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Sanwo-Olu, Runsewe at Eko NAFEST, urge Nigerians to see culture as means to unite

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor and Gbenga Salau
10 November 2022   |   5:14 am
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has urged Nigerians not to see the differences in their language and culture as a dividing factor, but as the greatest resources to be embraced, celebrated and used to the country’s collective advantage.

Director-General, National Council for Arts and Culture, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe (left); Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, during the opening ceremony of the 2022 National Festival of Arts and Culture (EKO NAFEST), tagged “Cultural and Peaceful Co-existence,” in Lagos… yesterday.

Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has urged Nigerians not to see the differences in their language and culture as a dividing factor, but as the greatest resources to be embraced, celebrated and used to the country’s collective advantage.

Sanwo-Olu, who stated this, yesterday, at the opening of 35th National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST), which held at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena, formerly Onikan Stadium, Lagos, said: “As we all know, this is the campaign season, as our nation’s general elections have been scheduled to hold within the first quarter of next year. As political office holders continue to engage the electorate at this period, it is important to re-echo the message of unity and peaceful co-existence, which NAFEST platform provides. Rather than seeing the differences in our language and culture as a dividing factor, I implore us to see it as one of our greatest resources to be embraced, celebrated and used to our collective advantage.

“As we celebrate the Nigerian heritage and cultural diversity here today, my clarion call is that we take this as an opportunity to elect leaders who will recognise and take advantage of our rich, multi-cultural heritage and language to unify us as a people and as a nation.”

The governor said that the decision to host this year’s edition was borne out of the desire to further support and showcase the country’s arts, crafts, entertainment, nightlife, people, disposition, and the aquatic splendor of the state.

Also speaking, Director-General, National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Otunba Segun Runsewe, said this year’s NAFEST is designed as a lubricator of renewed synergy by the Council and Lagos State government to reunite Nigerians for greater tomorrow.

He noted that the media had been talking about the need for Nigerians to remain united for the good of all, but unfortunately, no one seems to heed the advice.

“For a long time, we have been discussing what divides us as a people, but the Nigerian media have been stressing the need for us to unite and celebrate what binds us together, but we are not listening. Interestingly, we do not have another country other than Nigeria.

So, this year’s NAFEST is to open up a new synergy to unite Nigeria. We must not allow other people to tell our stories for us,” the DG stressed.

Tagged ‘Eko NAFEST 2022’ with the theme ‘Culture And Peaceful Coexistence’, the culture fiesta, which started on Monday with a command performance titled, Osusu. Over 27 states of the federation are participating in the culture fiesta.

They are expected to showcase their rich arts and culture in various competitions, such as ayo, archery, traditional cuisine, essay writing and so much more.

First held in 1970 after the Nigerian Civil War, where culture and sports were identified as major unifying factors for a country healing from the throes of war. This decision birthed the establishment of the National Arts for Festival (which later morphed into the National Festival for Arts and Culture) and the National Sports Festival.

Lagos State government hosted the very first edition of NAFEST, in 1970 and subsequently in 1988. This administration, as part of efforts to achieve our Entertainment and Tourism pillar of the THEMES Agenda is deliberate about promoting every aspect of tourism, Arts and Culture. The State is therefore, delighted to have won the hosting rights of NAFEST 2022 which was keenly contested by three other states.