BusinessDay

Boost for tourism as Ofala festival gets FG’s ‘Award of Excellence’ in Culture

Nigeria’s tourism sector is gaining momentum as festivals such as Ofala continue to invest in ensuring Nigeria is put in the global map for excellence in tourism and cultural excellence.

Ofala Festival is an annual ceremony practiced by Igbo people, particularly the indigenes of Onitsha.

The federal government recently awarded Ofala festival, with Excellence in Culture, in recognition for the festival’s outstanding and excellent contributions to the development and preservation of Nigeria’s cultural heritage.

The award was made on the occasion of the First United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Global Conference on linking tourism, culture, and the creative industries as pathways to recovery and inclusive development, which has just ended in Lagos.

The Ofala is the high point of the Onitsha ceremonial cycle. This display of royal dances, tributes, parades and music running over two days, with the Obi of Onitsha as the celebrant of the spectacle is rooted in deep spirituality. It is an occasion for the monarch to fulfil certain obligations.

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The Ofala is primarily a celebration by the monarch and his subjects of the monarch’s annual emergence from seclusion, during which period the monarch has successfully negotiated the fortunes of the kingdom. It is also a re-enactment of the joy which the monarch shared with his subjects, at the discovery that yam is non- toxic, and a valuable source of food.

The award was presented in Lagos to Nnaemeka Achebe, Obi of Onitsha at a gala night and command performance during the conference by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and the Secretary General of the UNWTO Zurab Pololikashvili.

Speaking on the award, Achebe conveyed the appreciation of the Onitsha community to both the federal government and the UNWTO.

According to him, ‘’this recognition added to the endorsement of the Ofala by the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, as a major Nigerian festival, has further enhanced our goals of attracting considerable national, west African, and international attention to the Ofala and getting the festival to attain the status of a major event in the Nigerian, and by extension in the West African cultural/tourism calendar’’.

Achebe added that ‘’this honour will serve as a boost to our plans of
bringing the world to Onitsha to experience our rich cultural heritage and enhance the growth and development of our community’’.

Whilst not losing its essence as an annual traditional and ritual obligation, the extent of the Ofala has been broadened. An international art exhibition (Oreze), a youths’ carnival (Ofala Carnival), and a marathon (Onitsha City Marathon) which has been approved by the relevant national and international athletic bodies are now part of the Ofala.

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