A People for a Century: Partnership Forever
Chief Edem Duke
Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture & National Orientation
Being a Paper Delivered on the Occasion of Nigeria Culture Week 2013
in Nanjing, China from 14-18 October 2013
Every nation has a set of values and norms that govern the behaviour of its people. Every society has a system of social control or mechanism of ensuring that its people behave in consonance with the normative values, to ensure social cohesion and integration. It is a way of keeping them together as one, indivisible entity, with a common identity and destiny. This paper examines Nigerian culture, peoples and value systems, which the people have tenaciously held unto for the past 100 years. The conclusion is that in spite of the seeming challenges of the cultural diversity of Nigeria, it remains a united country.
In the first place, a nation may refer to community of people who share a common language, culture, ethnicity, descent, or history. However, it can also refer to people who share common territories and governments, irrespective of their ethnic composition. A nation is much more impersonal, abstract, and overtly political than an ethnic group. It is a cultural coherence and unity, with particular interests. It is on record that in the 18th Century, due to the influence of the African Diaspora and its people in other states brought an alteration to what constitutes a nation, by narrowly defining nations as groups with recognizable and sovereign governments with physical borders, which are more of nation states. One could deduce that what constitutes a nation is a mass of people banded together with a similar culture, working together for their common protection, their common advancement and shared vision of what a successful future should be.
Understanding the Nigerian Nation
Nigeria, as a nation, is a geo-political entity in the West African sub-region. It is common knowledge that the Nigerian nation was “mid-wifed” by Lord Frederick Lugard, the Governor-General of the nation then. His spouse, Flora Shaw, is credited to have coined the name, Nigeria, on the amalgamation of the then Northern and Southern Protectorates on 1st January, 1914. The implication is that the country will be 100 years old by January 1914, which informs President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan Administration’s decision to celebrate the Centenary.
One of Africa’s most populous countries, with an estimated population of about 160 million, Nigeria, “the Giant of Africa,” covering a landmass of about 923,733 sq km, occupies a vantage position at the eastern part of the west coast of Africa. It is bordered in the North by the Sahara, the South by the Gulf of Guinea, which is the Atlantic Ocean, Cameroon to the East and Benin Republic to the West. Between 1914, when it assumed its present name and became a geo-political entity, and 1960, Nigeria was under British Colonial rule. Since gaining independence on 1st October, 1960, and the present day, the country has seen as many as fifteen leaders as follows:
1) Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe – President (1st Oct. 1960 – 15th Jan. 1966)
2) Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa – Prime Minister (1st Oct. 1960 – 15th Jan. 1966)
3) Maj-Gen. J.T.U. Aguiyi-Ironsi – Head of State (15th Jan. – 29th July, 1966)
4) Gen. Yakubu Gowon – Head of State (29th July, 1966 – 27th July, 1975)
5) Gen. Murtala Muhammed – Head of State (27th July, 1975 – 13th Feb. 1976)
6) Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo – Head of State (13th Feb. 1976 – 1st Oct. 1979)
7) Alhaji Shehu Aliyu Shagari – President (1st Oct. 1979 – 31st Dec. 1983)
8) Maj-Gen. Muhammed Buhari – Head of State (31st Dec. 1984 – 27th Aug. 1985)
9) Gen. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida – Military President (27th Aug. 1985 – 27th Aug. 1993)
10) Chief Ernest Shonekan – Head of State, Interim National Government (27th Aug. 1993 – 17th Nov. 1993)
11) Gen. Sani Abacha – Head of State (17th Nov. 1993 – 8th June, 1998)
12) Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar – Head of State (8th June, 1998 – 29th May, 1999)
13) Chief Olusegun Obasanjo – President (29th May, 1999 – 29th May, 2007)
14) Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua – President (29th May, 2007 – 5th May, 2010)
15) Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan – President (6th May, 2010 – to date)
One thing is clear from the above scenario – Nigeria has experienced serious political challenges since independence. The implication is that this has adversely affected the economy despite the huge revenue from the petroleum sector. Since oil was discovered in commercial quantity in Oloibiri in 1956, in the present Bayelsa State, the country has depended on oil and gas revenue as the mainstay of the economy. Unfortunately, the over-dependence on oil revenue has been to the detriment of the agricultural sector, which had been the major revenue earner before Independence. With the ethnic, religious, cultural, social, economic and political realities in Nigeria, the policy environment for the culture sector had, until recently, not been conducive. Investors had not been forthcoming because of the fear that their investments may not be safe.
