Iwa Akwa Festival (Initiation Into Manhood)

Written by Austine Posted in Featured Articles

The Iwa Akwa festival took place in Umuopara nsu in Ehime Mbano Local Government Area of Imo State on the 3rd of January, 2016, as it is usually done at the interval of three (3) years. It is an avenue, where the young men of the community, who are between the ages of 26 and 30 years, are initiated into manhood.

This festival is the biggest festival in Ehime Mbano Local Government Area, as it is the only ceremony that brings tourists to the towns and villages in Mbano. It goes as far as attracting foreigners to Ehime Mbano to participate in the festival.

In this particular Iwa Akwa festival, which took place on the 3rd of January, 2016, a total number of seventy-eight (78) youths were initiated, which marked the highest number of initiates in recent years.

The festival is a two-day programme; the first day holds the initiation where the previous celebrants come to show their seniority to the younger ones, who are billed to be initiated into manhood. They start as early as 6.00am to assemble the prospective initiates at the Village Square; they ask them to come with buckets so that they go to the stream and fetch water for them to drink, as their seniors.

Each person is expected to carry out this task without complaining; and the water they fetch must be very clean. If they notice any dirt in the water, the person who fetched that bucket will be asked to go back and fetch another one. Each candidate is expected to go to the stream three times, which amounts to three buckets of water.

After this, the younger ones will made to clean the senior ones’ shoes, as a sign of respect; and this must be done without complaint, irrespective of whom you are, how rich you are, or how popular you are. Tradition is tradition, so they must obey.

Though the tasks vary from year to year or group by group, as long as the task is dictated by the senior ones, the younger ones must obey. After the task is carried and no fault is found in an initiate, he is allowed to go home and rejoice. On the other hand, if any candidate misses out on the exercise, the whole group will match to his family house and seize valuable items until he returns; and when he returns, he will be pay certain amount of money (as fine) to bail those items.

When everything is done, everyone will match home bare-footed, as a sign of respect to the senior ones. In some cases, the senior ones will ask the younger ones to kneel down under the sun for hours to test their patience and loyalty. While all these are going on, the family members will be home making sure different delicacies are prepared: locally made foods are prepared for visitors, who come from far and near to grace the occasion. The reception starts from 6.00pm to about 1.00am and beyond, depending on the wherewithal of the family.

The second day, which is the main day, starts as early as 6.00am in the church, with all the initiates holding their wrappers and waiting for the Reverend Father to pray and bless them before they commence the occasion proper. After the wrappers must have been blessed, each candidate will take his wrapper home, spread it in front of his compound for all passers-by to see and be aware that someone in that family was being initiated into manhood.

In accordance with the tradition, no one is expected to touch that wrapper again until the senior ones come at about 10.00am, bring it down themselves and tie it on the waist of the celebrant. When it is time to match to the Village Square, everyone is expected to match down with different musical instrument playing, just as there displays of cultural dances, masquerade performances, and agu nkonko performances. There will be different types of colourful wrappers as all the families match from their compounds to the Village Square.

Each celebrant is expected to employ two types of musical artists that will make the occasion vibrant and lively. One is expected to play at home to make the place lively, while the other is to accompany the celebrant to the Village Square, as well as the Market Square, in order to keep everyone entertained.

In is pertinent to note that, the wrapper used is a symbol of coverage. It is assumed that they (initiates) were naked before but they are now covered. This explains why most families go all out to make sure they buy the best wrappers in the market. Though the occasion is a competitive one, most families try hard to make their families proud.

One of the youngest initiate in the 2016 edition of the Iwa Akwa Festival was 26 years old Odinaka Duru. This initiation marked a new beginning in his life and in the life of his family because Odinaka will now attend community meetings, pay dues and take part in the decision making process of the community. This always brings joy to families of the celebrants because through their son, they will be updated on what is happening in the community.

Iwa Akwa Festival is usually so educating with so much entertainment around. It take two nights, the initiation night and the festival day, which takes people the king’s palace or village square before heading to the market square where the celebrants will be declared duly initiated. At that point, the candidates are lifted high up by family members, friends and well-wishers.

After this step, the reception will hold at each family compound, with so much dancing and merriment.    

Susan Duru

OCA Dept

NICO HQ, Abuja

A Festival In Search Of Promotion – Uhola Festival in Zuru Division, Kebbi State

Written by Austine Posted in Featured Articles

Uhola festival is a traditional/cultural festival, which is staged in Zuru Local Government Area of Kebbi State. The Zuru people, mostly of Dakarkari ethnic groups, have a unique culture different from the main ethnic group of central Kebbi State, who are mostly Hausa Fulani and Kabawas (Kebbi) people. While the eastern part of the area is dominated by Arewas, a fraction of Hausa tribes; the Zuru people mostly dominate southern part of Kebbi State.

Uhola festival used to be an annual event in the whole of Zuru division. It is a spectacular event especially in Waje community in Danko Wasagu Local Government Area. During the event, communities and areas within the division showcase their potentials in agricultural production by displaying products of different varieties. They also have high yield and other crops that have different adaptations which are also displayed.

The event also features cultural dances, traditional wrestling, traditional crafts and several others. It also features display of traditional wears of Dararkaris.

The southern people of Zuru division in Kebbi State operate Golmo system, a tradition where young boys till the farms of their fiancés parents and marriages are solemnized at the end of farming period of 2-5 years. Usually, such marriages are normally concluded during the Uhola festival of the year.

Competitive activities are normally instituted and winners of annual events are given prizes by the community; while the boys go away with their finances and conclude the marriage affairs. Serving the duration of Golmo was seen as the bride-price of their brides.

Lately, the Kebbi State government has made efforts to promote the event by making financial commitment. This made Uhola to attract great personalities, including the Kebbi State Deputy Governor, Col. Samaila Yombe, the Local Government Administrator, Engr. Saleh Dan Yaro, and traditional title-holders of Zuru Emirate Council, as well as top officials of Kebbi State Government.

As a popular cultural activity, second only to the famous Argungu Fishing Festival, efforts can be made to promote the event by projecting the activities and creating more awareness on the festival. This way, the event can develop to a point where it will generate revenue for the state.

The potential of this festival is tremendous as that part of the state is a popular part and can generate a lot of interest in both local and international tourists. This is because there are many prominent indigenes of Zuru division who have national pedigree. Added to this is the fact that Zuru division attract a lot of interest as an important element in the political and historical development of Nigeria.

Ibrahim A. Hussaini 

Celebrating our Creativity through the Kwagh-hir Festival

Written by Austine Posted in Featured Articles

Celebrating our Creativity through the Kwagh-hir Festival:

Towards a Strategic A-Z Approach for Economic Development of Benue State

*************

Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, PhD

 

Introduction

The theme of this year’s festival is “Celebrating our Creativity.” However, I have decided to focus on the potentials of the Kwagh-hir festival in the economic development of Benue State. It explains why I have titled my presentation: “Celebrating our Creativity through the Kwagh-hir Festival: Towards a Strategic A-Z Approach for Economic Development of Benue State.” The A-Z Model is what I have conceptualised through my involvement and practical experience, over the years, in the handling of festivals and other artistic events. It is hoped that, adopting the model in the organisation of cultural festivals will be invaluable to events managers.

In the first place, let us look at our conceptual framework by first defining just two of the terms from the title, namely, celebrating and creativity. The New Lexicon Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language defines celebrate thus: “to perform (a religious ceremony) publicly… to honour or observe (some special occasion or event)… to seize an occasion for being festive” (158). But the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines the word in a more lucid way: “to take part in special enjoyable activities in order to show that a particular occasion is important...” (191). It is interesting to note that some key words from the two dictionaries again crop up: perform, publicly, honour, observe, occasion, event, festive, special, enjoyable, activities, and important. All of the foregoing terms are essentials in cultural festivals.

Again, The New Lexicon Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language defines creativity as, one having an idea of creativeness. To be creative means having the quality or power of creating or being imaginative. The Cambridge Advance Learner's Dictionary goes further to state that creative means, “producing or using original and unusual ideas: a creative person, artist, designer, programmer, creative talents, powers, abilities and creative thinking;” and that creativity means the “ingenuity and flair” in a person or people.  

From the definitions proffered above, we can quickly deduce that, if we are celebrating our creativity, it means that we are publicly performing or observing an important, special and enjoyable occasion or event, full of festive activities to honour a cultural practice. In other words, the occasion of the Kwagh-hir festival is a platform conceptualised by the Benue State Ministry of Arts, Culture and Tourism to showcase the indigenous theatrical art, which is special, ingenuous, and entertaining. It is an artistic activity, which has the potentials of making Benue State a tourism hub, once the enabling environment is sustained. This is where the A-Z Model being postulated in this paper becomes imperative. In any case, we shall come to that later in this presentation. Let us first take a brief look at cultural festivals.

Cultural Festivals

In the first place, culture has been defined as “the totality of the way of life of a people,” including their foods, dressing, language, music, dances, occupational distribution, building, and so on. Secondly, the ways of life are the cultural markers that differentiate one group of people from another. For instance, the Tiv, Idoma, and the Igede people in Benue State have linguistic differences – they do not speak one language. We have also observed that the three ethnic groups have distinct dress patterns. This explains the generally acknowledged position that culture gives a people a unique identity. The implication here is that, if you lose your culture, you inexplicably lose your identity. It underscores the saying that, a people without a culture are a people lost.

Let us state here that, cultural festivals are one of the vital media through which people express and celebrate their culture. These are events that are organised to commemorate harvests, betrothals, initiations, coronations, foundation days, funerals, and long-standing communal traditions. Most times, such celebrations centre on ancestral veneration and worship of deities, as well as rites of passages. Duruaku writes about the essence of cultural festivals thus:

One of the main basic impulses of man is the 'herd instinct,' the inclination to come together in a spirit of communitas and share in mutual fears, sorrows and indeed joys. Put simply, communitas is an intense community spirit; it is the feeling of great social equality, solidarity, and togetherness. It is that spirit which allows the whole of the community to share a common experience (3).

He goes on to categorise cultural festivals thus:

Those that are for ancestor veneration and deity worship, like the Eyo of the Yoruba, (the forerunner of the modern day carnival in Brazil), or the Owu and Odo of the Igbo. Durbar Festival (Katsina State) is a magnificent horsemanship display. There are also festivals of the rites of passages, like those involving initiation, festivals of the feast of the farming cycle, the folk festivals which are largely social (11).

We have noted, elsewhere that, culture is the vehicle that drives tourism. It is the product, which we have in abundant supply in Nigeria; and many states, like Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Lagos, Niger, Ondo, Osun, Plateau, Rivers and Taraba, are now making conscious efforts to boost their internally generated revenue (IGR) through the promotion of cultural tourism. As a point of fact, cultural tourism, as an aspect of tourism, embodies historical sites and places, people's cultures, art forms as well as sharing their social, political, and economic experiences at least during the visit (see Doki 122-129). This explains why various states are embarking on the development of unique tourism products. This explains why the Calabar Carnival, the Badagry Slave Route, the Obudu Ranch, the Yankari Game Reserve, and the Osun Oshogbo Grove/Festival, have become unique tourism products, recognised mostly in African, South America and the Caribbean.

The Kwagh-hir Festival

Benue State, “the food basket of the nation,” possesses a rich and diverse cultural heritage, which finds expression in the colourful cloths, exotic masquerades, sophisticated music and dances of the people. Dances like Ingyough, Ange, Anchanakupa and Swange are popular among the Tiv while there are Anuwowowo and Obadaru among the Idoma. Kwagh-hir theatre is one of such rich cultural displays in Benue State that celebrate the inherent creativity of the people and has immense economic benefits.  

However, let me quickly point out here that, I do not have the authority to profess about Kwagh-hir theatre, particularly to the inventors and custodians of the creative art. It will be saying one is more proficient in use of English than the owners of the English language. I say this because the first professor of Theatre Arts from the whole of Northern Nigeria, Professor Shamsudeen O. O. Amali, is from Benue State. Secondly, the first person to carry out very extensive research work to draw attention to Kwagh-hir theatre, Professor Iyorwuese Hagher, is another proud son of Benue State. His seminal work, The Kwagh-hir Theatre: A Metaphor of Resistance has been a ready source book for critical studies on Kwagh-hir. Thirdly, we have very distinguished theatre professors like Charity Angya, James Alachi, Saint Gbilekaa, Idris Amali, Tor Iorapuu, Ameh Dennis Akoh, Ama Gowon Doki, Kwaghkondo Agber, and many others, from Benue State, who have contributed immensely to studies on Kwagh-hir theatre. But come to think of it; if you ask me, I will say they have no option, because, if you do not tell your stories, nobody can tell them very well for you

A personal interaction with some young ones revealed that they have no idea of Kwagh-hir. If they have knowledge of the dynamics of Kwagh-hir, they can definitely not be apostles of the festival celebrating it. I became aware of Kwagh-hir around 1981, when Frank Speed (our lecturer in Film Production at the University of Calabar then), did a documentary on it with Peggy Harper. (A part of the footage of that production is still on YouTube).

The brief background of Kwagh-hir theatre here is informed by the realisation that, the younger generation is adequately informed about this veritable “weapon of social action,” as Don Rupin puts it. According to Iyorwuese Hagher, Kwagh-hir dates back to the early 20th century in the lives of the Tiv people. Rupin points out that, the stories of the performances are as simple and straightforward as possible: farmers farming, family’s passing on traditions, men and women working, but “coded with particular Tiv inflections speaking to those who understood the deeper notions of cultural independence.”

As a point of fact, Iyorwuese Hagher avers that, the Kwagh-hir theatre can be located in the history and traditions of the Tiv people, adding that it origin can be said to be in three phases, the foremost it being rooted in the storytelling tradition of the people. The storyteller used symbols, costumes and props in enacting his stories, just as he acts out, mimes and dances to give life to his acts (Hagher 51; see also Akinsipe ).

