by Christiana Gokyo, Jos
The 33rd edition of National Festival for Arts and Culture (NAFEST) has kicked off in the City of Jos, the Plateau State, on Monday with many states in attendance.
As always, Plateau State – the ‘Home of Peace and Tourism’ – is happy to welcome people from within and outside Nigeria to share in its rich blessings.
The state remains a state that is endowed with the best weather conditions comparable to none in Nigeria, which explains why Plateau remains the “destination of choice” for many, who desire to partake in its potentials such as rich arable soil, breath-taking tourist destinations, abundant solid mineral resources and diverse, but rich cultural variety.
The state also boasts of a rich history of producing global stars in virtually all fields of human endeavour, including Sports, Entertainment, Performing Arts, Innovation, and the Movie Industry.
Indeed, the state occupies a strategic and distinct position in the socio-political history of this country, having hosted other national historic events, including NAFEST, about 20 years ago.
Plateau State has over 53 ethnic groups, and boasts of diverse, rich and vibrant cultures and traditions that have fascinated and captured the minds of many around the world.
Many people easily connect with some of the performing arts that Plateau is known for, such as the Asharuwa International Dance; Sombi Dance, the Vellang Dance Group; the Vwana Dance; the Jop-Jan Dungba, and the exciting performances of the Plateau State Cultural Troupe.
Speaking during the opening ceremony of the 2020 NAFEST in Jos, Plateau state governor, Simon Lalong, said, “The choice of Plateau state to host the 33rd edition of NAFEST was not a mistake, as we can confidently say that the festival has actually come home.
“Plateau state remains the miniature of Nigeria, as people from every part of the country reside here and considers it their first home. Hosting this event in the state is also another confirmation of the restored confidence that people have in our state with the Restoration of Peace.
“The theme for this year’s NAFEST, ‘Post Covid-19 and Cultural Dynamism,’ is very apt because it draws our attention to the current situation we have found ourselves and how to make the best of it.
“In many ways, the pandemic has affected our lifestyles, making it necessary for us to seek ways of adapting to daily living,” he stressed.
He noted that, “In view of the fact that our arts and culture represent the very essence of our living, we cannot allow the pandemic to erode the value and significance of this very strong pillar of society.
“That is why the Plateau State Government and the National Council for Arts and Culture carried out a lot of engagements with all stakeholders to secure clearance from the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 for this event to hold,” he stated.
The governor noted also that, “By staging this event, we are clearly demonstrating our resilience as a people to coping with the pandemic and doing everything possible to facilitate the socio-cultural and economic recovery of our nation.
“That does not mean that we should act outside the guidelines of protection against the pandemic; we have to continued to remain vigilant as we contain the pandemic in Nigeria,” Governor Lalong stated.
He urged all the delegations to NAFEST 2020 to be faithfully and diligently in observing all protocols and guidelines of Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) in the coming days and throughout the festive period.
The governor explained, saying, “These include observing social distancing; wearing of face masks; use of hand sanitizers, and regular washing of hands with soap, among others, for the sake of you health and that of others.
“As we get down to the details of this festival, we need to critically examine the challenges that the corona virus pandemic has brought upon us and how we can use Arts and Culture to address them,” he pointed out.
Governor Lalong further explained that, “In terms of the economic consequences of Covid-19, it will be important for us to demonstrate at this festival that our cultural endowments and artistic varieties can be used for wealth creation and empowerment.”
The governor, therefore, challenged practitioners of Arts and Culture to step-up to the challenges of the COVID-19 new normal by being proactive, creative, and resourceful “in deploying our vast and untapped resources to reposition the industry in our quest for a better Nigeria.
“This industry has great potentials for absorbing many of our youths and creating opportunities. I hope that, this festival will highlight in the universality of arts and culture and the promotion of cultural values and norms that reflect who we are.
“This is because arts and culture represent the foundation of all civilizations and, we cannot, therefore, pretend that all is well in our society where long cherished values have been threatened or even greatly eroded,” he noted.
The governor reiterated that, “Today, we face threats and related crimes such as kidnapping, banditry, terrorism, corruption, intolerance, disrespect for traditions, corruption, among others, which negate the culture and traditions of the ethnic groups we belong to.
“We have to reflect deeply on these and begin to retrace our steps in such a way that we preserve not only our cherished cultural values, but also the future of our society.
“We have to also discuss the unity, peace and progress of our nation within the context of our cultural and artistic diversities. These diversities should be the bedrock of our society and not the matters that create divisions amongst us,” he urged.
He prayed (and hopes) that as various contingents showcase the cultures and artistic endowments of their states, people will appreciate the diversity and beauty of Nigeria in a manner they have not done before.
The governor buttressed that, “Technology can greatly assist us document, transmit and store our Arts and Cultural endowments effectively. The misuse of technology, particularly the social media, can make us loose our cultural and artistic values within a twinkle of an eye.
“That is why we must continue to advocate for the responsible use of the social media. No one seeks to control, gag or muzzle the social media; rather, we must put in place mechanisms to ensure responsible usage.
The governor anchored that, “For Plateau state, we have long understood the need to celebrate outstanding personalities, who have used their gifts and talents to bring glory to Plateau state. That is why we set out to host the Glorious Stars Event where we plan to host and celebrate all those, who started their careers here in Plateau, before going on to attain National and International fame.
“That is way we shall be projecting the true and positive narrative that Plateau State has been known for, and we have such stars in arts and entertainment, sports, education, science and technology, politics and governance, among others,” Lalong stated.