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When art, culture community gathered in Port Harcourt for NAFEST 2018

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The National Calabash used to declare NAFEST 2018 open by his excellency Chief Nyesom Wike, Governor, Rivers State<br />

When Director General of National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, presented the hosting certificate of the 2018 National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST) to the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, many were not sure that the culture mission made the right decision to pick the state for the feast considering the ‘perceived’ insecurity in Rivers.

But Rivers State proved everybody wrong. From October 21 to 27, the state hosted what could be described as one of the best shows in NAFEST’s 48 years history.

Wike had said Rivers State would do everything possible to ensure that it was the best ever organised fiesta.

He said Rivers State would change the country’s cultural landscape through a showcase of the best of its rich culture.

According to him, the state has taken a right step to encourage, reactivate and support the people’s love for culture, which unifies and promotes coexistence among the diverse people in the state.

In matching words with action, the governor inaugurated Executive Committee to organise the NAFEST 2018. While inaugurating the committee, Wike advised that the 2018 event to be held in Port Harcourt should be of world class to showcase the cultural beauty of the country.

In readiness for the festival, Rivers State had commissioned an ultra modern cultural centre in Port Harcourt, The Cardinal Jim Rex Lawson Cultural Centre.

The contract for the centre was re-awarded in January and the governor made money available and ensured that the contract was completed in record time of less than 120 days.

Also, Mrs. Tonye Briggs Oniyide, the state Commissioner of Culture and Tourism, said that Rivers had fully prepared to host what she called the very best NAFEST since its inception.

Wike, who flagged off the festival on October 22, 2018, amid pomp and pageantry, noted that NAFEST provided a platform for the states to make the most of the nation’s culture, adding that culture empowers humanity by improving inter-personal relationships.

The colourful display at the opening was an indication of what to expect in the seven-day event. The states participating in the event displayed splendid cultures and dances, while the 23 local government areas of Rivers also displayed their rich culture and tradition. Some youths spiced up the event with breath-taking calisthenics displays that thrilled spectators.

With Nigeria: Our Festivals, Our Heritage as theme, at the opening, which held at the Sharks Stadium, Port Harcourt attracted over 22 states of the federation including Rivers.

And as Wike noted, the country’s diversity is what defines and binds its people. “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 discord, tribalism, nepotism and sectionalism.

“What is imperative, therefore, is for us to take full advantage of the 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.”

Wike also restated that the essence of the festival was to promote national peace, unity and cohesion. “Over the years, NAFEST has become the veritable platform for the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory to meet, showcase and make the most of our cultures and diversity.’’

He said that in addition to celebrating Nigeria’s rich cultural tapestry, NAFEST also provided the opportunity for cultural activism. According to him, the festival provides creative images and expressions to engage our leaders on the politics of nation building, human rights, regional integration, inter-ethnic harmony, national peace and development.

Wike said that NAFEST is not just a competition, but also a platform to promote the culture of the country.

He said: “I see NAFEST not as a competition, but a showcase of our diversity and cultural heritage.

“Let us use culture to unite this country. The entire country is here and we are celebrating in unity. Apart from sports, culture is the uniting factor in Nigeria”.

He described Rivers State as the economic nerve centre of the country, which is the most peaceful state for investment and hosting of events.

Wike maintained that the successful hosting of NAFEST by Rivers state is a testament to the fact that the state is peaceful and the people are culture friendly just as he promised to support the NCAC in her mandate to continue to unite Nigerians via culture.

Runsewe responded by thanking the governor and the good people of Rivers for the massive support, saying he was impressed at the high level of peace and security in the state as against the falsehood propagated in some quarters that Rivers state is unsafe.

Wike and Runsewe both agreed that culture remains Nigeria’s biggest asset in enthroning sustainable peace and unity among all Nigerians irrespective of ethnic, religious or political divides.

Speaking during a reception for children participants at the National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST 2018) at the Government House Port Harcourt, wife of the Rivers State Governor, Justice Eberechi Suzzette Nyesom-Wike, called on Nigerians from different ethnic backgrounds to bring their best to the Nigerian table to foster growth.

The First Lady said that such diverse contributions would quicken national development.

She said: “All of us should look after each other and also look out for each other. “We should bring to the Nigerian table, our best to develop Nigeria.”

She stated that the diversity of Nigeria should serve as a source of strength and national development.

The Rivers State governor’s wife noted that the nation would be uninteresting and boring if everyone was the same. Her words: “It would be very boring and uninteresting if everyone is the same. We should find strength in our differences.”

Children participants from Benue, Ondo and Rivers State displayed cultural dances to the admiration of guests. The winner of the Children’s Essay Writing competition of NAFEST 2018 made a special presentation at the reception.

The 2018 edition featured several events such as, free skill acquisition, indigenous games, traditional cuisines, children’s essay-writing competition, traditional wrestling, cultural market, free medical services, command performances featuring breathtaking music and dance among others.

Rivers State emerging as the overall best state of the festival. Bayelsa State placed second, Ondo State took third place, while Federal Capital Territory emerged fourth place and overall fifth place went to Delta State.


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