I feel highly honoured and very delighted at the invitation extended to me to serve as Chairman of this occasion by The Chun Mada, His Royal Highness, Samson Gamu Yare. It is a great privilege for me to be in the midst of the sons and daughters of Mada, the guests and the visitors whose honoured presence makes today’s occasion a rich cultural fiesta. It is a gathering of all well-meaning individuals whose belief in the annual Nzeh Mada Festival testifies to the spirit of harmony and peaceful coexistence, which culture guarantees in the polity at all times.

We are here at this reception programme as part of the activities of the 2015 edition of the annual festival, but beyond the consistency of fraternal congregation for festivities on a yearly basis, the significance of this year’s edition is, certainly, not lost on us at all levels of participation. This year’s edition of the Festival is very special because of the significant events accompanying the celebrations. Firstly, it marks the installation and presentation of First Class Staff of Office to The Chun Mada, His Royal Highness Samson Gamu Yare by the Nasarawa State Government; which is well deserved. Secondly, the Festival is also coinciding with the general elections. The theme of this year’s Festival: “Festival of Reconciliation and Consolidation” is reflective of the mood of a nation that is going through elections. This theme is apt and a timely message for all and sundry to embrace peace and reconciliation. It is also for various political parties to work together for the common good of our state and country.

Going through almost 30 years of protracted chieftaincy struggle could be a challenging experience, but the succour, which culminates in the celebrations are far-reaching especially in the hearts of the sons and daughters of Mada. May I therefore congratulate His Royal Highness for his installation and conferment and the good people of Mada land. Your Royal Highness, there is no denying the fact that your ascendance to this exalted traditional position has renewed and boosted the confidence of the people of Mada. While the people are the proverbial clothes that drape you with honour, your unfettered commitment to the socio-cultural, economic and humanitarian development of the various congregating communities is the integrity that perfectly puts you in a good stead for this great, ancestral, ordained honour.

I pray that the Almighty God will seamlessly grant you the wisdom with which you will tirelessly provide good leadership to the generality of the people and the communities at large. I would also like to express my appreciation to His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Nasarawa State, Alh. Umaru Tanko Al-Makura for the recognition and respect for the Mada Land by this installation and conferment.

A festival is an event ordinarily staged by a community, centring on and celebrating some unique aspect of that community and its traditions. Festivals often serve to meet specific purposes, especially in regard to commemoration and/ or thanksgiving. They are associated with celebrations and may also provide entertainment. These celebrations offered a sense of belonging for religious, social, or geographical groups. Festivals that focus on cultural or specifically ethnic topics also seek to inform members of their traditions and the involvement of community elders sharing stories and experience provides a means for unity among families.

A Carnival typically involves a public celebration and/or parade combining some elements of a circus, masks and public street party. It is an explosion of colour, music, revelry, and creativity, offering all of us a dynamic tool for self-expression and exploration. Nigeria is blessed with a variety of festivals such as the Osun Osogbo in Osun State; the Igue Festival in Edo State, the New Yam Festival in Anambra State and the Eyo Festival in Lagos State to mention a few. These festivals are very well comparable to festivals and carnivals around the world.

It is gratifying, however, to note that the 2015 edition of Nzeh Mada Festival, which is a festival of reconciliation and consolidation, is being celebrated with oneness of purpose, pomp and pageantry. The celebration began on Tuesday and will continue till Sunday. It is therefore commendable that Mada land have kept faith with the tradition of carrying on the Nzeh Mada Festival as an annual event.

Festivals and Carnivals as we are now already aware are platforms for cultural preservation, renaissance, reawakening and exposition. Festivals are a means of showcasing deep cultural manifestations inherent in a community. It is a celebrative congregation designed to re-present the beauty and flavour of our tradition, custom and social manifestations to the world. But there is an economic dimension to it, which is where I would like to dwell on.

With the global oil recession and its magnitude impact on our national economy in particular, there is the need to explore alternative sources of income. Culture is one of such products. Subsumed under this aegis are our indigenous music, performance, visual arts, folklore, indigenous literature, tourism reactivation and many more. All these can be transformed into cultural avenues that engender economic re-awakening and revenue generation.

It is my expectation therefore that the Nzeh Mada Festival should begin to restructure in order to tap into its economic potentials. In this regard, I will be expecting that there will be rapid economic activities generated from the large number of participants drawn from within and the neighbouring communities and states. It should be an occasion where annotative works of arts and crafts produced by members of the community will be on display for participants and visitors to patronize. Governments at all levels can also purchase these works of art which can be exhibited in a befitting gallery. Beyond the economic benefits, the gallery will preserve, protect and present these works for posterity.

This is an area that the State Government is tasked to make manifest. For the progress recorded so far in the State on this subsector of the economy, I want to sincerely thank the Executive Governor of Nasarawa State, His Excellency, Alhaji Umaru Tanko Al-Makura for his leadership style that breeds productivity and progress, but like Oliver Twist, Your Excellency, we will always ask for more. Nasarawa State is endowed with many cultural festivals and tourist sites that the State can develop to the desired standard for economic benefits.

The annual Nzeh Mada Festival is rich, appealing and sustainable. I believe it can be packaged to elicit collaborations and sponsorships from well-meaning Nigerians, especially sons and daughters of the Mada land, and the private sectors so as to extend the reach of the festival. I have an outstation in Lafia, the National Gallery of Art, Lafia which I think can collaborate with the Nzeh Mada Festival Secretariat so as to project the visual arts aspects of the festival. With the possibility of these collaborations and sponsorships, Nzeh Mada Festival will grow in leaps and bounds.

Your Excellencies, Your Royal Highnesses, The Chun Mada, eminent dignitaries, guests, visitors to the festival, all participants, distinguished ladies and gentlemen; as the spirit of reconciliation and consolidation hovers around and we are rejoicing in harmony, in the expectation of a robust communal coexistence and peaceful cohabitation, I welcome you all to this festival and further wish you all a happy celebration of Nzeh Mada Festival.

God bless Mada Land!

God bless Akwanga Local Government Council!

God bless Nasarawa State!

God bless Nigeria!

Thank you all and God bless you all!