By Katurak Yashim
The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) on Saturday held a cultural carnival to call on all Nigerians in every facet of life to work towards uniting the country to achieve national growth and development.
The carnival, which was held at the NYSC FCT Orientation Camp, Kubwa, Abuja, included display of traditional attires, food and dance steps from diverse cultures in Nigeria by corps members.
The cultures represented at the carnival included the Benin culture from Edo; Nupe and Gbagyi cultures from Niger; Idoma and Tiv from Benue; Igbo, Fulani, Yoruba and Hausa culture as well as Ibibio from Akwa Ibom.
Others were Fulani, Yoruba and Hausa cultures from the South East, North East, South West and North West regions, respectively.
Mr Suleiman Abdul, the NYSC FCT Coordinator, said that the carnival which is held during every orientation course for corps members, was aimed at reawakening the cultural consciousness amongst Nigerian youth.
“The cultural carnival which was introduced to the orientation course programme a few years ago by the management of the scheme is aimed at reawakening the cultural consciousness in Nigerian youth.
“It also serves as a platform for cultural exchange and integration particularly for the young Nigerians who may not have had the opportunity to appreciate other cultures other than their own,” he explained.
In an interview with newsmen at the carnival, Abdul added that the cultural display by corps members signified hope for Nigeria’s unity irrespective of cultural diversity.
“This programme aims to showcase excellence, showcase the diverse cultures we have in Nigeria, and also showcase the creativity of the Nigerian youth. That is the essence of the cultural carnival.
“Corps members from diverse cultures have come together as one using the instrumentality of the platoons.
“In each platoon, you have Nigerians from diverse cultures who have come together now as one, as members of a platoon to showcase the culture of a particular geo-political zone; that is a sign of unity.
“This is what we expect to see outside of the orientation camp. If these young people can come together as one irrespective of culture, tradition and social class, it shows that there is hope for this country, especially for the Nigerian youth,” said the coordinator.
Abdul however criticised calls to scrap the NYSC, stating that the scheme has over the years proved to be a tool that unites and engages the youth, teaching them the importance of love for diverse cultures and love of country.
“Those calling for a scrap of the NYSC are not aware of what the NYSC stands for.
“If they are aware that as Nigerians we should stand together as one and they are aware of the power of the Nigerian youth right from independence; I believe those calls are uncalled for.
“From what we have seen today, it shows that those people have no reason to call for the scrapping of the scheme.
“Ask the young people themselves, I see no reason why a very old man should come and be making so much noise about this; they should rather ask the Nigerian youth what they want.
“Ask the corps members if this is really what they want. I believe the answer will be a resounding no from what we have been able to see here and from what the NYSC has been able to do over the years,” Abdul said.
Mr Emmanuel Okokon-Ndem, a corps member, an indigene of Cross River and a graduate of law from Baze University, called on youths to shun cultural division and focus on promoting national unity.
“I feel awesome. I have learned that this crown is called ‘Ade’, this is Ileke, this is my white agbada and the bead I am wearing is called Ileke. The staff here is called Irukere and this I did not know.
“I did not know this before now; as a person from Cross River State I am used to my Itam, ‘Pom Pom’, my wrapper ‘Pinkfong’, and right now I am representing the people of Yoruba and I am happy.
“This carnival is to educate the youth that no matter where you are from in Nigeria we are all one. At the end of the day, nobody will change Nigeria for us; we are the only ones that can change Nigeria.
“If I can represent another culture then why can we not work together to help Nigeria,” he asked rhetorically.
Mr Ismail Bajoga, another corps member and an indigene of Bauchi State, who represented the Hausa Fulani culture at the carnival, said that the event exposed him to cultures he did not know about.
Bajoga, who is a graduate of Modern University for Technology and Information, Cairo, Egypt, said that before the service year, he only knew about the Hausa culture.
“It has been a fantastic experience. I have never experienced something like this in my life. I am glad to have represented the Gbagyis. I have seen different cultures from different places in Nigeria.
“I believe that this is the way forward for Nigeria. Bringing ourselves together and seeing different things; I know Igbos now.
“Before I only hear about the Igbos, but now I have seen Igbos and I know there are good Igbos. The ones I have seen here are a very good representation of the Igbo culture.
“I have seen the Yorubas; I have seen people from different places of the country. Before I only knew about the Hausas; all I knew about the Yorubas was through stories but now I know them and their culture,” he said.
Miss Chimdindo Ndikife, a corps member from Anambra and a graduate of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nsukka, said she was excited to learn about the Efik culture, which she represented during the carnival.
“I feel excited. This is my first time trying the Efik costume and it has allowed me to learn the culture.
“I believe this event will help to promote unity because this is my first time meeting people from different cultures. I believe that it will promote peace and unity among Nigerians,” she said.
Mr Ibrahim Isaac, a corps member and graduate of Mass Communication from Bingham University, Keffi, Nasarawa State, said that the different cultures in Nigeria should unite and not divide the people.
“I represented the Tiv culture. My state of origin is Nasarawa State; I feel marvelous, I feel gracious, I feel honoured to be part of this miraculous event because the Tiv people are hospitable by nature.
“The representation of different cultures makes us understand that not only are we diverse but we are alike.
“We are all one people, we are all Nigerians. Bringing various cultures together will make you understand that though there are differences, similarities are much more.
“This will bring the country together and I am grateful to be a part of it,” he said.
Mr Duruoha Onyekachi, a corps member and graduate of Economics from Imo State University, expressed excitement over the various diverse cultural displays which allowed corps members to learn and unite.
“I feel very good and excited because these are different cultures coming together as one. I am from Imo state and I represented Benin culture during the carnival.
“I did not know about the Benin kingdom before now; the carnival allowed me to learn and love the kingdom, and I will like to keep learning about the Benin kingdom after the carnival,” he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the corps members who participated in the carnival are part of the 1,309 corps members sworn in on Sept. 7, for the one-year mandatory youth service in the FCT.
The corps members are currently undergoing the three weeks orientation course and are set to commence the mandatory primary assignment on Sept. 22. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)