Edith Enem points out that, Kwagh-hir performances usually take place in the night, serving as entertainment for the people; and that they draw large audiences. The various instrumentsused during the performances also showcase historical events and the rich culture of the Tiv people. She adds that, Kwagh-hir has survived to the present day despite attempts by opposing factions to use it to aggravate social disharmony. To Enem, this existence is attributable to its elastic nature and the people's passion for dance and drama. The Kwagh-hir theatre continues to display those situations, attitudes and social behaviours, which are found both in Tiv land and universal human conditions (Enem 249-251). Put succinctly, Kwagh-hir provides memorable entertainment in its dramatisation of Tiv folklore and social commentary.

Discussing the sculptural elements in Kwagh-hir, Elizabeth Nyager observes that it is a dynamic theatre, a puppet theatre featuring both giant puppets (ubermeronmettes) and smaller ones, which are manipulated on mobile platforms, adding that,

Kwagh-hir features masquerade displays of both animal and human representations. The mask is therefore an important feature of Kwagh-hir theatre and sculpturing an equally dynamic super-activity/element in Kwagh-hir theatre.

In “Globalization and Folk-Media,”Nyager further notes that, Kwagh-hir theatre, as folk-media, is a popular theatre existing in rural communities of the Tiv kingdom in Benue state. It is an art form, which comprises music, dance, drama, folk-lore, existing within the cultural practices of ethnic communities. The theatre is based on the dramatization of folk tales; it simply breaths of dramatic life into fictional characters. She emphasises that, in Kwagh-hir theatre, either dance or any of the arts involved can stand as a message in the performance to express the people's culture.

However, Ama Gowon Doki looks at the Kwagh-hir theatre from the perspective of its cultural tourism potentials in Nigeria, which, he says, rightly, is enormous. According to him, apart from the actual theatrical performance of Kwagh-hir, the artistic finesse of the puppets and masquerades could easily attract tourists. Furthermore, the skill and dexterity of fine artists and carvers of the Kwagh-hir totems could be developed into finely constructed artefacts used for exterior and interior decorations. These items, if collected for art exhibitions and carnival displays, could be purchased, thus, attracting foreign earnings. He surmises that, with the level of Kwagh-hir theatre today on the tourism map, it could attract both local and international tourists if it is transformed as a national festival. The implication is that, it will receive elaborate publicity, thereby boosting the economic base of Nigeria's tourism sector and the country at large.

The Dynamics of Cultural Festivals

At this juncture, it is necessary to look at some of the services that people can seamlessly carry out during cultural festivals without actually being part of the official organising committee. The discourse here will be in relation to the present context.

  1. Airport shuttles: Apparently, some guests flew to Abuja or Enugu and were picked up from to attend this programme. There may have also been charter flights to the Makurdi Airport, especially by those who have the means. Some persons are smiling to the bank.
  2. Inter- and intra-city transportation: Transporters have been busy because of the influx of visitors.
  3. Hotel accommodation and other lodging facilities: Hotels are being tested as to whether they have adequate facilities and can deliver quality services.
  4. Volunteer security services: Apart from the organised security committee for the festival, some youths volunteer their services to provide security for contingents or individuals, even at parking lots.
  5. Retail of food and drinks: There is no gainsaying that, foods and drinks vendors are having a field day, as sales have gone up due to the number of persons that have thronged into the state.
  6. Electronic and print media publicity: Publicity channels utilised for the festival have generated attendant revenue for the media organs.
  7. Unofficial tour guides: Like volunteer security services, some youths have found useful employment as tour guides, whether solicited or unsolicited.
  8. Production and sale of arts and crafts: The production of arts and craft works is not restricted to the festival committee. Artisans can conceptualise and produce various items to commemorate the festival.
  9. Production and sale of indigenous dresses: Fashion designers come out with different designs of indigenous dresses and accessories for sale during festivals, from local, national, to modern or Western styles.
  10. Printing of posters, flyers, banners, T-shirts, face caps, and other souvenirs: Like the arts and crafts productions, souvenirs or gift are produced at the discretion of professional artists and artisans.
  11. Photo and video services: Documentation services, especially instant photographic services have become ubiquitous in major events. The old school Polaroid cameras have given way to the modern digital photos that could be printed in a minute or two. As a point of fact, ladies love it; because they would always want to record how they looked at such events.

Kwagh-hir Festival and Economic Development

From the foregoing, we could safely posit that there are several benefits accruable in celebrating the creativity in festivals, like Kwagh-hir. This is to make it a special brand for it to contribute significantly to the economicdevelopment of Benue State. These include, but not limited to, the following:

  1. Fast-track infrastructure development in communities: The saying goes that, “Every greatness requires preparation.” There is no doubt that the Benue State government gave face-lift to certain facilities in preparation of this festival.
  2. Expose the indigenes to people from outside such communities: Many persons are coming to “the food basket of the nation” for the first time; and they get to appreciate the places, people and the culture.
  3. Provide gainful employment for youths in the community: Several youths have found gainful employment through the instrumentality of the Kwagh-hir festival. Some of the avenues through which they could have productively engaged themselves this year have been enumerated above.
  4. Attract visitors (tourists) to such communities: Tourists have been attracted to Benue State because of the Kwagh-hir festival; they would not have come now but for this festival.
  5. Create peaceful atmosphere: Cultural festivals guarantee peaceful co-existence. In most traditional settings, the villagers are told not to go to farm or fish; not to fight during the festival, and so on. In fact, people are fined if they breached the peace or contravened the laws guiding such celebrations. We all know that meaningful development cannot take place in an atmosphere of chaos.
  6. Build relationships between tourists and the indigenes: This festival provides a veritable platform for building and cultivating relationships. Such long-standing relationships lead to sustainable development.
  7. Make tourists to be ambassadors of the host communities: The saying goes that, “Seeing is believing.” Some persons may have had certain negative perceptions about Benue State. Such perceptions change once they encounter the people; and they eventually become worthy ambassadors of such communities once they return to their destinations.
  8. Enhance investment opportunities: As people troop to a festival destination, they see opportunities for investments and capitalise on such.
  9. Boost the local economy: With the flurry of medium and small scale retail businesses, the local economy is boosted. We cannot easily quantify the sachets of pure water, bottles of water, minerals, alcoholic drinks, and so on, that have been guzzled during this period. Hotels have been fully booked, and food vendors are making brisk businesses. Their prayers would be that this kind of event should be organised as often as possible.
  10. Boost internally generated revenue (IGR): A corollary to (i) above is that, ideally, the IGR of the state will increase. Transporters, hoteliers, fast food eateries, beverages companies, fashion designers, up to media houses make appreciative profits; and they equally pay tax to government, providing the necessary machinery has been put in place to effectuate that.
  11. Bring such communities to national or international attention: With appropriate publicity, festivals bring the host communities to the public sphere, nationally or internationally, depending of the scope. What we are experiencing today is a classic example.
  12. Give the organisers sense of pride and ethnic identity: Once a festival takes place successfully, the organisers have a sense of pride and identity. They are exhilarated that they played host to the numerous visitors to the community, hoping that the next outing will be better.

A Strategic A-Z Model in Festival Branding

It is necessary to underscore the point that, the challenge facing festival organisers is how to enhance their contributions to the economic development of host communities or states. Thus, they are perceived as mere jamborees, devoid of any seriousness. This is where the A-Z Model we are postulating here becomes invaluable. For purpose of clarity, let us briefly highlight the model.

  1. Acquire a unique quality: Strategically develop a festival that is unique, that has an identity. Doing the usual things others do produces the usual results. There is need to strategically conceptualise a unique quality that differentiates the festival from other brands.
  2. Business plan: Evolve a business plan for the festival. There is need to come out with a concrete business plan to position the festival very well and evolve proper artistic programme strategies that can make the festival stand the test of time.
  3. Create an event protocol: Formalising the process of registration of the festival will create room for corporate investments and access to corporate funding by government, financial institutions, non-profit organisations/foundations or donor agencies. This will entail designing and managing a website to factor into the global information highway.
  4. Develop partnerships with stakeholders: Partnerships in the hospitality industry will reduce some of the burden on the organisation process. This also means involving opinion leaders and the youths in the host community, even if they are not directly involved in the programme planning.
  5. Exploit various avenues for endorsements: Getting some endorsements from relevant government agencies would be invaluable; it gives visibility and confers status on the festival brand.
  6. Find and contract renowned artists to partner: The use of popular stand-up comedians, Nollywood stars, musicians, dancers, theatre artists, and so on to promote the festival.
  7. Generate good content audio-visual jingles: Jingles, on radio or television, are designed to advertise an event effectively.
  8. Harness sponsorship: Sponsorship from reputable organisations would enable the organisers to up the ante of any festival. The implication is having a feasible budget that prospective sponsors can easily identify with.
  9. Invigorating, well-designed tour vehicles: Such vehicles act as a publicity platform for the festival, wherever they drive to before or after the event.
  10. Juxtapose branded items: There is need to put together various items and costumes specifically branded with the festival logo, motto, theme, and other festival messages. Such branding would also include major or brand sponsors.
  11. Knowledgeable periodic reviews: This entails periodic analysis of the programme services to ascertain the level of effectiveness.
  12. Leverage: This will be in the form of producing daily news bulletins, spotlights or updates on the festival before, during and after the festival.
  13. Mainstream vibrant tour guides into the festival: Tour guides could stimulate the interest of participants in a festival. Thus, such guides should be properly trained to work with tourists.
  14. New construction or renovation work on vital infrastructure: Once facilities like road network, exhibition stands, press galleries, and pavilions for clients are put in good shape, it will boost the morale of participants. Accessibility into and within the festival community, portable water and uninterrupted electricity supply would go a long way in profiling the festival.
  15. Operate a secure environment: A secure environment is a sine qua non for any festival event. There is need to maintain a secure, peaceful and conducive environment. This entails engaging the services of various security operatives: Nigeria Police, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), State Security Services (SSS), Federal Fire Service, and Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), for free flow of traffic in and around the venue).
  16. Provide basic medical facilities: This is to take care of emergencies in and around the venue.
  17. Qualitative contact checks: This is the follow-up on all special invitees: VIPs, states, troupes, artistes, and so on. Assign persons to follow up on such persons, so that you know the number of guests to expect, when they are arriving, and, probably, where they would be staying.
  18. Responsible and reliable hospitality: Be hospitable and receive participants. They should not be left stranded at entry points: airport, sea port, train station, and Motor Park. Follow up their travel plans to avoid lapses. Where they are to be accommodated, such arrangements should be tidied up long before then and such persons should be duly informed.
  19. Systematic crowd control: Ensure effective crowd control at the venue so that everybody can enjoy all the activities.
  20. Thrilling events and exhilarating in-festival publicity: Ensure that the events are well packaged and they are entertaining. Performances should be very crisp so that the spectators will not be bored. Furthermore, there should be effective promotion of the activities for the next day. This could be by producing special promos to attract attendance. Also, engage participants in press interviews/vox pops.
  21. Ubiquitous side attractions: This entails conceptualising side attractions to keep participants fully engaged and entertained.
  22. Vibrant, veritable courtesy: Extend courtesy to everyone. Endeavour to attend to every problem encountered by participants. This is where the services of well-trained festival aides would be invaluable.
  23. Wonderful press relations: Maintain effective press relations during and after the festival. Very friendly and favourable press reportage can profile your festival in no time.
  24. X-ray the event – perform a post mortem: Carry out extensive after-event evaluation to underscore areas that need improvement during the next outing. Most times, we go to sleep after an event only to reconvene a month or even two weeks before the next edition.
  25. You appreciate your guests: Send appreciation letters to dignitaries that graced the event. It will be better appreciated if, for instance, the Special Guest of Honour at the opening (or closing) ceremony gets such a letter at the end of that ceremony. This, of course, depends on the effective running of the Festival Secretariat.
  26. Zoom in and carry out updates: Ensure that partners are adequately informed of the programme outcomes and suggest the way forward.

Conclusion

There is no gainsaying that, Benue State, “the food basket of the nation,” is endowed with a rich and diverse cultural heritage, which finds expression in the colourful cloths, exotic masquerades, sophisticated music and dances of the people. The Kwagh-hir theatre of the Tiv people provides memorable entertainment in its dramatization of the people’s folklore and social commentary, through the use of masquerades, puppets and marionettes. As Rubin puts it, the stories of the performances are as simple and straightforward as possible: farmers farming, family’s passing on traditions, men and women working. The narratives of the performances are a means of handing down opinions, beliefs, customs and traditions to the younger generation, just as they offer visual metaphors for understanding and resolving social conflicts.

The point has been underscored that cultural festivals have the potentials of enhancing the economic development of host communities or states. Thus, to avoid getting just tangential results, in the search to reposition the culture and tourism sector, we have recommended the adoption of the A-Z Model, which has the prospects of re-inventing a festival as a brand. As a point of fact, celebrating the creativity in Kwagh-hir is a veritable step in branding it and systematically repositioning it to contribute meaningfully to the economic development of Benue State. A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step; so the saying goes. The Ministry of Arts, Culture and Tourism, Benue State has taken one step, the right step, in celebrating the creativity in Kwagh-hir theatre through this festival. Definitely, adopting the A-Z Model will be invaluable in taking more steps in the years ahead.