Nigerian Peoples and Culture
Nigeria is made up of over 250 ethnic groups with each having different beliefs, history, descent, geography and culture. There are, however, certain cultural traits that unify the various ethnic groups that make up Nigeria. Also, every ethnic group is identified with peculiar characteristics of its people such as the beliefs and values that invariably form their common identity. The values are the beliefs, standards, and principles about what is right or wrong and the extent to which they are respected.
By culture, I am referring to a way of life of a given people that includes any piece of pattern of behaviour, the attitude, norms, values, objects, skills, belief system, and world outlook which human beings learn and adopt as members of a living human group or society. But for the purpose of this paper, I will adopt Edward B. Tylor’s anthropological and sociological definition of culture as, “that complex whole which includes knowledge, beliefs, art, morals, laws, customs and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man in as a member of society.” This definition sees culture to be all embracing of all social human lives, which can be learned and acquired, not determined by genetic, biological or instinctual factors.
Features of Nigeria’s cultural diversity can be identified. Firstly, each ethnic group can be identified to occupy a distinct geographical part of the country: the Yoruba in the South-West part; the Ibos in the South-East, the Hausas/Fulani in the Northern part; and several minority ethnic groups occupying the Middle Belt and Delta regions. Secondly, the respective ethnic groups employ their specific cultural traits and practices as distinguishing features from other ethnic groups. Thirdly, despite their cultural specifics and claims to exclusivities, each ethnic group is an integral part of the larger Nigerian society. Fourthly, each ethnic group acts as an interest group that aggregates and advances the interests of its members, a tendency that has been given greater emphasis under our nascent democracy. Lastly, despite the cultural differences that exist among the respective ethnic groups, there is also the inescapable fact that members of various ethno-cultural groups live and own property outside their cultural areas.
For the purpose of this lecture, I will briefly examine Nigerian indigenous languages, dress culture, food culture, music culture, film industry, cultural sites and monuments, carnivals and festivals, and a few core values, to see the fascinating and diverse nature of Nigeria and how this diversity is our strength.
Nigerian Indigenous Languages
Language, as a component of culture, is a means of communication. It is the central feature of the culture of any community and a reflection of the thoughts, feelings, values, beliefs and the experiences of a community of speakers. As a system of communication in speech and writing, the effective study and use of the language of a people is needed for their all-round development, be it social, cultural or economic. The truth is that many Nigerian indigenous languages are facing extinction largely because they are hardly spoken in the family. As a multi-lingual country with over 250 ethnic groups and about 521 indigenous languages, nine of Nigeria’s languages, namely, Ajawa, Basa-gumna, Holma, Auyokawa, Gamo-Ningi, Kpati, Mawa, Kubi and Teshenawa, have become extinct (Ayakoroma, “Reviving” 6). The country is aspiring to be counted among the most developed 20 economies in the world by the Year 2020; and one of the fundamentals is the preservation, promotion and propagation of our culture; and there is no better way to do this than harnessing our indigenous languages as a major component of human culture.
Somehow, 53 years after independence, Nigeria still recognises English as the lingua franca. The implication here is that there is no greater bond that can hold a people together as language. Adzer in Banjo also opines that, language is not only a vehicle, through which a people’s culture can be expressed, but also a medium of one’s thoughts, imaginations, creativity, aspirations, desires and emotions and, indeed, the entire human needs and capacity. Adzer concludes that “when a language dies, the people who speak it also die” (1).
