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Nwonyo Fishing and Cultural Festival Makes Colourful, Triumphant Return After 12 Years Absence

Kefas commended for reviving festival

Bethel Moseglad

The aged-long communal feast, Nwonyo Fishing and Cultural Festival organised yearly by the people and government of Taraba State made a colourful and triumphant come back to the public arena after 12 years absence. It was staged last month at its traditional home, Nwonyo Lake in Ibi Local Government Area of the state. For two days, the people gathered to observe the colourful traditional feast, marked with different activities and climaxed with the grand finale of fishing at Nwonyo Lake.

The festival as a resounding success, drawing massive crowd of participants and spectators from across the state, Nigeria and the world. It come back was made possible by the state Governor Dr. Agbu Kefas, and his team, who spared no effort in ensuring that live returned again to the abandoned Nwonyo Lake and Ibi community who for these 12 years suffered losses from the inability of the state government to host the festival.

Some of the traditional activities stage during the two days gathering include; swimming competition, cultural dance, drama, and citation. The climax of the festival was the grand finale of the fish- ing competition, which attracted stiff and daft sportsmanship from the large pull of competitors, with the winner carting away a brand new car, and other prizes courtesy of the festival organisers. Some of the dignitaries that attended the event included the state Governor, Dr Agbu Kefas, who was the chief host, Lt. Gen. T. Y. Danjuma (Rtd), who was Chairman of the occasion, Adamawa State Governor, Ahmadu Fintiri, the Ambassador of Namibia to Nigeria, the three serving Senators from Taraba State, Rivers State Commissioner for Tourism and tourists from the United Kingdom, Kenya and other nations.

Also in attendance were hordes of traditional rulers from across the state, which added colours to the event, as they all turned out in their majestic splendour and appealing traditional attires. The festival’s revival is a testament to the power of culture and tradition in bringing people together; promoting unity and understanding. The success of the event is a credit to the organisers and the Taraba State government, who worked tirelessly to ensure its success.

Benefits

This aged-long communal feast as a potent cultural tourism event has huge benefits for the people Ibi LGA and the entire state as witnessed days leading to the festival, during and after the festival, as the community came alive and was agog with different activities that climaxed with the staging of the two days festival. Some of these benefits, if properly harnessed include: Economic growth: The festival is expected to boost the local economy through increased t o u r i s m , creating job opportunities, and stimulating r e g i o n a l trade. Cultural preservation: The f e s t i v a l showcases the rich cultural heritage of Ibi community, promoting cultural exchange and understanding among diverse ethnic groups. Tourism development/Promotion: The festival will put Taraba State on the global tour- ism map, attracting global visitors and showcasing the state’s n a t u r a l beauty and cultural richness as people are exposed to the amazing and unique tourist attractions of the state, which is signpost by Gashaka Gumti National Park and Mambilla Plateau with its numerous offerings. Community engagement: The festival fosters community engagement, promoting unity and social cohesion among the people of Ibi and beyond. Cultural exchange: The festival pro- vides a platform for cultural exchange be- tween local and international participants, enriching the cultural landscape of Nigeria.

Areas for improvement

For the festival to get to its apogee and an important economic and development tool for the state, there is the urgent need for the state government to pay special attention to some of the challenged aspect of hosting the festival.

These include:

Infrastructure development: Upgrade of infrastructure, such as roads, accommo- dation, and amenities, to enhance tourist experience. Marketing/Promotion: Effective mar- keting and promotion of the festival across board in order to attract more participants and spectators as well as tourists and inves- tors is crucial. Cultural programming: Expanding cul- tural programming to include more perfor- mances, workshops, and exhibitions. Community involvement: Encouraging greater community involvement in the or- ganisation and planning of the festival. Sustainability: Ensuring the festival’s sustainability through environmental im- pact assessments and waste management strategies.

Appreciation/Call to action

NatureConnects, an indigenous tour op- erator firm in Taraba State, which is headed by Bethel Moseglad, extends appreciation to the state government and the organisers of the festival for its revival, as this has once again brought attention to the state and expected will increase tourist traffic. The firm also tasked the government and the organisers to pay special attention to; Providing necessary funding and support; Establishing a festival planning committee to ensure continuity – an all-encompassing committee including the local organisers, private tour operators and government officials; Encouraging private sector investment and sponsorship; Promoting the festival through national and international mar- keting campaigns; and Ensuring commu- nity engagement and participation in the planning process.

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