LIMBE FESTAC 2016: A pointer to the future

LIMBE FESTAC 2016: A pointer to the future

So much has come to linger round my memory, about the just ended LIMBE FESTAC 2016, which equally reminds me about the Lagos Festival of arts and culture, which also bore the abbreviation of FESTAC. If my memories have not gone rustic, this was in 1977. At the time Nigeria was under military rule with General Olusegun Obasanjo, as the Head of state. For although Obasanjo actually presided over this memorable occasion, an event which many who took part, watched it, and saw the glamour in it, were, at the end of the festival, asking the question, when next and who will volunteer to host it, was not Obasanjo, actually the one who initiated this great event that, in earnest succeeded in assembling all African peoples in one place. Since then, never again has such a gathering shown the determination to identify themselves as one people, whom an accident of history succeeded so brutally to separate and dominate in the name of colonialism, with the sole mission to exploit.
It was actually General Gowon’s idea, which some analysts tried to defend as an option of calling fellow Africans to bear witness of his determination to the process of reintegrating his people of Nigeria after a bloody civil war virtually split the country. Whatever was the underlying objective of this event, it did give Nigeria a new image.
The other argument, suggesting why Nigeria under the military could afford to go into such a venture might also be that, Nigeria’s oil revenue was still better managed then than now and so the leaders felt it was an opportunity to show the world that there was an African country that is capable of defending the ruined pride of the African peoples whom the West has always brandished as a people without a credible human identity, just a specie.
Whichever way we take the two arguments, Nigeria certainly got the credits. She stunned the world and reshaped Africa’s image. However, the question kept coming up for a long time, eagerly wanting to know if the move by Nigerian leaders at the time was simply a show of wealth, nor whether it bore any message that was capable of firing the minds of other African countries to keep alive this original spirit, as being participatory in the advancement of a universal culture, capable of bringing the world more and more closer for its own good?
I happened to be in Lagos at the time, as a student in the Nigerian Institute of Journalism. Preparations for the hosting of the festival changed the face of Lagos. Satellite villages were constructed, in fact, everything that was necessary to keep Africa comfortable in Lagos, was put in place. The Cameroonian delegation comprising selected artists from most parts of the country were conspicuous. Nigerians, particularly Lagosians equally felt a new pride in them. Their joy was manifested in one aspect that they hosted Africa.
So when I look back at the just ended LIMBE FESTAC, I feel the same excitement that caught me in Lagos many years ago, and I see myself asking that same question: when next can we find such a gathering of Africans both at home and the Diaspora ? Is there an African country that picks up the challenge? In the immediate, my only consolation is that the Limbe FESTAC is by all consideration a pointer to the future. Let its initiator, Motanga keep the flame burning. The future of – course, we cannot tell now. Only time will tell.

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Eyong Kevin

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