By Osa Mbonu-Amadi, Arts Editor
Theme of the 35th National Festival of Arts and Culture, tagged EKO NAFEST 2022, was “Culture & Peaceful Co-existence”. The overall aim of NAFEST itself is the promotion of unity of the diverse ethnic nationalities that make up Nigeria. That overall aim was best realized at the EKO NAFEST 2022, which began on November 7, 2022 and closed on November 13, 2022.
By virtue of its strategic position as the melting pot of Nigeria’s diverse ethnic cultures and peoples, Lagos, which hosted the 2022 NAFEST, became the best place, and EKO NAFEST, the best occasion, to drive home the significant message of how important it is for the people of Nigeria to live together in peace and harmony, whether in the north or south.
Right from the beginning of the event, the Director-General of National Council for Arts & Culture, Otunba Segun Runsewe, did not hide his conviction that EKO NAFEST was a big sign of something good that is about to happen to Nigeria, nor has Runsewe’s faith in the ability of arts and culture to unite Nigeria ever wavered.
EKO NAFEST inspired a fresh hope in a new Nigeria, expressed in prophetic utterances by leaders and stakeholders who attended the event. Without politicizing the festival, EKO NAFEST brought the upcoming 2023 general election into focus, effectively underlining the crucial role right choices in the election will play in ushering in the expected brand new and better Nigeria. EKO NAFEST 2022 helped to deescalate the mounting tensions between different ethnic nationalities in Lagos who have been highly polarized by the emergence of three presidential candidates, each from the three major ethnic tripod of Nigeria – Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo.
For instance, Governor Sanwo-Olu had said in his opening speech at the event: “As we all know, this is campaign season as our nation’s general elections has been scheduled to hold within the first quarter of next year. As political office holders continue to engage the electorates at this period, it is important to re-echo the message of unity and peaceful co-existence which NAFEST platform provides.
“Rather than seeing the differences in our language and culture as a dividing factor, I implore us to see it as one of our greatest resources to be embraced, celebrated and used to our collective advantage.
“As we celebrate the Nigerian heritage and cultural diversity here today, my clarion call is that we take this as an opportunity to elect leaders who will recognise and take advantage of our rich, multi-cultural heritage and language to unify us as a people and as a nation which was the intention of our founding fathers.”
EKO NAFEST 2022 discovered the ingredients for the sustainability of its ideals and future – the carrying along of our children and encouraging them to participate in NAFEST. This discovery was led by the activity of the media which discovered and published the heart-rending story of Precious Olabanjo from Ondo – a story that became the talk of town for the Governor of Lagos State, his wife the First Lady, the DG of NCAC, stakeholders and for all the media organizations that reported EKO NAFEST 2022.
Using Precious Olabanjo as a reference point, Governor Sanwo-Olu applauded the idea of making children to participate in NAFEST as well as an impassioned plea for increasing their participation, saying it is the only way to deepen NAFEST as a unifying force and to transfer its ideals from generation to generation.
The exceptional story of Precious Olabanjo at EKO NAFEST also speaks to the invaluable role the media play at every edition of the iconic festival. It is to the credit of the NCAC’s DG, Otunba Segun Runsewe, that he has always been passionate at encouraging and supporting strong media participation at every edition of NAFEST.
This review, especially in connection with the role of the media, will not be complete without mentioning the unprecedented participation of online media, besides those from the mainstream media. No edition of NAFEST has ever seen the level of reportage by online media as witnessed at EKO NAFEST. The implication of that is that news and events at the 2022 NAFEST were broken and published instantly without waiting for the mainstream media which are somewhat bogged down by administrative bottlenecks.
To drive home the point made above, many people do not know that it wasn’t Vanguard Newspaper that actually broke the news of Precious Olabanjo, although that honor was ascribed to Vanguard because the journalist who wrote the story, Osa Mbonu-Amadi, came to EKO NAFEST in the name of Vanguard. Osa Mbonu-Amadi is also the President of Tourists Club International, a non-profit organization that publishes the Tourists Club International Magazine, an online media. Five hours after Osa sent Precious’ story to Vanguard for online publication, the story was not published. That forced him to send the same story to Tourists Club International Magazine which published it instantly and the link sent to Otunba Runsewe. It was the TCI Magazine edition that Otunba Runsewe first read and acted upon. That probably explains why it was the TCI Magazine online link that was cited on the Lagos State Government website. It took several hours later before Vanguard was able to publish online the same copy of the story that was sent to it.
By giving online media unprecedented opportunities to participate in the 2022 EKO NAFEST, Otunba Runsewe and the NCAC have inadvertently began the support of online media (which represents the future of media) and the democratization of media space, as well as increasing the speed at which events are reported at NAFEST as they occur.
Precious Olabanjo’s story is a watershed moment in EKO NAFEST as well as in the overall history of NAFEST, by virtue of the fact that it brought to the front burner the significance and wisdom in making our children to be part of NAFEST, hosted by the First Lady of the host state. As such, something needs to be done to erect a milestone for that historical event and therefore make it a permanent one.
I wish to use this medium, therefore, to announce that Tourists Club International has concluded an arrangement to appoint Olabanjo Precious as the Global Ambassador of Tourists Club International, and would like to collaborate with the Lagos State Government, Ondo State Government, NCAC and Vanguard Newspaper to make this auspicious idea worthwhile and a reality.