Culture is said to be one of the most important factors of economic growth, contributing immensely to the growth of many countries’ economies around the globe.
The Igbere people of Bende Local Government Area of Abia state seem to clearly understand this and are poised to maximise their cultural heritage.
A prominent son of the area and former Governor of Abia state, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu made harnessing the revenue potential in culture, the thrust of his message during the 2019 Igbere Cultural Festival held at Neya Camp Carnival village, Igbere on January 2.
Kalu whose organisation, the Orji Uzor Kalu Foundation (OUKF), organised the carnival, with the theme, “Cultural heritage: Vehicle for sustainable development”, said culture should be seen as alternative source of revenue generation. He mentioned Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil and some others in Europe as countries that have used culture as alternative source of revenue and said the Igbere carnival was aiming to replicate that. “We are trying to do exactly what those people are doing”, he said.
By hosting the carnival, he said that his foundation has heeded the clarion call of President Muhammadu Buhari that Nigerians must find ways to bring foreigners back to the country to enhance investment and widen the revenue base of the nation.
“Igbere cultural carnival is a sort of tourism which could be turned into one of the revenue earners in this country, just as what obtains in South Africa”, the former governor stated, while urging the Federal Government to support the carnival by giving them requisite institutional support to boost tourism and increase the nation’s revenue base.
He promised to build a 5-star hotel in the area to boost the Igbere carnival within five years and equally called on well to do sons and daughters of Igbere to do the same to increase the revenue base of the community.
“In five years, Igbere will be centre of carnival in Nigeria. Within the period, there will be a 5-star hotel. Foreign tourists have not started participating in our carnival because they are yet to see standard hotels. By this, I charge wealthy Igbere sons and daughters to invest in building good hotels because they will reap as the carnival advances. We must use culture as a major source of revenue generation,” Kalu enthused.
Recall that the eminent businessman while delivering the first edition of the quarterly public lecture of the National Institute of Cultural Orientation (NICO), March, last year in Abuja, challenged the five south east state governors to think out of the box by exploring the opportunities offered by the region’s rich masquerade culture to boost their economy. He argued that institutionalising masquerade carnival could be a major revenue earner for the states, and urged the governors to see the possibilities inherent in cultural festivals for tourism and investments.
At the second edition of the carnival, the former governor singled out the governor of Enugu State; Chief Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi for commendation, saying despite that he was not formally invited, the governor sent his deputy, Mrs Cecilia Ezeilo to represent him at the event and wished him well in his endeavours.
Secretary of OUKF, organisers of the carnival, Mrs Jemimah Kalu said the 2019 edition of the cultural fiesta brought stakeholders in the tourism, hospitality and entertainment industry as well as the international community under one roof; to appreciate and celebrate the cultural diversity of Nigeria.
She thanked Kalu for giving the foundation the necessary support to organise the event.
Some of those who attended the carnival described it as a commendable cultural enterprise that is yet to be equalled in the whole of the South East and urged the initiator to keep the flag flying.
Other dignitaries in attendance include Chief Judge of Abia state, Justice Onuoha Ogwe; All Progressive Congress (APC) Abia governorship candidate, Uche Ogah, his All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) counterpart, Dr. Alex Otti and Mrs. Nkeiru Onyejiocha, member representing Umunneochi/Isuikwuato federal constituency in the National Assembly.
Others were Lt. Col. M.I. Ibrahim who represented the Brigade Commander, 14 Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Ohafia, representative of the Abia state Commissioner of Police, Mrs. D.C Akputa, a deputy commissioner of police and the mother of Kalu, Chief Eunice Uzor Kalu.
Over 20 traditional dance troupes including the globally acclaimed Nkwa Umuagbogo maiden dance troupe from Afikpo, Ebonyi state; which was the first to perform, followed by the Oji Anya Bialere of Amasiri; also from Ebonyi state.
The Umuhu Ezechi War Dance and several others from Igbere clan were on hand to entertain people.
Also worthy of mention was the carnival train that went round the major routes of Igbere. At the end, cash prizes were given to outstanding dance troupes. The first position went to the dance troupe from Eziama and they received N500,000 which was presented to them by Dr. Otti. The second and third positions went to Amakpo and Ibinanta dance troupes and they went home with cash prize of N350, 000 and N250, 000 respectively.
There were delegations from Amasiri and Akaeze in Ebonyi State; as well as Mpu in Aninri Local Government Area of Enugu; all who historically share blood affinity with Igbere people. Sun