Maja Umeh is a former Commissioner for information and Culture,Anambra State
WHAT was the situation in the sector in 1991?
For us who have been part of it through a painstaking and persistent effort in keeping our culture, there has been a steady growth of development and l must commend the various governments for their inputs because I remember there is this carnival in the state which is done almost every year where people display their various cultural outfits. I think the state has witnessed steady growths in the sector.
How is it today in Anambra State?
As it is today in the state, some of the towns are all successful as all efforts are being geared towards perfecting the culture we want to bequeath to our children.
So these are part of the individual, collective and community efforts undertaken to maintain our culture to bequeath to our generation- It is important.
I must commend the governor; he is a culturally minded governor. To this end, I also commend our traditional rulers for what they are doing to keep our traditional institutions under check.
Why is it as it is today?
We have to touch up on a few things in the tourism sector. I, especially want to see the Owerre Ezukala cave, which is about the highest waterfalls in the country developed to a tourist site. I remember when I was in charge of that place, we were apparently discussing about the road connection to the place. We did an assessment of the rail and I was trying to construct a road to the place in conjunction with the federal government at the time so that they can approach it fundamentally; the whole form as it is. That was where we were before the government was changed.
It is important that we develop those places. It holds much potential. The Ogbunike cave is there and it holds many tourism potentials as well. There is also the Ochi plane in Amichi, where we have wild animals; it is the place you see tracks of big animals and all that. It is important we conserve their nature. I will make that recommendation to the governor before he will know what to do.
I think there is need for a touch up in our tourism sector. In hospitality industry, individuals are collaborating well with the government as there are several hotels and more are still coming up in the state. We need to emphasise the sightseeing sector.
How do you want to see the face of culture and tourism tomorrow?
Well, we want to see a situation where not all our efforts at protecting these culture and tourism are in vain. We want to see a situation where our children will uphold it in our life time and of course, the newer generation is expected to improve on what we had in a better way, in their own language and in their own term.
Already, stakeholders are playing a lot of part in developing the hospitality industry. Individuals own 90 per cent of the hotels owned in the state.
Hospitality is part of tourism. Again, with the current attitude of this government towards partnering with the public, I believe those stakeholders might want to develop some of these tourist sites in partnership with the government now, so that revenue could both be generated for the government and for the state. We have pictures of these tourist sites in the archives.
Then, as for our culture, we try to portray it in a good light. The mistake people make about it is in associating it with idolatry. Culture is not idolatry because the original religion we had was idolatry; our culture was centred on it. Our forefathers acted on what they knew and what was available to them. Now we know better, we are putting them in good light.
It is all thanks to the same God for the gift of a new harvest. We are trying to Christianise those ones that have to border on idolatry.
Just like the Ozo title taking, now those ones that have to do with dirty practices have now been removed. We have reached an agreement with the church so that people can still revere the Ozo title by wearing their red caps.
The problem is that the current generation does struggle to survive. You don’t have the personnel to revive some of these things not because we don’t want to. Many of our youths are struggling all over the world to make a living. We can’t find them coming to do local masquerading but when they are Christianised, because already, they are in bad colour, then we might start having them coming to identify with their culture.
People rush to Brazil to watch their carnival. So it is something we can all also form as part of our tourism attraction. In the light of this, I call on our people to come let us develop and portray our culture in good light.
Like when I do my new yam lunch, I have friends come from all over the country because it is a colourful one. So that is the kind of promotional tourism we are talking about.
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