For the eleventh year running, the people in Ibeju Lekki, Lagos gathered to celebrate the Eko Onibaje New Yam festival 2019, in honour of yam, the king of crops. Over time and consistent with that date in Sep- tember annually, the festival organised by Castledown Arts Centre, a Lagos-based art promoting outfit, has become a rallying point not only to mark the new yam festival but a time to showcase the cultural offering of the various tribes and people living together in Ibeju Lekki and its en- virons. The major tribes come with cultural troupes to entertain the audience and display their rich background to make the day colourful and merrier. Now enlarged and repackaged by the organisers, Eko Onibaje new yam festival has continued to foster friendship, peace, love and harmony in that area and beyond, thus ensuring relative peace among the inhabitants. Ozo Chinedu Idezuna, organizer and CEO Castletown Arts Centre, said while reviewing this year’s edition that contrary to the general belief that the event is only dedicated to yam feast, it is indeed a rallying point for harmonious living among the people. Idezuna said so far, the significant effect of the festival is in strengthening peaceful coexistence between all national ethnic groups using yam as a tool for peace promotion, and development in Lagos State. In his speech, Idezuna declared that from inception, eleven years ago, the festival has grown steadily into a must-attend event in the locality by the indigenes, friends and their family members. He said although participants come from all over Lagos and as far as Osun State and Akwa Ibom, not many people know the history of the festival and its purpose. Idezuna, who is a well-known cultural activist said the festival is all about proving that culture can unite Nigerians. He said the festival which started like a mustard seed has grown to become a big cultural feast in Lekki. ‘‘For years, there were cries for the Federal Government and the tourism private sector to look inwards into the non-oil sector of the economy and encourage its growth and development. The calls were seen as a way out of over dependence on oil as the main- stay of Nigeria’s economy. This is why we beamed our searchlight into other areas especially tourism and culture believing that Lekki has a great tourism revenue potential,’’ Idezuna said. He explained that this objective spurred the establishment of the Eko Oni Baje new yam and beach festival with the aim of promoting tourism and culture. According to him, the beautiful and serene Ibeju Lekki area of Lagos became the take-off point of the festival which has since proved successful. He said the festival has united Nigerians with culture and tourism as a pivot, using yam as the plank to build bridges for enduring cultural interaction and harmony.
“It was an initial idea of just an atmosphere to share yam as entrenched in Igbo culture which later metamorphosed into a gathering of several cultures such as the Igbo,Yoruba, Hausa and other ethnic groups.’’Idezuna said the festival now in its eleventh edition is packaged as a way of creating cultural and tourism awareness of Lagos state. Many dignitaries graced this year’s event, including Eze Ndigbo Ibeju Lekki, and Eze Lawrence Nnamdi, Eze Ndigbo, Alimosho among others.