By GABRIEL ENOGHOLASE
THE Edo State Festival of Arts and Culture, EDOFEST 2009, billed for November is gradually coming on stream with the inauguration of the local organizing committee by the state commissioner for arts, culture and tourism, Barrister Vincent Akhere recently.
Also, preparatory to the hosting of the festival, Akhere led officials of the Ministry, members of the committee including the Isekhure of Benin and chief priest to the Benin monarch to brief the Omo Nâ€™ Oba, Oba Erediauwa about the state governmentâ€™s plan to host the festival aimed at showcasing the rich cultural heritage of the Edo people to the international community.
Four team of marketers of EDOFEST 2009, he disclosed are in Lagos, Port Harcout Abuja and other important cities in the country with brochures, explaining the importance of the hosting of the fiesta by the state government, adding that each team would spend about two weeks in the course of their assignment.
Beside the visit to the palace of the Benin monarch, the commissioner recently undertook a tour to the Republic of South Africa where he visited tourism sites and met with managers of hospitality industries in that country.
At the palace of the Oba of Benin, he said the state governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has approved the hosting of the festival with an avowed commitment to the promotion and revival of Edo cultural heritage. He also told the monarch that approval has been given for the renovations of the Oba Akenzua 11 Cultural Centre, Sam Ogbemudia Stadium, insisting that contracts for the renovation works in both venues of the festival would be given only to worthy contractors.
Akhere said the festival which is expected to be declared open by President Musa Umaru Yarâ€™Adua would witness 180 cultural troupes participating from the 18 local government councils of the state. About 9,000 participants and over 700,000 guests within and outside the country are to be expected during the festival. The commissioner who said Edo was the cultural destination of Nigeria, noted that there were more than 500 tourism destinations in the state.
Describing the monarch as the repository of African culture whose reign on the throne of his fathers has witnessed peace and good tidings to the Edo people, Akhere informed the Oba that a seven-man committee made up of dons, event managers, curator of the National Museum and Monuments as well as NollyWood stars has been constituted in conjunction with the Foundation for the Protection of Benin Heritage and Relics to write a book on the Benin monarch, chronicling his achievements so far on the throne.
Omo Nâ€™Oba Erediauwa while responding, expressed joy that a festival of such kind was being organized in the state and pledged the support of the palace to ensure the success of the festival as well as the documentation of the book on his reign.
Meanwhile, the commissioner had, while on his trip to South Africa, met with Edo sons and daughters in that country. He used the visit to explain to them the need for the them to participate in Edofest 2009 and the giant strides the Oshiomhole administration has made since its assumption of office in November last year.
Akhere also noted that Edo indigenes in Italy, in their bid not to be left out of the festival, have invited him to that country to attend Edo International Cultural Day billed for the September 13, adding that he has assured them that he would use the visit to address them on the need for them to participate in Edofest in November to celebrate the oneness of the people of the state.