THE Yuletide season from time immemorial has been one which everyone looks forward to with great expectations. How society and government package it goes a long way to showing how citizens enjoy it or not. It is a matter of how the government and traditional institutions develop the tourism potentials of the society.
It is a well known fact that in Northern Nigeria, which is a predominantly Islamic society, there is usually special Durbar which are celebrated from Sokoto to Maiduguri to mark the end of the year. The people would pour out into the streets in their large numbers to celebrate the end of the year with special, well decorated horses, donkeys, and camels.
In Cross Rivers State, the annual Calabar Festival is usually marked at the end of the year with great funfair, attracting sons and daughters of the old Cross Rivers State both at home and in the Diaspora as well as many tourists to the state. Holiday makers from around the world usually throng the event.
But Edo State is well known as the home of culture. It was one of the reasons the British invaded the old Benin empire with a hidden intention to come and steal from its rich collection of artifacts in 1897. Art, as a form of communication, has been greatly explored in Edo , especially for recording memorable events in the life of the various communities. Effigies of Obas, heroes and heroines were molded for posterity. Different media such as bronze, brass, mud (terracotta), ebony wood and ivory feature in these works of art. In the 13th century, Igueha introduced brass casting into Benin City. The indigenous artists in Benin have since evolved a peculiar house style in brass casting and created the largest brass industry in the African continent which attracts tourists from around the world.
Owing to persistent campaign for the return of the looted artifacts, two of them, Ahiami-Oro and Egogo, were returned back to Benin. The artifacts were in the possession of the retired Dr. Mark Walker at his family’s private collective. Walker is the grandson of Phillip Walker, who led the invasion of Benin in 1897. The British parliament also recognised Walker’s voluntary decision to return the bronze artwork to the Oba of Benin.
It is on record that the Benin bronze works are the most favoured and renowned art works of Edo State. In recent years, the Oba of Benin, spear-headed renewed efforts for the repatriation of valuable art pieces from Europe. The Idia ivory mask, which was the official symbol of the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, FESTAC, 1977, is still lying captive in a British museum.
There have been several efforts to reawaken the festival of arts and culture in Edo State in the past which has not reached the expected point. It is heartwarming that after 40 years, Edo the Home of Culture in Nigeria and owner to the emblem and official symbol of FESTAC ’77 have now accorded the much needed recognition, adulation and backing to the fact and is showcasing it to the world again courtesy Edo N’Imose Festival of Arts & Culture termed: EDOFEST ’17.
It is equally on record that Edo State has produced some of the best crop of outstanding contemporary artists in Nigeria. Some of these renowned artists are Sir Victor Uwaifo (who is a multi media artist), Festus Idehen, Dr. Colette Omogbai-Onyeka, Tayo Aiyegbusi, Osagie Erese, Klem Emoda, Roseline Thomas-Osakwue, Cliff Ogiugo, High Priest Osemwingie Ebohon, late Felix Idubor and late Professor Solomon Irein-Wangboje, who in their life times and even now, stand proud as some of the world’s best. Today we equally have some younger folks in the Music and Art world. The likes of Odia Ofeinmun, Ambassador Osayomore Joseph, Maleke Idowu and many more.
It is important that both the Edo State Government led by Governor Godwin Obaseki and the traditional Rulers led by the Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare 11 are working together to boost Edo State Festival of Arts and Culture in the State. It is even more important to know that both of them are also working assiduously to promote tourism and boost businesses in the state.
The Edo State Government recently assured culture and art enthusiasts as well as tourists, of a parade of the state’s prized culture and tourist destinations at the forthcoming Edo Festival of Arts and Culture, EDOFEST, holding between December 17 and 22 in Benin City. While unveiling the festival logo at Government House recently, the Deputy Governor of Edo State,Philip Shaibu, said: “The main focus of EDOFEST is to promote our people, our wealth of history and civilisation and of course our much-revered rich cultural heritage which will be manifested through our colourful traditional festival.”
He said the choice of the festival theme: “Arts, Culture, Our Wealth,” was informed by the fact that “Edo State is deeply rooted in history and civilisation, with global noteworthy monuments such as the arts of Benin Kingdom, the Great Walls of Benin and a host of others that need to be driven and remunerated to the greatest possible extent.” It is pleasant that Day one of the event will feature a carnival and parade display by indigenes and other invited tribes and countries and a movie premiere titled ‘ESOHE’.
More importantly is the fact that the Governor has assured Edo People and residents in the state of improved security in the Yuletide season. He also assured that the ongoing work on a new security architecture by the state government in partnership with the Federal Government, has reached advanced stage and urged the peace-loving people of the state to take advantage of the improved business environment for brisk sales that characterise the season.
Now that we have EDOFEST 2017 and Ugie Festival, which is that of the Traditional Palace of the Benin Monarch happening during the yuletide, it is important that the media and all notable Edo sons and daughters at home and abroad should “Go tell it to the mountains, over the hills and everywhere. That Jesus Christ is born” and that EDOFEST is happening Live and direct in Benin City and the whole of Edo land! Improving and Sustaining the festival is highly recommended for generations of Edo indigenes, Nigerians and the world at large to come and celebrate with us every yuletide season. Oba Ghato Kpere Ise.
Mr Owegie is a chieftain of the APC in Edo State