Olusegun Obasanjo finally reacts to viral perception of Festac ’77 being fetish

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Former President, Chief Olusegun
Obasanjo, has punctured some people’s perception that the World Black
Festival of Arts and Culture, held in Nigeria in 1977, was fetish.

Some people have argued that it was the
fetish nature of the festival that brought socio-economic and political
problems to Nigeria.
But Obasanjo, who was the military head
of state at the time, said this was far from the truth and that the
festival was a celebration of the identity of the black race.
He said this in Lagos on Monday at the
opening of the 40th anniversary programme of FESTAC, organised by the
Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation.
At the event where Obasanjo was
conferred with the King of Ruby award by CBAAC, he stressed the
significance of culture and history to national development.
Obasanjo said, “We celebrated FESTAC to
show the world what black and African peoples have culture and know
where we want to go. I think we must remind ourselves about having those
things. It is not a fetish celebration or a fetish festival. FESTAC ’77
is what it was for – culture.
“And what is the meaning of culture? It
is the totality of the way of life of our people, their food, their
dances, songs, the way they marry, the way they bury their dead. Culture
is the totality of the way of life of any people. And if you want to
kill any group of people, if you want to destroy them, take away their
culture; and they would have no identity left. So, what we did that time
was meant to bring to light the diverse contributions of blacks and
African people. Some people even say we have no history, and yet human
existence began here in Africa. We are the ones who globalised the
world, from Africa; and they say we have no history. So, it is important
for us to remind the world that we all emanated from Africa. And that
was one of the things that I said at FESTAC ’77.
“And let nobody deceive you, culture and
development are not opposed to each other. In fact, if you are going to
develop outside your culture, it will be a mismatch. You must develop
within your culture.”
According to the former President,
another thing that he said then was that the event would provide a forum
for the rediscovery of ties which bind together all black and African
peoples the world over.
“We wanted a symbol, which was taken
away from here and it’s in London; we said, ‘Give us this symbol or even
lend it to us; we know you have taken it, we didn’t say that you are a
thief. But lend it to us.’ They refused. And we said the expertise that
created that one could still remake; and we said we would make another
one. And we made it, and the symbol was exactly the same as the one that
the British had taken away.
“This is where human beings moved out
from to occupy the rest of the world as we have it today. So, when we
are celebrating, our objective is to say to ourselves, ‘We are going to
change the narratives that others have given us; the names that are not
our names that they have called us. Africa is not a poor continent.”
CBAAC ‘s Chief Executive Officer, Dr.
Ferdinand Anikwe,  said the honour accorded Obasanjo was in recognition
of his valued contributions to the promotion and development of African
culture and heritage as well as his role in the emancipation, unity and
development of continental and Diaspora Africa.
 “Named after the precious stone Ruby, the Ruby King award is a representation of an inextinguishable flame,” he said.
Among others, the anniversary is
featuring an art exhibition, cultural dance, dance drama, poetry,
musical performance, wrestling and food exhibition.

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