Honour, they say, is given to whom it is due. Little wonder that the Akwanga Local Government Traditional Council in Nasarawa State found it worthy to honour a cultural icon, an administrator and firm promoter of the arts, who is also the Executive Secretary, National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Dr. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma.

Wednesday, 23rd March, 2016, was day when Ayakoroma, who is a Visiting Associate Professor of Theatre Arts at the Nasarawa State University, Keffi (NSUK), was given a special recognition award at the foot of Numan Hills, in Andaha as, “Pillar of Nzeh Mada Festival,” by the Akwanga Traditional Council.

ayanzeh1During his investiture, which was performed by the Chairman, Akwanga Local Government Traditional Council, His Royal Highness, Samson Gamu Yare, the Chun Mada III at an event designed to form part of activities to mark the 2016 edition of the Nzeh Mada Festival, the Chun Mada reiterated that the award given to Prof. Ayakoroma was in recognition of his exemplary contributions towards the successful hosting of Nzeh Mada.

Earlier in a welcome remark, the Chun Mada had expressed sincere appreciation to all stakeholders for their tireless, relentless and wholehearted supported towards the success of the Nzeh Mada Festival, stressing that the economic quagmire in the country has called for diversification of the nation’s dependence on a mono-cultural economy; and that tourism should be given top priority as one sector that can generate revenue for the running of government.

Responding to the award, the highly-elated NICO Boss, Prof. Ayakoroma said although he is not one that is known for receiving awards, he could not turn down his nomination by the Akwanga Traditional Council, saying it has spurred him to do more in giving support for the festival.

His words: “As much as we have tried to give the festival our moral support, on this occasion and this investiture, I want to say that I will continue to do the best I can to ensure that NICO partners the festival secretariat in whatever way possible. I want to appreciate you, your traditional council and the festival secretariat for this very honour and we believe that just as we advised before, Nzeh Mada will improve in its look year after year.”

While fielding questions from journalists before his investiture, Ayakoroma said NICO has identified with Nzeh Mada because of the Institute’s belief that if properly exploited, cultural festivals serve as viable alternative to Nigerian oil.

“We have always identified with people who promote their cultural festivals. Since 2014, we have identified with Nzeh Mada festival because we believe it is a platform to unify the people, promote their culture as well as provide gainful employment to the youths. You can see the people are very enthusiastic because it is their own festival in their own culture so we believe that every ethnic group will try as much as possible to promote their cultural festival;” he said.

On her part, the Director-General, Nigerian Tourism and Development Corporation (NTDC), Mrs. Sally Mbanefo, who was Chairperson on the occasion, called on Nigerians to take advantage of their population and visit tourist sites to see what beauty the country has, stressing that it was due to her belief in domestic and local tourism that she and other stakeholder left Abuja to participate in the festival.

Her words: “The reason why we are preaching domestic tourism is because of the potentials and the fact that young people can be engaged. The tourism sites are not in the cities so we don’t want people to populate the cities; we want people to come to the local communities and thereby engage the youths.”

She affirmed the Federal Government’s readiness to collaborate with the State and Local Governments in encouraging people to visit hometowns and local communities, saying, “If today, ten people come to visit Nasarawa and awareness is created, more tourists will come and more people will have to be engaged to attend to them thereby creating more jobs.”

At the event, two categories of competitive activities featured, namely, the traditional chess game and traditional wrestling with Mrs. Sally Mbanefo and Prof. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, flagging them off, respectively.

The ES, NICO was accompanied by his Special Assistant and CSO, Mr. Law Ikay Ezeh and Ms. Fatima Jafaru, respectively; while the DG, NTDC, Mrs. Sally Mbanefo, was accompanied by the Director, Marketing and Promotion, Mrs. Phoebe Ikilama; Deputy Director, Administration and Human Resources, Mrs. Ruth Nadam; as well as Zonal Coordinator (North-Central), Mrs. Nanna Yakubu, among others.

Also notable at the event were the Postgraduate Diploma in Cultural Administration students from the NICO Training School, Abuja Study Centre, led by the course rep, Mr. Michael Bush, The Boos of Bush House Nigeria, to witness the festival as part of their field trip exercise as directed by the Course Lecturer, Professor Samuel Dandaura, who is the Nzeh Mada Festival Director.

Caleb Nor

Corporate Affairs Unit

NICO, Abuja