By Nehru Odeh
As part of activities marking the World Tourism Day, the Eko Oni Baje Festival is set to bestow the prestigious “Icons of National Cohesion” award on Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, Hajia Sadiya Umar-Farouq (Minister of Humanitarian Affairs) and Mr. Allen Onyema (Chairman, Air Peace).
The 13th edition of the cultural festival is scheduled to hold between Friday 24 and Monday 27 September at the Lekki Trade Centre, Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos. The theme of this year’s festival is: Peaceful Coexistence.
The quartet, according to the Honours Committee of the cultural festival, would be honoured for using their offices and activities to promote national unity and peaceful co-existence among the various ethnic groups in the country.
In a chat with newsmen at the Festival Arena Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos, Ozo Chinedu Idezuna, Project Co-ordinator of Castledown Arts Centre, curators of the event, said the quartet were selected after they got the highest number of votes in a poll conducted to shortlist nominees for the event. “We started a poll in June to know Nigerians whose activities are helping to unite rather than divide us. That was what threw up the four names,” he said.
“Let me stress that the award holds a special place in this year’s festival, because, we are concerned about the state of the nation today and believe that we need peaceful coexistence, which our forefathers had been observing even before the Europeans came to Africa.
“Nigerians believe that these winners have done well in uniting us, which is why as promoters of national unity through culture, we want to recognise them and encourage others to be like them, so that we can have a more united Nigeria.
“Our message is that Nigeria is one. The festival has always highlighted what unites us as Nigerians, and that is our culture, expressed through sports, our cuisine, the new yam festival and our beautiful women. The average Nigerian has no problem with people from other ethnic nationalities. He needs peaceful coexistence to eke out a living and progress. That is the message of the 2021 edition of the festival,” Idezuna said.
Highlights of this year’s edition include the following: New Yam Festival, Soccer Competition, Children’s Art Competition/Exhibition, Beauty pageantry and Wrestling. The festival, an annual cultural event, has grown to become a part of the cultural calendar of Lagos metropolis, uniting the various ethnic groups in Lagos.