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Showcasing Cultural Potentials For Tourism Development By Patrick Albert

Today sets off very remarkably as we gather here for the opening of a weeklong Cultural Festival by the legendary Offot Ukwa people of Akwa Ibom State. It is interesting to note that the Offot Ukwa Cultural Festival 2016 has indeed been eagerly awaited. From its planning and content, the historic event will display the assemblage of the cultural heritage of the people, thereby creating a window to further showcase her abundant tourism potentials. Happily, apart from cultural display (Unek), traditional games are being lined up for the weeklong festival which includes Nsa Isong, Ekak, Ndud Ukpa (tug of war), Mbok (traditional wrestling), Ubom Isip, Ukwat Anyang and Ukim Nkanya respectively.

Also added, is a beauty pageant, that is, a contest for the Nyaiya Nkan Iboikpa  (most beautiful Offot girl). As the programme states, the grand finale of the Offot Ukwa 2016 Cultural Festival will climax on Friday, April 29, 2016 with a carnival float around major streets in the city between the hours of 8am and 3pm. Let me therefore congratulate our amiable Clan Head, His Royal Highness, Etebom Sylvanus Effiong Okon NDM (JP) for his thoughtfulness in mobilizing the Clan Council, stakeholders and the entire Offot people to convoke this festival.

I must say that I am excited to be associated with this event not only in my capacity as the co-chairman of this occasion or as the state chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists but as a patriotic Akwa Ibomite from Offot extraction. As I arrived this venue, the Ibibio Unity Park, reminiscence flashed my mind on the pivotal role of our forebears as well as our traditional institution in stimulating the processes that led to the creation of Akwa Ibom State -beginning from 1928 with the formation of Ibibio Union which later transformed to Ibibio State Union to its ultimate realization of a State in 1987.

Without equivocation, I can say therefore that our ancestry is rooted in foresight, vision, unity and communal spirit in the pursuit of lofty goals and ideals. I am often challenged to voice out the fact that if our today, as people under the political identity known as Akwa Ibom State with all its trappings, resulted from the vision of our forebears in league with our traditional institution; what are we doing to also bequeath a viable prospect for future generations?  We must resolve more than ever to protect our collective identity as a people of a common ancestry. We must jettison the temptation to see ourselves on the basis of political lines or social circles. Internal squabbles will not only limit the development of our State but will put us, individually and collectively on economic disadvantage from benefiting maximally from the resources of our State.

We must arise to check the moral and ethical challenges in our society. It cut across the every fibre of our society including the Press. It is through unity that the ranks of a people are lubricated.  The extant pillars in stimulating communal interests among a people comes through modes,  formal or informal, and echoed through set institutions, elites, opinion leaders and traditional institutions. These platforms serve as the light bearers in our environments; shaping opinions, advancing development and protecting communal identities and interests.

Let me say that culture has dual tendencies; a tendency towards stability and a tendency towards change and rapid development. I agree with scholars that it is erroneous to say that culture is just “drumming and dancing or a system of life stuck with mundane practices” without appreciating the positive impact or influence culture has on our socio-economic and political development. We must admit that tourism potentials are veritable areas for economic development. Happily, Akwa Ibom State is rich in this sector, awaiting sufficient exploitation to boost economic development.

Culture is a way of life of a people. Its content like ideas, acts, and artefacts are determinants of whether a society develops rapidly or slowly. Culture outlines the traits, philosophical dispositions and other identifiable modes which are easily reflective in the social, economic and political relationships with others. Accordingly, lineage, tribes or races do employ their bond to protect, preserve and advance inherent intrinsic values to confront external issues or do so to aid their growth.

This is why I must commend His Royal Highness, Etebom Sylvanus Effiong Okon NDM (JP) for his effective leadership of the people and for bringing about unity and development in the clan.

As we know, in Akwa Ibom traditional setting, the rulers -Eteidung (village head), Etebom (Clan head) and Edidem (paramount ruler for LGA), administer their subjects and localities to enhance their welfare and security. Within Uyo, the capital city of Akwa Ibom is the people of Offot Ukwa Clan which is one of the four (4) Clans in Uyo Local Government Area. Others are Oku, Etoi and Ikono. With over 22 villages, Offot’s land spreads over the city, accommodating many of the state’s important institutions. Despite the status of Uyo, as capital city, with the attendant influx of people from other areas, it is interesting that the traditional council has created a homogeneous setting for the Clan and the natives.

Let me therefore commend the state governor, Mr. Udom Gabriel Emmanuel for showing great capacity in the management and development of the State since assuming leadership on May 29, 2015. We have seen his laudable relationship with the traditional institution in the State.

We have also seen very clearly that Governor Emmanuel has deployed his immense experience in the financial and business sectors garnered over the years to manage our State at a critical time of economic recession. We have seen that despite the harsh economic reality in the country, he is carrying out admirable developments including industrial investments and roads construction across the State.  He deserves our collective support and goodwill. Finally, I wish to convey the felicitations of the leadership and members of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Akwa Ibom State Council to all the people of Offot Clan on this event and to wish the Clan Head memorable coronation festivities and long life on the throne. Thank you all for coming. May God bless us all.

 –Being an address by Elder Patrick Albert, Chairman of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Akwa Ibom State Council as co-chairman on the occasion of the opening ceremony of Offot Ukwa Cultural Festival 2016 at the Ibibio Unity Park, Udo Udoma Avenue, Uyo on Monday, April 25, 2016

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