Nigeria’s festival for Arts and Culture ended in Port Harcourt, Rivers state over the weekend with a telling message that our cultural endowment and diversity is more entrenched than our politics. In fact, the colourful parade and showcasing of our dances, cuisines and drummings were damning verdicts against hate speeches and political tendencies that had threatened our unity as a nation and people.
For eight days, men, women and children from all nooks and crannies of Nigeria, twenty eight states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), massed out in majestic splendor, glorious in affinity, danced and mesmerized fellow Nigerians, on a most peaceful atmosphere expected of a national experience and candour.
Sitting or moving around, I was touched and moved to tears, proud to be a Nigerian again, blessed God and our founding fathers who in their wisdom gave the Nigerian state a chance to grow and foster greater development through culture. Nyesom Wike, Rivers state governor was a perfect host and had most strategically mobilized the Rivers people and nation to brace one of the most profound and unforgettable cultural festival outing in Nigeria.
My encounter with this people’s governor is a story for another day, a three hours encounter that will blow the minds out of many misplaced and poor judgment of his character and intentions. Today on this outing, our culture, our heritage and festivals counts. Our culture is begging for expression and understanding. NAFEST is a gospel with deep glorious catchment for our people; a moving mobilizer of a nation deeply divided by those who were not and does not really understand its foundation.
For President Buhari and his government, NAFEST possibly stands as a true manifestation of his intent to grow Nigeria as the power base of development for the people beyond the mundane. It is a score card of this government on culture as a bridge factor to enthrone national peace and love for each other.
NAFEST is a testament that Buhari can be trusted to hold Nigeria together, to shame the satanic prophets of praying for a divided Nigeria not excluding bitter exponents of intolerance and mockers of the future of Nigerians yet unborn.
True and significant, NAFEST is a cultural message and enduring gain that had watered down our political difference, making us Nigerians once again. Both at the opening and closing ceremony of this great reawakening of our national aspirations, the parades, the joyful songs and dances of our people vibrated and truly convinced me that Nigeria is a great nation.
As a young boy in 1977, I witnessed Festac, saw the South Africans and the massive expressions of their culture, dances, customs and songs. It was a message and outing that opened South Africa to world, built their formidable tourism sector, changed global perception of the black man not just South Africans and opened a floodgate of tourism dollar and economy to then struggling nation.
At NAFEST, greater culture than South Africa’s Festac 77 outing was on showcase. President Buhari and this government must creatively and openly endorse our new rebirth through culture. It’s is a global currency that had opened doors of social and economic development for other climes. Culture is also an enduring key to global diplomacy and socio-political and economic negotiation. It is a people’s identity and help foster unity and understanding. The gain of NAFEST is unbelievably huge but begs for expression and interpretation that will truly change our nation.
As a developmental journalist, I wish to see NAFEST become the very change instrument to encourage the desire of our people and leaders to join hands to grow Nigeria. At the cuisine stand at NAFEST,
I saw a Nigerian nation with food culture that could feed the world. Indeed, NAFEST celebrating our tubers, yam and cassava, prepared in different ways diverse ethnic nationalities and eaten at breakfast, lunch and dinner showcased the most magnificent agricultural export products, waiting to be discovered.
The indigenous fabrics, tales by moonlight Boat Regatta, grand traditional wrestling competition, skill acquisition for thousands of youths in Rivers state, children crafts/essay competition and a stopper feast for NAFEST children by her excellency, Hon. Justice Eberechi Nyesom Wike, were all integrate NAFEST 2018 narrative with cheerful prospects for a greater Nigeria tomorrow.