Emmanuel Addeh writes that the last Easter festivities presented a rare opportunity for residents of Bayelsa to showcase their God-given talents and cart home several freebies
Because of the stateâ€™s affinity, historically and geographically, to Rivers State, the people of Bayelsa, especially the young, have always had to travel to Port Harcourt for leisure during major festivities.
Indeed, before now, residents would usually journey on weekends to the Rivers State capital to spend time, leaving their state unusually quiet till when they return early Monday morning for their daily hustle.
But that situation seems to have changed of recent with the collaborative efforts of the stateâ€™s Ministry of Information and Orientation, led by Mr. Daniel Iworiso-Markson and other relevant ministries like the hitherto latent Ministry of Tourism.
In essence, there appears to be a renewed drive to keep Bayelsa people who would rather rush to neighbouring states to have fun during the weekends and major festivities which culminated in the last Easter celebration.
Having successfully completed and inaugurated major event and leisure centres like the Oxbow Lake Pavilion in Swali with a standard galleria, Bayelsa seems to be telling its people that it is time to spend their money within the state, rather than creating employment opportunities in neighbouring states.
The Easter Fest, also presented an opportunity for the state to hone latent skills in the arts, including comedy, music, dance, drawing and the art of events compering.
It was at the over five thousand capacity Gabriel Okara Cultural Centre, where thousands of youths gathered to enjoy themselves and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and cart away awards.
Before that day, the Bayelsa State Government had called on residents â€Žof the state to come out en masse to participate in the programme tagged â€˜the Restoration Easter Festâ€™, with Iworiso-Markson, explaining that the government decided to support the event because of its ideals which were in line with the â€œaction plan of Governor Seriake Dickson to give youths a great sense of responsibility and an opportunity to rule their world.â€
He said the Restoration Easter Fest would parade some of the most outstanding budding musicians and comedians with special playlets â€Žby the Bayelsa State Council for Arts and Culture.
He reiterated his call for Bayelsans to come out, â€Ždeclaring that the show was absolutely free while people would be afforded the opportunity to win fantastic prizes.
Iworiso-Markson stated that it was time to strive to hone the abundant talents of her youths in the area of entertainment and steer them away from the notorious vices of crime, drugs and cultism.
He assured everyone of adequate security at the venue and also called on the political class, members of the restoration government, corporate sector â€Žworkers and others to attend the show and support the youths in the exciting entertainment sector.
“We are showing strong support to the Restoration Fest because of the content. This is one event that will bring us together again under one roof to have fun like never before.
“This Government of His Excellency, Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson is committed to whatever that is going to give our youthsâ€Ž the opportunity to display their talents. We have abundant talents in all sectors and that of entertainment ranks among the highest.
“The Restoration Fest is for everyone and the gate fee is absolutely free. However, there are tickets to be purchased to qualify people for the raffle draw to win big prizes. It is going to be one of the biggest events so far this year and we are proud to be part of it,” he noted.
On the sidelines of the event, Iworiso-Markson said that the Bayelsa State Government under Dickson was committed to a deliberate policy to recognise youths of the state and support them to develop and attain their creative potential.
Over 25 acts from Bayelsa, including comedians and musical artistes, displayed their artistic talents during the well-attended event, which was held at the Dr. Gabriel Okara Cultural Centre, Yenagoa.
Among the artistes who thrilled the audience with rib-cracking jokes and scintillating songs were G-Bonz, MC Okpeke, Funny Efizzy, Senibo, MC Remmy, MC Kerewa, Ogbia Pikin, MC Crazy Jenkins, Barrack Pikin, MC Laff Sirup and Jah Wonder and Skales, who was the guest artiste of the night from Lagos.
Side attractions at the event included a raffle draw which saw some members of the audience who participated going home with prizes such as a generator sets, table gas cookers, hair clippers and pressing irons while the star prize, a tricycle popularly called â€˜Keke NAPEPâ€™, was won by one Kolade Afolabi from Ekiti State.
To ensure the credibility of the draws, three officials of the National Lottery Regulatory Commission, Anyanwu Okika, Agii Otto and Ebikese Gbamugha supervised the raffle draw which saw the emergence of the winners.
Iworiso-Markson, who presented the keys of the â€˜Keke NAPEPâ€™ to the winner, said that the government was determined to continually give youths the opportunity and platform to showcase their creative abilities.
According to him, â€œFrom what has happened here tonight, there are a whole lot of talents that Bayelsa has got to offer. Not many would believe that we have this number of talented youths in Bayelsa.
â€œWe are giving them the opportunity to use their God-given talents to create wealth for themselves. The whole idea, really, is to get our youths productively engaged so that they can shun social vices like cultism and drug abuse.â€
The Information and Orientation Commissioner, who thanked Governor Dickson for supporting and approving the Easter event for the youths, promised that the initiative would be sustained in order for some talents to hit the bigger stages of entertainment and show business.
All those who attended the event commended the administration of Dickson for putting together the Restoration Easter Fest, which they said would foster more unity among the people.
The excited crowd praised the governor for bringing back social life to the state as they sang, danced and laughed to the rib cracking jokes of comedians and musicians.
According to them, the event was historic and assured them of the fact that the security efforts of the government have truly paid off as there was no incidence of violence throughout the period.
Iworiso-Markson told the mammoth crowd at the event that the present administration will continue to look the way of youths, insisting that â€Žthey hold the ace of tomorrow.
He pointed out that Dickson has continued to demonstrate his commitment to youths which explains the reason for the ‘massive appointments’ he has given them and the various empowerment programmes instituted for them.
He added: “What we are doing here is to encourage and support our youths with abundant talents. As I sat there watching, I couldn’t but confess that Bayelsa has talented boys and girls who are ready to take on the world. This is what we want and that is why this government of His Excellency is giving the youths more opportunities even in governance.
“I am so excited that you all can come out tonight to have fun. This event has doused the tension of insecurity created often by mischief makers. Everywhere is safe and peaceful and that is what this government has worked hard in the last six years to achieve”.
He appealed to youths to shun vicesâ€Ž and disclosed that there are plans to organise a more comprehensive talent huntâ€Ž competition before the end of the year which will be used to discover more youths who will be supported until they become superstars.
Also speaking, Governor Dicksonâ€™s Special Adviser on Media Relations, Fidelis Soriwei, said there was no better way for the youths to celebrate Easter than the administration putting together an event that would bring out their creative talents and energies.
He said: â€œFor anyone who witnessed the event today, you would realise that there is a river of talents flowing in Bayelsa State. We have a large volume of talents waiting to be harnessed.
â€œThe number of those who performed was great; young and vibrant people putting into display their creative capacity in diverse manners. Bayelsa represents the hope of the Ijaw nation.â€
As participants left the Gabriel Okara Hall after the event which lasted deep into the night, many of them must have been convinced that the sojourn to catch fun in neighbouring states during every festivities and at the weekends was no longer necessary.
After all, the fun they always looked forward to outside the state is now right there with them in Bayelsa.