The National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), as the statutory body of Government established to re-orientate Nigerians towards a culture-related life-style, is piloting and encouraging the learning of our indigenous languages as one of its major orientation programmes. It long vacation Nigerian Indigenous Language Programme (NILP) has been conceptualised as one of the practical ways of encouraging the learning of the mother tongue in many families, even Nigerians in Diaspora. This programme is in tandem with the campaign for the effective use of indigenous Nigerian languages to promote a sense of the Nigerian identity in our homes and country for improved interactions, national integration, and development. Furthermore, the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC), another parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, has done a lot to develop orthographies of four major languages in Nigeria, namely, Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo and Ijaw. The idea is to ensure that there is commonality in the spoken and written forms of all the documented languages, and reduce the variants.
Nigerian Dress Culture
Let us be reminded that culture can be divided into material and non-material culture. Material culture consists of all objects physical traits, instruments, and tools, which are made and used by a people in various aspects of their community life. These include cutlasses, hoes, brooms, pots, pipes, masks, clothes. Whereas, non-material refers to the non-physical phenomena, processes and ideas which are abstract and non-visible, but are part of the peoples’ ways of life.
I am happy to observe that many Nigerians here are appearing in resplendent Nigerian national dresses. This is really how to appear, Proudly Nigerian, as exemplified in the dress sense of President Goodluck Jonathan. This is to rekindle interest and pride in our indigenous dress patterns; to encourage unity among the different ethnic groups through integrated dress culture; to encourage socio-economic growth of our local textile industries to create jobs for Nigerian youths; and to promote patriotism in Nigerians. The various attires, like agbada, babariga, jumper, shokoto, adire, etibo, woko, opu shirti, akwete, and so on, reflect the various cultural backgrounds.
However, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, in line with the Transformation Agenda of the administration, approved a heart-warming N70billion (about $450million) lifeline for the textile industry to revitalise it. Furthermore, the Federal Government has declared every Friday as “Dress Nigerian Days,” while National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), a parastatal in my ministry that is promoting Nigerian dress culture, observes Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays as, “Dress Nigerian Days,” for staffers, apart from sensitization programmes to promote dress culture as a tool for national identity.
It is interesting to note that Nigerian fashion designers have shown their dexterity and ingenuity and have come out with various designs with local fabrics. Frank Oshodi (“House of Bunor” handled former Miss World, Agbani Darego in 2001), Mudi, Dakova, Lisa Folawiyo (“Jewels by Lisa” makes the best beaded and jewelled Ankara), Okimai Atafo (“Mai clothing line” hottest at City Peoples’ Award 2012), Folake Folarin Coker (“Tiffany Amber”), Deola Sagoe (has Opprah Winfrey and Will Smith as her fans and is an Mnet/Anglo Gold African Design Awards winner), Zizi Cardow, Lanre da Silva Ajayi, and Momo Couture, among others.
Nigerian Food Culture
Nigerian cuisines, which consist of cultural dishes or food items from the hundreds of ethnic groups, are part of the rich cultural heritage of the country. Nigerian indigenous cuisines are natural, with all their nutritional values intact; original and direct from their various sources, unlike most Western foods, which are canned, therefore, contain a lot of preservatives, which could have harmful effects on our body systems. As the most populous Black country in the African continent and home to different cultural and ethnic groups, Nigeria is reputed to have a wide variety of cuisines, which are not only appealing to the citizenry but a delight to foreigners. It could be argued that many Nigerian fast food companies, like Biobak, Chicken Republic, Happy Bite, Jevinic, Mama Calabar, Mama Cass, Pepperoni, Shagalinku, Tantaliser, Tasties, and many others, have upstaged the operations of foreign ones like Mr. Biggs, McDonalds and KFC, among others, purely because of the perspective: the Nigerian dimension or identity. These companies added African dishes to their menu and have become the toasts of Nigerians. Unfortunately, they are yet to effectively export their services to foreign countries, thus using food as a medium of Nigerian cultural diplomacy. This underpins the position of Ayakoroma that:
We as Nigerians are particularly passionate about our foods and therefore very patriotic as far as food culture is concerned because food culture plays a great role in our tradition to the extent that we have special festivals like the one we are celebrating here today; the Igbo people’s iri-iji, otherwise known as the new yam festival. However, we can do better, by using our indigenous foods as a medium of cultural diplomacy, just as the Asians are doing with the Chinese Restaurant, our restaurants should blossom to the level where other nationals take pride in our foods and go out to look for Nigerian restaurants for our indigenous cuisines (Nicodemus 1).
