Sunday, 8 October 2017

NORTHFEST: Economic Growth Catalyst & Unity for Cross River North

|By: Solomon Asha|08 October, 2017

The one week line-up of activities of the maiden even of the Cross
River North Cultural Festival (NORTHFEST) with its build-up got to its
excited crescendo on Saturday, September 30, 2017 with a grand finale
held at the Ogoja ultra-modern Rice Mill ground, besides the stadium,
Ogoja, and then crowned with a thanksgiving service at the St.
Benedict’s Cathedral, Ogoja the following day, October 1, 2017.

The objectives of the festival include to showcase the rich cultural
heritage of the five component Local Government Areas of Bekwarra,
Ogoja, Obudu, Yala and Obanliku; to affirm the food basket status of
the Northern Cross River through the celebration of yam as king of
crops and the display of other staples such as rice, cassava, maize
among others; and to cement the existing bond of common ancestral
descendant of the people of northern Cross River. The meaning of the
NORTHFEST, is a celebration of the unique cultural and occupational
identity of the people of Northern Cross River state.

Tagged as festival of Agriculture, NORTHFEST 2017, the festival is an
initiative of the Governor of Cross River, Senator Ben Ayade in
collaboration with the Traditional Institution/ Royal Fathers of the
north. Among the royal fathers personally present at the august
occasion include the Paramount Ruler of Obudu, HRM, Uti J.D Agba, the
Paramount Ruler of Yala, HRM, Ogamode O. Ipoule, the Paramount Ruler
of Bekwarra, HRM, Stephen U. Omang, KSM, the Paramount Ruler of
Obanliku, HRM, Uchua C. S. U. Ashang and clan heads and villages heads
from the areas.

Present at the maiden NORTHFEST celebration were political bigwigs
from the northern senatorial district and other parts of the state,
including the state number one family, Senator Ayade and his dear
wife, Dr. Linda Ayade, the immediate past Governor of the state,
Senator Liyel Imoke and his former deputy, Chief Efiok Cobham, the
senator representing the northern senatorial district, Senator Rose
Oko, member representing Ogoja/Yala Federal Constituency at the House
of Representatives, Hon. Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, Member representing
Obudu/Obanliku/Bekwarra, Hon. Legor Idagbo, Archibishop Joseph Ukpo
(Emeritus), the Chairman of the NORTHFEST Planning Committee, Ntufam
Peter Ojie and his members, Commissioners and other appointees of
government, among others.

During the occasion, the people of Northern Senatorial District of
Cross River State have unanimously endorsed the Governor of Cross
River, Senator Ben Ayade for second tenure come 2019. The people’s
position and expression of their endorsement in an Award to the
governor through the former Nigerian Ambassador to South Korea, Amb.
Akpang Obi-Odu, during the closing ceremony of the Northern Cross
River Cultural Festival (NORTHFEST) at Ogoja, Saturday, the people
asserted, “Cross River North has spoken: Award and Endorsement For
2019, Senator Professor Ben Ayade, Executive Governor Cross River
State, for the Exemplary and Simplicity in Achievement from Cross
River state Northern Senatorial District on the occasion of the
NORTHFEST Festival, 30th September, 2017”.

Giving impetus to the stance of his people, Amb. Obi-Odu, posited,
“Ayade and his dear wife have reinvented Northern Cross River and the
festival is not just ordinary festival but that of empowerment as the
venue is the site of one of the largest rice mill in Africa with
equipment for the factory all paid for.

I have never make any mistake about my support for Ayade, you have
seen it here, it is very clean, it is not a question of party or
partisan politics or anything; that means that the Northern senatorial
Distract has spoken. We have made it clear to all that the sky is our
limit. The yams we harvested here today, the Chinese people want our
yams, the British people want our yams, and Americans want our yams,
all we are telling him is that let it be possible for us to export our
yams because we have the best yams in Nigeria and Africa”.

In the same vein, the immediate past governor of Cross River, Senator
Liyel Imoke, thanked Ayade for his idea and for investing in northern
Cross River, for getting it right and proper and for introducing the
NORTHFEST which is a celebration of our culture, our wealth and
capacity and challenged the people to “take Ayade higher and higher,
and that it was important that the people give him all the support.
“Let me thank His Excellency the Governor for his creativity, for
getting it right and proper to introduce an event like this in the
Northern senatorial District. Having set the pace with this festival
which is the celebration of our culture, the celebration of our
heritage, the celebration of our wealth, the celebration of our
capacity, the celebration of our resourcefulness, having set the pace,
it is now left to you the people to now take it from here and take it
to the next level.

I believe that this is not a one off event, I believe that this is
just the beginning. I notice that while sitting with His Excellency
that he was taking note on how this event will go from year to year.
It is important that we give him all the support that is necessary for
this festival to become as big as any other festival in Nigeria. I
know that today we have a governor of Cross River state that is from
the north”, Imoke concluded.

In his short remarks, the Governor of Cross River and the initiator of
NORTHFEST, Senator Ben Ayade stated, “We are from the north, and we
are the northern star. Let me specially welcome the political
mahogany, the great man of iconoclastic, and humongous, very heavy and
strong, the great Senator Liyel Imoke who gave his commitment that
power will shift to the north and at the fullness of time, he gave his
right eye, he gave his time, he gave his energy to make it work, today
you have your own son as governor of Cross River State.

