By Emeka Anokwuru
Promoter of the yearly Eko Oni Baje new yam and beach festival Ozo Chinedu Idezuna is a well known cultural activist. But not many people know the history of the festival which he usually organises every September in Ibeju Lekki. Idezuna, who is also the founder of CastleDown Arts Centre, a Lagos-based art promoting outfit, said the festival which started nine years ago is all about proving that culture can unite Nigerians. He recalled that the festival which began like a mustard seed has grown to become a big cultural festival in Lekki. ‘‘For years, there were cries which echoed in Lekki for the Federal government and the private sector to look inwards into the non-oil sector of the economy and activate it. The calls were seen as a way out of over dependence on oil as the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy. This is why we beamed our searchlight into other areas especially tourism and culture believing that Lekki has a great tourism potential,’’ Idezuna said. He explained that this objective spurred the establishment of the Eko Oni Baje new yam and beach festival with the aim of promoting tourism and culture. According to him, the beautiful and serene Ibeju Lekki area of Lagos became the takeoff point of the festival which has since proved a successful outing. He said the festival has united Nigerians with culture and tourism as a pivot. “It was an initial idea of just an atmosphere to share yam as entrenched in Igbo culture which later metamorphosed into a gathering of several cultures such as the Igbo,Yoruba, Hausas and other ethnic groups.’’ Idezuna said the yearly festival now in its ninth edition is packaged as a way of creating cultural and tourism awareness of Lagos. It also featured programmes that offer young talents opportunities to widen their exposures. Ahead of this year’s event, Idezuna said plans are ahead to create a festive mood laced with cultural activities, beach football, exhibition, entertainment and celebration of new yam. He said the event would kick off with Miss Eko Oni Baje beauty pageant which will be celebrated with pomp. According to Idezuna, many dignitaries will grace this year’s event. The festival will showcase numerous dance groups and cultural displays, including masquerades, traditional wrestling, best yam farmer competition, palm wine drinking, display of artworks and other side attractions that would exhibit the cultural heritage of many ethnic groups.