It is hoped that Nigerians in the Diaspora, as cultural ambassadors, will in no distant time, follow the example of the Chinese, the Japanese, and the Indians, in promoting Nigerian cuisines in various countries, through the establishment of truly Nigerian brands. This scenario is captured by Shettima, thus:
Food is an important cultural export. Recognizing the importance of its national cuisine, Thailand has used restaurants overseas as a means of promoting its culture and tourism. In 2003, the government launched ‘Global Thai,’ a plan to boost the number of Thai restaurants around the world in a bid to drive tourism and promote awareness about Thailand. The popularity of the first McDonald’s restaurant in the former USSR in the late 1980s sent a potent message of popular rejection of the Soviet model. In the same way, Nigerians in Diaspora should think how to promote specifically Nigerian cuisines on a global stage. There is no reason why we cannot package and promote our pounded yam, suya, kilishi, and the rest of our indigenous cultural foods, as truly global delicacies (108).
Nigerians eat meat mostly in sauces or as tsire (stick meat) or suya (roasted meat), a meat kebab coated with groundnuts, peanuts and chili pepper and other local spices, prepared barbecue style on a stick. This is one of the most famous Nigerian delicacies and can be found all over the country. Also, fura da nono (yogurt and fresh milk produced by Fulani pastoralists), is a major food in parts of the North. Furthermore, in Northern Nigeria, people like kunu (corn, sorghum or millet juice) and zobo or isapa (a drink made from roselle juice or juice made from indigenous vegetable plants); while in the Eastern and Southern parts of the country, people enjoy natural juices like emu fun-fun or mmanya ngwo (palm wine), which is sometimes distilled into traditionally brewed liquor, called, ogogoro, kaikai, kinkana, or apeteshi, sometimes taken with alligator pepper, garden egg, kola, or bitter kola.
Nigerian cuisines, include, indigenous salads like abacha (popularly known as, African Salad), which is common with the Ibos and mostly used for big occasions. It is prepared with dried shredded cassava, ugba (fermented oil bean seed), garden eggs, akaun (potash), palm oil, dried fish and cooked cow skin (ponmo). The country’s food culture also include snacks and sweets like kuli-kuli (groundnuts cakes), kpekere (plantain chips), kokoro (fried dry snack made from corn or garri), dundun (roasted or deep fried slices of yam in palm or vegetables oil), kpokpo-garri or farina (dried fried fermented cassava snack), common among the South-South people of the country.
Nigerian Music Culture
Music has a universal language. From the colonial era, Nigerian indigenous music had played a prominent role in the socio-cultural existence of the people. Thus, from the music of Dan Maraya Jos, Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson, Inyang Henshaw, IK Dairo, Victor Uwaifo, Ebenezer Obey, Sunny Ade, Osita Osadebey, Sonny Oti, Sony Okosun, and Bongos Ikwe, among others in the 1950s up to the 1970s, the music industry in the 1980s and 1990s saw the emergence of musicians like Oriental Brothers, Kris Okotie, Christy Essien, Onyeka Onwenu and Charly Boy, to mention a few.
The 21st century has brought in its wake digital developments in the music industry, where the ownership of a full complement of a band, with instrumentalists, has become a non-issue. It is a situation where a musician goes to a show with his music CD and mimes/apes it on stage. Incidentally, modern day popular/hip-hop artists are producing chart-busting music albums, thus, taking a privileged position in the world music scene. Artistes like P-Square, D’Banj, Tuface Idibia, Banky W, Wiz Kid, Flavour, Jodee, Kefee, Iyanya, Paul Play Dairo, and Eedris, are just some of the notable music artists that have become Nigeria’s cultural ambassadors.