Works Cited

Abraham, Anthony Ada. “Masquerades and Festivals: Giving Way to Modernisation?” Leadership Newspaper. 9 Mar. 2014. Retrieved 31 Jan. 2016. http://leadership.ng/entertainment/353448/ masquerades-festivals-giving-way-modernisation

Akinsipe, Felix A. “Dance as a Vehicle of Communication in the Tiv Kwagh-Hir Theatre.” International Journal of Humanities and Cultural Studies, 1.4 (Mar. 2015). Retrieved 31 Jan. 2016. https://www.academia.edu/11343222/_Dance_ as_a_Vehicle_of_Communication_in_the_Tiv_Kwagh-Hir_Theater_ Felix_A. _Akinsipe

Ayakoroma, Barclays F. “Developing a Festival Brand: Towards a Blue Print for Nzeh Mada in Nasarawa State.” Being a Paper Presented at the Colloquium Event at Nzeh Mada Festival, Kini Country Guest Inn, Akwanga, Nasarawa State. 3 Apr. 2015.

Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, 2nd Ed. Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Doki, Ama G. “Indigenous Art Forms and Tourist Attraction: The Kwagh-Hir Theatre Paradigm.” The Abuja Communicator: A Journal of Culture & Media Arts, 3.1(June 2007): 122-129.

Duruaku, ABC Toni. Cultural Festival as a Tool for National Development in Nigeria. Abuja: National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), 2011.

Enem, Edith. “The Kwagh-hir Theatre.” In Ogunbiyi, Yemi (Ed.), Drama and Theatre in Nigeria: A Critical Source Book. Lagos: Nigeria Magazine, 1981: 249-251.

Hagher, Iyorwuese. The Kwagh-hir Theatre: A Metaphor of Resistance. Ibadan: Caltop Publications (Nigeria) Ltd, 2003.

Kwagh Hir. A Documentary. Dirs. Frank Speed & Peggy Harper. Retrieved 31 Jan. 2016. https://www.therai.org.uk/film/film-sales/kwagh-hir

Lyndersay, Dani. “Walking the Talk with Interactive Walket-Puppets in Eastern Nigeria.” MUKABALA: Journal of Performing Arts and Culture, 1 (2008). 

Nyager, Elizabeth A. “Globalization and Folk-media.” Iorapuu, Tor (Ed.), Nigeria Theatre Journal: A Journal of the Society of Nigeria Theatre Artists, 10.2 (2010): 18-23.

------------. “The Sculptural Elements in Kwagh-Hir Popular Theatre: The Interface between the Local and the Global.” 30 Jan. 2016. http://www.ajol.info/index.php/lwati/article/view/79501

Rubin, Don. “The Kwagh-Hir Theater: A Weapon for Social Action.” Retrieved 31 Jan. 2016. http://criticalstages.web.auth.gr/the-kwagh-hir-theater-a-weapon-for-social-action/

The New Lexicon Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language, Int. Ed. New York: Lexicon Inc., 1995.

NOTE:

vBeing a Paper Presented the Kwagh-hir Festival at Makurdi, Benue State on Thursday, 11th February, 2016

vBarclays Foubiri AYAKOROMA, PhD, is the Executive Secretary/CEO, National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Abuja, Nigeria and Visiting Associate Professor, Nasarawa State University, Keffi (NSUK). Website: www.nico.gov.ng. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

National Orientation as a Catalyst for Change: Thoughts on Some Cultural Imperatives

Written by Austine Posted in Featured Articles

National Orientation as a Catalyst for Change:

Thoughts on Some Cultural Imperatives

By

Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, PhD

Executive Secretary/CEO

National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO)/

Visiting Associate Professor

Nasarawa State University, Keffi (NSUK)

Website: www.nico.gov.ng

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Being a Paper Presented at the

11th All Nigerian Editors Conference (ANEC)

Organised by

Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE)

At the

Banquet Hall, Government House, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State

On

Thursday, 27th August, 2015

Preamble

Two years ago, I was at the Events Centre, Asaba, Delta State, for the 2013 edition of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) Annual Conference. I was at that event, not as Dr. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, but as a representative of the then Honourable Minister for Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke. Our people say, “the message does not kill the bearer;” so, I delivered his message on that occasion. This year, I am here in my capacity, as the Executive Secretary/CEO of National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), to share some thoughts.

Let me first express my profound joy that the Government of Bayelsa State saw the need to host this all-important conference. If we have to tell the Bayelsa story, I believe that editors are better placed as invaluable partners. My gratitude goes also to Members of the Organising Committee of this year’s conference, for finding me worthy to present this paper. I do not know what really informed their choice; but I believe the fact that I am here shows that the choice had the support of the top hierarchy of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE). Furthermore, I was asked to speak on the topic, “National Orientation as a Catalyst for Change;” but I have used my artistic license to make it, “National Orientation as a Catalyst for Change: Thoughts on Some Cultural Imperatives.” The idea in the second strand of the topic is for us to examine the centrality of culture in national development, as contextually embedded in this discourse.

Conceptual Framework

Life, they say, is always in constant motion; and for you to get the best out of it, you have to be up and doing. In fact, you can compare life with a masquerade dance; you cannot get the best glimpse staying on one spot. You change your position from time to time to get a better viewpoint and so on. It reminds us about the saying that, “the only thing that is permanent in life is change.” This leads us to some of the key concepts in the topic, specifically, orientation, catalyst, change, and cultural imperatives.

            Apart from first seeing orientation as an Oriental way of thinking and doing things, The New Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language defines orientation, in part, as, “an orienting or being oriented; position with relation to the point of the compass… the relative position of atoms or groups about a nucleus or existing configuration” (707). On the other hand, the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines the term as, “the act of directing your aims towards a particular thing” (1038). The implication here is that, if a group of people are oriented towards a way of doing things, they will be used to it and hold on to it perpetually, no matter the conditions.

Going further, Webster’s Dictionary defines catalyst as,

a substance that alters the rate of a chemical reaction and is itself unchanged by the process. Catalysts usually increase the rate of chemical reaction, so enabling them, for example, to take place under milder conditions, e.g., at a lower temperature than would otherwise be possible (154).

What is worth noting here is that a catalyst helps to change the state of what it is working on but remains unchanged; it is not adulterated or corrupted because of the contact with the other substance.

            This brings us to the term, change, which has been defined by the same Webster’s Dictionary as, “alteration; the exchange of one thing or another; a new occupation of fresh look; the passing from one form, phase, or place to another… to take off (clothes) and put on different ones” (163). Today, the word, change, has become a cliché in both private and government circles. It is not because it is a new word; it is based on the thinking that, the present time is different from the past times. It is saying that, the way things are being done now is different from the way they were done in the past.

As a point of fact, there has to be dedicated pragmatism for change to occur in any situation. It entails making conscious efforts directed at solving problems in practical ways. It means people have to start thinking and acting differently from the way they used to think and act. This is where orientation comes in; because it is believed that for change to occur, good orientation has to be ingrained in the lives of the citizenry. In essence, if the aims of government and individuals are directed towards particular goals changes will occur. It also implies that, for one to move across divides, change must be present. We shall go into this shortly.

In defining cultural imperatives, it is pertinent to look at the concept of culture first. The Cultural Policy for Nigeria, the official document that is meant to guide the policy direction of the country regarding issues related to culture, defines the term, culture as,

the totality of the way of life evolved by a people in their attempts to meet the challenge of living in their environment, which gives order and meaning to their social, political, economic, aesthetic and religious norms and modes of organisation thus distinguishing a people from their neighbours (3).

Edward Tylor had noted that culture comprise that, “complex whole which includes law, morals, knowledge, customs, belief, art and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as member of society” (1). Thus, it is clear that culture is what humans do; how they do it; what they say; how they say it; all that they learn; and how they learn them. It is, probably, the reason why Johnson Effiong avers that, “order in a multi-ethnic state such as ours comes from culture, and the totality of life of the Nigerian citizenry spins on the anvil of culture” (8). In a similar vein, he had posited that, “life’s meaning hinges on culture which expresses itself in social, political, economic aesthetic, religion, organizational and identity dimensions of Nigerian people” (8). Similarly, in defining culture, Catherine Acholonu says, “the difference between man and animal is culture. Man is always trying to improve himself and the weapon through which he improves himself is culture” (6). This is just as Albert Camus had also opined that, “without culture and the relative freedom it implies, society, even when perfect, is but a jungle” (http://madisonian.net).

What all of the above imply is that without culture, human beings are as good as animals. It is actually the acquisition of culture that distinguishes humans from animals; that is why there are certain things animals do publicly that humans cannot not do; for example, sexual intercourse. This underpins the position of Hope Eghagha, as he states succinctly that, “a developed culture is sine qua non for the general development of any society” (217). Greene Okome is more elaborate in stating thus:

a well developed culture creates a process of positive impact on national development… true development can only manifest from the people’s culture. Culture can be used to foster unity among people and community…. In any society, culture in its vibrant motion of chance creates an equally robust economic activity, a technological base for advancement and smooth road to freedom from any kind of domination (223).

  

The foregoing definitions and assertions regarding culture merely state the obvious: that culture is the live-wire of any nation that has development of both the citizenry and the environment as one of its agenda. Governments of countries, like Brazil, China, Indonesia, Japan that have realized that culture is a veritable tool for national development, have not only formulated programmes that would enhance cultural orientation of the citizenry, they have made giant economic, social and political strides; they have also invested heavily on cultural orientation. As it were, the cultural imperatives are those things related to the ways of life of the people, “which must at all costs be obeyed or which cannot in any way be ignored” (485). They are things that need to be done the right way and maintained so that the society can experience positive, sustainable development.

National Orientation as a Catalyst for Change

Let us recall that the War Against Indiscipline (WAI), a laudable initiative by the Buhari/Idiagbon regime is a classic example of orientating the people towards a given policy direction. In inculcating discipline in public places, Nigerians learnt to queue at bus stops, petrol stations, banks, shops, and even water taps. This was just as they learnt not to dash like rabbits across Expressways instead of using overhead bridges. The message was that we can do things the right way once we are disciplined. Unfortunately, the exit of that administration meant the practice gradually going into oblivion. Nigerians never bothered to sustain the tempo; and the media did not help in that direction to say that that should be sustained as a national culture. It only tells one thing: we are wont to throw away the bath water with the baby in it.

It is actually curious that so much has been said and is still being said about ‘change;’ but there has been no serious mention of ‘orientation.’ It is important to note that, change will be difficult to take place in our individual lives or in the business of governance if efforts are not geared or directed at particular goals. This is because of the mindset that has been ingrained in people over the years. The change that government is talking about today is one that should bring about national development; and if the catalyst, national orientation, is left out, the change may be a mirage. In ordinary parlance, good orientation is a product of one’s up-bringing; this is when one is not adulterated culturally. Consequently, the orientation and change have to start with the self; this is in reinventing our sense of values, attitude, and social order.

A critical study of the Nigerian society suggests that it is actually re-orientation that is needed for the sought after development. This is premised on the realisation that the country lost direction at a point in our political development. Thus, re-orientation implies orienting one who had been oriented before but had veered off the defined path. Going by this position, therefore, the process of re-introducing culture into the national scheme of things is what this paper calls, cultural re-orientation; and the paper believes that change can be achieved on the platform of a national culture. Nations like Brazil, China, Indonesia, Jamaica, and so on, have used culture to enhance national development, and it is high time Nigeria did same. Take the case of a very small country like Haiti, with a heavy debt burden, which has used the wild flowers that grow in that country to grow its economy. In other words, it has used the instrumentality of cultural tourism to pay off part of the huge debts. The President of Haiti, Michel Martelly, states that much when briefing the media that,

                                                                                                                

the carnival brings economic opportunities not only for the established enterprises, but also for the most vulnerable in the informal sector…. You see many small vendors from poor neighbourhoods who come on the carnival route to sell stuff they would not have sold otherwise. Thanks to the carnival they can go home with some money they can use to feed their children (caribbeannewsnow.com).

  

Further in the same interview, he said, “imagine that there is no way now of finding a hotel room, of booking a flight for Miami tomorrow for instance because many who came for the carnival will go back home;” concluding that, “this is good for the image of the country.” One can only imagine the developmental strides that country would be recording in the next few years for relying on culture to change its economic fortunes. As a matter of fact, the Director, Festivals Edinburgh, Faith Liddel, is more articulate in her description of Scottish festivals and their benefits:

Edinburgh’s festivals are Scotland’s world-class cultural brands with an international reputation and appeal unmatched by any other cultural events on the globe… drawing artists, audiences and media from every continent and over 70 countries each year.

She went on to say that, “the festivals are economic powerhouses, cultural platforms, forums for national and international debate, drivers of ambition and creators of cohesion.” These events did not just turn things around; the governments of these nations did not just pray and received miracles, the type Nigerians are wont to have in their daily lives. They looked at the potentials of change; and in engaging change, they deployed a catalyst, an element that causes change very fast; that way, they used what they have to get what they want – culture.

The argument here is that, if the Federal Government of Nigeria under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari makes culture the centre-piece of its national orientation, the country stands to benefit economically, socially, politically and otherwise. The question is: What then is the caveat? The advice has always been for us to go back to our roots; to our core values system. This is a situation where the citizenry imbibe Nigerian, nay African, culture which encapsulates genuine love for people and the country, knowledge of Nigerian indigenous languages, promoting Nigerian dress culture, respect for elders and constituted authority, hard work, honesty, fear of God, integrity, humility, craftsmanship, accountability, transparency, being our brothers’ keepers, just to mention few. Unarguably, these are attributes that can be used, maximally, for the development of the nation.

Ahmed Yerima supports this view when he avers that, “national branding through culture therefore means the purgation of the nation of its ills, finding links with the good values in the cultural past of the people” (52). One of the social ills he is alluding to above is the cultural suicide committed by people in jettisoning our culture and eating, drinking and ingesting imported, foreign cultures. On his part, Johnson Effiong asks questions for the infamy over a people’s ways of life:

If order in a multi-ethnic state such as ours comes from culture, and the totality of life of the Nigerian citizenry spins on the anvil of culture, why then should culture miss in the apex priority of developmental pursuit? Could it be a product of ignorance of the impetus of culture? Could it be gross insensitivity over culture’s quintessentially in a people’s milieu? Could it be a sadistic agenda aimed at a systematic stifling of a people’s core-essence into suffocation?

