Weekly Trust

Dance fair takes center stage

It has been a week of colours, dance and cultural displays for residents of Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital and its environs as well as visitors from Nigeria and abroad who converged on the city to witness the 24th edition of the National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST) 2010.
The festival which is a brainchild of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) brought together participants from 23 states of the nation including the Federal capital Territory and a Real Brass Band. Kaduna State came with the largest number of contingents of 450. The parade also featured a group from Canada identified as the Vudu group.
President Goodluck Jonathan, represented by the Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, charged government at all levels including the private sector to explore the potentials inherent in the culture sector for even socio-economic development.
The President, who gave the charge at the opening ceremony of the event, said culture could be used to diversify the economy for sustainable wealth creation.
Listing the gains of the festival since its inception 40 years ago, Jonathan maintained that the NAFEST has largely preserved Nigeria’s unity and described the annual cultural event as a bedrock of wholesome development, adding that it is a wakeup call for stakeholders to pay greater attention to the sector, as it could provide the needed solutions to unemployment and poverty in the country.
The Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Alhaji Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed, said the choice of Akwa Ibom as the host state for this year’s outing was predicated on the historical and cultural antecedents expressed in the flourishing cultural industries in the state.
The NAFEST, according to the Minister, has evolved from its original concept of a tool for fostering national unity into a veritable instrument for economic development, noting that on assumption of office, he saw the need to repackage the culture and tourism sub-sector given its potentials to lead the global economy in future.
On the theme of this year’s edition – Cultural Industries and Economic Empowerment, the minister said emphasis would be on audio visual presentation by the participating states to encourage global marketing of the sector.
In a march past parade, participants thrilled the audience with ethnic dance steps some of which were unknown to most of the spectators but all the same were highly appreciated as a spectator Ibrahim Idris of Katsina State expressed. “It is a real treat for me as this is my first time of being in this part of the country. I am very happy I came because I am having a  first hand opportunity to confirm for myself what they say about women from this place and the hospitality that comes along with the people here. It is also an opportunity for me to see the so-much talked about ojuju Calabar.”
The Executive Secretary of the NCAC, Mr. Malgwi Maidugu said the colloquium, a feature of the festival which brings stakeholders together, is a major component that seeks to provide the needed intellectual frame work for the festival.
According to Maidugu, “We have to bring academics together to provide us with the intellectual direction on the deployment of our cultural assets to meet our immediate socio-political needs such as unemployment amongst others.”
He informed that the NAFEST, since its beginning after the Nigerian civil war, has continued to serve as a unity forum, bringing all the states and FCT together, while also showcasing the material cultural wealth of Nigeria.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Culture and Tourism, Senator Dahiru Gassol, said the forum “provides culture stakeholders the platform to discuss important matters that will move the sector forward.”  He, however, urged the private and public players in the sector “to work together to find ways of using the nation’s rich cultural heritage and our industries to create millions of jobs for our people.”
On the theme of this year’s outing, the Chairman noted that organizers of the festival have decided to confront the problem of unemployment among our youths and adults alike.”
The event which officially opened last Tuesday featured various competitive and non-competitive events which included cultural exhibition, food fair, children’s programme, traditional dance and music, traditional wrestling amongst others. It comes to an end today.

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