The Nigerian Film Industry
The Nigerian film industry, popularly called, Nollywood, has projected the image of Nigeria to Africans, Blacks in the Diaspora and, indeed, the whole world. It has been aptly described as, “one of the brightest spots,” in Nigeria’s economy (McCall 1). The industry has produced films covering genres like rituals, ghetto life, love and romance, crime/gangster, gender, Christian, comedy, political, as well as thrillers, horror and adventure. It is not an overstatement to posit that the industry has created many cultural ambassadors for Nigeria, comparable only to footballers. Little wonder then that it has now grown to be rated the second largest in the World, after India’s Bollywood. Nollywood has provided jobs, and is still providing jobs for hundreds of thousands of Nigerians, and has produced stars that have become cultural icons for the country. It is gratifying to note that Government has provided an initial N3billion (about $20million) to escalate the industry, through training and capacity building. The film medium has also gradually become an invaluable source of historical documentation. Apart from the documentary film genre, filmmakers have directed their energies towards using historical events as subject matters for feature film productions.
Nigeria Cultural Sites and Monuments
Nigeria is unique, not only due to its rich cultural traditions dating back to the ancient times, but also due to its diverse geography. An overview of the heritage of Nigeria gives a clear and concise idea of its rich natural bio-diversity and fascinating historical past. The country has rainforests, mountains, deserts, beaches, mangrove forests and enormous rivers. In numerous locations people have managed to reach a certain harmony with the environment and most Nigerian attractions have both natural and cultural values. For example, Lagos Island contains some of the country's most eye-catching landmarks, such as Tafawa Balewa Square, while close to Abuja is the majestic backdrop provided by Aso Rock.
There is no arguing the fact that Nigeria is a very fascinating country. This informed the conceptualisation of “Fascinating Nigeria,” the new tourism brand identity, which the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation under my leadership launched recently. A guided tour of some states in the country will reveal the following, among others.
• South-West: In this zone, there are the popular Ikogosi Warm Spring Resort, the Arinta Waterfalls, Olosunta Hills, Fajuyi Memorial Park, Ero Dam, Egbe Dam, and the Natural Caves in Ikere-Ekiti. The famous Olumo Rock is an interesting source of attraction to tourists in Ogun State. Places of attraction in Ondo State include the Ipole-Iloro Waterfalls, the Oke Maria at Oka-Akoko, and the Aiyetoro Community Island. Osun State has the renowned Oranmiyan Staff, the Ife Museum, the Osun Oshogbo shrine and the Olumirin water-falls at Erin Ijesha. Others are the Mbari-Mbayo heritage, Idi-Baba Cultural Centre and the Adunni Susan Wenger’s Art Works Centres located at Osogbo. Above all Osun state is recognized internationally through its colourful annual Osun Osogbo festival. The Agodi Gardens, Ado-Awaye Suspended Lake, Mapo Hall, University of lbadan Zoological Garden, Ido Cenotaph, Trans Amusement Park, and Oke-Ogun National Park, grace Oyo State. Lagos, the Centre of Excellence, has the City Hall, the National Theatre, National Museum, Onikan, relics of Brazilian and other colonial quarters, the site of the fallen Agia tree, Badagry, where Christianity was first preached in Nigeria in 1842, Oso-Lekki Breakwaters, the First storey building in Nigeria (1845) at Badagry. Others are the Bar Beach, Tarkwa Bay, Badagry Beach and Lekki Peninsula and Kuramo Water based tourism zone.
• South-East: Tourist centres in this zone include the National War Museum in Umuahia, the Azumini Blue River, and the Long Juju of Arochukwu. The Ndibe Beach at Afikpo, Uburu Salt Lake, and the Ishiagu Pottery works are in Ebonyi. The Mbari Centre in Owerri boasts of various artefacts which depict the cultural heritage of the people; the Oguta Lake Holiday Resort with its sand beach and 18-hole golf course, the colonial building with its attractive scenery and the rolling hills of Okigwe.
• South-South: Akwa Ibom has the Ibeno stretching over 330 km along the Atlantic Coast line, the Mobil Tank Farm and the Oron Museum. Bayelsa has numerous beaches, the Whiteman graves, the Akassa Slave Tunnel, the Oloibiri oil well, boat regatta displays and dances. The Obudu Cattle Ranch, the Agbokin Waterfalls in Ikom, the Etanpim Cave in Odukpani, Cross River National Park and Kwa Falls in Akamkpa, Obubra Lake, and the Old Residency Museum, Mary Slessor's Tomb and Tinapa Resort in Calabar, are all in Cross River. Benin City, the Edo State capital is famous for its unique bronze, brass and ivory works of arts which are found in museums all over the world. Tourist attractions in the State include the Oba Palace in Benin, the Benin Moat (Iya), Emotan statue, Okomu Wildlife Sanctuary, and Somorika Hills in Akoko-Edo.
