must pray to the almighty so that the coming year’s yield will be better and be thankful that this year’s yield wasn’t worse than it is. At this time of the year, people look better and healthier during the festive period. We have Kings and Queens in my part of the world that are not able to dance in public but are able to dance during the harvest festive period.
At this point, I will like to say that this year, I once again participated in the festivities and danced with my king; the Obi of Issele-Uku during the climax of our Issele-Uku Cultural Festival on the 14th of September. In accordance with our culture, this period will enable us commune with the gods and sacred deities of our kingdom dovetailing into a season of purity where a fast will be observed and members of the community will abstain from any excesses that can render their celebration unacceptable. We have very few of these festivals left and this is unfortunate especially as this was a country where different tribes and cultures had their different harvest festivals that attracted people from all over the work to attend. It was a unifying moment for the nation.
I strongly believe that once again, our festivals can bring us together and maybe, eventually, fix us.
Feedback from one of our readers on last week’s article – “What Is Happening To My Country, Nigeria?”:
George Umeh wrote to us and amongst the things he said, he believed that “The problem with Nigeria is an economic one. There is no economy. The manufacturing base is too little for a country of 200 million. It is only Lagos we have, what used to be sufficient up to the 1960s.Nigeria still imports 90-95% of what we use (CBN).We pay for these with an equivalent 90-95% of our total income. We will thus remain poor.” George is quite right that Nigeria needs to improve on its industries and I have certainly written about that in many of my articles but like I have also pointed out, we once had these sectors: textile, paper mill, refineries and more but now they are no more. I fear that if we don’t fix our leadership problem, sustainable development would be far-fetched.