The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has lauded former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s roles in successful hosting of the historic FESTAC `77 as the military Head of State.
Mohammed spoke on Friday evening in Abeokuta at a programme organised by the Centre for Black Arts and Africa Civilisation (CBAAC), marking Obasanjo’s 80th birthday and celebration of FESTAC `77 at 40.
The minister, represented by Mr George Ufot, the General Manager, National Theatre, said, “Indeed, the history of FESTAC ’77 hosted by Nigeria in 1977 will be incomplete without making reference to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
“We all recall how Obasanjo and other heroes of FESTAC ’77 rose above the pervasive cultural intolerance that was prevalent at the period leading to the festival.
“I am particularly pleased, because today’s programme is designed to honour an illustrious son of Africa, a culture advocate and a true Pan-Africanist on his 80th birthday.’’
Mohammed expressed happiness for the creative industry and economic content of the programme for the commemoration of FESTAC ’77 by CBAAC. “The creative industry is one sector that can be a money spinner for African economies if properly harnessed,’’ he said.
The minister said that the celebration would also offer a veritable platform to intensify campaign for continued cultural exchange, understanding and unity among black and African countries.
He said that it would also provide an avenue for the revival, recapture and update of the cultural artistry and ingenuity of Africans.
Also, the Director-General of CBAAC, Chief Ferdinand Anikwe, urged Nigerians to learn from the Asian countries popularly called the “Asian Tigers’’ which had a robust economy grown through cultural industries and creative economies.
“In celebrating FESTAC ’77 @ 40, we need to look into the role of cultural industries and the creative economy in revamping Nigeria and Africa’s ailing economies.
“Permit me to say that the current economic quagmire of Nigeria is the fallout of the neglect of her cultural and creative industries. “Nigeria is very rich in simple things as pottery, leather works, textiles, blacksmithing and a host of others,” he said.
Anikwe, however, described Obasanjo as “a soldier, an ebullient administrator, a successful farmer, prolific writer and a quintessential crusader for the total emancipation of Africa and the black race.
“It is curious coincidence that as we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of FESTAC `77, the pillar and driving force of the epoch making festival is equally celebrating his 80th birthday.’’
“FESTAC ’77, also known as the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (the first was in Dakar, 1966), was a cultural jamboree held in Lagos, from Jan.15 to Feb.12, 1977.
“The month-long event celebrated African culture and showcased to the world African music, fine art, literature, drama, dance and religion.
“About 16,000 participants, representing 56 African nation and countries of the African Diaspora, performed at the event.
“Artists, who performed at the festival included Stevie Wonder, Gilberto Gil from Brazil, Bembeya Jazz National from Guinea, Mighty Sparrow, Les Ballets Africains, and Franco Luambo Makiadi.
“At the time it was held, it was the largest pan-African gathering,’’ Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia, is quoted as saying.