Interestingly, section 1 of the Cultural Policy for Nigeria posits rightly that,

1.3. Culture is not merely a return to the customs of the past. It embodies the attitude of a people to the future of their traditional values faced with the demands of modern technology which is an essential factor of development and progress.

1.4. When therefore we talk of self-reliance, self-sufficiency and a national identity as the core of our national development objectives, we are referring to culture as the fountain spring of all policies whether educational, social, political or economical. The strategies of national development would thus depend on the understanding of the culture, the adaptation of its elements for political, educational and economic development, as well as its strengths for social integration and development.

From the above, it is therefore amazing that cultural festivals are seen as mere jamborees, play things. Somehow, this is not the case with sporting events! For instance, people do not see anything wrong with 22 ‘crazy’ people with an equally ‘crazy’ umpire running around, chasing some round leather on a pitch; but most top government officials see everything wrong with displays of our rich cultural heritage. Popular festivals and carnivals like the Ofala Festival, Osun Oshogbo Festival, Argungun Fishing Festival, National Festival of Arts & Culture (NAFEST), Calabar Carnival, Rivers State Carnival (CARNIRIV), the Abuja National Carnival, and many others have never been seen to be of any significant economic benefit. When little importance is attached to such events, the membership of the planning committees are seen as the exclusive preserve of politicians, as ‘job for the boys.’ It is a clear example of the man who, because the dog meat is taboo to him, would not have children use his knife to cut it but would rather use his teeth to share it for them. Very often, musicians, drummers and dancers are quickly assembled only when they are needed to entertain visiting presidents or other dignitaries. Artists are conveyed in air-conditioned buses to town and lodged in good hotels to welcome visiting dignitaries. It is only at such times that government realizes entertainment is important; that they are proud of those elements of culture because the visitors applaud such elementary display of culture. Most times, after the usual airport ceremonies, there would hardly be vehicles to convey such artists back to their villages, as they would be left stranded at the airport! We will look at how the media professionals have not helped matters in this direction.

            There is no gainsaying that, governments at all levels need to conceive culture as an area of immense economic importance; and that is why cultural agencies need to be given serious attention in the scheme of things. The fact is that, the culture sector is about the least funded and one of the first to have funds slashed when government thinks of reviewing budgetary allocations downwards. Of importance is the fact that, culture can be the rejected stone that could turn out to be the cornerstone, if government creates the enabling environment for the sector to function. To the pioneer Executive Secretary of National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Mrs. Victoria Agodo, NICO is the catalyst Nigeria needs for this change:

NICO is indeed a unique institution. It was established to serve as a vital force in energizing the various cultural establishments in the country in the new direction being advocated by the cultural policy and the World Decade (1988-1997) for Cultural Development (WDCD) programme…. The Institute is to serve as s focus for orientation for the nation’s policy makers and other government officials in cultural matters (12).

Also, former Honourable Minister of Information and Culture, Uche Chukwumerije saw NICO as, “an agent of change, a means for changing the ugly concepts, influences and behaviour patterns which in turn influence the Nigerian personality” (18).

Let us recall here that, to justify the role of culture in national development, the United Nations General Assembly, under the auspices of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), declared 1988-1997 as the World Decade for Cultural Development (WDCD) on the 8th December, 1986. The guiding philosophy for WDCD, which put culture in the centrepiece of national development, stressed that,

üthe cultural dimension is centred on development and planning without consideration of the human factor and the cultural milieu is likely to fail

üthere is a fundamental link between culture on one hand and science and technology on the other, because of the relationship between the survival of a culture and its productive capacity

üthe bye-products of the linkage, namely, the cultural industries have become important elements in national economies

üevery cultural identity has validity and respect of these identities are fundamental to democracy, governance and peaceful co-existence

ücreativity is the hallmark of civilization and should be promoted and encouraged; and

üthat cultural exchange is an important element in international exchange and the promotion of peace and understanding.

Thoughts on Some Cultural Imperatives

At this juncture, let us share some of the wild thoughts running through the head. They are just food for thought for this august gathering of accomplished editors.

Building Orientation: Nigerians have developed an insatiable love for foreign building concepts. Apart from the unnecessary craze to own houses abroad, people build houses here in Nigeria without taking cognizance of the climatic or environmental conditions. The same is the case in furnishing of houses. If the fittings are not Italian, then it is as if you have not started. Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory plays host to several sprawling housing estates that have been lying fallow, unoccupied for years. The question is: Are the houses not meant to be occupied? What are media professionals doing about this?

Use of Nigerian Indigenous Languages: Language helps us to identify social groups (for example, Igbo, Izon, Hausa, or Yoruba group) and individuals. Through language, the individual interacts with others. Language serves to reinforce the individual; and in addition, it enables him to express and develop his personality.Incidentally,there is unmitigated dislike for our indigenous languages by Nigerians; children have been brought up to see their indigenous languages as being unimportant. We have argued elsewhere that, parents, religious leaders, as well as the educational system are all liable. Parents have not attached much importance to the speaking of their indigenous language in homes. Chief Chika Okpala (Chief Zebrudaya of The Masquerade fame) was reported to have been verbally assaulted by a woman in Houston, Texas, USA, simply because he spoke Ibo to her son. I thought the woman was a Diasporan, only to be told by Zebrudaya that she was only on vacation; and that she lives in Enugu. This is just as our religious leaders and the school system have not helped matters. For instance, the teaching of Nigerian languages is not accorded serious attention. If our children learn foreign languages in Belgium, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, Ukraine, and other such countries, why should it not be a policy in our educational system? What are media professionals doing about this?

Nigerian Dress Culture: People are not passionate about Nigerian fabrics; the example of kente and woodin from Ghana; batik from Indonesia, etc. in line with the popular dictum, “You are addressed the way you dress.” In other words, dressing makes the man or woman. Unfortunately, indecent dressing has become the order of the day in the Nigerian society. The entertainment industry has not fared better as most so-called stars feel the more weird the dressing, the more attention one would get. My question has always been: If you display all the essentials for free, what will be there for a man to explore? Due commendation goes to Sunday Sun’s “Fashion Court” with ‘Justice’ Bolatito Adebayo, which has been attempting to showcase outrageous dress orientations (for instance, see Sunday Sun, 23 Aug. 2015: 34). Needless to say the effort is more like a drop in the ocean. For instance, in NICO, we have instituted what we call, Dress Nigeria Days, for staffers: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for Nigerian dresses, and Tuesdays and Thursdays for other dresses, except T-shirts, jeans or chinos trousers. The idea is for us to be really patriotic about our dressing. Do you know that even appearing in an adire outfit stands you out in a crowd abroad and you will be admired by others? Come to think of it: How else can we revive our textile industries if we do not patronise made in Nigeria dresses?

Take the case of an 18 year-old girl that killed herself over a disagreement with her mother on her mode of dressing (Isiguzo 5). She wore a dress that exposed her body and her mother, who had always complained about her dressing, asked her to change the dress. She refused, threatening to harm herself if her mother did not allow her to wear the dress. As her mother insisted that she would not go out unless she changed the dress, she went into the house, came back with a bottle of a drink suspected to be poisonous, and swallowed the content. Of course, she died! Again, what are media professionals doing about this?

Instant Miracles Mentality: Nigerians have gradually become very impatient. This has reflected in our food culture, in the sense that people for instant food. As a point of fact, many want their rewards on earth; they want results in the instant, not ready to wait for the appointed time of their blessings. This has led to many gullible ones resorting to various forms of rituals to amass instant wealth. Or they run to modern day Pentecostal Churches that place emphasis on instant miracles, ‘ojugbo jugbo,’ ‘sharp sharp,’ not salvation of their souls. Stories abound on such unscrupulous attempts by people to acquire blood money. What are media professionals doing about this?

Hard Work: The fact remains that, hard work pays. Every editor here did not become one overnight. He/she rose through the ranks; he/she paid his/her dues! You were focused and worked hard before your gradual rise to the top of your chosen profession. Unfortunately, the younger ones in this country do not believe in hard work; some of them have been orientated either through the family or social system to assume that they can cut corners and make it in life. This is where the reward mechanism needs to looked into seriously for us to change the mindset of the young generation. What are our media professionals going to do about this?

Hero-worshipping and Societal Demands: By this, we mean the way we reverence those who come into, most times, questionable riches. Nowadays, parents do not question how their sons and daughters come into money. In those days, if you got rich too quickly and visited your old man in the village, he would wake you up from bed, maybe around 4am and ask you how you got wealthy in so short a time. He would ask if there were trees in the city from where you plucked money; that he had a family name to protect. We know that this is not the case in the society now. As a point of fact, if you are appointed into any political office, it is assumed that you have arrived. They you will be called, ‘Excellency,’ ‘Chairman,’ ‘Honourable,’ ‘Chief,’ and so on. All the distant relations you did not know before will surface and make all sorts of outrageous demands. Again, let us ask: What are media professionals doing about this?

Respect for Elders and Constituted Authority: The words of our elders are words of wisdom; so they say. Furthermore, what the elder sees sitting, the child cannot see standing on top of a table. The younger generation is losing grip of our cherished values of respect for elders and constituted authority. Courtesy appears to have grown wings even in the manner senior citizens are addressed. The media appears to be leading in this direction, as vituperative words are freely used on the elderly and leaders. What are media professionals doing about this?

Sanctity of Human Life: We are living in a country now where the sanctity of human lives is no more paramount. Apart from the 30 months fratricidal Nigerian civil war, the country has witnessed several communal, ethnic, religious and post elections violence with devastating effects on the polity. After a seeming moment of respite from the debilitating offensive of the Niger Delta militants, the nation is currently facing the intractable challenge of atrocious activities of the Boko Haram sect. The audacious machinations of the sect have led to wanton destruction of lives and property. What are media professionals doing about this?

Armed Robbery and other Criminal Activities: Armed robbery, kidnapping, hostage taking, car-snatching, gang rapes, child abuse, cultism and cult wars, are just a few of the cases of criminal activities we read or hear of daily. There is no arguing the fact that the way our fathers lived their lives has been eroded over the years. Our fathers lived peacefully in their village huts that had no doors. They slept with both eyes closed, not afraid that some miscreants will invade their privacy and probably cart away their belongings. Yam barns were built at the backyards; there were no fears about thieves possibly visiting such barns. Those, who had questionable traits, were known; and were promptly called to order, when there were incidents. In fact, thieves were paraded round the village in a grotesque manner. It explains why there was social order. Now, people are perpetually under siege due to the nefarious activities of different criminal gangs. What are media professionals doing about this?

Integrity, Honesty, Transparency and Accountability:

Nigerians can attest to the fact that the level of credibility associated with President Muhammadu Buhari is predicated on his personal integrity, which has honesty, transparency and accountability as collaterals. This is lacking in the present generation in almost all sphere of our socio-political existence. People are more interested in what they can get from service, and not rendering selfless service to society. Incidentally, elsewhere, we have done extensive studies on culture, leadership and accountability in Nigeria, which have been published. Again, what are media professionals doing about this?

Corruption: As President Muhammadu Buhari has stated severally, “If we Nigerians do not kill (curb) corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria.” So, he has declared War on Corruption, which, for lack of any acronym for now, we would simply code name, WAC. As it were, corruption is a cankerworm that has become invidious. Paradoxically, it is viewed as a menace that is at the upper echelon of government. The fact is that corruption is a spirit that has demonised almost everybody and all sectors in the country. Think of the cook or housewife that thinks of using half the money for the home-front; think of the driver that collects money for fuel and buys half tank; think of the messenger in the office that hides a file until he/she receives gratification; think of the cleaners in our airports that would pursue you into the toilet and unnecessarily offer one service or the other to get money of you. We do not want to talk about corruption in government or the private sector, uniformed personnel, the judiciary, the legislature, the educational system, and even in the media, which we are all familiar with. The popular parlance is that, “Nothing goes for nothing;” and so, the cycle continues. The bottom line is that change has to start with the individual; once that happens, we can change others. What are media professionals doing about this?

The Nigerian Spirit: By the Nigerian spirit, we mean the never-say-die mindset, the strong will to persevere in the face of adversities. Nigerians have that innate ability to withstand serious conditions; and there is need to fully exploit that. President Buhari was undaunted in his quest to once again lead this country; and he has achieved that dream. There is need for us to reinvent the thinking of the younger generation to imbibe that spirit of invincibility. That a man fell once does not make him a failure; he will only be construed as a failure when he refuses to rise up from that prostrate state. We see that from the mindset of children: when a strong-willed child falls, he quickly gets up, dusts himself and moves on, most times checking to see if someone had seen him. He does not wait down there, crying for help from Big Mama. What are media professionals doing about this?

The Example from Japan  

There is consensus of opinion that change is inevitable in Nigeria. However, there is dire need for governments at all levels to explore and exploit our culture, which is a unifying factor, the way most developing countries have done. Thus, it is necessary for us recall a classic example from the natural disaster that devastated Japan in 2011, as captured by Sam Ndah-Isaiah. In the face of the crisis that hit that country, their deep-seated cultural orientation came to the fore in the following ways:

  1. The Calm: Not a single visual of chest-beating or wild grief.
  2. The Dignity: Disciplined queues for water and groceries. Not a rough word or crude gesture.
  3. The Ability: The incredible architects, for instance. Buildings swayed but did not fall.
  4. The Grace: (Selflessness) People bought only what they needed for the present, so everybody could get something.
  5. The Order: No looting in shops. No honking and no overtaking on the roads.
  6. The Sacrifice: Fifty workers stayed back to pump sea water in the N-reactors.
  7. The Tenderness: Restaurants cut prices; an unguarded ATM is left alone; and the strong cared for the weak.
  8. The Training: The old and the children, everyone knew exactly what to do; and they did just that.
  9. The Media: They showed magnificent restraint in the bulletins. No silly reporters. Only calm reportage. Most of all – no politicians trying to get cheap mileage.
  10. The Conscience: When the power went off in a store, people put things back on the shelves and left quietly (Nda-Isaiah 56, 6).

