Preparations are in top gear for this year’s edition of the National Arts Festival (NAFEST)-which has Lagos as its host state. The festival is set to hold from November 7 to 13. In a guided tour around some of the earmarked facilities for one of the nation’s biggest cultural events, the organisers have promised to deliver the best ever hosting that befits the status of Lagos state as the culture capital of Nigeria.
The tour which took place in Lagos included a walk-through the multi-purpose venue inside the National stadium, Onikan and well as the multi-bed accommodation at Bariga. Efforts are in place to restore glory to the National Stadium which was the venue of the historical Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) in 1977.
Meanwhile, the opening and closing ceremonies are designated to hold at the newly-built Mobolaji Johnson Arena popularly called Onikan Stadium. Expectedly, Lagos state is rebranding NAFEST first with the title ‘EkoNAFEST’ and curating a slew of entertaining content to make this edition a remarkable one.
While fielding questions from the journalists, the Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mrs. Uzamat Akinbile-Yussuf expressed her optimism on the planned mega-gathering of festival buffs.
“I am so happy that the governor made that commitment when we had the first meeting with the DG, National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) at his official residence. Immediately, he agreed to provide all that would be required: be it security, infrastructure, transportation and sanitation. He has asked all agencies of the government that would participate in the festival to roll up their sleeves.
As we are here today, all agencies of the government, not only the Ministry of Arts and Culture but all other agencies of the government that will be participating, LASTMA, Neighbourhood Watch, every concerned agency is ready. Lagos is safe,’’ she assured.
A special outing of the Eyo will be witnessed at the opening ceremony. The Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mrs. Oyinade Nathan-Mash shared the same sentiment about this festival.
“The Nigerian Unification and peaceful progress will no doubt be a significant difference and for our governor who has made Lagos a home to all Nigerians irrespective of tribes and tongues, EkoNAFEST will be more than exciting,’’ she declared.
It is interesting to note that Lagos state government is committed to renovating some of the federal government-owned facilities to ensure the smooth-running of the festival. This effort so far has been applauded by the Director-General, NCAC, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe.
“I couldn’t believe that this kind of facility exists in Lagos state. It is an upgrade to the standard that we are used to. Some of the rooms are air-conditioned. You can see the quality of toilets. To me, Lagos state is ready to host NAFEST this year. I see Babajide Sanwo Olu as a governor who matches his words with action. I learnt that there is going to be an Entertainment City and Medical centre. I am still waiting to see all of these become a reality,” he disclosed.
While responding to concerns on the impact of this festival on the traffic situation in Lagos, the Commissioner revealed that Lagos is fully prepared to handle the logistics.
“It is not only Lagos that is traffic prone. If you go to some other big cities in the world, that is what you will find. We are aware that traffic is a serious issue in Lagos and so we are ensuring that the citizens would not have a bad time just because of this festival. November is fully packed with a series of events other than NAFEST. We will make sure that no other big event would be happening simultaneously. So, the benefits of NAFEST are great because the participants from other states will patronize us and there will be an increase in our GDP,’’ she added.