NAFEST: The Rivers Example

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The 2018 National Festival for Arts and Culture christened ‘NAFEST Rivers 2018’ may have come and gone but the import of the cultural fiesta will, no doubt, remain with the people and residents of the state for a long time.
Flagging off the event at the Sharks Football Stadium in Port Harcourt on October 21, 2018, Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, had stressed the power of unity in diversity and the place of Nigeria’s diverse arts and culture as veritable instruments for achieving peace and sustainable national cohesion. According to him, “Although our tribes and tongues may differ, we are a nation bound by a common destiny and firmly glued together by the spirit of brotherhood, cultural harmony and inter-ethnic solidarity instead of tribalism, nepotism and sectionalism. What is imperative, therefore, is for us to take full advantage of our innate strength in our diversity, together with our incredible human and natural resource endowments to build a just, united and prosperous country for the present and future generations.”
The governor’s speech was quite apt in view of the wanton killings, kidnappings, inter-tribal conflicts, religious intolerance and secessionist agitations across the country. Even as he spoke, some states were still observing dusk-to-dawn curfews following sustained daily killings, religious protests and cattle rustling activities.
Organised by the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) and hosted by the Rivers State Government, the 31st NAFEST particularly reminded Nigerians of the inevitable need to harness the nation’s rich endowments, especially in arts and culture, as a means of diversifying her crude oil and gas dependent economy.
Couched on the theme, “Nigeria: Our Festivals, Our Heritage,” the weeklong festivity truly showcased the rich cultural heritage of over 25 federating states in Nigeria. But beyond NAFEST’s competitive dances and colourful parades, the Port Harcourt outing sought to create a strategic learning curve on poverty alleviation and the establishment of a new crop of entrepreneurs and artisans through skills acquisition designed to tap into the economic benefits of Nigeria’s multifaceted arts, culture, crafts and fashion.
Besides this entrepreneurship training, the event also featured free medical services, exhibition of local fabrics, wrestling, culture market, folklores, traditional cuisines, drama, dancing competitions, boat regatta and command performances, among others.
In a world that is increasingly becoming more dynamic, innovative and competitive, it becomes expedient that any responsible and responsive government should explore and diversify, leveraging on local and inherent natural and human resources for sustainable development.
The Tide, therefore, commends the vision of the organisers and financiers of NAFEST Rivers 2018, particularly the Rivers State Government, for deeming it necessary to float this unique event in a country that solely relies on petroleum and gas as her economic mainstay. We strongly believe that the Federal Government will leverage on the gains of the festival to broaden the frontiers of the nation’s cultural tourism.
We are, indeed, gladdened by the fact that Nigeria is richly endowed and with the right machinery put in place, would most likely overtake countries such as Brazil, Israel, Kenya and South Africa that have maximised their tourism potentials. And who is better positioned to drive this process than Otunba Olusegun Runsewe whose yeoman performance as Director General of Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) is already being re-enacted in his new role as the Director General of NCAC.
Going by what was accomplished at NAFEST Rivers 2018, we make bold to commend the latest unity festival as the template for an unfolding revolution in cultural tourism. We also commend Governor Wike, his Executive Council, the event’s organising committee and private sector players for their exemplary show of hospitality, patriotism and partnership, affirming that the fiesta has further evidenced the state as peaceful and safe for investors and their investments. As the overall champions and, judging by the public enthusiasm displayed while the event lasted, the government and people of Rivers State now have the capacity to redirect the nation’s cultural tourism traffic to the state and, by extension, the South-South geopolitical zone of Nigeria.
The Tide equally urges politicians, especially those who hail from Rivers State and whose stock-in-trade is de-marketing their state, to stop forthwith as the state has continued to demonstrate her capacity to host several national and international events, including conventions, conferences, sports competitions and trade fairs without any incidents. A word, they say, is enough for the wise.