Conclusion

In this paper, we have attempted to discuss the topic, “National Orientation as a Catalyst for Change: Thoughts on Some Cultural Imperatives.” In sharing some thoughts, it has been argued that, culture provides the ready framework for Nigeria to explore to actualise the type of national orientation that could catalyse positive change. This has to be predicated on the type of national orientation that will influence the value system; that will act as a catalyst to change the mindset of the people; that will move the country forward positively; and that should start from the altitudinal change of the individual, predicated on the following, among others:

  1. Proud of being a Nigerian;
  2. Love and respect for the ‘self;’
  3. Love and respect for the ‘other;’
  4. Love for the only country we can call our own;
  5. Readiness to render selfless service to people and the country;
  6. Being content with what one has in life; and
  7. Cultivating the never-say-die spirit

The above will again be contingent on some cultural imperatives, which we have briefly examined. As it were, the Japanese experience has been seen as a model for Nigeria and Nigerians to emulate. Finally, let us ask again: What are media professionals going to do about this?

Works Cited

Acholonu, Catherine O. “Africa at the New Frontiers: A Truly Global Theory for the 21st Century.” Keynote Address to ANA National Convention, Asaba, Delta State, 2002.

Agodo, Victoria R. Welcome Address at Seminar on Perspectives in Cultural Orientation organised by the National Institute for Cultural Orientation, Lagos, 1993.

Ayakoroma, Barclays F.Arts, Culture, Language and National Integration. Abuja: NICO, 2011. Print.

-------------. (Ed.), Literary Perspectives on Culture, Leadership and Accountability in Nigeria. Ibadan: Kraft Books Ltd, 2013. Print.

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Cultural Policy for Nigeria. Lagos: Federal Government Printer, 1988. Print.

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Eghagha, Hope. “Popular Theatre and its Potential for National Development.” Sam Ukala (Ed.), Abraka Studies in African Arts and National Development. Ibadan: Kraft Books Ltd, 2006. Print.

Isiguzo, Jude. “18-year-old girl kills self over dress.” The Nation Newspaper, 30 Mar., 2011. Print.

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“The President says the Carnival of Flowers brings Economic Benefits.” Web. 13 July, 2015.

Tylor, Edward B. Primitive Culture: Researches into Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Language, Art and Custom. London: John Murray, 1903. Print.

Yerima, Ahmed. Theatre, Culture and Politics: Essays in Democratic and Culture Theory. Lagos: Concept Publication Ltd, 2007. Print.

Trends in Nollywood: A treasure of insights

Written by Austine Posted in Featured Articles

My first contact with a Nigerian movie was in 1977. I grew up near a Cinema Hall and the Urban Community School I attended was also located behind the Central Cinema in Abakaliki. The movies trending then were foreign movies like: Enter the Dragon, Game of Death, Heroes Two, Blacula, Saturday Night Fever, Longest Day, One Arm Boxer, and The Ten Gladiators amongst others. Early in the morning, we used to deploy the promotional signpost “Showing Tonite” at strategic locations which accounted for our gate fees. It was then surprising to see on the coming attraction promo board a Nigerian movie titled “Bisi Daughter of the River” starring Patti Boulaye, a Nigerian celebrity who we had watched severally on LUX soap commercials courtesy of the Lever Brothers’ market activation team at Hosanna hill. 

I have journeyed down memory lane to connect with the title of this book review, which is all about trends. But first, what is a trend? It is a gradual change or development that produces a particular result. As the human society develops, trends emerge. Life evolves in diverse ramifications, creating trendy patterns at every point in time. In short, trend is a function of change, and change itself is a mirror of the dynamics of human civilisation. Nothing is ever static in various aspects of life. So it is with the film industry in modern times. Today, the film industries in America, Europe, Asia, South America and Africa have evolved dramatically unique from what they were in centuries and years past.

It is common knowledge now that the most popular of the film industries in the world are Hollywood, Bollywood and, of course, Nollywood. However, Nollywood, Nigeria’s film industry, has been ranked by UNESCO in 2006 and 2012 respectively as the 2nd largest film industry in the world, producing a staggering 872 films in 2006 alone. This is just shy of Bollywood’s 1,091 and many more than the 485 movies produced by Hollywood during the same period. Today, the number of movies churned out by Nollywood is quite staggering. This is all in spite of the fact that the first true Nollywood film (Living in Bondage) only appeared in 1992, making Nollywood less than 25 years old today. Well, the burst of development can be attributed, largely, to the unique industry-audience relationship on which Nollywood thrives. This, one could argue, is also defined by Nigeria itself.  

There is no doubt that an industry as dynamic as Nollywood has become a phenomenal factor in our national consciousness as well as a formidable force in our economy. This creative industry generates thousands of employment and even ranks among the highest revenue-generating industries in Nigeria, second only to the extractive industries like oil and gas. As Nollywood is burgeoning in leaps and bounds, there is the compelling need to track its evolution and record its dynamics in an organised scholarly context in order to educate contemporary fans and enlighten posterity. 

It is in the light of the foregoing imperative that Dr. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma’s Trends in Nollywood: A Study of Selected Genres comes as a timely, relevant and important treasure of insights. As much as there have been some scholarly texts written on the pre-home video film industry in Nigeria, few have been written on Nollywood as a modern enigma beyond public lectures and newspaper articles. Fewer texts have even been written by authorities who know Nollywood inside out. In his own authoritative way, Ayakoroma, an erudite scholar, examines the Nollywood industry from the lens of a historian, an intellectual, a critic, a participant, a policy maker and a fan. And as the current Executive Secretary/CEO of the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Abuja, the author has contributed a very significant compendium of high cultural value to our national culture repository with his book. In fact, Trends in Nollywood is like an attempt at immortalising Nollywood in a society with short memory.    

Now, Ayakoroma’s book confidently recommends itself as a product of rigorous and comprehensive analysis. It is not a lazy man’s gloss-over-it effort at all. Well written, easily accessible and generously illustrated with colourful pictures of the most iconic Nollywood films and actors/actresses to date, Trends in Nollywood explores the beginning, growth and thematic fixations of Nollywood movies in the industry’s early years.

The book is a bit hefty in the hand, but the reader will find it quite interesting, enlightening and approachable to read. It is essentially organised in five major parts with adequate number of carefully indicated chapters. In

Part One, we are introduced to the context of the evolution and development of Cinema in Nigeria. It is a historical perspective of Nollywood. It begins with the dawn of the Cinema industry in Nigeria, the emergence of TV drama, the soap opera as the forerunner of video films, framework of production, censorship concerns, marketing and of course, piracy. We learn that Nollywood is an incidental outgrowth of the negative socio-economic atmosphere that engendered the decline of locally produced television soap opera and exorbitant cost of producing Nigerian movies in the celluloid era. Also, the reader will discover from the book that the hostile policies of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) in the 1980s helped spur the first generation of Nollywood’s experienced independent television producers and directors to collaborate with some adventurous Igbo traders who embraced the home video format and gave the new industry its explosive take-off.

In Part Two, entitled Studies in Genres in Nollywood, the book shows the robust scholarship in the author as he critically explores a theoretical framework for his work. He examines the genres in Nollywood and analyses the generic developmental trends. He also deals with a wide range of issues including the evolution of iconography, national and international markets, and film awards.

Moving to Part Three, we read through a collection of eleven poignant subjects which dwell on the significance of the Epic and Historical films as a revisionism of the Nigerian past. To lend intellectual depth to this discourse, the author engages in a comparative analysis of two landmark Nollywood films - Igodo and Egg of Life – which most Nigerian home video viewers would still vividly recall. Part Four goes on to explore the failure of societal Policing System and the emergence of Vigilante Genre movies in Nollywood, detailing the rise of criminal activities and vigilantism as reflected by the author’s re-examination of the Issakaba series as a case study.

The final Part Five of the book extensively analyses the Nollywood depiction of Politics and the Political process in Nigeria. Here, the reader is exposed to a comprehensive revelation of the intricacies of politics and politicking in Nigeria, and how these issues are reflected in Nollywood films. Interestingly, most of those political issues are still germane to contemporary Nigerian experience as the Nigerian politicians are still the same characters playing the field today. A comparative analysis of two Nollywood films, The Senator and Masterstroke, vividly bring the political drama home. In essence, Parts Three, Four and Five of Trends in Nollywood comprehensively encompass the author’s classification and critical evaluation of the diverse genres in Nollywood through apt case study illustrations.    

In the end, the reader of Trends in Nollywood will come away thoroughly informed, enlightened and educated by the systematic way the author has dissected Nollywood. With the book, one can vividly appreciate the past, present and even envisage the future of Nigeria’s most productive, ebullient creative industry.  The overall importance of Ayakoroma’s excellent work is that it is not just a panoramic reflection on the Nollywood industry; it also mirrors the cultural, social and political history of Nigeria itself. For instance, the book’s analysis of Igodo and Egg of Life give us a grasp of the concept of leadership in the traditional Nigerian societies in juxtaposition with modern Nigerian political leadership and institutions. Today in Nigeria, political leadership is no longer a true heeding of the call to serve the people but a fast lane to self-enrichment and domination. We can infer veritable examples from the recent fierce electoral campaigns between the PDP and APC, Nigeria’s two major political parties. The struggle for power between the two parties is, beyond hackneyed campaign platitudes and promises, more self-serving than selfless.


Also, the author’s exploration of the Issakaba Series earlier referenced under Part Four, reveals the failure of Nigerian state institutions in securing the lives and property of its citizens as robbery, kidnapping and terrorism among others spike to new heights of notoriety. Now, as in the Issakaba film, Nigerians have no choice but to resort to protecting themselves in our modern dangerous society. 


Indeed, Dr. Ayakoroma’s Trends in Nollywood is a riveting work of intellectual value that transcends mere entertainment. Most Nigerians usually watch Nollywood movies for their entertaining, gripping drama and tales of the good, the bad and the ugly. But with Trends in Nollywood, the reader will see a sobering mirror of contemporary unpalatable Nigerian realities. Beyond sober reflections, the book is also a challenge to the Nigerian government, economic players and arts patrons to appreciate the prime position of the Nollywood industry and how they can help steer it to its deserved position in our national political economy. The 365-page book is an incisive treasure of insights for all Nollywood stakeholders as well as an engaging reading delight for every book lover.
-Onwumere is a cultural activist, book enthusiast and brand management consultant based in Lagos. 

Ernie Onwumere

Culled from www.thisdaylive.com

BOOK REVIEW: The Complete Dictionary of Guosa Language

Written by Austine Posted in Featured Articles

BOOK REVIEW


TITLE:         The Complete Dictionary of Guosa Language
AUTHOR:          Alex G. Igbineweka
PUBLISHERS:     Guosa Educational, Scientific & Cultural Ins., Inc. & Guosa Publication Services, 2007
PAGES:        1 of 24, 529 (Inclusive)
ISBN:            978-30291-3-4
REVIEWER:        Professor Tony Ogiamien
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This is a well-researched and documented lingua franca dictionary. This dictionary, first of its kind and hence a pioneering attempt relies heavily on the previous publications of which two are authored by the author. The dictionary constitutes 106, 962 head words from traditional Nigerian and West African (ECOWAS) languages. This is why the author frequently refers to the dictionary as, "A 20th Century Evolution."
 
The table of content is listed at page 27 with the dictionary contents spreading over a total number of 529. At page 7 are the names of persons, places and things and a reference list. At page 11 is what the author referred to as, Evolution of languages and Dialects into the Guosa Language. They are 118 in number, including, Edo, Igbo, Yoruba, Esan, Efik, Urhobo, Isoko, (Emai-Ora), Hausa, Twi (Ghana), and Ijaw, among others.
 
The author lists up to 200 Guosa Language Numerals at page 13 of 25 and the months of the year at page 13 whilst the English Days of the week listed at page 14. On the same page are the tonal pattern and consonants. It is interesting to note that the alphabets are similar to those of Hausa and other ethnic groups in Nigeria such as the Edos, Igbos, Yorubas, Twi, Temene (Sierra-Leone) and others. How he got it all in his control leaves one wondering of his special masterpiece linguistic ingenuity.
 
The author succinctly explains the verb patterns present and past progressives at page 15 and at page 16, he goes on to highlight verb tense and some related sentences singular and plural of Guosa. Thereafter he state positions with words evolution, numerical and positional adjectives, noun involved with some elementary Guosa Language.
 
The author's aim are first and foremost to identify features that can be reliably ascribe to substrate influence; and secondly, to examine whatever correlations that may be between those findings and what is known about the historical and demographic development of West African communities resulting in the creation of the need for a new lingua franca to be learned, written and spoken by the new mega generations. Igbineweka has chosen to consider any African language spoken close to the coast of West Africa as a potential substrate of the Guosa language.
 
With about 400 different ethnic languages dialects and fractionalized tongues in Nigeria, Guosa alone has its own at least 118 of these diverse tongues made up of carefully researched units of deep culturally based words.
 
He has classified/grouped some of these 118 language units. He uses various geographical labels and linguist groupings in new ways capable of being learned and understood. Additionally, he deals with a whole range of grammatical features, such as reflexes, negative, postposition, conjunctions, several verb constructions, determiners, verb fronting, number marking, and other things. The dictionary begins with A through Z ending at page 529. The author was careful in choosing his references thereby giving academic touch desired.
 
