By Crusoe Osagie
It has been four days of a spectacle of unadulterated culture for culture enthusiasts, domestic and international tourists in Igarra, Akoko-Edo Local Government Area of Edo State as the much awaited Aba Festival got underway on Monday, August 21, 2017.
The week-long event parades the rhythmic dance steps of the Igarra people, their songs that are rich in symbolisms, the age-long drumming sessions and the colorful and very significant initiation rites, amid feasting and an accompaniment of side attractions.
This year’s outing is living up to the expectations of the organizers as the State Government made true its promise to raise the profile of the 228-year-old festival to attract more foreign tourist receipts. This is in line with the resolve of the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration to reset the tourism sector in the state for the optimal socio-economic benefit of the Edo people.
Obaseki’s holistic approach to the development of its culture and tourism sector, is weighing on the development of a master plan for the sector, in line with global best practices, to ensure that all culture and tourism events such as the Aba Festival, impact on the Edo economy through hotel receipts, patronage of food and drink vendors, collection of art works and memorabilia by art enthusiasts, boom in commercial and private transport activities and visits to cultural sites and destinations, amongst others.
The state government’s endorsement of the ABA Festival has since paved the way for the placement of this colourful event on the country’s festival calendar by the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC).
Speaking on the festival recently, the Chairman Central Organizing Committee, Obed Alli, assured of an unforgetable Aba Festival outing this year. He explained that the festival was rated by energy giant, Total E & P in 2006, as the sixth most indigenous cultural festival in West Africa.
According to him, the festival started as “a celebration of victory by hunters over the initial settlers of the land now known as Etuno (Igarra). The Aba Festival is the most spectacular singular event in the celebration of the Irepa Festival. It is the highest crowd pulling of all Irepa Festival events. It marks the climax of activities as it indicates the end of a seven-year traditional administrative tenure and the beginning of the new one.”
The uniqueness and distinct appeal of Aba Festival have earned it a prestigious place on the country’s festival league table, as corporate bodies, governments and individuals jostle to be a part of it and this year’s is no different.
As the drummers and dancers thrill visitors and Edo people to the rich cultural heritage of the Igarra people, until Saturday, August 26, our doors and hearts are open to receiving you in Igarra, Edo State.
Osagie is the Special Adviser to Governor Obaseki on Media and Communication Strategy