When I came here and saw the large crowd, something told me very clear
that the Ogoja people are indeed united. To all the Traditional Rulers
who came in their paraphernalia,, their regalia and all the beauty and
elegant, the young people, the youths of Ogoja right from Obanliku to
Yala, I welcome you all and I thank you because very soon you will be
where I am today. This is our first festival, we will make it very big
and large”.

The Governor specially recognized Ogoja and Yala Local Government
Areas for their great harvest and described their harvest as
humongous, something untarnished and that it was a challenge to the
other three LGAs that next year their yams must be fill, stressing
that we must all come together as today agriculture is the way
forward. Today we are talking agriculture is the way forward.
Speaking on behalf of the paramount rulers of the northern senatorial
district, His Royal Majesty (HRM) Uti J.D Agba explained the
significance of kolanut, and that in gathering like this, “kolanut is
a symbol of love, a symbol of peace, a symbol of unity, and above all,
a symbol of association, and that kolanut keeps us together as it has
been from time immemorial, and it will be and shall ever be. We must
thank our forefathers who left this tradition behind for us and we are
practicing it and will hand over to our younger ones to succeed us

He called on all to carry the message of the governor and what they
witnessed in the event to their people back home and also called on
the ancestors to pray for our unity peace and love, cooperation and
development and for the aims and objectives of the governor to be

The revered royal father who is one of the longest serving traditional
ruler on the throne added that the festival initiated by our son Ayade
will be carried to our various homes to tell our people. We must thank
our forefathers who left this tradition behind for us and we are
practicing it and will hand over to our younger ones to succeed us
tomorrow, stressing, he said, “We want our ancestors to pray for our
unity peace and love, cooperation and development. Let the aims and
objectives of the governor be achieved/accomplish.

In his opening address, the Chairman of the Planning Committee of
NORTHFEST, Ntufam Peter Ojie said, “Today we are observing Northern
Cross River State Cultural Festival (NORTHFEST), an initiative of His
Excellency the Governor who in consultation with the traditional
institution, having observed that every ethnic community in the
northern part of Cross River state celebrate new yam and he thought it
wise to think that we should come back in celebration, we should come
back to promote our culture, we should expose our agriculture, we
should ensure that we grow from subsistent farming to commercial

Ojie stated that “on this day the 30th of September, 2017 the
traditional institution working very closely with the governor of
Cross river State has decided that we should observe this day as a
unification day, as a day we showcase ourselves as a people united by
our economy which is based on agriculture, and as people who have
culture that should be proud of, as a people that can show to the
world that yes indeed we have arrived.

Indeed, we have started a process that will turn around the economy of
the northern part of the state and its implication for the rest of
Cross River State. What we have done here today and what we are
exposing to the rest of the world today is clearly an indication that
these are occupational people, people who have an identity, people who
are united by their culture, and united by their occupational identity
which is agriculture. Here you have some of the best yams, some of
what we have done here today, to my right , we going to have some yam
barns, at least five yam barns representing each of the component
local government Areas in the Northern Senatorial districts., each LGA
exposing five yams, you will see some of the yams you have never seen
before, and we are also exposing other agricultural produce, as the
people of north Cross River are known for culture, you will see some
of the best dressed culturally people; our maidens will file pass for
you to observe.

Explaining further, Ntufam Ojie disclosed that “The traditional method
of exposing our maidens during celebrations is being re-enacted here.
Our traditional rulers will also roll out in a royal ensemble which
will show the thickness of our tradition because without the
traditional institution, we will not receive the necessary guidance,
so we acknowledged our traditional rulers and they are playing a key
role in this festival. Beyond that we are people who like merry, who
do hard work and who also enjoy themselves. We have cultural parade,
we have cultural dances and a lot more that would hold you captive.
Enjoy themselves and savor the agricultural exposé of northern Cross
River”, Ojie asserted.

In her good will message the senator representing Cross River North
Senatorial District, Senator Rose Oko, commended Ayade for initiating
NORTHFEST to bring the people of the north who hitherto celebrate
their New Yam individually, and said that the festival will help to
galvanize and build strong unity among our people through agriculture
to ensure solid economic base for the senatorial district.

Roll call of winners in the various competitions and category include,
the Second runner- up, wrestling, Acho Clement Okom, Bekwarra, first
runner-up, Francis Aniah, Obudu, winner, Augustine Okocha, Ogoja,
while in the female category, the Second position went to Glory Agba,
Obudu, winner, Ugbe Theresa, also from Obudu.

In the Yam competition, second runner-up, is Obudu Local Government
Area, first runner-up, Yala Local Government Area and winner, Ogoja
Local Government Area while the Consolation prizes went to Bekwarra
and Obanliku. Mr. & Miss NORTHFEST 2017, winner, Unimashi Sylvester,
Obudu, king of NORTHFEST 2017 and the maiden Queen of NORTHFEST 2017
is Perpetual Adie, Obudu. They each went home with Hyundai I 10 Salon

It is hoped that this is just the beginning of the many great things
and blessing that will come the way of the people of northern Cross
River in terms of economic empowerment, boosting the agricultural,
cultural and tourism potentials of the area through the institution of
NORTHFEST. It is hoped that subsequent NORTHFEST festivals can only
get better and more glamorous, until it can stand shoulder to shoulder
with any other one in Nigeria as suggested by the former governor,
Senator Liyel Imoke.

Solomon Asha, is Media Aide to Governor Ayade of Cross River.