Gyang Bere, Jos

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Tourism, and former Governor of Imo State, Senator Owele Rochas Okorocha, says that Nigeria is currently passing through difficult times with a rise in poverty and economic devastation.

The Senator noted that the current challenges were brought about by the global COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the nationwide #EndSARS protests hijacked by some individuals.

Okorocha stated this on Monday in Jos during the 33rd edition of the National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST) 2020 with the theme, “Post COVID-19 and Cultural Dynamism”, held at the Rwang Pam Township Stadium, Jos, Plateau State.

‘Our nation is going through a difficult moment but this is not for us to apportion blame to anybody, for we shall not allow nations to laugh at us, we will not allow nations to rate us any more, we must rate ourselves,’ Okorocha stated.

‘Although we are passing through difficult times but I have hope, I believe in the ability of Nigeria. Nations who think they can laugh at us should relax, for we shall take the centre stage. I believe Nigeria shall one day lead the world.’

Senator Rochas, who applauded Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong for providing the peaceful atmosphere for tourism and culture in the State, said the global pandemic has cut short several lives but the nation’s culture remained untouchable.

‘COVID-19 pandemic has come and gone but it has cut short our families and devastated our economy. 2020 has been a challenging year, many people have lost their loved ones, our economy is in shambles, hunger has increased, unemployment has increased but there is one thing that coronavirus has not taken away from us, that is our culture.’

He said the year also produced mother of all protests to #EndSARS, saying that police SARS has come to an end but but there are many more SARS that need to end in the country.

‘Police SARS has ended, we must learn to end the political SARS, the political SARS of learning to be a good winner and a good loser in an election, we must end the husband SARS for husband who do not know how to take care of their families and their wives.

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‘Our economic SARS must come to an end immediately by creating jobs for the youths and putting food on the table of the common man.’

Governor Lalong said the theme of the NAFEST “Post COVID-19 and Cultural Dyanamism” was apt because it draws the country’s attention to the current situation and how to make the best use of it.

‘In many ways, the pandemic has affected our lifestyles, making it necessary for us to seek ways of adapting to daily living.

‘In view of the fact that our arts and culture represent the very essence of our living, we cannot allow the pandemic to erode the value and significance of this very strong pillar of society.

‘We need to critically examine the challenges that the Coronavirus pandemic has brought upon us and how can we use Arts and Culture to address them. In terms of the economic consequences of COVID-19, it will be important for us to demonstrate at this festival that our culture endorsements and artistic varieties can be used for wealth creation and employment,’ Lalong said.

The Plateau Governor challenged the practitioners of Arts and Culture to step-up to the challenges of the COVID-19 new normal by being proactive, creative and resourceful in deploying the nation’s vast and untapped resources to reposition the industry in the quest for better Nigeria.

The Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, said that 2020 NAFEST was made possible due to the peaceful atmosphere provided by President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Simon Lalong in Nigeria and Plateau.

She noted that the historical event has right the wrong impression that Plateau was crises state.

Tallen said Plateau has since assumed it status of “Home of peace and Tourism” and called for more support to the state Governor to build bridges of unity.

There were delegation from most States of the federation to the 2020 NAFEST.

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