By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
Christmas season will never be the same again in Anambra State. Sally Mbanefo, Anambra State’s very resourceful Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs, Indigenous Artworks, Culture and Tourism has in the works an unprecedented Anambra Homecoming Festival that will put at full play cultural exhibitions, musical extravaganza, theatre displays, avant-garde carnival, poetry renditions, palm-wine-tasting etc.
The Anambra Homecoming Fiesta to be staged in the capital city of Awka this December will serve as the forerunner kick-starting the diverse Christmas season festivities of the 177 communities of Anambra State.
Plans are already in place for wave-making musicians such as Flavour and P-Square to take to the stage. Pete Edochie, the celebrated Thespian who brought Okonkwo of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart to epic life, is collaborating with Commissioner Sally Mbanefo to lift the festival to esteemed dramatic heights.
Governor Willie Obiano in line with his impeccable vista as “Working Willie” has given his rousing accent while his delectable wife, Osodieme Ebelechukwu Obiano, remains a bulwark of strength to Sally Mbanefo’s laudable initiative.
The “Investor’s Forum” aspect of the festival will ensure that Anambra bigwigs with very deep pockets alongside all the elite friends of the state will be available to lend their support to the growth of the state as “the Light of the Nation.” It’s not for nothing that Anambra is justly celebrated as the richest state in Nigeria given her incomparable human capital.
The celebrated poet Odia Ofeimun once told me that Anambra State can afford to build a museum in celebration of her multiform writers in every town of the gifted state. Through the homecoming festival, the works of lionized writers like Chinua Achebe, Cyprian Ekwensi, Christopher Okigbo, Mokwugo Okoye, Chukwuemeka Ike, Obi Egbuna, Arthur Nwankwo, Nkem Nwankwo, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Chika Unigwe, Okey Ndibe etc will come into full panoply.
A database of all the festivals of the 177 communities of Anambra State is being compiled by Sally Mbanefo’s ministry for digital exposure to the whole wide world. The communities are duly responding by supplying vestiges of their deep cultural vestiges.
Nollywood great Bob-Manuel Udokwu who serves as a Senior Special Assistant to Governor Obiano is liaising with Pete Edochie to mentor the young ones toward a remarkable dramatic performance via the homecoming fiesta.
Governor Obiano’s Chief Press Secretary (CPS), James Eze who has over the years funded and organized “The Return to Idoto” poetry pilgrimage in honour of Christopher Okigbo in his native Ojoto, has taken charge of arranging the poets for the poetry reading outings.
The irrepressible boss of Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS), Nze Uche Nworah has provided the vast ABS grounds for the grand poetic bonfire renditions, and the palm-wine to go with it all! It promises to be a party to end all parties.
The arts exhibitions will last throughout the duration of the homecoming festival. The Awka-based Ije Group of Artists cannot be bettered in the assemblage of hardworking artists poised to give the Nigerian arts scene a new lease of life.
Sally Mbanefo is quite passionate about the palm-wine tasting aspect of the homecoming festival. She showed how culturally attuned she is to the respect for palm-wine as she wowed the elders at The Return to Idoto palm-wine sharing in Ojoto some months back. She now wants to give our home-brewed palm-wine its pride of place in the homecoming fiesta through the palm-wine tasting outing that had never been done elsewhere before. Move over, Italian wines, French champagne and whatever! The new sheriff in town is our good old palm-wine!
Responses on the homecoming initiative are coming in droves from the Diaspora. Even long-lost loved ones fishing in Fiji Island want to come home! Some of the visitors from abroad want the festival to be brought forward to early December to satisfy their undying quest to get attuned to the dear homeland fast enough.
Vastly improved tourist sites such as the Owerre-Ezukala Caves and Waterfalls are now all the rage. The Ogbunike Cave is a sight to behold while the Igboukwu Museum and Bronzes are wave-making attractions.
To cap it all up, Ijele, the king of all masquerades, is the highlight of the homecoming festival and stands tall on the banner without stain. Anambra State is likened to the Ijele Masquerade that stands tallest amongst all others. When Ijele steps into the square all the other masquerades are dwarfed out of sight.
The Anambra Homecoming Festival signifies the return of the mores of the acclaimed “Light of the Nation” in shaping the needful for the rest of Nigeria. Sundry stakeholders have keyed in, and this December promises to lead the charge of Anambra becoming the destination of choice. Sally Mbanefo has sown a very noble seed, and the bumper harvest cannot but be celebrated to high heavens by all lovers of humankind.