BusinessDay

Spotlight on Eastern tourism as Runsewe’s statue spices offerings in Igboukwu

From across the length and breadth of Nigeria, there are many enthralling cultural and tourism endowments, with some making the revered UNESCO World Heritage Site list.

But of all the zones in the country, less attention has been given to the South East zone despite the replete of some breathtaking cultural heritages and tourism attractions in the zone.

However, there was a campaign initiated a few years ago by the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) under the leadership of Olusegun Runsewe then.

Runsewe, who is now the director general, National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), has sustained the campaign today, using his new office as well.

While the previous NTDC director generals did not see anything good to promote in the Eastern part of the country, Runsewe, during his time at NTDC in 2007, initiated and funded the construction of the biggest Yam House in Igboland and Nigeria at large.

To make the bans useful, the tourism and art guru went ahead to list the Igbo New Yam festival on national and global cultural festival calendars.

His concern was that the festivals were very big, only enjoyed by the owning communities, and less known to other cultures. Hence, he met top Igbo stakeholders, communities and brought coordinated approach to the new yam festival celebration for the first time in Igboland.

With the Yam House and the listing of the festival in the country’s and global festival calendar, Runsewe started the campaign for the promotion of Igbo cultural heritage. Today, many tour operators are selling the New Yam Festival as part of the tour packages in the East, using Air Peace as their flagship airline.

Read also: Tourism, Art and Culture: Segun Runsewe’s recipe for economy diversification

This August, the Eastern zone is bubbling as many communities are receiving top dignitaries, who visit to felicitate with them on their new yam festival, spending their money and impacting the local economy as well.

Due to this unforgettable gesture, the Igbo nation is celebrating Runsewe.

On August 28, 2021, a life-size sculpture of the NCAC director general was unveiled in Etiti village, Igboukwu, Anambra State, the ancestral home of the Igbo nation.

Of course, the unveiling is part of the activities heralding the new yam festivals across the South East zone of Nigeria.

Moreover, the site of six feet effigy complements attractions in Igboukwu, including the museum, art and craft and other tourism offerings in the ancient town.

It is courtesy of MBIDO Igbo Association, an interagency committee on culture, arts and tourism in the South East of Nigeria.

The association’s reason for honouring and celebrating Runsewe is clear, as the statue is a historical project and the first in perpetual remembrance of any Nigerian in public sector tourism administration in Nigeria.

The words on the six feet statue read, “This statue of Otunba Segun Runsewe (OON), the indefatigable icon of Culture in Nigeria and Tourism Dynamo of our time, stands as testimony of a detribalized Nigerian who gave the Igbo race the deserved voice in cultural tourism world.”

Also in its tribute, MBIDO Igbo Association declared that Segun Runsewe would forever be remembered for constructing the biggest Yam House in Igboland nay Nigeria, and for listing the New Yam festival on national and global cultural festival calendars during his time at NTDC in 2007.

What more can they ask for than starting a campaign that has grown to spotlight Igbo cultural heritage on global scale today.

Excited at the installation of the statue, Okafouzu Ugochuchukwu, national chairman, MBIDO Igbo Association, said, “Segun Runsewe stood with the Igbo cultural tourism history and tradition as an iroko tree and Zuma rock in a dogged effort, not only putting a national structure in recognition of the Igbo traditional hold as producers of yam but also in ensuring that the yam festival is listed in the national cultural calendar, which has helped the Yam Festival celebrated in eastern Nigeria, gain international influence and sustainable prominence.”

Following the successful project of the new yam festival, Ugochuchukwu joined forces with many art, culture and tourism stakeholders across the Eastern part of the country to reiterate the urgent need for Igboukwu, as the ancestral home of the Igbo nation, to be enlisted as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) site, in order to preserve and promote the socioeconomic and cultural tourism value chain in Igbo history, tradition and socioeconomic endeavors.

“We appeal to all relevant Federal government Culture, Arts and Tourism agencies to help us enlist Igboukwu as a World heritage site as strategic global attention to encourage more research and to attract tourism visits to other numerous Igbo ecological tourism sites in the South East of Nigeria. Sadly, none of the sites in Igboland is so enlisted on the UNESCO heritage map in Nigeria and the world today”, the MBIDO Igbo cultural leader decried.

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