Colours of Nwonyo
The celebration had a lot of theatrical performances with cultural troupes from the town providing the needed spectacle. There was horse procession (Durbar), swimming, canoeing and boat cruise. The Izon community in Ibie also put up a brilliant performance in honour of Dame Patience Jonathan, wife of the Acting President.
After a few hours of fish hunting in the river, Mr. Bulus Joshua came tops with a catch weighing 318 kilogrammes; Dan Asabe Adata, was second with 297kg; and Jamila Baba, third with 195 kilogrammes. The winning catch last year was 230 kilogrammes. Joshua’s catch is now regarded as one of the biggest in the history of the fishing festival.
Mrs. Jonathan, presented Kia car to Joshua for coming tops. Other winners were also presented different gift items.
MTN Nigeria, the major sponsor of the festival gave out various gift items including refrigerators and machines won through raffle draw.
NTDC’s boost for the festival
THE presence of Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) also added colours to the celebration. The Director General, Segun Runsewe, dressed in T- shirt and fez cap that had the insignia of a fish in the festival’s colour, accompanied by some of his staff, were visibly present at the event.
As a tradition of the corporation, different gift items were donated to the people among, which were mechanised mobile toilets placed at different sections of the venue.
Others included radios, sewing machines, bicycles, grinding machines, football as well as tennis kits. There were also branded T- shirts and fez caps.
Runsewe said NTDC would continue to contribute its quota to the development of the festival and the community, stating that tourism is an economic tool for the empowerment of the people and society. He stressed that the corporation is committed to the wellbeing of the community, using the festival as a platform.
Big economic boost for the people
INTERESTINGLY, the sleepy town of Wukari, which is less than 20 minutes drive from Ibie, venue of the festival, came alive during the days preceding the festival. It actually served as a base for most of the people that came to the fishing festival.
The various communities around the town witnessed increase in economic activities. Food vendors were on parade while the few leisure spots in town were taken over by fun seekers. Hotel rooms were in short supply, especially on Thursday night with the 37 hotels in Wukari all fully booked. Many people were forced to move to the adjoining towns such as Zaki Biam for accommodation while few others spent the night at restaurants and hotel lobbies.
NWONYO Fishing Festival, as observed by many visitors, has the potential of growing into a big event capable of drawing people from various countries to the community. This is true from what was observed in Wukari and its environs days before the event.
The entire community came aglow with the influx of visitors and small business booming everywhere, giving nightlife a boost.
However, the entire celebration was marred by poor organisation. The whole affair was almost turned into a campaign ground by politicians, who saw it as another opportunity to canvass for votes.
The people were isolated from the performance, as they were kept at bay by the barricade erected almost 50 metres from the bank of the lake, thereby barring them from interacting with the dramatis personae.
Security operatives heightened this, by keeping the people out of the scene while those seated at designated platform were far from the lakeside and could hardly see what was happening except for the cultural performances.
The policemen, as usual, were happy beating and keeping the people behind the fence with many of the people and even journalists denied access to the venue of the celebration.
Obviously, the organisers showed lack of understanding of what it takes to organise a tourism event. They were more concerned with the state functionaries in attendance than the people, who are the soul of the festival.
TOURISM is about the people, once you isolate them from interacting with the event or destination, as it was the case with the festival, then there is a disconnect. If the festival is to attract the desired market then politics must be kept out of it.
Other activities should be built into the content to sustain the interest of tourists, especially the fishing, which appears to lack depth, suspense and the dramatic effects that should go it.
Efforts must also be made to build enough facilities, especially hotels and other facilities that support tourism. The existing hotels in Wukari and its environs are grossly inadequate and poorly run with no regard for standard.
Taraba State Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the tourism board must admit that they lack the capacity and ability to host such event and therefore, seek assistance of event managers and marketers to help in organisation and management, so that the event would not continue to suffer patronage.
The festival, though poorly organised, brought some of the political bigwigs in the state together besides Mrs. Jonathan, who was the special guest of honour; were wife of the Inspector General of Police, Mrs. Onovo; wife of the Senate Majority Leader, Mrs. Folarin; and two state governors, Aliyu Babangida of Niger State and Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State.
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