The promotion of national cohesion and development through cultural festivals became a topical issue during the recently concluded Borgu International Gani-Durbar Festival, held in New Bussa Local Government Area of Niger.
The carnival exhibited a rare display of horse riding and boat peddling by wards in the Borgu kingdom and contingents from other parts of the country as well as Benin and Niger Republics.
The varying skills displayed by the horse riders and their horses kept the spectators on the edge of their seats throughout the event.
The event was partly organised to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the people’s relocation from Old Bussa to New Bussa in 1968 to pave the way for the construction of the second hydro-electric power generation plant at Kainji Dam.
Stakeholders and participants at the event underscored the importance of using the enormous cultural potential of the people to promote peace and economic development of the country.
They argued that the various challenges confronting the nation would be surmounted if the government and the citizens made pragmatic efforts to promote peace and harmony through cultural activities.
The festival, which is the second edition since its inception in 2009, attracted participants from within and outside the country.
The Emir of Borgu, Alhaji Haliru Dantoro, the chief host, said that the Borgu International Festival was initiated to foster a sense of togetherness among the various ethnic groups in the country.
The traditional ruler, whose entry into the arena was heralded with gunshots by local hunters, said that the “festival is to celebrate Nigerian’s cultural treasures, while sustaining and deepening the country’s unity, peace and stability.
“We need to nurture our culture as a means of projecting the nation’s cultural values to the world.
“The festival also serves as a potent device to combat extreme poverty, eradicate ideological extremism and entrench peace and harmony across the land,’’ he said.
Also speaking, Vice President Namadi Sambo said that cultural festivals would always boost tourism, while promoting personal interactions.
Sambo said that being a grassroots person and lover of African culture and traditions, he was happy to be associated with the festival.
His words: “I will always grab every opportunity to participate in festivals of this nature. What we are witnessing here today is a fraction of Nigeria’s abundant cultural potential.
“To our visitors or tourists who have come from far and near, what we are witnessing form part of what makes us distinct and unique as a people.
“It is, therefore, important to encourage all the ethnic groups in our country to preserve their culture and nurture it to the delight and admiration of the international community.’’
Sambo underscored the Federal Government’s commitment to transforming the culture and tourism sector of the economy, so as to boost Nigeria’s economy and promote peace in the country.
“The administration will do all that is required in partnering with necessary stakeholders to develop and improve our cultural activities to make them more attractive to the rest of the world.
“President Goodluck Jonathan will give adequate support to all stakeholders in efforts to achieve a safer, peaceful and secure Nigeria,’’ he added.
In his comments, the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar El-Kanemi, said that cultural festivities typically promoted national cohesion, consensus building and peaceful mutual coexistence.
El-Kanemi, nonetheless, called for more institutional support for cultural festivals in the country.
On his part, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, said that cultural festivals often brought together different ethnic groups, adding that such events could also be used to preach peace and unity in the country.
The monarch urged traditional institutions in the country to continue to use cultural festivals as a means of promoting peace and harmony among the citizens.
“If a leader decides to do what is right, there will be peace; violence never pays,’’ he said, adding: There is nowhere in the world where violence brings peace; only dialogue brings peace.
“We must, therefore, endeavour to live together, no matter our ethnic differences,” the sultan said.
In his remark, former Gov. Bola Tinubu of Lagos State said that cultural festivals could be used to promote unity and understanding among the various peoples of the country.
Tinubu, who rode on a royal horse during the festival, expressed optimism that such fiestas would help steer youths away from social vices and criminal activities.
He described the festival as timely, saying that it would enable the youths to tap the potential of the culture and tourism sector.
“Occasions like this provide opportunities for us to come together, rub minds on issues of common interest to our people,’’ he added.
Tinubu pledged to establish an integrated fish farm in the town to boost the economy of the neighbourhood.
Also speaking, Gov. Babaginda Aliyu of Niger stressed that cultural festivals were critical to the nation’s economic development, unity, peace and cohesion.
The governor pledged that his administration would maximise the benefits of cultural activities to stimulate the economic growth of the state and the nation at large.
“I believe that organising cultural festivals will help unite the country,’’ he said.
All in all, analysts suggest that tangible efforts should be made to promote and cement the country’s unity via cultural fiestas.
Edomwonyi writes from News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)