Ekene Okafor, Lagos
The Director-General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Mr Folorunsho Coker has described the Ofala festival as a viable and sustainable tourism asset for Nigeria.
He says it should be further developed into a regional and global outing of culture and heritage.
Coker, who said this at the 18th Ofala festival of the traditional ruler of Onitsha, explained that festivals such as Ofala remain a unifying factor in connecting diverse cultures and interest as it brings people together from all walks of life and different parts to Onitsha, Nigeria.
The “Ofala, among other cultural festivals in Nigeria, does showcase the rich culture of our people through dance, colorful attire, traditional foods among other things. It boosts the local economy and encourages unity of the people whilst creating value on many micro platform “ he said.
Coker, also emphasized the need for collaboration among the tourism stakeholders in Nigerian economy namely; airlines, hotels, tour operators and festival owners to create a festival economy in tourism
He encouraged them to come up with an all-inclusive package that both foreign and local tourists can easily consume. Packages that are bite-sized and digitally driven to consumers.
The NTDC Boss then urged people to fully embrace the new media in telling the Nigerian story globally. He said the digital revolution was available to drive tourism to generate the values we need.
His words: “It is expedient for us to explore the new mediums of information which has grown beyond print and the conventional electronic media – radio and TV. The disruptive technologies available to us now can create the cash we need.
‘The new media – social media provides wider coverage and dissemination of information about our activities even to the global community, the impact is exponential.”
The DG asserted that tourism remained a central pillar for economic growth and diversification in many countries while also expressing government’s readiness to support and promote other cultural festivals in Nigeria.
“We at NTDC are always ready to collaborate with the private sector to strength events that will make people focus on the consumption of tourism assets in Nigeria, hence we are willing to promote other cultural festivals in Nigeria”, he pledged.
The Obi of Onitsha – Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe in his welcome address thanked the NTDC for endorsing the Onitsha Ofala festival as a national tourism activity.
The Monarch said “To us, Ndi Onicha, (Onitcha people) we are encouraged and energised by the knowledge that our kingdom and culture are moving forward through our collective efforts.”
Ofala is a festival celebrated by some parts of the Igbo community in eastern Nigeria particularly Onitsha and its neighbouring towns.
It serves as a rites of renewal of the king or Igwe or Obi.
The festival is celebrated within two days mostly in October by the Obi and is a customary obligation that must be performed every couple of years without fail.
It also signifies unity and oneness amongst the people and also promotes tourism.