I am extremely delighted to be here with you today. The Ebira carnival started as an idea, and it has grown to a socio-cultural explosion of modern sights and sounds creatively interwoven with the best of Ebira culture. The Carnival is gradually becoming a positive part of the Ebira ethnic identity. I must commend the Organising Committee. This year's edition is especially entertaining. Your hard work is clearly seen in the orderly conduct of participants and the colourful processions on display here today.

Culture is didactic in nature, and contains the lessons that a people have learnt from their historical progressions through ancient times into the present, passed down by the ancestors to instruct and guide the living. The lessons they teach are invaluable for restoring and renewing core values. Thus, the Ebira Carnival must remain a showcase of our most cherished values and strengths as Ebira People.

I am one of those who believe in culture as a tool for Unity, Peace and Progress among a People and her Neighbours. I have neither respect nor tolerance for persons who would use culture otherwise, or for culture itself when it becomes a tool for violence or oppression. Any culture that calls for harming oneself or others or any cultural practice that thrives on human ordeals or fetish practices is anachronistic and must be discarded. Indeed, any cultural practice or festivity which is repugnant to Natural Justice and Equity or mandates its adherents to break the Laws of Kogi State or of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, are unacceptable and punishable by law. I am therefore glad to see our people having fun in a legal and peaceful manner today.

There is no doubt that unity of purpose and immense love for Anebira has remained our strength as a people from time immemorial. It must remain the guiding philosophy of this Carnival. The Ebiras are a beautiful and amiable people. That is the side of us which we must always project, through this Carnival, in our other activities, and by our individual conduct. As the Governor of Kogi State, I must insist that everyone within our borders is my guest.

Moreover, it is no use putting up beautiful events and tourist attractions if our behaviour is hostile to the very tourists we want to attract. Violence will keep the sightseers away and defeat the socioeconomic aims of the display. I count on each and every Ebira person, and indeed every Kogite, to show love and hospitality to ourselves and to those from other parts of this wonderful nation as they visit, stay or pass through our lands. In this festive season particularly, I call for patience in dealing with the vastly increased traffic of those travelling from place to place through our lands.

Our name, Ebira, denotes that our foundations lie deep in the ideals of truth, enterprise, creativity, hard-work, hospitality and display of good morals. Our cultural dynamism, values and geographical location have placed upon us the burden of showing great example for others to emulate. There was a time in the recent history of Nigeria when the nation was governed by a 12-man Supreme Military Council, of which a quarter hailed from Ebira land. Unfortunately, there were also times when it appeared as if we had lost those great qualities that make us such a unique people, and we failed to take the lead in building bridges with our neighbours. It is no wonder that for a while we languished behind, almost forgotten.

As God will have it, a new era of leadership and friendship has dawned for us. Today, by the help of God, an Ebira man is Governor of our great Kogi State, and Anebira must rediscover the paths of openness and change. The dispensation of Alhaji Yahaya Bello as the 4th Executive Governor of Kogi State is divine. I was not the strongest nor was I the wisest, but the Almighty has given me an assignment in leadership that must be executed with fairness to all.

I hear some of our people murmur that I am not bringing the patrimony of the entire peoples of Kogi State to be shared only among my own Clan and I say, ‘that will not be possible.’ Some have said I should fill Government House with only those who speak the same mother-tongue with me, but I say, ‘that will not be fair’. Others complain that my closest lieutenants are not my brothers, and I say, ‘that is not true’.

It is not possible to give what belongs to all Kogites to only the part where I come from as that amounts to betrayal of a God-given trust. It will not be fair to appoint only people of my tribe to key offices in my Administration as that would be illegal and unjust. And it is not true that my brothers are not in my inner team because everyone in my Administration is my brother and sister whose only qualification is their merit and fitness for the particular job I have given them. Apart from the laws which forbid nepotism and tribalism, the Ebira values in which I was raised also forbid such injustice.

It does not matter which previous leaders of Kogi State allowed unfairness, untruths and lack of merit to thrive in their governments in the past.My own worldview is different. They will answer to God for their actions. I, for mine. I am the Governor of all Kogi State, not just the part where I hail from. What we have promised Kogites in every part of the State including Ebiraland is good governance and rapid development. I am sure you are already seeing our commitment to do that in the Projects and Interventions which we are undertaking across the State. By the grace of God, that is what we will continue to give our people.

I must at this juncture pay humble homage to my father and the traditional ruler of my people, the Ohinoyi of All Ebiraland, His Royal Majesty, Alhaji Ado Ibrahim Attah III. HRM has been a firm supporter of this Administration. As a most trusted Advisor, HRM HAS assured me that his wealth of wisdom and knowledge are available to me at all times. I celebrate His Royal Majesty. May Allah continue to bless you with long life and greatness.

I will not end this address without outlining for you our plans for the Culture and Tourism sub-sector. The greatest wonder is how previous leadership in Kogi State managed to overlook the tourism and wealth-creation potentials of events like the Ebira Carnival. Happily, my Administration is running with a New Direction Agenda whose Charter is contained in our New Direction Blueprint. Page 372 and 373 in Volume 3 of the New Direction Blueprint show our Policies, Outcomes and Targets for the Culture and Tourism sub-sector.

Briefly, this Administration intends to reposition Kogi State as the hub of tourism in Nigeria, or at least try our very best. We greatly appreciate the roles Culture and Tourism could play in achieving sustainable development and promoting social and economic empowerment of citizens. The sub-sector has huge foreign and domestic investment potentials, with wide spaces for Small and Medium Enterprises to thrive. We plan to use it to increase respect for our cultural diversity, increase our Internally Generated Revenue and grow employment related to it by 25% annually over the life-span of the Administration.

We are therefore ready to support any activity that will showcase the beauty of our cultures across Kogi State. Ultimately, we will work to harness and coordinate activities like the Ebira Carnival from across the length and breadth of this great state into one massive Kogi Cultural and Tourism Week. I believe that with Government support, especially in attracting corporate partnerships and sponsorships, we should turn our State into a global tourism destination for at least one week in December each year. The Honourable Commissioner for Culture and Tourism and my Special Adviser for same should note that there is no reason why the first edition cannot hold next year.

I am particularly elated with the devotion, energy and faith the Carnival groups here today have displayed. Amongst other benefits, the Carnival has succeeded in bridging divides in Ebiraland by bringing together a population of over a million people annually to share and feel love. While propagating and promoting our rich cultural heritage through various electrifying displays, the Carnival has facilitated mutual exchange and cooperation among the different districts in Ebiraland.

Very importantly, it has increased socio-economic activities and fostered entrepreneurship in the participating communities by generating business for entertainers, costume builders, designers, musicians and others too numerous to enumerate. In view of its key role in meeting some of the objectives of my Administration itemised earlier, the Ebira Carnival needs to be supported to grow. My Administration will give it strong support. The Kogi State Ministry of Culture and Tourism has a standing directive to liaise with every relevant agency within and without Kogi State, and in particular, the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation to list, not just the Ebira Carnival, but as many other cultural events in the state in the national and global tourism calendars.

It is time to think of Ebiraland beyond the individuals or families or clans or villages or towns or cities that constitute it but as one indivisible Anebira. It is time to forget past errors, past wrongs, eschew malice, bear no brother any grudge and chart a greater Ebira course for the sake of posterity. This is the dawn of a New Direction, let us redefine the priorities that guide our existence and rise together and stronger.

God bless you all.



25 DECEMBER, 2016.