By Osa Mbonu-Amadi
Lagos State has emerged the overall winner at the 2022 National Festival of Arts & Culture, which began last Monday November 7 and ended November 13, 2022.
Lagos clinched the first position for the competitive events, beating Bayelsa and Rivers states to second place while Ekiti came third.
In his closing speech, Governor of Lagos, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, represented by his deputy, Obafemi Hamzat, said the events of Eko NAFEST 2022 are lessons in the art of peaceful co-existence in a multi-cultural and diverse society like Nigeria: “We all have demonstrated what it means to co-exist peacefully in our various interactions through the different games and other cultural activities that took place over the past few days at the National Institute of Sports building at the National Stadium, Surulere.”
The Governor said winning in the competitive events should not be the main emphasis, but the unity the games and cultural products have instilled into participants: “It is instructive to note that although winners have emerged in the various categories of the competitions, the emphasis is not on who won or otherwise; what is of uttermost importance is that these games and cultural competitions have united all the participants as one which to me, is the spirit of this national festival.”
Governor Sanwo-Olu also observed that “apart from the platform for cultural exchange which this festival provides, a lot of businesses, hospitality outlets, transportation, among others have felt the impact of the huge contingents that gathered here in Lagos for this Eko Nafest 2022.”
The highest point of the governor’s speech, however, came when he took time to re-enact the exclusive human interest story which Vanguard Newspaper pulled out from the middle of the Eko NAFEST and published while the festival was still ongoing: “I must not forget to mention one of the very gratifying and interesting moments of this event when the children participants paid a visit to my wife, our Mama NAFEST, where I met Precious Olabanjo, an SSS 2 student with Model Secondary School, Alagbaka, Akure, Ondo State.
“Her touching story of how she got selected for the essay writing competition alongside her colleague as reported in the Vanguard Newspaper some days ago, shows that this NAFEST platform, apart from integrating different culture, is also a nurturing ground for the younger generation.
“The most striking part of her story was her determination and conviction that she would make her school and Ondo State proud by going back home with good reports and laurels.
“Precious was not alone. Some other children participants shared almost similar stories about their expectations for attending this event, and I am very pleased that the expectations of these children were not dashed as some of them are now proud owners of Laptops, (computer)Tablets and other gift items courtesy of our Mama NAFEST.
“I must commend the concept of carrying these school children along in this cultural event. This is the best way we can sustain, protect and preserve our culture for posterity.
“The main organizer of this annual event, which is the National Council for Arts and Culture, should continue to engage more children in this competition, introduce them to our cultural heritage and sustain the children corner of this competition so that more talents can be discovered and groomed.
“It is my belief that if we take deliberate steps to put these youths on the right path through positive orientation and meaningful engagements, the rate of youth-related crime and violence will gradually reduce and the whole society will be better for it.
The governor reteirated the need to use NAFEST to harness our differences: “One of the lessons from this year’s NAFEST is that if we pay enough attention to harnessing the differences in our culture, it can assist in building consensus and bond of friendship towards genuine reconciliation that will promote the much needed unity, reduce tension and tribal conflicts in the country.
“While it is almost impossible not to have our differences, considering the multiplicity of our culture and languages as Nigerians, we must always follow the path of dialogue and other non-violent approach in resolving potential issues capable of igniting violence.
“I plead with all participants at this event to continue to imbibe the good virtues learnt through the platform of this year’s NAFEST and also share these good lessons with your kinsmen in your respective States.”