On the whole Igbineweka admits this to be his first serious attempt to originate a dictionary of a language that needs a home. Whilst the textual writings are well crafted there is room for organization at pages 1-24.
 
Despite the above criticisms, however, Igbineweka has produced a laudable referenced text. The most appearing aspect of his dictionary is the impressive coverage of linguistic features which includes a vast array of phonetic/phonological lexical and grammatical features.
 
Happily, the organization of the main contents is admirable, making it easy to follow the author's creativity as puts together a dictionary of such magnitude. The Azekazedu of the Great Benin Kingdom as he is fondly called by his admirers is a member of the Great Benin Royal family of Nigeria. Since the so-called Wazobia met its natural end for lack of unity in such a geographical diversity, the Guosa language came as a Messiah from within; spreading across Nigeria and, the author has done well to distribute the continental linguistic unification to other West Africans.
 
Thus I warmly recommend Guosa Dictionary to anyone interested in typological studies of languages. I would even recommend it for every bookshelf in our homes, offices and schools.

Reviewed by
Professor Tony Ogiamien
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Nature and Nurture: Women-Centred Drama, Theatre and Performance in Nigeria

Written by Dr. Barclays Posted in Featured Articles

Nature and Nurture: Women-Centred Drama, Theatre and Performance in Nigeria

Professor Sunday Enessi Ododo

Department of Theatre Arts

University of Maiduguri, Maiduguri

Borno State, Nigeria

Introduction

OdodoNature and nurture are twin words essentially associated with the developmental process of human beings. While nature emphasises the innate and inherited qualities of the individual, nurture engages the human behaviour as determined by the environment and other acquired personal experiences. The notion that humans acquire all or almost all their behavioural traits from "nurture" was termed tabula rasa ("blank slate") by John Locke in 1690. Nature and nurture have been open to intensive debate on their roles in human development but in recent time, both are now factors found to contribute substantially, often in an extricable manner, to human development. In their 2014 survey of scientists, Alison Gopnik and Edge submit that many respondents wrote that the dichotomy of nature versus nurture has outlived its usefulness, and should be retired. The reason is that in many fields of research, close feedback loops have been found in which "nature" and "nurture" influence one another constantly (as in self-domestication), while in other fields, the dividing line between an inherited and an acquired trait becomes unclear (as in the field of epigenetics or in fetal development). (Edge.org and Gopnik).

It is now being realized that nature is every bit as important as nurture. Genetic influences, brain chemistry, and neurological development contribute strongly to who we are as children and what we become as adults. While each child is born with his or her own distinct genetic potential for physical, social, emotional and cognitive development, the possibilities for reaching that potential remain tied to early life experiences and the parent-child relationship within the family. The route through childhood is shaped by many forces, and it differs for each of us. Our biological inheritance, the temperament with which we are born, the care we receive, our family relationships, the place where we grow up, the schools we attend, the culture in which we participate, and the historical period in which we live; all these affect the paths we take through childhood and condition the remainder of our lives. Genes and family may determine the foundation of the house, but time and place determine its form. We are all therefore what nature and nurture have made us.

The Nigerian theatre has its evolutionary history located in our innate culture and has grown acquiring values of entertainment forms of other world cultures to sustain and reinvent itself. Like a plant, with its distinct nature, it has enjoyed the nurturing of many hands, values, ideas, experimentations, traditions, and the constantly changing socio-historical realities of our existence. Women-centred drama, theatre and performance are part of the nature of Nigerian theatre. It is from this larger context one can appreciates the unique contributions of women in the nurturing of Nigerian theatre, the growth of women-centred drama, theatre and performance, as well as the role of men at the centre of that creative development.

Nature and Nurturing of Women-Centred Drama, Theatre and Performance

Women-Centred Drama

In Nigeria Women-centred Drama can be broadly categorized into two: One, Male dramatists on women and Two, Women dramatists on women. The first category subsumes the creative output of male dramatists on women and issues that concern them, while the second category similarly deals with the drama by women dramatists on women and women-centred matters. The first category expectedly constitute early Nigerian dramatists who are mainly male (D.O. Oyedele, Hubert Ogunde, James Ene Henshaw, Wole Soyinka, J.P. Clark, Ola Rotimi, Wale Ogunyemi, etc.) before the appearance of Zulu Sofola as the first female Nigerian published playwright in 1972 with her Wedlock of the Gods. The content of the drama of this phase of Nigerian theatre on women are hitherto ordinarily interpreted as creative works meant to capture the reality of that historical period and the Nigeria cultural values. Themes were ostensibly raised to address disturbing social issues like prostitution, divorce, marital deceit, erosion of cultural values, ills of western civilization, adultery, corruption, etc. Even the early plays of Zulu Sofola fall into this category too. However, the second category is essentially an offshoot of recent feminist reading of the works of these male dramatists, which has come to the conclusion that the imaging of women in their works is unfair and uncomplimentary (Harrow 170, Palmer 38, Salami 43). This notion of female misrepresentation in male-written drama probably accounts for the sharp division that has come to underline the vigour and tenacity with which the Nigerian female dramatists also now try to address men and men-centred issues with uncomplimentary remarks, while projecting positive image of women. In Jeremiah Methuselah’s contention, women dramatists have overreacted by portraying men as sexist; they completely obliterate anything good in their male characters; choosing to make more of caricatures of them whereas,

a critical consideration of these plays put up to ‘combat’ these false images of women are themselves questionable given their exaggerated content of the brutish, intolerant, insensitive and uncaring male and the overemphasis of  the woman as a super perfect person.

In his view,

Apart from the plays of Zulu Sofola and Tess Onwueme, most of the later female playwrights like Stella Oyedepo, Julie Okoh, Irene Salami, Tracie Chimah Utoh-Ezeajugh and so on have in one way or the other portrayed an exaggerated image of the woman in most of their plays.

He concludes that

The implications of this, in our opinion, is that women playwrights, in their attempt at subverting patriarchy, have ended up worse purveyors of this ‘crime’ than men in this gender ‘war’ within the literary intellectual ferment  (Methuselah).

My take on these arguments is that these creative products by our men and women are propelled by the issues they set out to address and not necessarily to deliberately deride women or men as the case may be. If our women are perceived to have over projected womanhood, I ask, what is seriously wrong with that? Absolutely nothing in my own view. It only further confirms that women are the master artist is the art of cosmetic applications; it is a call for attention and I think they are getting it.

What is missing however beyond the dramatic texts is principled cooperation amongst the women. From Aikin Mata (by Harrison and Simeons) to Mulkin Mata (by Harry Hagher) we see and feel the tremendous power women wield over men. In Aikin Mata for instance, a truce is found for raging war because the warriors are starved of sex by their wives and women. This truce was possible because of the strong resolve of the women not to yield to the amorous advances of the men – the warriors. But when it comes to real political arena this kind of resolve dissolves due to a plethora of factors but mainly cultural and our social value system that tend to subjugate the will and desire of a woman when it comes in conflict or contest with that of the man. The tender heart of the woman to love and care often weakens their resolve to stand and fight. Men exploit this weakness often, unfortunately it is the women’s nature and it is doubtful if they can ever overcome this weakness. A woman would rather support her husband to become a Governor than to support a fellow woman (say her sister) to become a Governor. It is also this same nature of support that the mothers, sisters and daughters would give. With this kind of primordial sentiment, ideological standpoint can hardly stand which is the core of feminist struggle that emphases internal group cohesion and individual self assertion; alliance and effective coordination for mass movement for the desired change. This feminist philosophy is demonstrated in The Wives' Revolt by JP Clark; Our Husband has Gone Mad Again by Ola Rotimi, Mulkin Matta by Harry Hagher, Rebellion of the Bumpy Chested by Stella Oyedepo, Sweet Revenge by Irene Salami-Agunloye, Dance on his Grave by Barclays Ayakoroma and Beyond Nightmare by Ben Binebai.

Sweet Revenge by Salami-Agunloye offers us a very potent example of how women can organize themselves against patriarchy. Aisosa suffers humiliation and neglect in the hands of her husband for whom she galvanized women’s support for to win election into the Senate of the Federal Republic. As a trained medical doctor she picks up her pieces together and works hard to excel in her profession and still brings up her children. Her resilience and determination to use her intellect and drive to surmount the challenges around her endeared her to her people. The women in her senatorial district plot the recall of her husband and she is voted to replace him. She rises to become the Senate President. The support Aisosa got from her female fold is not essentially a protest against the neglect Aisosa suffers in the hands of her husband but recognition of her proven capacity and dedication in her medical practice, which suggests she may perform better than her husband who has shot his gate to those he represents in Senate. We admire Aisosa more because her decent pragmatic response to her situation and her ability to balance up both family and professional responsibility.

Clearly, in women-centred drama in Nigeria, male and female dramatists have made useful contributions. If some male scripts are perceived by women as repressive on the image of women, many scripts by male dramatists also exist that extol the virtues of womanhood. Apart from the examples already given in the course of this presentation, other examples abound. Femi Osofisan for instance wrote an all female cast play, Yungba Youngba and the Dance Contest to eulogize the organizational capacity of womanhood; Women of Owu to empathise with the fall of Owu city and the captivity to which the women of Owu were subjected. Some playwrights have formidable heroines as the protagonists of their drama as can be found in Aina of Naira has no Gender by Olu Obafemi; Enekole of James Alachi’s Enekole; Titubi of Morountodun by Femi Osofisan, Aishatu in Hagher’s Aishatu; Ifeoma of Jonathan Mbachaga’s Widows’ Might, and my own Princess Azingae of my award winning play, Hard Choice, who offers herself as sacrificial lamb to save her Emipiri community from the superior warriors of the Igedu kingdom. The list can go on.

Theatre and Performance Nurturing

The foundation of modern Nigerian theatre is ascribed to the late Chief Hubert Ogunde who in 1944 went into full professional theatre practice. Early in his theatre career, Ogunde solved the problem of the frequent resignation and departure of his actresses, especially as soon as they got married and their husbands objected to their wives continuing as actresses because of the stigma attached. Ogunde then solved this problem in a practical way by marrying virtually all his actresses. This stabilized his performing company such that he often had too many actresses and sometimes made some of the women to perform male roles. By this act, women can be said to be part and parcel of the starting point of modern Nigerian theatre. What Ogunde did is a master stroke in theatre management and a business stabilizing example that succeeding theatre group leaders emulated. It would definitely be contentious to propose this option as a viable strategy to consider in the ongoing effort to revive live theatre in Nigeria. The reasons are quite obvious.

Indeed many women have contributed and continue to nurture theatre practice in Nigeria. Beyond the family theatre business configuration, women have individually held their own and continue to do so to shape the content and form of Nigerian theatre. I can recall Lady Ranco with her manlike physiognomy playing lead role as a male character in love scenes; Duro Ladipo’s first wife as Oya in Oba Koso; Ebun Clark, the theatre scholar who documented the formative era of Hubert Ogunde’s theatre; Zulu Sofola the matriarch of Nigerian literary theatre; Taiwo Ajayi-lycett and Joke Silva as active actresses till date; Tess Onwueme who introduced fresh consciousness to women-centred drama and theatre in Nigeria; the prolific Stella Oyedepo who effectively combines playwriting and play staging; Flora Nwapa who declined the feminist tag but gave considerable attention to the Igbo tradition and the challenges of womanhood; our scholar dramatists: Julie Okoh, Chinyere Okafor, Irene Salami-Agunloye, Tracie Utoh-Ezeajugh, Osita Ezenwanebe, Akachi Ezeigbo, Foluke Ogunleye, Yetunde Akorede, Adenike Akinjobi, etc. have become the ardent trumpeters of the feminist ensemble in Nigeria. Whatever consciousness that have been created in Nigeria today about feminist drama, theatre and performance, these are the acolytes of that gain.

The Celebrated ‘Genderist’ – Mabel Evwierhoma

The twin sister of literary creativity is criticism. It is in critical discourses that we find answers to many questions that creative works present before us; that which is not even within the frame of thought of the creator at creation time is dusted up and revealed for our lucid understanding. In Nigeria, in the last two decades or so, Professor Mabel Evwierhoma has undoubtedly become one of the leading lights in gender studies with heavy reliance on drama, theatre and performance to project her critical thoughts on women and feminist discourse.

As a ‘genderist; (drawing inspiration from Matthew Umukoro’s ‘genderism’) Evwierhoma’s core concern is female empowerment. She envisions female freedom from male dominance in a society that is culturally patriarchal. Her critical tools of navigation are anchored on feminism and womanism with genderism as the arrowhead. Feminism is Eurocentric with radical arsenals to uproot patriarchy; womanism is Afrocentric with compromising attributes that extols womanly dignity and social responsibility; while genderism “offers a feasible compromise between the ideological extremism of masculinity and femininity, advocating emphasis on the human rather than the sexual” (in Female Empowerment… xiii). This is why like Zulu Sofola, Evwierhoma, though more poignant, insists on “Women’s visibility, audibility, and participation through complementarities”. For her

The performance of gender, development and positive strategies for social advancement becomes a veritable watchword as the space for such activism is deemed shared by all genders and sexes. With this mutuality, the dialectics of the self, and other members of the society (on the fringe or not) help to forge better prospects for dramatic and theatre creativity and performance and the receiver of their products. (Nigerian Feminist Theatre… xii).

For Zulu Sofola, “a parcel is like a wife, while the cord used to tie the parcel is like a husband. If the cord breaks, the parcel falls into pieces” (King Emene, 34). It is another way of saying that whatever affects the nose also affects eyes; therefore there is no basis for the war of sexes rather we should complement the efforts of one another for the advancement of our environment. Indeed, it is our surrounding environment that can best teach us the fundamental laws of nature and the basics of living in life. Many people love the sun, and complain about the rain. But you can't make a rainbow without the two together.

