The Imo State contingent dancing during the opening ceremony at the UNIBEN Sports Complex
By Osa-Amadi, Arts Editor
The National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST) has ended, but its euphoria still lingers. Many states and individuals that participated in the 2019 EDO NAFEST are still relishing their experiences. One such state is Imo.
In the past editions of NAFEST, especially last years’ hosted by Rivers State, Imo State had either been completely absent or shabbily represented. This year, at EDO NAFEST 2019, showed a remarkable departure from what became a negative norm for the state.
Imo State rightly took its place as the Eastern Heartland, glittering in beautifully-colored costumes and mesmerizing dance steps. Happiness, love and pride for their cultural heritage was written all over the faces of their contingents as they danced and displayed their arts and culture for the over 500, 000 visitors who came into Benin City for the national event.
Curious to know the reason for this sharp turn of event for the hitherto no-show character of the state, ever inquisitive Vanguard sought out the leader of Imo State contingent, Okpataku Assumpta Ebere Akujuobi, Ag Director, Imo State Council for Arts & Culture, who said that what we are seeing from today – the proudly and prestigious presence of Imo State – “is the handwork of the man with whom God has blessed Imo State, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha.
Mrs. Akujuobi described Ihedioha as a Governor who places high premium on the arts and cultural heritage of Igbos generally and of Imo State specifically. “He is a man who has come to rebuild Imo, rebuild arts and culture, the roads and other infrastructure; he is now paying salaries, paying pensioners and fixing all things that have been damaged.
“We are here with our Honorable Commissioner for Tourism, Creative Arts & Culture, Barrister Chijioke Nzekwe. The Acting Permanent Secretary, Uche Anyanwu and all the directors in the ministry of Tourism, Creative Arts & Culture are here also. Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha came and salvaged Imo Civil Service, especially the arts and culture. For eight good years, we did not appear in any of the festivals.
Even the one held at our backyard (Rivers State), we tried all we could to prepare but we couldn’t go. Now, you can see Imo in a robust appearance. He has come to restore the dignity of arts and culture of Imo State.”