By Kingsley Omonobi
The Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Mr. Clem Agba, has described cultural festivals and the diverse socio-cultural groups in the country as major ingredients in national integration, pointing out that such festivals are also economic drivers through which the quest for diversification of the economy can be attained.
The minister spoke at Iviukhua, Agenebode, Edo State, last Saturday, as the special guest of honour, during the AU-UKHUA Cultural Festival, which drew scores of Edo sons and daughters, particularly Iviukhua/Agenebode descendants from within the country and the Diaspora.
His words: “Culture is fundamental in nature. The potential of culture as a major ingredient in national integration cannot be overemphasised.
“It is also an economic driver in an era of renewed quest for the diversification of the Nigerian economy. In this wise, cultural festivals have the potential to stimulate economic growth and generate employment from the grassroots.
“The AU-UKHUA cultural festival aptly shows that every community in Nigeria has cultural products to showcase which have the capacity to ignite a cultural renaissance with corresponding economic impact.
“I, therefore, wholeheartedly endorse and recommend the festival to both local and international tourists.”
While commending “My brothers and sisters of Iviukhua community as they observe and celebrate the annual AU-UKHUA Cultural Festival”, Mr Agba saluted the “focused leadership of the President-General of Ukhua Community Worldwide, Kennedy Izuagbe, and the other executive committee members for the sustenance of the festival, which gained prominence in 2002.”
Budget Minister continued: “I do know that in putting this event together, the organisers engaged in very rigorous strategic thinking, networking, artistic creativity, flair for marketing in designing what is today being celebrated as a successful cultural carnival.
“Festivals and events, if carefully planned and executed, provide exciting avenues for communities and states to counteract economic crisis, especially the one occasioned by the Coronavirus pandemic, which is still ravaging the world.
“I sincerely hope that this cultural festival will help to foster mutual coexistence, goodwill and more importantly the development of Ivikhua community.
“With the sustenance of this cultural festival, Ukhua community steps into the national limelight, bringing with it a voice rarely heard nationally, a voice full of exuberance, unique cultural wealth, and the driving energy of a country that is gradually finding its feet under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“This event, apart from being able to recognise and bring to the fore, the fundamental nature, and potential of culture as a major ingredient in national integration, it is also an economic driver in an era of a renewed quest for the diversification of the Nigerian economy.
“In this wise, cultural festivals have the potential to stimulate economic growth and generate employment from the grassroots.
“As a nation, we draw great strength and lessons from our cultural diversity. It is on the pedestal of our cultural diversity that we will build a strong, united and prosperous Nigeria.”
In his address at the colourful carnival, Senior High Chief Kennedy Izuagbe thanked and eulogised the Minister of State Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba, for single-handedly facilitating the construction of Iviukhua and other Egori communities’ roads.
Izuagbe noted that with the road construction, Iviukhua and other neighbouring communities now have the opportunities to access the various markets with their agricultural produce.
He emphasised that the access roads will equally make the yearly carnival more attractive to both local and international tourists.
Masquerades and other cultural groups that performed at the 2020 edition of Au Ukhua carnival include Mammy Water and Okhor from Agenebode, Ogumogu and Abetheme from Iviukwe, Osabor dance from Iviukhua and Gagaji from Iviukhua.
Others are Choreography (Iviukhua), Alimhi-Keke (Iviukhua), Imhoga (Iviukhua), Agadogu (Iviukhua).