It was a parade of men and women adorned in colourful attires and costumes depicting an array of cultures and traditions cutting across the length and breadth of the country including the Federal capital Territory at the opening ceremony of the 27 th National Festival of Arts and Culture, ( NAFEST) in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital.
The week-long event would be featuring competitions such as traditional dance music, arts and craft, children’s essay writing, children’s drawing and painting, traditional wrestling, book fair and guided tours to tourist sites in the state.
Speaking at the official opening ceremony of NAFEST with the theme, “Culture, Peace and National Transformation,” President Goodluck Jonathan said the choice of the theme was in line with the present administration’s desire to transform the country into a virile and prosperous nation.
The president who was represented by the state Governor, Hon. Seriake Dickson urged contingents to the cultural festival to leverage on the NAFEST platform in tapping and promoting cultural heritage, peaceful co-existence and national integration.
President Jonathan commended the State Government for its relentless efforts at delivering what he described as purposeful governance aimed at justifying the State’s appellation as the Glory of All Lands.
“The Federal Government believes that a proper grasp of the people’s culture enhances understanding and smooth administration at all level. We also believe that for tourism to make significant contribution to the Gross Domestic Product it must be driven by the people’s culture and heritage”
“We are happy to note that the success of the Nollywood that is giving Nigeria a good image in the international arena has also become a potent tool of national rebranding. This is attracting the desired global attention to our culture. In realization of this, let me assure you that we will continue to pay special attention to the sector in the transformation agenda of my administration.”
In his speech, Governor Seriake Dickson noted that the event was not only a cultural fun-fare but also a rallying point to uphold the rich arts, aesthetics and cultural values of the country.
The Governor, who called on the contingents to compete in peace and build bridges of unity, urged cultural workers to continue to protect the nation’s values and traditions towards boosting wealth creation and value re-orientation.
Governor Dickson attributed his administration’s developmental strides to the prevailing peace brought about by the huge investments in security, enjoined participants and visitors to visit tourist sites in the state.
In his words: “Let me further inform this gathering that Bayelsa state is a land with diverse culture and ethnicity, a land that is truly a conference hub and cultural nerve centre of the Niger Delta.
“The various communities that make up Bayelsa State were settled in the Niger Delta several thousand years before the arrival of the Portuguese on the coast of the Niger Delta in the late 15 th century. There are relics of the European adventure in our land till date. An example is the Atlantic Slave Trade in Akassa, Brass Local Government Area of the State now a tourist centre to behold.”
Also speaking, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, High Chief Edem Duke, described culture as the main collateral of the people and a platform for harmonious co-existence among any people, noting that “the day the people lose their culture, they would be lost forever.”
In his address, the Executive Director of the National Council for Arts and Culture, Mr. Mwajim Maidugu, called on the people of the state to take advantage of the festival by visiting the various venues where different aspects of the Nigerian culture would be showcased.
Daniel Iworiso-Markson Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Bayelsa State