Even though Evwierhoma advocates for militant female characters with radical ideological bent capable of wielding power in female written drama to counteract the imagistic distortion perceivably created by men, this order may not augur well for plausible creativity. It is not enough to have larger than life characters in our drama but the foundation for their creation must be authentic, concrete and acceptable within human logic and cultural boundaries, otherwise they become caricatures of the desired characters. In our present age, militancy has lost its potency, even with militancy the female militants may not go far when they come face to face with the might of men. The way to go in my view is dialogic, that is dialogue and the application of logic. The positive testimonies of the Niger Delta militants who laid down arms to engage in meaningful dialogue with the Federal Government should be persuasive enough.

However, it must be acknowledged that Evwierhoma’s feminist theatre advocacy is genuine and developmental oriented and her call for gender-equity is not out of place because of the unique role of women in character moulding at the family level. A reflection of this value in feminist theatre would certainly promote stable communities and ethical reorientation. Male dramatists have roles to play here too and that is effective collaboration to address female-centred concerns; engage in inter-gender issues to engender gender dynamics in Nigerian theatre.   

Conclusion

To conclude this keynote address, I want to recognize that it is what Prof Mabel Evwierhoma stands for in our different perception that has pulled together her mentors, teachers, colleagues, friends and the theatre/culture community to celebrate her as she attains the golden age of 50. It is a great idea to do so with a conference in her honour. It is also excitable that the theme of this conference is on “Women-Centred Drama, Theatre and Performance in Nigeria”, a scholarly area that has engaged the vigorous attention of this Dean of Arts, University of Abuja, over the last two decades. The prefix of the theme is ‘Nature and Nurture,’ which we have already contextualised as the universe within which the anatomy and the growth of women-centred drama, theatre and performance can be appreciated. It is my belief that,

 It is akin to human nature

 To provide reasons to nurture

A veritable and dynamic culture

To sustain human adventure

The ill coordination of

nature, nurture and culture

May amount to failed venture

The Earth does not belong to us; we belong to the Earth and as products of the earth everyone is imbued with the capacity to excel and make a difference, what is rare is the courage to nurture that capacity in solitude and to follow it to the dark places where it leads. If we nurture our mind, body, and spirit, our time will expand; our vision will cascade to embrace new perspective that will allow us to accomplish much more. First we need only look around us to notice and honour the radiance of everything about us and act in that universe. Tend all these shining things around us: The smallest plant, the creatures and objects in our care; but just be gentle and nurture.

In the theatre we cultivate ideas to create new worlds for humanity to learn from but these worlds are often not nurtured to manifest their full potentials for our gains. When we nurture our world it would give birth to new ideas and ventures. There are times of flourishing and abundance, when life feels in full bloom, energized and expanding. And there are times of fruition, when things come to an end. They have reached their climax and must be harvested before they begin to fade. And finally of course, there are times that are cold, and cutting and empty, times when the spring of new beginnings seems like a distant dream. Those rhythms in life are natural events. They weave into one another as day follows night, bringing, not messages of hope and despair, but messages of how things are. It is when we know how things are that we can take a stand to either live with them or change them. The choice is ours. No doubt, women-centred drama, theatre and performance have made considerable gains in Nigeria but mainly at the level of theory and few performances that are largely cocooned to the ivory tower. It is time to share these gains amongst Nigerians by opening up new performance spaces that can attract large audience turnout; we should take our message to the rural dwellers and engage other relevant agencies in this advocacy.

As the conference opens, without pre-empting its outcome, it is therefore my hope and belief that the participants would come up with fresh strategies for addressing women-centred issues in Nigeria and how to get majority of Nigerians to key into feminist theatre advocacy; I especially look forward to seeing how feminist theatre can help in the recovery of the Chibok girls and how the first senate president can emerge as predicted by Irene Salami-Agunloye.

To sum up, I must align Professor Mabel Evwierhoma with her feminist ideology in practical terms. Having been in close professional and family association with her since 1987, I can confidently say that she is an eloquent example of hard work, resilience, honesty, integrity, industry, capacity, resourcefulness; she is God fearing and has genuine commitment to her calling. In all these, she is unassuming, humble and humane. To a large extent she lives by what she advocates and to that extent she is an inspiration to many people and a pride to womanhood. This genderist is also a motherist; this quality manifests clearly in many social works she has been involved in and community services rendered. In our postgraduate class at the University of Ibadan she was the youngest but assumed the motherist role for the class, feeding us occasionally from the kitchen of Princess Theodora Ewemade Tobrise (her mother); God bless her soul in heaven. The reward of motherhood is not essentially in reaping from the proceeds of that effort directly, but the satisfaction of contributing agents of change for a better humanity. Princess Tobrise, even though you are long gone, the agent of change you contributed to humanity is a worthy one who has touched many lives positively. Your charity and industry are replicated in her and for these alone your memory remains evergreen in our hearts.  

The life of Mabel Evwierhoma should be the greatest inspiration for female emancipation and not necessarily her writings. At 50 she has recorded modest but loud and engaging achievements; as a Professor, author of books, cultural activist, Dean of Arts, Fellow of SONTA and moulder of character, she has a status that cannot be wished away; a presence that is compelling and commanding; an intellect that is admired and respectable; a heart that is compassionate and accommodating, a husband that is loving, caring and very supportive; children that are responsible and responsive; a home that is peaceful and inviting. All these attributes position Mabel Evwierhoma as a phenomenal success worthy of emulation. She sits comfortably on this high pedestal today out of due sacrifice, self-denial, hard work and determination to reach her goals; and NOT a product of any gender friendly/sensitive legislation in favour of women. If this is the kind of female militancy you preach, you have my support. This is how to earn the gender equity you advocate. It is my submission therefore that no woman (and indeed no man) is subjugated or repressed but our self-imposed repression is the barrier that stands in our way to our lofty destinations. I say to our women, rise and take a stand like Mabel Evwierhoma, and your story will never be the same again.

Ladies and gentlemen, please rise and join me to welcome Prof Mabel Evwierhoma to autumn, her golden jubilee. Happy birthday!

 

 

Works Cited

Top of Form

Edge.org: Nature Versus Nurture, accessed 02/05/2015.

Evwierhoma, Mabel. Female Empowerment and Dramatic Creativity in Nigeria. Lagos: Concept Publications Ltd, 2013.

Evwierhoma, Mabel. The Nigerian Feminist Theatre: Essays on Female Axes in Contemporary Nigerian Drama. Allen and Lagos: Wits Publishing Ltd, 2014.

Gopnik, Alison. Time to Retire: The Simplicity of Nature vs. Nurture, "Mind and Matter", published 01/25/2014, WSJ.

Harrow, Kenneth. “I‘m not a Western Feminist but….” In Research in African Literature. 29:3 (1998).

Methuselah, Jeremiah S. S. “Women and ‘Heroism’ in Modern Nigerian Drama.” KADA:  Journal of Liberal Arts, Faculty of Arts,Kaduna State University, Kaduna, Nigeria. 1:2 (2008): 151-170.

Ododo, Sunnie. Hard Choice. Ibadan: Kraft Books, 2011.

Palmer, Eustace. “The Feminine Point of View:  Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood.” In African Literature Today. Ed.Eldred Durosimi Jones. London: Heinemann, 1983, No.13.

Salami, Irene. “Women in Benin Historical Drama: Emotan of Benin (Ernest Edyang) and Imaguero (Evinma Ogieriax II).”In Theacom Journal. 4:1 (1999).

Salami, Irene. Sweet Revenge.Ibadan: Saniez, 2004.

****Being a Keynote Address Delivered at Mabel @ 50 Conference in Honour of Professor Mabel Evwierhoma on Wednesday, 6th toFriday, 8th May, 2015 at the Pope John Paul Catholic Centre, No. 22, Bangui Street, Wuse II, Abuja-FCT

Nzeh Mada Festival 2015- Keynote Address by DG National Gallery of Art

Written by Ama Posted in Featured Articles

KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY MR. ABDULLAHI MUKU, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART (NGA) ON THE OCCASION OF THE CELEBRATION OF THE BWAR CARNIVAL OF THE ANNUAL NZEH MADA FESTIVAL HELD AT CENTRAL PRIMARY SCHOOL, AKWANGA, NASARAWA STATE, ON SATURDAY, 4TH APRIL, 2015

Protocol

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!

Developing a Festival Brand: Towards a Blue Print for Nzeh Mada in Nasarawa State

Written by Ama Posted in Featured Articles

 

Developing a Festival Brand: Towards a Blue Print for Nzeh Mada in Nasarawa State  

by

Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, PhD

 

Preamble

Let me first of all express my sincere appreciation to the Festival Management Committee (FMC), for inviting me as Guest Speaker in this year’s Colloquium of Nzeh Mada Festival. I must say it is really an honour to be selected in the face of many eminent and more accomplished theatre scholars. Recall that I witnessed the festival last year and delivered a goodwill message at the grand finale, specifically, on Saturday, 19th April, 2014. The implication is that I am abreast of the vision of the FMC: charting a new direction for the festival.

When the Festival Director, Professor Emmanuel Samu Dandaura informed me of the decision of the FMC to invite me as Guest Speaker, I had thought that I would weave the paper on: “Between Crude Oil and Cultural Festivals,” and ask the pertinent question: Which Way Nasarawa State? Incidentally, that paper has been reproduced, in an abridged form, in the Festival Bulletin; so, it would have amounted to mere repetition. Furthermore, the theme of this year’s Nzeh Mada, “Festival of Reconciliation and Consolidation,” is very apt, considering the wave of ethnic and inter-ethnic clashes in many parts of the country.

I was asked to talk on: “Developing a Festival Brand; Identity, Unity and Socio-Economic Development of Minority Ethnic Nationalities.” However, I have decided to talk briefly on: “Developing a Festival Brand: Towards a Blue Print for Nzeh Mada.” To begin my presentation, I would first of all briefly examine some key terms, which will be frequently used in this paper. These include ethnicity, ethnic nationality or group, festivals, socio-economic development and branding.

Ethnicity and Ethnic Nationality

Ethnicity is the state of belonging to a social group that has a common national or cultural tradition. On the other hand, an ethnic group or ethnic nationality is a section of the population, which by virtue of sharing common cultural characteristics separate the people from others within that population. People are all acculturated or socialized into the ethnic groups they belong. In other words, it is a group of people having common language and cultural values. These common values are enhanced through continuous interaction between the people, who make up the group; and the ethnic groups are created mainly through inter-marriages, inter-mingling or assimilation.

As a point of fact, it is believed that there are over 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria, with over 500 distinct languages indigenous to the people. What one understands from all of these is that the actual number of ethnic groups in Nigeria is not definitive. Somehow, the ethnic groups are further divided into majority and minority ethnic groups. The majority ethnic groups are the Hausa/Fulani in the North, the Ibo in the South-East and the Yoruba in the South-West. This had given rise, in the 1980s, to the use of the term, “Wazobia” group, a coinage from the Yoruba word for come (“wa”), its Hausa form (“zo”) and the Ibo equivalent (“bia”). Other ethnic groups found all over the country, such as, the Bini, Ebira, Ibibio, Idoma, Ijaw, Ikwerre, Jukun, Kanuri, Nupe, Tiv, Urhobo, and a host of others, belong to the minority. This is just as we have the Agatu, Aho, Alago, Chesu, Eggon, Gbagyi, Gwandara, Kantana, Rindre, Mada, and Migili, among other minority ethnic groups in Nasarawa State. One major characteristic of the various ethnic nationalities in Nigeria is that each has a traditional core territory or cultural area and a core language.

Ethnic distinctions are rarely neutral. These distinctions are commonly associated with marked inequalities of wealth and power and also antagonism between groups. Tension and conflicts regularly manifest amongst minority ethnic nationalities. The minority ethnic nationalities are more dangerous than the major ethnic nationalities, because the activities of the big ones can easily be monitored, while the smaller ethnic minorities cannot easily be figured out; some of them are hardly known outside their domains. When such conflicts erupt, their consequences are grave and very difficult to manage. Nigerians cannot forget in a hurry the long running communal clashes amongst some ethnic minorities in the past, such as, the Itsekiri-Ijaw in Delta State, Urhobo-Itsekiri also in Delta State, the Tiv-Jukun, the Plateau indigenes and non-indigenes clashes, the Zango-Kataf clashes in Kaduna State, the Ogoni communal clashes and the Okrika-Eleme ones in Rivers State, the Umuleri-Aguleri communal clashes in Anambra, Ezza/Ezillo clashes in Ebonyi State, Ife-Modakeke wars, which have claimed lots of lives. The recent Hausa/Fulani cattle-rearers’ and indigenes skirmishes in Benue and Nasarawa States and the Ombatsi in Nasarawa State are just a few cases that have posed peace and security challenges in Nigeria.

Generally, ethnic conflicts are manifested as ethnocentrism, group closure and resource allocation. Thus, developing cultural events that will boost the socio-economic development of these minority ethnic nationalities becomes imperative. But then, we will talk more about this later in this paper.

From the foregoing, it is clear that the relationship cultivated by ethnic nationalities can be positive or negative. It is positive when groups come together and build roads, schools, hospitals, market to provide pipe-borne water for their community, award scholarships to the outstanding students, and contrive ways of improving their socio-economic, religious and cultural potentialities. They can only do this when they are united. So, anything that unites them should be encouraged. This is where a festival, such as Nzeh Mada festival comes into play. On the other hand, the said relationship will be negative when they encroach collectively on the other’s property; attempt to stop government from performing its statutory functions, or when they become riotous or become tools in the hands of insurgents.

