The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, has used the opportunity of the 25th edition of the National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST), to remind Nigerians on the importance of culture in leading the country into the celebration of its centenary, which comes up in 2014.
Dr. Jonathan, who was represented by the Executive Governor of Cross Rivers, Senator Liyel Imoke, said the need to remind Nigerians of the centenary celebration, in a cultural festival like NAFEST, was because culture was one of the aspects Nigerian life that has been moving the country towards its goal of national unity since 98 years of the amalgamation of the North and the South.
The President, who is the Grand Patron of NAFEST 2011, stated further that culture remains a powerful tool for resolving the differences of Nigerians, even as it would help lead Nigeria towards achieving vision 20: 20-20, and called on Nigerians to take culture seriously, so that the world will be proud of Nigeria.
Mr. President said, as Nigeria commences the journey towards 100 years of independence and prepares to celebrate 100 years of amalgamation in the next two years, “Culture should be seen beyond mere jamboree. In my speech last year in Akwa Ibom, I reiterated this. We must use culture to resolve our differences. Culture should lead us to our hundred years of amalgamation by 2014. Culture has served the importance of moving Nigeria towards the goal of our unity since amalgamation in 1914. Culture helps us to caution the youths. It helps in job creation. I am happy that the current Minister is working hard in the cultural sector. I commend the state governments and the local government areas in their efforts towards uplifting of our culture.’’
Applauding the theme of this year’s NAFEST: “Nigerian Traditional Music: A Vehicle for Economic Transformation,” the President recalled that it was consistent with previous themes on the need to preserve Nigeria’s cultural values: “This is why I have hailed the themes as they have helped Nigeria towards the journey of its 50 years of independence. We have celebrated 50 years of our independence. As we have started the journey of 100 years of our independence, culture is very important. I commend the host state of NAFEST, all the participants and wish you God’s blessing as I declare NAFEST 2011 open.”
The opening ceremony, which took place at U. J. Esuene Township Stadium, Calabar, Cross Rivers State, had many personalities in attendance, the Executive Governor of Cross Rivers, Senator Liyel Imoke, former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the Honourable Minister of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke, Chairman Senate Committee on Culture and Tourism, Senator Ahmed Hassan Barata, Chairman House Committee on Culture and Tourism, Hon. Ben Nwankwo, Deputy Governor of Cross Rivers State, Barr. Effiok Essien Cobham, Ambassador Segun Olusola, Executive Director, National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Mr. Mwajim Malgwi Maidugu, who is the Festival Director, Executive Secretary, National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Dr. Barclays Ayakoroma, Special Adviser on Tourism Development, Cross Rivers State, Mr. Gab Onah, Permanent Secretaries, Directors of Culture in various the states of the federation, Members of Cross River State House of Assembly, Members of the Executive Council of Cross River State, Royal fathers, Chairmen of Local Government Areas, Members of the diplomatic corps, University Scholars, Journalists, etc.
About 29 states with Federal Capital Territory attended and participated in cultural parade in the opening ceremony, which include, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, FCT, Gombe, Imo, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Oyo, Plateau, Sokoto, and Yobe. The host state, Cross River, paraded cultural troupes from all the local government in the state.