By Osa Amadi
Some, if not many of us, left Lagos with trepidation for the 33rd edition of National Festival of Arts and Culture, NAFEST, 2020 in Jos Plateau State. The major concern has been insecurity. What we heard about Plateau State made us fear to go there.
For those who wonder why tourism fails even in countries like ours that have so much fun to offer, insecurity is the answer. When we commit, or allow dastardly acts such as killing innocent people, the news filters out to the world, and people become afraid to come to our places. Tourism dies. And if care is not taken, arts and culture die too.
And as we may all know, the Dead Sea we hear about is called by that name because the Dead Sea receives water only from the Jordan River, but it does not give its water out to any other body of water. So, no life flourishes in the Dead Sea – no animals, weeds, or even algae; and its water is 10 times saltier than the normal ocean water. A country or place that is stagnant, lacks visitors, the arts and culture is dead like the Dead Sea!
So, the news that gets out about a place is key to the life of that place. And the actions or activities of people in any given geographical space determine the type of news that gets out about that place. Journalists and the media tell us the real conditions and situations in any given area.
For these reasons, we must ensure that stories of killing innocent people, kidnapping, banditry and the likes are never told about our places; and the only way to guard against such negative news is to ensure that those dastardly acts do not take place in the first place; if they do, the news are bound to filter out, especially in this age of advanced Information Communication Technology and the Social Media.
In recent years, Plateau State, like the north east, northwest and northcentral, has received very bad press because bad things that have happened there – the killing, maiming, and kidnapping of innocent people. So, naturally, people, especially people who haven’t been to Plateau State before, are afraid to go there.
Now, Plateau has the opportunity of taking advantage of the pass mark it has scored after an intense media scrutiny that spanned more than 10 days, thanks to the 2020 Jos Plateau NAFEST and the doggedness of Otunba Segun Runsewe who led from the front, the media and the people from other parts of Nigeria who made Jos Plateau their homes for 10 solid days.
We were somewhat shocked that as developed as Jos is, there are no direct flights from Lagos or Abuja to Jos, the Plateau capital. It’s not that there is no airport in Plateau State, but as we were told, there are usually not enough passengers for an airliner to operate on that route. So, after spending 10 days in Jos, one question we asked was ‘why are people not massively visiting this beautiful, hospitable ancient city?’
So, we had to fly to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and then drive to Jos by road. The thought of travelling by road in any part of Nigeria nowadays, especially anywhere near northern Nigeria, is a frightening one. But as has been said, the indefatigable Otunba Runsewe led the way and urged others to follow him to Plateau.
Moreover, our fears were heightened by the new attitudes of the security agencies, especially the police, since after the #EndSARS protests against police brutality in Nigeria. Who is even going to provide security? The Police? The Army? These were some of the questions that agitated the minds of some of us.
Now, in retrospect, we can give the police pass marks in providing security in Jos during the 2020 NAFEST, even though the old tin mining city was as peaceful as Bethlehem of Judea, the birthplace of the Lord Jesus, throughout our stay there.
After we passed Nasarawa State and drove into Plateau, we started a steady climb up the hills to an elevated land of rock – that’s the simplest way to describe Jos – ‘an elevated land of rock’. Someone in our group said, “look, we are climbing up to one of the highest points on the land called Nigeria – the Plateau!
We arrived Jos on Saturday evening. After having an early dinner with Otunba Runsewe in one of the improvised halls at the venue, we checked into a beautiful, quiet apartment hotel inside Langfield Leisure Park, Rayfield Area, the venue for most of the events of the 2020 Jos Plateau NAFEST. Unfortunately, those blocks of beautiful apartment, we heard, had laid fallow for many years on account of the same problem – lack of visitors! But NAFEST brought life back to the apartments. The apartments had sprawling scenic sceneries composed of hills created by rock formations.
It was from those apartments that we left every day to attend series of events scheduled for the NAFEST 2020 – The opening ceremony on Monday 23 November at the Rwang Pam Township Stadium, West of Mines, Jos where the state governor had declared that hosting of the 2020 NAFEST was an evidence that peace has returned to Plateau (see 2020 NAFEST confirms return of peace in Plateau ― Lalong – https://www.vanguardngr.com/2020/11/2020-nafest-confirms-return-of-peace-in-plateau-lalong/)
There was a command performance by Plateau State Government; Official opening ceremony of free skill acquisition training on November 24, culture quiz, choral music competition. There was Archery competition on November 25, Stakeholders Roundtable on Entrepreneurship, Traditional Board Game (Ayo), Grand finale of culture quiz, Arts & Craft cultural market/exhibition, Children’s indigenous music instrumentation competition, indigenous fabric & fashion competition.
On Tuesday 26 November, we attended the Children’s Essay Writing/Children’s Craft Competition, Traditional Cuisine Competition, Continuation of Choral Music Competition, and Cultural Splendor with the Gbong Gwom Jos, Da Jacob Buba Gyang at his palace.
There was the official closing ceremony of free skill acquisition on November 27, reception of all children participants to NAFEST 2020 by her excellency, the wife of the governor, Hon. Regina Simon Bako Lalong.
On Saturday, November 28, we attended the Cultural Golf Tournament at the Rayfield Golf Course where the governor, Simon Lalong and Otunba Runsewe played golf to declare the tournament open. Cultural golf is both an innovation and a special passion for Otunba Runsewe. From the Golf Course, we visited a wonderful work of nature in Plateau – the Assop Water Falls – led by the creative tour guide, John Best.
From the Assop Water Falls, we drove straight to the closing ceremony of the 2020 NAFEST at the Rwang Pam Township Stadium, where Bayelsa State emerged the overall winner, while Ekiti and Rivers States came 2nd. Plateau, the host state, came 3rd. Kano and Enugu states emerged 4th, while Delta, FTC and Kaduna states came 5th. In all, 26 states participated in this year’s NAFEST, and all of them were awarded certificates. Different states also won in the different week-long competitions listed above.
In summary, Plateau Jos is a wonderful place to be. The people are kind, hospitable, and the sprawling savannah grassland parading a panorama of picturesque hills and rock formations are wonderful. When these scenic sights are combined with the cool weather of Jos, the total package becomes therapeutic, giving credence to Otunba Runsewe’s assertion that Jos will become the headquarter of medical tourism in Africa.