From Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
As the day passes by, the ongoing celebration of the 25 years of the creation of Anambra State brings more joy to the people of the state.
After the kick off of the celebration last month, activities were lined up for the continued celebration of the creation of the state.
One of such activities was the cultural carnival with tourism ingredients activated to project the image of the state, as well as attract tourists with an aim to pushing up the revenue base of the state.
It was, therefore, a happy moment at the Anambra Central Cultural Carnival held at St. Peter’s Anglican Church Field, Agulu recently, which turned out to be a rich display of the various cultural varieties of the Anambra people.
An ostensibly elated Anambra State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano at the occasion said that his administration was concerned about the well-being of all and, therefore, determined to cushion the hardships facing the physically challenged too.
The governor who spoke through the Secretary to the State Government, Prof Solo Chukwulobelu announced automatic employment for all physically challenged graduates of higher institutions in the state.
Obiano while bemoaning the current hardship facing the country owing to the economic downturn nationwide warned the management of primary schools in the state to desist from collecting any levy from the pupils.
He reiterated the earlier abolition of levies collected from hawkers and other petty traders under his administration, advising anybody approached to pay such levies to resist the demand.
“It is clear that any physically challenged person who is a graduate of a higher institution has paid enough dues to better his lot. Such person has passed through a lot of hardship and, therefore, should not be allowed to continue to suffer,” he said.
Obiano, therefore, announced automatic employment to all physically challenged graduates, saying that “this is not politics because we have also abolished collection of levies in all primary schools in the state.”
Speaking on the significance of the cultural carnival, Governor Obiano stated that the state has rich cultural heritage, adding that the essence of the event was to display the rich cultural heritage of the state to the outside world.
Earlier in his speech, the state Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs, Culture and Tourism, Mrs Stella Onuorah, stated that the state has in abundance rich cultural and tourism sites which the people of the state can showcase to the global community.
The Coordinator of the Anambra at 25 event, Chief Emeka Okonkwo disclosed that the carnival would hold in the three senatorial zones of the state during which the six most outstanding cultural groups from each zone would participate in the grand finale scheduled for December 18, at Awka, the state capital.
Okonkwo said the second phase of the four-month long anniversary celebration programme is fashioned to draw attention to the “rich tourism potentials of Anambra State, especially in this period of economic difficulty which calls for diversification and creativity in the revenue drive of the state”, in line with Obiano’s plan to make Anambra less dependent on monthly federal allocation from Abuja.
He stated that Anambra in the past 25 years has recorded great achievements which has justified the demand for its creation by the people and urged Anambra people to support the governor in his efforts to take the state to greater heights.
Earlier, Okonkwo while addressing the traditional rulers of the 179 communities in the state at the Government House, Awka, said: “Tourism all over the world is a big business. Many countries around the globe derive huge revenue from tourism and Anambra with its diverse tourism endowments should rightly be on the front role of tourism sector in Nigeria if the sector is well developed, essential as government has provided the enabling environment for it to thrive.
“We are grateful to the government of His Excellency, Governor Willie Obiano, for the decisive manner it fought against criminality and insecurity in Anambra State in the past two years. Now with a secured Anambra, we will no longer be afraid to invite our brothers, sisters, friends and other tourism enthusiasts from within and outside the shores of Nigeria to come and have a feel of tourism in Anambra State.”
He added that developing and harnessing the tourism potentials in Anambra would not only earn the state extra revenue, but also stimulate economic activities in the regions that host the numerous tourism sites in the state.
Okonkwo also disclosed that the anniversary celebration was at no cost to the state government as sponsorship cost was borne by private individuals and corporate bodies who are using the opportunity of the historic event to identify with the state.
Anambra, in the recent past was dreaded by visitors because of its notoriety for criminality.
But the Governor Obiano administration has taken on this ugly situation with an iron fist that the state has become one of the safest in the country today.
Speaking on how he turned that ugly trend around, Obiano said: “I figured out that there could be no meaningful progress in this state without a successful attack against crime. I knew that no investor would go to a crime-ridden environment. So, we launched an all-out war against kidnappers, armed robbers, drug dealers and child-traffickers.
“We smashed crime syndicates and pulled down the warehouses used for keeping kidnapped victims. We donated smart cars to the police, gunboats to the Navy and last Christmas we launched police helicopters to watch over our skies.
“And so, for the first time since the creation of this great state, we made sure that Anambra was effectively covered on the land, in the waters and in the sky. With that effort, we achieved 360 degrees security coverage of the state.”
Tourism sites such as Agulu Lake, famed for its sacred crocodile and turtles, Ogbunike Cave, located in Oyi Local Government Area and Ogba Waterfalls in Owerre-Ezukala, will all play host to the zonal cultural fiestas.
This strategy, according to the organizers, is to through this means bring people to these sites in order to enable them to appreciate these gifts of nature that God has blessed Anambra with.
The cultural competition is designed to showcase the best of Anambra cultural dances and indigenous masquerades.
The organisers also revealed that the carnival would become an annual state event like the popular Calabar Carnival; saying however that participants would be encouraged to wear costumes that depict the culture and tradition of Anambra State unlike in the Calabar carnival where Brazil-themed costumes are paraded.
The event showcased variety of masquerades, traditional dance groups, including wrestling, flutists and other performances from the various communities.
Traditional rulers from various communities accompanied by their cabinet members also attended the ceremony.