• North-East: Borno has the Kyarimi Park in Maiduguri where the only captured hippopotamus in West Africa is harboured, the Shehu's Palace, Rabeh's Fort at Dikwa, Yamtarawala tomb at Biu, Lake Chad, Sambissa Game Reserve and Jaffi falls, among others. Historical places of interest in Adamawa include the Lamido’s palace (the seat of Emir of Adamawa in Yola), Old Palace of Harriman Yaji at Madagali, and the Sukur World Heritage Site, among others. Taraba State hosts the Mambilla Tourist Centre which is part of the mountain chains of Adamawa, Obudu, Shebshi, Alantika and Mandara, the Barup waterfall, located on the Plateau, the Gashaka/Gumpti Game Reserves, situated at the base of the Mambilla Plateau. Bauchi is home to the Yankari Game Reserve, Premier Game Reserve, Rock Paintings at Goji and Shira, and the State Museum.
• North-Central: There are Esie Stone images said to have been discovered in the 17th century, the spectacular Owu Falls at Owa Kajola, the remains of Mungo Park's wrecked boat – the `D Spring' and Mungo Park's Monument both at Jebba, Okuta Ilorin, from where the capital was derived, and the Jebba Dam, one of the major sources of hydro-electric power in Nigeria. The Gurara Falls in Bono, Mayanka Falls and Zuma rock both in Suleja, and the Shiroro Dam in Niger State. Kogi, the Confluence state, with Lugard’s House, is richly endowed with no less than 23 tourist centres concentrated in the state. The picturesque landscape of Plateau state includes chains of captivating rock formations beautifully shaped, chains of hills, hillock and deep gorges; the Asop falls, the Kura falls surrounded by beautiful lakes; the Jos Wildlife Safari park, the Zoological Garden, and the Shere Hills Mountains.
• North-West: Kaduna has the Nok Cultural Site at Kuwi, the Maitsirga Water falls in Kafanchan, the Legendary Lord Lugard bridge in Kaduna, the Kerfena Hills in Zaria and the Palace of the Emir of Zaria. Kano has the Ancient walls, the colourful annual Durbar, leather works and craft. Katsina city is a tourist attraction because of the wall that surrounds it with its seven gates. The wall was built about 900 years ago during the reign of King Murabus. The Emirs palaces in Katsina and Daura are also tourist attractions because of their unique architectural designs, just as the Gobarau Minaret built about 300 years ago. Also, Zamfara State holds some tourist attractions which are of historical or religious importance, which include Jata, an ancient settlement located around the hill with a large cave.
Festivals and Carnivals
There are many festivals in Nigeria, some of which date back to the period before the arrival of the major religions in this ethnically and culturally diverse society. Festivals are usually very meaningful events in the lives of the people. Some festivals are organized around certain deities or spirits, or to mark generational transitions or the passage of the seasons. Whether of climate or agricultural production, festivals are sprawling multi-media occasions incorporating singing, chanting, drama, drumming, masking, mining, costuming, puppetry, and theatrical enactments ranging from the sacred and the secretive to the secular and public. Each festival dramatizes a story or myth or related sets of stories or myths. They are annual celebrations of African heritage, culture and tradition. It is pertinent to highlight some of the major festivals/carnivals here.
The 2nd World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC ‘77): The reference point of festivals in Nigeria has been the 2nd World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) in 1977, for which the National Arts Theatre was built in Iganmu, Lagos, in 1976, during the Obasanjo military regime, as the national icon of the performing arts in Nigeria. It has a 5000-seater Main Hall, with a collapsible/revolving stage, a 1500-seater Banquet hall, an Exhibition Hall, and two 700-800 capacity Cinema Halls all of which are equipped with facilities for simultaneous translation of eight languages, among others.
