Sometimes, it is very frustrating discussing Nigerian tourism. As a tourism journalist, the day to day human dislocations and lack of deep thinking for the general good of our people becomes a huge burden.
I recall a very fruitful but very sad encounter with one of my journalism mentors, Mr. Anene Ugoani, of Daily Times fame who told me that he would have been better off selling crayfish and garri than being a reporter whose works was never appreciated.
Mr. Anene was one of the best political correspondents that ever hugged the pages of the iconic Daily Times he made more than a mark as a journalist and mentor of young minds interested in bringing about change to our nation through their reports.
Though the Anene’s “crayfish and Garri” option sometimes resurfaces out of frustration, the telling and seeming inability of our leaders to use what God has given freely to us to change our social and economic narratives beats my mind. Sometimes, I wonder at this crass display of ignorance and excuses which also fuels deep anger and irritations to social, economic and political policies that never endured.
Herein lies my worry and fear on the famous and iconic Eyo Adimu Orisha festival. The economics and social gains of this “restricted” festival can be so enduring whichever way you look at it. Eyo festival apart from its surrealistic majesty, provides one of the greatest platforms to keep our young ones out of trouble, change their worsening dislike for our culture, provide lifetime opportunity for culture and tourism jobs and help drive a policy trust on culture export.
For many centuries and till date, Eyo festival has remained original in concert and planning but has failed to put food on the table of the people of Lagos nay Nigeria. Eyo festival is a cultural cash cow waiting to be unbundled and possibly become the face of a proudly Nigerian “International” carnival much more prosperous than Rio carnival.
The “traditional” restrictions on Eyo Festival is very benumbing and I had asked why this “sanctions” cannot be lifted by the Oba of Lagos and his chief to help advance the dreams of Governor Ambode on Lagos as Africa’s preferred tourism destination?
Everything about Eyo festivals are so discussed in “hush hush” tongues with no one willing to even discuss its huge benefits to the people of Lagos. Festivals are for the living and not the dead, so one wonders at the fear of traditions that has made Eyo festival a prisoner in a world where the ways of life of generations and civilizations are put on showcase to drive the emergence of tourism economy and also flag “superior” history on the existence of man.
Last year at a retreat of Lagos tourism officials held in Lekki, Victoria Island, a strong position for a yearly celebration of Eyo festival as face of Ambode’s tourism initiative was strongly canvassed.
In fact, I had insisted that the communiqué of the retreat captures the need to alert Lagos traditional rulers and custodians of culture to unbundle Eyo festival which ordinary comes into public display only at the “remembrance” of dead prominent indigene(s) and as the case maybe, at a celebration a major milestone in the history of Lagos such as the ongoing Eko at 50 celebrations.
I recalled that most participants agreed that a regular Eyo festival will not only transform the face of Lagos but also have the potentials to drive and improve the tourism traffic to Lagos. Interestingly, to agree on who will take the message to the Oba of and his Chiefs became a huge task.
Indeed at this juncture, one feels that Ambode must leverage on his good relationship with the custodians of culture and the Adimu Orisha to unshackle this iconic and majestic cultural touchlight so that our people may praise God for this gift of knowledge.
The Eyo festival we canvass must not be soaked in the blood of animals and must avoid rituals. Its iconic Eyo staff (Apambata?), the angelic display and white costume can be so managed to generate tourism dollars in a special costume market, movies and films on Eyo narratives and cultural rebirth of its celebration made there from to a world waiting for creativity and originality.
Even though the old restrictions limits Eyo festival to the Lagos Island, the impact of its free hold celebration and guided outreach to other parts of Lagos cannot not be over emphasized. Indeed, our type of Eyo festival shall not be political and must enthrone peace which was its traditional signature mark.
The real vital and life link of an unbundled Eyo festival are the creation of tourism jobs in sculpture, paintings, dance groups, artifacts and basket unveiling of outdoor food vendors that may mass along the festival route and city map.
Eyo festival indeed, can give Lagos a new IGR (Internal Generated Revenue) from special festival roads or route maps with stopover locations for the best of gastronomy of Lagos nay Nigerians.
Time has come for Eyo festival to hit global attention and to keep Adimu Orisha in secret places is no longer fanciful and acceptable.
Governor Ambode must raise the Eyo staff for the world to see and brand the costumes, the cap, as fashion goldmine for creative Nigerians. The Eyo festival must be celebrated for the living.