By Anote Ajeluorou
IT was through second gate, Valley View Hall, Government House, Abeokuta. The entrance is a steep ascent up a hill. There was a festive mood on, and the gaiety among students from Ogun State secondary schools that had come to be part in the closing ceremony of the Project WS78 International Cultural Exchange programme was palpable. Those passing by could not help but notice the festival of adire on display as the students in their hundreds proudly adorned this cultural fashion item in its various colours and designs.
The stylistic element lent to this otherwise ordinary piece of clothing, dyed in assortment of colours, as the students wore them could best be described as a traditional fashion statement. At the heart of it was an embodiment of all that Africa once stood for or indeed, should stand for, but which it has lost to a blind aping of Western style of living.
And, as the students strutted about the vast ground of the Valley View hall and inside the hall itself, what came clear across was the economic, cultural and social loss Africa’s aping of Western civilization has cost the continent. In celebrating Prof. Wole Soyinka, whom the organisers have named the International Cultural Exchange programme after, Ogun State Government had seized on the idea of promoting the adire fabric by mandating students from the state’s schools to be so attired.
Ogun State is home to the adire fabric, and one could easily appreciate the enormous economic enhancement it gave to the fabric makers in promoting their cultural industry and the social status it accorded the students as they prided themselves in displaying the industry and handiwork of their parents. Of course, not least were the various designers that interpreted the fabric in Western styles, usually preferred by the young ones who would want to show how modern they are!
The fact was amplified by Senior Assistant to the governor Sen. Ibikunle Amosun on Education, Dr. Tunji Abimbola, who represented the governor at the closing ceremony. He brimmed with pride at the way the children were attired. He said he should have felt odd if he had been attired different, perhaps in a suit.
Producer of WS78, Mrs. Lilian Amah Aluko, thanked governor Amosun for supporting the WS78 International Cultural Exchange 2012 programme. She said the topic for this year’s essay, ‘The Mind of a Patriot’ to which the 78 selected students from across the country wrote on was the “organisers’ practical way of achieving global diplomacy through cultural programming in inculcating in the minds of young Nigerians wholesome values and assessing their thoughts in these turbulent and challenging times for the nation”.
Amah Aluko expressed satisfaction with the way the students responded to the essay competition challenge, saying it meant well for the country’s future.
Head of jury for the essay competition, Ropo Ewenla (others included Marcel Mbamalu and Temotayo Olufinlua), said the 78 scripts from the 78 students “were laden with emotion, aspirations that led us into the minds of young people”. He expressed satisfaction with the students’ performances. He announced the winners to be Mgberiake Sopundi (15 years old) from Graceland International School, Port Harcourt, as first, while Chidinma Emmanuel (17 years old) from Unity High School, Idanre, Akure, as second. Baliya Ibrahim (16 years old) from Zamani College, Kaduna, came third. Ibrahim came first in last year’s contest.
The three top winners, all females, went home worth N250,000, N150,000 and N100,000 cash each, with a laptop each and desktop computers each for their schools. Olowookere Ayomidipupo (16 years old) of Greater Tomorrow International College, Arogidi Akoko and Eke Ejiro Akaji (15 years old) from Becky Parker College, Akure came third and fourth respectively. They got a camera each for their effort.
Chika and Ukachi performed excerpts from Prof. Soyinka’s The Trials of Brother Jero and Lion and the Jewel. Meanwhile, Soyinka’s look alike, who dressed like him in an all white sttire, caused a stir among the students when he stepped into the hall and waved as he made his way to the front row!
In responding, Abimbola expressed the governor’s happiness in supporting the WS78 project, as a way of adding value to the lives of young and aspiring Nigerians intent on paying attention to their books. He also commended the organisers of Project WS78 and the children for adorning themselves in traditional adire clothes.
Abimbola assured of the state government’s determination to make a the difference in education in the state. He said Amosun had a passion for educating children from the state, which informed the huge money being expended to make education better in Ogun State.
He congratulated the winners of the essay contest, but declared all the contestants as winners, whether to take prizes home or not, especially for having gone through the rigours process demanded by the competition rules. Abimbola charged the students to dream big, saying, “Do not dream little; you must dream big. Strive to be extraordinary and excel in life, in your academics. The winners have shown themselves to be extraordinary.
“For the winners, don’t be selfish or haughty, but be humble in your success. Never give up in the face of challenges. Do not let anybody limit you; you’re the only person who can limit yourself; but define your future”.
He pledged Ogun State’s continuing support for the International Cultural Exchange project being managed by Zmirage Multimedia Ltd.