Mr. Abdul Oroh is the Edo State Commissioner for Arts and Culture In this interview with GABRIEL ENOGHOLASE in Benin, explained why EDOFEST earlier scheduled to hold this year has been shifted to next year. He also disclosed the Edo State government’s plan to establish the Oba Ovonramwn N’gbasi Musuem and Cultural Centre as one way to immortalising the achievements of that great African ruler; especially in his war against colonialism.
We will probably not have it this year, may be next year. We are looking at the infrastructures that we are building now all over the place. And we want to be reasonably certain about certain things before we embark on such festivals; because we want to make sure that it is well organized. What is the intention?
The intention is to ensure that when people visit Edo State, they feel of Edo State and are able to relax properly. Visitors to the State would want to come back again to savor our rich cultural heritage and therefore, we want to make the festival a major event in the tourism calendar. So, we are looking at all the activities that we have for this year, and we are not convinced that they will fit in properly. Next year, definitely. With the Governor, we have an understanding on that. However, this year, we are going to look at Igue Festival to see how we can mainstream it.
In the past, Igue Festival used to be a major event sponsored basically by the Palace of the Oba of Benin and maybe, some other sponsors. But we are now trying to mainstream it, to make it an event for the whole state and for the international community. We want to make it a bigger event, bigger than it is now. SO, this year we want to focus on Igue Festival. Then, next year, EDOFEST would now bring all the local governments in Edo State to Benin. And then it will now be like to wet the ground for Igue festival, so, Igue festival will now be like icing the cake. It will spill over into the Igue festival. So, that is the way we are planning it.
But, we need to have proper infrastructures in place. You can see that most of the major roads are still under construction. If you are going to do float for instance, we would want to do floats in streets that have been properly done. We want to show case what we have achieved and what we are capable of achieving. So, that is the intention. We are not going to hold EDOFEST this year. That is clear. And you also know that there are a lot of political activities this season, primaries, elections, preparation for elections and all that. By next year, I think we will be ready to host the EDOFEST..
TOURISM SITES IN EDO
We have discovered a lot of tourism sites in the state. For instance, there is the Sakponba Tourism site River Ethiope which has been abandoned. In fact, the colonial officers used it and Dr. Sam Ogbemudia during his tenure as Governor of the old Mid – West State tried to develop it. Some of the chalets and all the facilities that were put in place by the Dr. Ogbemudia administration have now gone into disuse. So, we have identified that, and I have people now re – designing them. Then, there is the Udo Tourism site in Igueben Local Government Area. We have cleared the road to the place and in fact, the traditional ruler of the community mobilized his people to clear the place.
Some of the chalets and facilities that were there are no longer useful. Even, some of the chalets that were being constructed by the Prof. Ambrose Alli administration were never completed. The barb wires that were bought to secure the place are still lying there. It was supposed to be a Game Park, to have wildlife and other things. The projects were abandoned, including a mini – dam for water supply.
We are also doing a design for the Udo Tourism site and it is ongoing. The Ososo tourism site too. We are also re – developing it. Then, Ughoton, we are trying to put something there too. The Ekaladerhan Hall. It has spiritual undertone. Also, there is a sacred groove. Ekaladerhan who emerged as Oduduwa in Ile – Ife was said to have taken off – there. So, we want to develop that as well. There is also the one at Ugbine. Ugbine is where Captain Philips and six other European’s graves are situated. But we are not going there to celebrate Captain Philips and the other Europeans.
We are going there to celebrate Oba Ovoranmwen N’ Ogbasi, the great African patriot who fought the British. He was framed up, deposed, his kingdom was burnt, looted and even the British that tried him found him not guilty of the charges. But of – course, they still exiled him to Calabar, where he died. So, we are going to put a museum to commemorate this event, ie, the Oba Ovoranmwen Museum and Cultural Centre. We are looking at that and details of things that we need to put there.
We are going to use them also to launch a campaign for the recovery of our stolen artifacts, about 3000 pieces were stolen and they are in various museums all over the world. So, by the time we are able to build that place, it will be a major resource centre, for students, researchers and people interested in African history and the history of colonial oppressions.
There are also other sites all over Edo State, in Benin City here alone, there are over a thousand historical sites, the various Iye – Oba’s palaces, which I believe, we should recover as a state, take control of them, even the moats, so, there are so many historical sites which should be developed in Edo State. And we want to work with the private sector. There are already various guilds, various societies and various organizations that are already working on various things in the state. It is just for us to partner with them and we think in the next five years, we will be able to showcase what we have in Edo State.