Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC) has scheduled to crown Former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Grand Patron of FESTAC ’77 on March 3, 2017, in Abeokuta, Ogun State. This was recently disclosed to Vanguard’s Arts & Reviews by the Corporate Affairs Department CBAAC, D-G’s Office, at Broad Street, Lagos.
Manji Diyal, Corporate Affairs Officer, CBAAC, said the decision to honour Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was taken in recognition of the pivotal role he played in 1977 as the chief host of the unprecedented arts and cultural festival in Nigeria. He said there will also be a roll-out of 40 African traditional drums that day in Abeokuta, all as prelude to the 40th anniversary celebration of FESTAC ’77.
The great event will coincide with the 80th birthday of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. It would be recalled that FESTAC ’77 was previously scheduled to hold in 1974. It was later shifted to 1975. Still, it was postponed to 1977 due to change of government through which Providence enthroned Obasanjo to take charge of the affairs of the nation.
Last year, the former president had told staff members of CBAAC who had visited him at his Ota residence that he will support the 40th anniversary celebration of FESTAC ’77and also mobilise for it. “Since we have never had another convergence of such magnitude in Africa, the 40th year of the last one is welcome. I will support it and mobilise former presidents in Africa to be here,” said Obasanjo.
Other prelude activities for the anniversary will be a launch of customised vehicle number plates which the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, has been commissioned to produce. The customised vehicle plate numbers will still be in use after the anniversary.
Manji also disclosed that there will be an exhibition on African creative industry in Abuja in which other African countries are expected to participate in performances ranging from folklores, traditional dances, contemporary dances (infusion of the old and the new), and pop-music.
There will also be a colloquium with the theme: “Black and African Arts & Culture and the 21st Century Imperatives”. Other programs in collaboration with state governments are also being arranged, for instance, Enugu state’s masquerade (the mmawu), Sokoto and Katsina state’s Durba
As excitement mounts over the announced FESTAC 40th anniversary scheduled to kick off on April 1, 2017, Manji pleaded with people not to expect in 2017 another FESTAC 77 in terms of magnitude. The Corporate Affairs Officer said the real objective of the anniversary is to make it a platform for the revival of the ingenuity of African arts and culture and to “rekindle the spirit behind FESTAC ’77.
According to Manji, FESTAC 1977 was one magnificent event no one might be able to recreate. About 16,000 participants, representing 56 African nations and Africans in Diaspora, had attended and performed at the event held from January 15 to February 12, 1977. After the ’77 festival, all the exhibited arts and artifacts were handed over to Nigeria, not only for safe-keeping, but also for continued improvement. CBAAC was established in fulfillment of Nigerian’s pledge to be a custodian of those materials for the 59 Black and African countries which participated in the Festival.
On whether CBAAC and Nigeria are ready for this event, Manji said: “It’s not just a CBAAC’s event, there are other partners. We have been planning this for one year and we are not solely depending on government financially. We have some private sectors that have bought into the idea and are ready to partner with us. The program will be self-funded. Arts and culture are infinite and sustainable resources, and Africa is very rich in these. Our aim is to package this wealth of ours for enhanced patronage and for export.”
Indeed, Obasanjo is deserving of this honour, given his African-ness and love for African culture. In the Foreword of the book, Olusegun Obasanjo: The presidential legacy 1999-2007 , Nelson Mandela wrote: “It gives me immense pleasure to join in applauding a remarkable African leader with outstanding qualities of sustained commitment, genuine African-ness and exemplary performance.”