Gov. Nyesom Wike on Tuesday flagged off the 2018 National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST) amid pomp and ceremony at the Sharks Stadium, Port Harcourt.
The theme of the 31st edition of the festival, which attracted 18 states of the federation including Rivers, is “Nigeria: Our Festivals, Our Heritage’’.
Wike, dressed in beautiful Rivers Traditional Attire with a walking stick to match, said the festival would serve as a unifying force for Nigeria.
He noted that NEFEST provided a platform for the states to make the most of the nation’s culture, adding that culture empowers humanity by improving inter-personal relationships.
“Whether we agree or not, our diversity is what defines and binds us as a nation under the glorious sun.
“Although our tribes and tongues may differ, we are a nation bound by a common destiny and firmly glued together by the spirit of brotherhood, cultural harmony, and inter-ethnic solidarity instead of discord, tribalism, nepotism and sectionalism.
“What is imperative, therefore, is for us to take full advantage of the innate strength in our diversity together, with our incredible human and natural resource endowments to build a just, united and prosperous country for the present and future generations.”
Wike also restated that the essence of the festival was to promote national peace, unity and cohesion.
“Over the years, NAFEST has become the veritable platform for the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory to meet, showcase and make the most of our cultures and diversity.’’
He said that in addition to celebrating Nigeria’s rich cultural tapestry, NAFEST also provided the opportunity for cultural activism.
According to him, the festival provides creative images and expressions to engage our leaders on the politics of nation-building, human rights, regional integration, inter-ethnic harmony, national peace and development.
In his remarks, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, the Director-General, National Council for Arts and Culture, commended Rivers Government for making history for the people of the state.
“Almighty God will repay Governor Wike for his contributions to the peace that he is promoting.’’
Runsewe said that because Rivers was peaceful, it had hosted several international and national events, adding that outside Lagos and Abuja, Port Harcourt enjoyed the highest air traffic and hotel patronage.
Also, Mrs Tonye Briggs Oniyide, the state Commissioner of Culture and Tourism, said that Rivers had fully prepared to host what she called the very best NAFEST since its inception.
The Chairman of the event, Chief Ferdinand Alabrabra, said that Rivers remained the choice of all major national events because of its strategic peaceful nature.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that states participating in the event displayed splendid cultures and dances at while the 23 local government areas of Rivers also displayed their rich culture and tradition.
Some youths spiced up the event with breath-taking calisthenic displays that thrilled spectators.