The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said on Thursday, that the Federal Government would in the new year release a calendar of festivals across the country.
Mohammed made this known in Offa, Kwara State at the 2016 Edition of the ”Íjakadi Festival”, a traditional wrestling event, which started in the 14th century.
The minister said that the aim was to attract tourists and enable them plan their trips around the festivals.
“We believe that this is one of the best ways to attract global visitors to our festivals and help to make them viable entities,” he said.
The minister, represented by Mr Raphael Arulogun, General Manager of NTA Ilorin, said the government was also working with the private sector to make major festivals attractive to domestic and foreign tourists.
He said the government also planned to leapfrog the major events to the top cadre of global festivals, adding that the starting point would be to train the managers of the festivals.
”As you may be aware, the training of festival managers is contained in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that we signed with the British Council.
“Also included in another MoU, which we signed with the Tony Elumelu Foundation, is the need to ensure that festivals like Ijakadi are not just a mere jamboree but also a source of economic empowerment for the people.
“It will help to inject foreign exchange into the economy and create jobs, especially for the communities in which such festivals are situated,” the minister said.
Mohammed said the beneficiaries of the partnership with the private sector would include major festivals like the Abuja Carnival.
He said the training would bring out their full potentials and become household names like the Edinburgh International Festivals, the Rio Carnival in Brazil and the Notting Hill Festival in London.
”Our ultimate aim is to ensure that our festivals are among the top 20 festivals in the world,” he said.
The minister lauded Offa Descendants Union (ODU) , the organiser of the ”Ijakadi Festival” for reviving and sustaining the age-long event.
He said the festival “reinforces the community’s tradition of strength and determination and addresses the notion of equality among all the indigenes of Offa.”
Kwara Governor, Abdulfatai Ahmed also commended the organiser for reviving Ijakadi Festival, adding that it will go a long way in uniting the community.
The governor, represented by the Commissioner for Environment, Otunba Taiwo Joseph, said the state would partner with the community to make the festival a tourist attraction.
The National President of ODU, Alhaji Najeemdeen Yasin, said the Offa community is known with a popular slogan “Ijakadi Loro Offa’, meaning Ijakadi is the tradition of the Offa people.
“This slogan does not translate to the ordinary meaning that the Offa people are pugnacious or that they fight for no cause, rather it depicts the struggle to achieve or excel.
“Offa people are always on top of whatever challenges that confront them and they fight and find solutions to such problems.
“This concept is now demonstrated in two wrestlers trying to defeat each other,’’ Yasin said.
According to him, the festival is a forum to bring the sons and daughters of Offa together to work for the progress and development of the community.