Yenagoa—The Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, has said his administration will continue to support festivals that promote unity and the cultural heritage of the people across the state.
Diri stated this on Saturday when he graced both the Obunem Epie New Yam Festival in Yenagoa Local Government Area and the Odi Ogori Ba Uge International Festival in Odi, Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area.
A statement by his Chief Press Secretary,
Daniel Alabrah quoted Diri as describing the Obunem Epie Festival as an avenue to unite the people and to pass on the rich cultural heritage of the kingdom to the youths that do not understand their tradition.
The Governor who assured the people that his administration would embark on more developmental projects in the kingdom said since the creation of Bayelsa
State in 1996, the area experienced exponential growth and development.
He listed some projects of his administration in the area including the completed biggest media complex in the country, which is the Ernest Ikoli Media Complex.
Other ongoing projects, according to the governor, are the ultra-modern transport terminal at Igbogene, the Gloryland Drive-Onopa road, the Igbogene-Elebele road, the building of new secondary schools at Yenizue-Epie and Igbogene as well as a complete renovation of the Azikoro health centre among other projects.
The governor appreciated the Epie people for their peaceful disposition and for supporting his administration since its inception, adding that the state can only develop when the people are united.
“This is an avenue to unite our people, for our people to come together and to pass on the oral tradition of this age-long festival and ceremony.
“There are a lot of youths that might not understand our culture and heritage. In this event, there will be a rich display of our culture and heritage, and it will continue to move from one generation to the other.
“I thank the people of Epie Kingdom for their overwhelming support from when this government started. Together, we will join our hands and develop our land, particularly Yenagoa, our state capital, which is the mirror to our state,” he said.
Chairman of the festival planning committee, Dr. Alalibo Sinikiem, appreciated the people for sustaining the festival since the maiden edition in 1958.
Sinikiem noted that the festival serves as an avenue to unite the people and as a platform to generate ideas for the development of the kingdom.
He called for the inclusion of more cultural programmes to make it richer and impactful.
Sinikiem, who is the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Edo State, also appealed to the state government to sustain the festival through funding.
While acknowledging the improved infrastructure in the kingdom, he appealed for more human and capital development through the commencement of empowerment scheme and the embankment of the Epie Creek to enhance the socio-cultural and economic wellbeing of the people.
Speaking at Odi, Diri described the Ogori Ba Uge festival as a symbol of the liberation of the community and commended the people for preserving it through the annual celebration.
He said his administration had recognised the festival in the tourism calendar of the state and approved funds annually for it.
His words: “For us as a government, we will continue to support festivals of this kind in the state.
“This festival has been recognised in the tourism calendar of Bayelsa State. So, annually, I approve funds for it. There is nothing wrong in taking the festival to international levels. While doing that, we must not forget our indigenous culture.
“This festival is not all about the killing of a buffalo. Rather, it is more about the liberation of a people. A people and a community that was taken over by a supernatural being. It affected a lot of lives and the community decided to liberate itself.”
Speaking on behalf of the planning committee, former Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly and member representing KOLGA Constituency 1, Dr. Tonye Isenah, applauded the governor for the developmental projects embarked in Odi and also for appointing several persons from the community into his cabinet.
The highpoint of the event was the unveiling of the buffalo and hunter statues by Diri as part of the proposed Odi museum.