National Festival for Arts and Culture (NAFEST): The National Festival for Arts and Culture (NAFEST) organized by the National Council for Arts & Culture (NCAC), began in 1970, as a post civil war strategy on the concept of using the festival to promote national unity. This explains why NAFEST is dubbed, the unity forum, as the annual festival draws participation from States Councils for Arts and Culture, and its hosting devolves around the 36 states and Abuja, the Federal capital Territory.
Durbar Festivals: Durbar festivals date back hundreds of years to the time when the Emirates used horses in warfare. In this festival, each town, district and nobility household contributes a regiment to the defence of the Emirate once or twice a year; the Emirate military chiefs invited various regiments for a Durbar (military parade) for the Emir and his chiefs. Today, Durbar has become a festival celebrated in honour of visiting heads of state and at the culmination of the two great Muslim festivals, Id-el-fitiri and Ide-el-Kabir. The festival comprises groups racing across the square at full gallop, swords glinting in the sun. They pass just few feet away from the Emir, stop to salute him with raised swords, before marching off.
Argungun Festival: This colourful annual fishing festival, which started in August 1934 in honour of the late Sultan Dan Mu’azu who visited the Emirate, takes place in Argungun, a riverside town in Kebbi State. During the festival, hundreds of local men and boys enter the water, armed with large fish net scoops, joined by canoe filled with drummers and men rattling huge seed-filled gourds to drive the fish to shallow waters, as well as other events such as canoe racing and diving competition. The festival marks the end of the farming season and harvest.
Sharo/Shadi Festival: This is a Fulani culture that presents a complex system, involving age-old initiations. The most important is the Sharo or Shadi (flogging meeting), believed to have originated among the Jaful Fulani, whose ranks are still considered the finest. During the Sharo festival, bare-chested contestants, usually unmarried men, come to the arena, escorted by beautiful girls. The festival proceeds with lively drumming, singing, cheers and self-praises from both competitors and challengers.
Osun Oshogbo Festival: The Osun Oshogbo Festival is held at the end of the rainy season, usually in August, at the Oshogbo sacred grove. The week-long festival is held in honour of the river goddess, Osun, an important Yoruba deity, and is attended by thousands of people. It includes ceremonies where priests seek protection for their local communities through gifts and sacrifices to the goddess.
The Eyo Festival: The Eyo Festival celebrated among the Yorubas is unique to Lagos area, and it is widely believed that Eyo is the forerunner of the modern day carnival in Brazil. Eyo festival takes place whenever occasion or tradition demands; but it is usually held as the final burial rites for a highly regarded chief. All participants pay homage to the Oba of Lagos.
The Abuja Carnival: The Abuja Carnival, which started in the year 2005 during President Obasanjo’s administration, showcases the cultural diversity of the different ethnic groups in the country as well as their oneness in the whole gamut of traditionalism. The carnival is a yearly programme that holds in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria most in the month of November. It features road shows, music, cultural dances, masquerades, boat regatta, durbar and lots more with participants from all the states of Nigeria. It is a great occasion that has spectators from around the globe. In the carnival there is a parade that includes all cultural expressions of the people of Nigeria.
Calabar Carnival: The Calabar Carnival, also tagged, "Africa's Biggest Street Party," started in 2004, when the then governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke, had a vision of making his state the hub for tourism and hospitality in Nigeria and in Africa. The carnival, which begins on 1st December and lasts till 31st December, has boosted the culture and tourism potentials of Nigeria while entertaining millions of spectators within and outside the State. It has made Cross River State and Calabar the pride of Nigeria and the entire Africa as far as tourism, carnivals and hospitality is concerned.
Some Nigerian Value Systems
Sense of Community Life: This is the most distinguishing feature of African culture generally that abhors individualism. In his contribution, Shishima states that the African sense of community is both horizontal and vertical, while Western culture stresses individualism to the detriment of communalism. He further asserts that the city is an area where everyone is for himself and the strongest takes all (136). For the African, for life to be meaningful, it must be lived in the community. Thus, to Obazele, the Nigerian idea of security and its value depend on personal identification with and within the community (6).