It should be noted that the minority ethnic nationalities, in spite of their segmentary tendencies, can produce positive results when properly galvanized and stimulated development-wise. There is no gainsaying the fact that a well-packaged festival brand can help in this regard.

Festivals

Festivals are series of activities organized by a people at a given time and place to showcase their cultural potentials with a view to harnessing them for the socio-cultural development of the host community. Festivals are geared towards entertainment and as such involve music performances, dance, drama, acrobatics, mime, imitation, and so on. This social nature makes mass and group involvement in a festival mandatory, especially in a cultural setting where the festival largely features a homogenous audience.

According to Duruaku, a festival is a ceremonial event that involves a community to express its desires and celebrate its gains and is usually characterized by masquerading, singing and dancing (12). He differentiates them as festivals of the rites of passage, festivals of the feast of farming cycle, occasional festivals, and festivals of deity worship and ancestor veneration. Onyeneke adds that these public celebrations of events (are) considered important and of high values. They are manifested in births, puberty, marriages, title-taking, including chieftaincies and funeral celebrations marking the cycles of planting and harvesting and the veneration of local deities, personal gods, and the community ancestors (109).

Festivals are platforms for community development schemes and are found in almost every community in Nigeria, with the community sometimes having more than one or two in their repertory. Most of these festivals need to be transformed for wider audience appeal and better exploitation of socio-economic gains.

In the final analysis, we can say that, festivals are:

  1. days or periods of celebration typically for religious reasons; and

One common denominator in all of the above definitions is: “celebrations.” Festivals oftentimes, serve to meet specific purposes, especially in regard to commemoration and/or thanksgiving. They also provide entertainment as the case may be in addition to giving a sense of belonging for the religious, social or geographical area that organizes such festivals. Thus, it is essential for festivals to foster strong, competitive and resonant brands, which can be competitive, distinct from other festivals and build valuable equity with consumers.

Some notable cultural festivals in Nigeria include: the Osun Oshogbo Festival, the Ofala Festival, the Durbar Festival, the Argungun Fishing Festival, New Yam or Iriji Festival, the Eyo Festival, Igue Festival, Nwonyo Fishing Festival, Leboko Yam Festival, National Festival for Arts & Culture (NAFEST), Abuja National Carnival, the Calabar Christmas Carnival, Rivers State Cultural Carnival (CARNIRIV), and the Nzeh Mada Festival, which has brought us all here, among others. I have examined the dynamics of some of the aforementioned festivals in the work earlier mentioned.

What I have so far tried to achieve is provide a basic understanding of the terms, which I consider essential in a discourse of this nature. Now, let us look at branding and its importance in festival propagation, and how we can develop Nzeh Mada as a festival brand.

Branding

This is a feature, which, in recent times, has proved an important aspect in the business world. A brand is widely defined as a distinctive picture of an object and its association positioned in the mind of consumers. The brand heightens the interest of the consumer and eventually draws him to the product. In other words, branding is that particular feature, which draws the consumer’s interest to a particular variable. Its features can be in the form of a logo or an advertisement, which creates a strong picture in the customer’s mind’s eye. The brand gives an impression and stands for certain values, which the consumer stands to gain if he engages in the activity. It is like a magnet, which draws the consumer to the product. Branding is extremely important in the business world today. It affords one the ability to distinguish products from a wide array of choices. In Nollywood, for instance, star actors and actresses that have made names have become brands; thus, their appearance in any film enhances audience patronage and the revenue profile of such a film expectedly. Similarly, many organisations, which have successfully employed the branding process in their businesses, have reaped the financial benefits of such an endeavour.

Sports organisations have also underscored the power of branding and have used it to significantly generate public interest, increasing participation and invariably raising overall revenue. Just like sports, which has benefitted tremendously from branding in recent times, festivals can also benefit from branding. In the case of festivals, branding helps to distinguish them from one another and this is important. A strong brand is better protected from crisis, which can lead to eventual extinction. A clear case in point is the Calabar Christmas Carnival, which, like many of such carnivals in Brazil, Trinidad & Tobago, and Jamaica, among others have contributed invaluably to the socio-economic development of such countries.

As it were, identity, unity and socio-economic development are aspects of ethnic groups, which can be positively affected through festivals like Nzeh Mada festival and in turn, these festivals could be enhanced through proper and extensive branding processes. We shall now look at these factors individually.

Festivals and Socio-Economic Development

Socio-economic development is a multi-dimensional process involving the re-organization and re-orientation of the entire system. Just like culture, the process of socio-economic development is as old as man. Walter Rodney had argued that from the earliest period of human social existence, man had found it expedient to live in groups to hunt and for the sake of survival. Thus, development is the change of the state of a community, as it were, to an appreciable level, though the reverse may be the case. According to Rodney,

a society develops economically as its members jointly increase their capacity for dealing with the environment. The capacity for dealing with the environment is dependent on the extent to which they understand the laws of nature (science), on the extent to which they put that understanding into practice by developing tools (technology), and on the manner in which work is organised (2-3).

Festivals are known to be the fastest growing forms of tourism activities around the world. In some cases, festivals have been known to revitalize the local economy generating huge revenue for host communities. Some popular festivals in Nigeria, such as, the Calabar Christmas Carnival, Rivers State Cultural Carnival (CARNIRIV), Osun Oshogbo Festival, Durbar Festival, Argungun Fishing Festival, Abuja Carnival, National Festival for Arts & Culture (NAFEST), and a host of others, attract participation from all over the world. As visitors attend such festivals, huge amount of revenue is generated for the host community and the nation in general. In the Calabar Carnival experience, for example, hotels are known to be fully booked from early November to the end of December every year. In fact, some business-minded people quickly turn their residences to emergency guest houses to provide accommodation for desperate and stranded tourists.

Branding has a vital role to play in all of the above, in the sense that, the branding given to a festival in turn generates tourists’ interest for them to attend such a festival. Thus, if properly harnessed through effective branding, cultural festivals have the potentials of boosting the socio-economic development of this nation, especially in the face of the downturn in the revenue accruing from the country’s crude oil. This forms the focus of my paper on the choice between crude oil and cultural festivals in national development.

The fact is that culture, which encapsulates festivals, remains a veritable panacea for our common socio-economic problems. Some African countries like Gambia, Kenya, Senegal and South Africa have capitalized on this avenue to improve their economy, just as Brazil, Canada, Dubai, Spain, United Kingdom, and the United States of America. For instance, many Caribbean countries, like the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad & Tobago depend on tourist attractions, such as leisure winter holidays, site visits and cultural festivals as the major contribution to their gross domestic income, simply because their festivals have been developed to various brands and have appeals. According to Patricia Meschino, festivals in the Caribbean,

  1. help to market Caribbean Tourist Destinations
  2. stimulate local economics; and
  3. help many business bottom lines

Citing a 2001 “Festival Tourism in the Caribbean: An Economic Impact Assessment” prepared by Dr. Keith Nurse for the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington DC, Meschino noted that festivals in the Caribbean,

  1. create jobs and boost the economies by generating revenue for airports, hotels, restaurants, taxis, car rental, companies craft vendors and other businesses;
  2. benefit the local populace in the area of sale of goods and services created by visiting local and foreign tourists;
  3. boost the local economy through the dynamics of demand and supply built around the festival locations; and
  4. enhance the development of structural amenities like roads, hospitals and telecommunications.

One wonders why our dear country Nigeria is yet to harness the full potentials of our vast cultural festivals as many foreign countries have done. This undergirds the sensitization drive of National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), the apex cultural institute in the country, through its numerous cultural orientation programmes, aimed at repositioning our cultural festivals to enhance socio-economic development. Our elders say: Never leave till tomorrow what you can do today. An Igbo adage also says: If it begins to be well today, it has been well long ago. This should be the spirit behind our cultural renaissance.

Developing a Festival as a Vibrant Brand

Today, the Nzeh Mada festival, celebrated by the Mada ethnic nationality of Nasarawa State, features cultural activities, such as dance, music, masquerade display, cooking competition, wrestling, debate, Mada heritage exhibition and even Beauty Pageant. The festival has attracted visitors from within and outside the State. Also, indigenes living outside the state come home in their large numbers to witness the ceremony and reunite with their families. Little wonder then that, at the 2014 event, the FMC disclosed its intention to transform the festival into a tourist attraction. While this dream is laudable, the fact remains that it can only become a reality if the festival is repositioned and becomes a significant brand.

In developing a festival brand capable of projecting the people’s identity, unifying them and enhancing their socio-economic development, the following attributes of festivals need to be considered:

  1. Image-making: Cultural festivals that are well-structured and well-packaged provide good image for the host communities as hospitable and culturally endowed people.
  2. Entertaining: Many festival events have abundant artistic contents that incorporate thrilling entertainment. Since art entertains, dancing and other arts merge with feasting to generate a festive atmosphere
  3. Attracting Tourists: A cultural festival carefully planned and staged can attract wide range of visitors, who come to gather vital information and experience to better their lots(satisfy their cultural needs). Thus, using cultural festivals as a tool for generating large-scale tourist in-flow should be a priority, as this will enhance the capacity of such festivals to serve as catalysts for socio-economic development.
  4. Creating Jobs: Festivals offer a great deal of employment to the host communities in the areas of printing, craftsmen, GSM call booths, marketing, transportation, tour guides, photographers, catering services, and so on. The universal nature of festivals attracts large crowds that have to be adequately catered for. This generates a variety of small businesses that provide needed services. Also, there are job opportunities for construction workers needed for roads and hotels, medical personnel in new hospitals and artisans.
  5. Uniting the People: The compulsory social interaction inherent in festive events strengthens community harmony. In a cultural festival, stringent regulations dissolve feuds and enmities during the period, thus, enforcing peaceful co-existence.
  6. Showcasing the People’s Cultural Heritage: Festivals are opportunities to showcase the artistic heritage of the people exemplified in songs, music, dance, acrobatic displays, mimes, costume parade, masquerade displays, craftsmanship and other activities that project the people’s identity.
  7. Building Friendship and New Relationships: The interactions and opportunities, which the festival atmosphere creates, encourage visitors to build relationships. As a result, inter-community peace and unity are maintained as festival periods are times for peace.
  8. Enhancing Socio-Economic Development: Revenue generation to improve the lives of the host community and the participants is usually put into consideration when developing a festival brand for sustainable socio-economic development, especially these days when there is drastic fall in the global prices of crude oil. Commercial activities during festivals are heightened; the hospitality industry, transporters, advertising agencies, photographers, telecom services, food and fashion industries are all boosted, which automatically translates to socio-economic development of the people.

Developing Nzeh Mada as a Brand: Towards a Blue Print

At this juncture, it is pertinent for us to proffer certain suggestions, which are imperatives, for the FMC to gradually brand Nzeh Mada.

  1. Formalise the Event Protocol: Registration of the festival will create room for corporate investments and access to corporate funding by government, financial institutions, non-profit organisations/ foundations or donor agencies;
  2. Get the endorsement of relevant government agencies;
  3. Canvass for sponsorship from reputable organisations;
  4. Partner stakeholders in the hospitality industry;
  5. Provide good road net-work into and within the festival community, portable water and uninterrupted electricity supply;
  6. Construct or renovate vital infrastructure: exhibition stands, press galleries, and pavilions for clients;
  7. Maintain a secure, peaceful and conducive environment;
  8. Train vibrant tour guides to work with tourists;
  9. Provide well-designed tour vehicles;
  10. Produce good content audio-visual jingles to advertise the festival effectively;
  11. Use items and costumes specifically branded with the festival logo;
  12. Provide reliable communication system: producing daily news bulletins, spotlights or updates on the festival;
  13. Partner renowned artists: comedians, musicians, dancers, Nollywood film stars, theatre practitioners, etc. to promote the festival;
  14. Strategically develop a unique quality that differentiates the festival from other brands;
  15. Carry out periodic review of services to ascertain their level of effectiveness; and
  16. Evolve a business plan and proper programming with artistic strategy that can make the festival stand the test of time.

Conclusion

There is no arguing the fact that, ethnic conflicts are prevalent amongst the minority ethnic nationalities probably because they harbour bitterness emanating from several years of neglect and marginalization. As a result, they are always agitating for one thing or the other to attract the attention of the government. With the dwindling allocations from the Federation Account, the minority ethnic nationalities are left with whatever meagre amounts the State Governments pinch out to them through their Local Government Council. In order to make their voices to be heard, they resort to communal violence at the slightest provocation.

Festivals, if well packaged, have the capacity to project the identity of a minority ethnic nationality, while fostering unity amongst them and their neighbours, and at the same time enhance their socio-economic development. They can divert the attention of warring parties to direct their energies to more friendly and profit-oriented ventures. This is where effective branding comes in. Just as Nigerians come together, in spite of their religious and ethnic differences, to support our national teams during international soccer competitions, warring communities can stave off hostilities, while basking in the euphoria of a well-programmed festival brand.

Conclusively, let me reiterate here that festivals have the capacity to improve the developmental state of a people, if well-packaged. In this light, I wish to urge the organisers of the Nzeh Mada festival to consider the recommendations given in this paper, which are by no means definite, in the attempt to develop the festival as a brand. If Nzeh Mada, which happens to be the major festival of the people, is properly packaged to national and even international standards, it has the capacity of projecting the identity of the people, foster unity amongst them and their neighbours, and above all boost their socio-economic development.

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***** Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, PhD, is the Executive Secretary/CEO, National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Abuja and Visiting Associate Professor, Nasarawa State University, Keffi (NSUK), presented this paper at the Colloquium Event of the Nzeh Mada Festival at the Kini Country Guest Inn, Akwanga, Nasarawa State, on Friday, 3 April, 2015.

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