By Charles Ajunwa
At the first National Festival for Arts and Culture (NAFEST) virtual meeting held in Abuja, stakeholders in the arts and culture sector appealed to the Plateau State Governor, Simon Bako Lalong, to consider hosting the cultural festival in November rather than December this year.
The stakeholders made up of 36 state Commissioners of Culture, permanent secretaries, special advisers and directors of culture and tourism in the 36 states of the federation including Abuja, decided that November was a better date to host the national festival as December is usually full of activities.
The meeting which was held to review the syllabus for the festival was hosted by the Director-General National Council for Arts and Culture, Otunba Segun Runsewe.
In his welcome address at the technical stakeholders visual meeting in preparation of the National Festival for Arts and Culture, Runsewe told all the stakeholders and participants that the advent of COVID-19 had made it imperative for everybody to think outside the box in order to invent new ways of making the Arts and Culture sector busy and relevant.
He informed his audience that the National Council for Arts and Culture in May this, year organised the first-ever government Drive-in Theatre in Nigeria to demonstrate that even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, entertainment was still possible.
He reminded the participants that the Council within this period of the pandemic produced and distributed personal protective equipment to journalists, frontline workers and other Nigerians to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, aimed at keeping the sector busy and reposition it for greater visibility and relevance.
In the visual conference, Governor Lalong in his welcome address to the National Stakeholders Technical visual meeting in preparation for 33rd edition of the National Festival of Arts and Culture tagged ‘Plateau NAFEST 2020’, commended Runsewe, for the dynamic, purposeful and visionary leadership he had provided the Arts and Culture sectors since his appointment in 2017.
The governor through his Commissioner of Tourism, Culture and Hospitality, Mr. Tamakat Weli, declared open the meeting for the 33rd edition of the National Festival of Arts and Culture NAFEST Plateau 2020.
Lalong expressed appreciation to the Director-General and the management team of NCAC for initiating, facilitating and successfully organising the Zoom meeting as an alternative to the physical meeting initially scheduled for Jos Plateau State.
The governor added that he had followed with keen interest, series of online meetings the Council held with critical stakeholders within the sectors; the virtual cultural tour of all the states in Nigeria, several Zoom meetings, the Drive-in Theatre, among others.
According to the governor, all these are testimonies to the fact that even in the midst of serious COVID-19 lockdown, the Arts and Culture sectors had been kept alive and active. He assured the participants of his conviction that 2020 National Festival of Arts and Culture scheduled to hold later in the year was not only possible but could be made even more spectacular in line with COVID-19 protocols.
The governor reassured the participants that Plateau State is fully committed to hosting the 33rd edition of NAFEST 2020 in Jos and that they were working hard to put all the necessary facilities in place for a hitch-free festival.
Before going into the technical session, Runsewe expressed appreciation to the governor for his interest in the activities of NCAC and for agreeing to host NAFEST 2020.
The NCAC boss reminded the stakeholders that one of the major reasons for the Zoom meeting was to discuss the template for staging NAFEST 2020 in line with all safety protocols hence some events that involve crowding will not be part of this year’s edition of NAFEST because of strict adherence to the principle of physical distancing.