Communalism in Nigeria is a system that is both super-sensible and material. Both are found in our society that is believed to be originally “god-made” because it transcends the people who live in it now, and it is “man-made” because it cannot be culturally understood independently of those who live in it now. Therefore, the authentic Nigerian is known and identified by and through his community. The community is the custodian of the individual; hence, he must go where the community goes. Outside this ancestry chattered system there lay no possible life, since a man without lineage is a man without citizenship, without identity, and therefore, without allies. No wonder then that a popular African adage says a child belongs to the society. There is also the belief that any child can be chastised by an elder other than the child’s biological parents when that child goes against the norms of that society.
According to Igbum and Apenda, it is on these traditional notions of collective responsibility and judgment that communities are maintained, the implication being that, the moral character of the kinship group to which he belongs is deeply related (261). This notion of group morality and the individual is expressed in an Igbo saying that, “when one finger touches oil, it spreads to all.” But most interesting is the ability to share things, especially food. The Kenyan priest, John Mutiso-Mbinda emphasizes the important symbolism of a meal, thus:
A meal is perhaps the most basic and most ancient symbol of friendship, love and unity. Food and drink taken in common are obvious signs that life is shared in our (African) context. It is unusual for people to eat alone. Only a witch or wizard would do that. A meal is always a communal affair. The family normally eats together. Eating together is a sign of being accepted to share life and equality (254).
Eating together will reduce crimes such as poison, since each person would eat/drink, share in the same dish and cup. It would also foster unity as all would look at themselves as one, united entity (Shishima 132).
Sense of Good Human Relations: This is yet another of our cultural value system that is an asset. Life in the African community is based on the philosophy of live-and-let-live. Relationships between individuals recognize their worth as human beings and not only what they possess or what can they do for each other. However, these can come as a secondary consideration, in terms of reciprocity and in terms of inter-personal relationship. People help one another without demanding immediate or an exact equivalent remuneration. In the same way the Igbo of Nigeria say “he who tells people what he does never suffers mishap.” Igbum & Apenda (261-262) Life in the African community is based on the philosophy of live- and-let-live. This concept is realized in the inter-community relationship to express the practical traditional African concept of humane living. The humane living among an African people is defined as a way of life emphatically centred upon human interests and values; mode of living evidently characterized by empathy, and by consideration and compassion for human beings.
Sense of Hospitality: The African sense of hospitality is one value system that is still quite alive. Nigerians easily accommodate strangers and give them lands to settle hoping that they would go one day, and the land would revert to the owners. For the Africans, one cannot opt out of his original community completely. So, they do not imagine that others could; Africans have symbolic ways of expressing welcome. These are in the forms of presentation of kola nuts, traditional gin, coconuts and water in various communities. These are given to visitors to show that he is welcome and safe. Among the Igbo, for instance, the basis of hospitality is the generally accepted principle that a guest should not harm his host and that when he departs, he should not develop a hunch back on the way home. The kola nut occupies a special place in the lives of the people, and among the Igbo, it is basic entertaining guests in Nigeria. There is a popular saying about kola nut thus: the Yorubas plant it; the Hausas eat it; and the Ibos celebrate it. This much we see in Chinua Achebe’s Things fall Apart, when he states that, “he who brings kola, brings life.”
Sense of Respect for Authority and the Elders: Though it is natural for the African to respect an elder, it is true that respect for elders starts within one’s immediate family. The respect given to the elders has its practical effect in the maintenance of customs and traditions. The young ones are always looking forward to being elders and they are often told that if a child respects an elder, he would be respected by the younger ones when he becomes an elder. The elders are the repositories of communal wisdom and therefore they are given leadership positions in the affairs of the community (Igbum & Apenda 162).
In this lecture, I have attempted to highlight where Nigeria, as a nation, has come from. It has been noted that the Nigerian nation is ethnically, culturally, and naturally diverse. From even a cursory look at its dress culture, indigenous languages, food culture, music culture, film industry, cultural sites and monuments, carnivals and festivals, and a few core values, it is clear that the strength of the Nigerian nation is its unity in diversity. This underpins the new thinking under the transformational leadership of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan that Nigeria is a place to be because of its beautiful sights. Nigeria is simply fascinating and it is the next tourism destination in the world.
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