By Cecilia Ologunagba
New York, July 26, 2021
The Consulate-General of Nigeria in New York says it is determined to do everything possible to showcase Nigeria’s diverse cultural heritage, sites and traditional festivals to the outside world.
The Consul-General, Amb. Lot Egopija, stated this at the inaugural Nigeria’s Cultural Show, which held at the Cultural Centre, Nigeria House in New York.
The event, with the theme “Nigeria: Our Community, Cultures and Unity’’, also showcased Nigeria’s cultural dance troupes, musical performances and cultural fashion displays.
Egopija, in his remarks, said that the inaugural event showcased two of Nigeria’s foremost festivals – the Osun-Osogbo festival and the Argungu Fishing Festival – which hold annually in Nigeria.
Egopija said: “A culture is a means to wealth which we have not explored fully. So the Consulate has thought it fit to advertise Nigeria’s cultural heritage and make Nigeria a tourists’ destination.
“We are focusing on two cultural events that hold in Nigeria yearly – the Osun-Osogbo Festival and the Argungu Fishing Festival.
“We are planning to have this event regularly so that people can be better informed and those who want winter ‘get away’ can also see Nigeria as a tourist destination.
“We are latching on the fact that people go out during winter to warm climates and we also want to corner some of these tourists to our country. That is the sole motive.
“Let me assure you that we are working with Nigerian authorities to ensure that everyone who wishes to explore tourism sites in the country gets the best,’’ he said.
Dr Sola Atanda of Endless Roar Tourism and Trade, who is a renowned Ifa priest and President of the Healing and Teaching Temple of African Faith (HATTAF), who joined the event virtually, commended the Consulate-General in New York for promoting Nigeria’s rich heritage through exhibition of cultural festivals.
Atanda said Nigeria has diverse good cultures, adding that it has been the culture of Osogbo indigenes to welcome visitors, emphasising that one has the tendency to misbehave when the culture is jettisoned.
“The culture of the people is the life of the people. Culture is our history; every culture is given by God, the way of dancing, the way of eating and the way of relating with one another.
“Culture promotes life and describes who we are, moulds our characters and when culture is lost, moral decadence will come in.
“When culture is lost, children will be wearing wrong dresses, taking narcotics; so culture is so important to mould life and to remind the children who they are.’’
Atanda attributed the security challenge in the country to breakdown in moral and cultural values, saying “kidnapping, banditry and all that are wrong with us are not part of our culture.
“They are foreign to our culture; we are better than that and that is why culture should be preached.
“Nigerians are good people, we love dressing well, we love eating well, we make friends so culture is in us and it has to be kept alive,’’ he said.
Similarly, the Emir of Argungu, Alhaji Samaila Mera, who also spoke virtually, commended the Consulate-General of Nigeria in New York for promoting the Argungu fishing festival, saying the festival has become a global agent, drawing tourists to the state.
Mera said the fishing festival began in 1934 as a mark of the end of the centuries-old hostility between the Sokoto Caliphate and the Kebbi Kingdom.
“The festival features a must-see fishing competition where thousands of fishermen compete to catch fish with their bare hands.
“The festival, which started as a local fishing event in the Argungu river, cuts across several towns of Kebbi State in Northwest Nigeria and has since gone international,’’ he said.
The first class traditional ruler said 36,000 fishermen participated in the 2019 edition of the festival with 34 sideline events holding simultaneously at six venues in four days.
The emir said the festival had become more than fishing as it has also become a tool of reconciliation, tourism and education.
“I have seen students writing their dissertation and thesis on the festival. For instance, we had six students focusing on the 2019 edition as their research work for masters and doctoral degrees,’’ he stressed.
The inaugural Cultural Show was attended by foreigners and Nigerians in the U.S. as well as diplomats and other officials.
It was organised by the Nigeria Consulate, New York, in collaboration with the New York African Chorus Ensemble, the African Tourism Board and the Nigerian-American Public Affairs Committee (NAPAC).
The highlight of the event was the presentation of a plaque to Ms Joyce Adewumi, President and Founder of African Chorus Ensemble by Amb. Gabriel Aduda, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Adewumi, a U.S.-based Nigerian art and culture proprietress, was honoured for her outstanding service and contributions to supporting the Consulate in promoting Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage.
Adewumi, also the Culture Ambassador of the Consulate-General, was recognised for promoting Nigerian arts by producing a film, titled “We Are the Endless Roar”, to showcase the rich tourism potential of Nigeria.