As part of the 2021 World Tourism Day, the 13th Annual Eko Oni Baje Festival has announced the quartet of Hajia Sadiya Umar-Farouq (Minister of Humanitarian Affairs), Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos State), Governor Yahaya Bello (Kogi State), and Mr. Allen Onyema (Chairman, Air Peace) as the recipients of its prestigious ‘Icons of National Cohesion Award’.
With the theme: Peaceful Coexistence, the Honours committee of the erstwhile cultural fiesta, says the quartet clinched the awards for using their offices and activities to cement the ties of national unity amongst Nigerians.
Announcing this to the media at the Festival Arena at Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos, the project coordinator of Castledown Arts Centre, curators of the event, Ozo Chinedu Idezuna, said the quartet got the highest number of votes from respondents in a poll conducted to shortlist nominees for the event. “Let me stress that the award holds a special place in this year’s festival, because, we are concerned about the state of the Nigerian nation today and believe that we need peaceful coexistence, which our fore fathers had been observing even before the Europeans came to Africa. We started a poll in June to know Nigerians whose activities are helping to unite us rather than divide us; that was what threw up the four names.
Nigerians therefore believe that these winners have done well in uniting us, which is why as promoters of national unity through culture, we want to recognise them and encourage others to be like them, so that we can have a more united Nigeria. Our message is that Nigeria is one. The Festival has always highlighted what unites us as Nigerians, and that is our culture, expressed through sports, our cuisine, the new yam festival and our beautiful women. The average Nigerian has no problem with people from other ethnic nationalities. He needs peaceful coexistence to eke out a living and progress. That is the message of the 2021 edition of the festival”, he said.
Highlights of this year’s edition included: New Yam Festival, Soccer Competition, Children’s Art Competition/Exhibition, Beauty pageantry, poetry and Wrestling with focus on national unity. The festival which has grown to become a part of the cultural calendar of Lagos metropolis, uniting the various ethnic groups co-habiting in Lagos, commenced on Saturday September 25 and ended on Monday September 27, as part of the World Tourism Day programme.