Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin
Benin City and some of its notable streets adorned with historical statues that were once abandoned by successive governments are now wearing a new look and getting needed attention from the state government as preparations for the National Festival for Arts and Culture (NAFEST) gather momentum in the state.
The event is taking place in October this year.
Some of the statues that have been given a facelift are the statues of Gen. Murtala Muhammed and other historical personalities who were sons and daughters of the soil that have contributed in one way or the other to the survival of the Benin empire.
The Gen. Murtala Muhammed statue encompassed by heads of horses by the 3rd Junction in the state. Capital, has for quite some time, been in a very sorry state but at the moment, it is now a cynosure to behold. Same with the statue at Akpakpava by the Central Bank of Nigeria’s building. It was gathered that the pedestal holding the statue was destroyed by a vehicle that lost control.
The facelift given to the various statues within and outside the city centre, have added more aesthetics to the state, especially the Ring Road also known as the Oba Ovoramwen Square because hardly can pedestrians and motorists pass by without taking a closer look at the statues while some others wondered who they (statues) represent.
Expressing satisfaction over the development, a cab operator, Mr. Emmanuel Uba, said the decision by the state government to give a facelift to the statues in the state was a welcome idea stressing that it has added more beauty to the state.
“It is okay, mainly looking at it, I think it is better off than as it was before. At least repainting them, the broken ones, trying to fix them up. At least, it has added beauty to the city centre”, he said.
Uba said the government should not bother to erect more new statues but should ensure that the already existing ones are maintained.
“The structure we have before are okay and if they want to add to them, there should be no need for that. Already, we have museum here and if people are interested in seeing any artworks, they can visit the museum.
“The major issue is maintenance just as they have done now. They should try and keep the city centre clean”, he said.
For Hon. Fred Ozemhonjie, the government is on the right track for repainting the various monuments, especially when the state is about organizing its festival.
Fred said the various statues given a facelift have not only given the state a befitting outlook, but also reaffirmed the culture of the people.
“It is a good thing. If you are doing festival or thing of this nature, it brings a lot of benefits to the masses.
“First and foremost, it makes the place beautiful. You can see it for yourself, the whole place is looking very beautiful and also look at it, it is also promoting our culture, that is the Benin culture per se. It is a good thing”, he said.
Ozemhonjie said the monuments can be a tourist site that can generate revenue for the state.
“By the time you see the whole place looking beautiful like this, it can attract a lot of tourists. And this can enhance the state’s internally generated revenue”, he said.
He said the government should also look for a way to protect the various statues just as it is done in other parts of the globe so that they can serve their purpose and avoid being destroyed by moving vehicles that lost their control.
“Like people say, I have not been abroad but they said monument of these nature, there are ways they protect them. And even the way they will mount the fence around them, that is even a tourist site to behold at the first instance but here in the state, they do not protect them.
“More worrisome, if not for the festival that is coming that makes all the structures to wear new look, people usually dump their refuse around some of the monuments.
“Mad men go there and they even take it as their home but I wished they protect them in a way that people will know or put a speed break or a catching inscription for them to read and this in one way or the other to make them to slow down and avoid crashing into the monuments”, he said.
He further said that for the government to encourage youth to learn the works of arts, it should create an institution for them to learn it so that by the time the old ones are gone, there will be those who will take over from them, noting that as it stands at the moment, there is fear if there is anyone who will take over from them.
“The government should create a centre where people can go and learn artworks. If you go to Igun, that is where they use sand to create something that is very beautiful but one thing is that there are no young ones to take over from the older ones when they are no more but how I wish the government can create an institution so that people can go there to learn it, it would have been better”, he said.
Also speaking, Mr. Osmond Agbatoh, canvaassed that the Ministry of Arts, Culture and Tourism should ensure that monuments are well protected from vandals and that anyone who destroys any of them should be made to re-erect it no matter highly placed such individaul might be.
“In other countries, you will discover that all the monuments are all being protected. They fenced them round and maintained them.
“They even hire people to be taking care of them. But when you talk of maintenance of government property, the Ministry of Arts, Culture and Tourism needs to also appoint people to monitor and protect these monuments.
“Government should always learn to build on what they meet on ground instead of jettisoning them.
“Moreso, some times, people just destroy these statues and go away which is not right.
“Those things in other climes, when you destroy them, you replace them because it cost much to build them so they must be protected.
“These monuments make the city to be beautiful so they must be protected”, he stressed.
On his part, Secretary General, Art Galleries and Promoters Association, (AGPA) Mr. Chidi E. Ubamadu, said the forthcoming event is an opportunity for the people of the state to showcase their rich cultural heritage.
He said the state is known for bronze casting and all other artworks, adding that the association is poised to partner the government in ensuring that the set goals are achieved.
Recall that Governor Godwin Obaseki in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, said the state is set to boost its inbound tourism figures with the planned host of the NAFEST.
He noted, “Tourism is one of the priority sectors currently receiving the attention of the Obaseki-led administration. We have huge tourism assets that the state government is committed to developing and NAFEST will offer us the opportunity to parade these assets to investors and tourists.