IMPERATIVE OF REVIVING CULTURAL HERITAGE OF LOKOJA
Being Lecture delivered by BABANAGARI SULEIMAN @ THE 2nd LOKOJA DEVELOPMENT SUMMIT.
The Era preceding the creation of Kogi State witnessed high moments of harmony and peaceful coexistence among the people of Lokoja and its Environs. In those days, people easily diffuse into cultures other than those of their origins depending on the dominant tribe within the neighborhood. At that time, there where seamless intercultural assimilation such that core born of Lokoja are mostly multi linguists: a situation of unique advantage for intercultural evolutions of set of customs which inherently became shared norms of the people over time.
This background presented us with how generations of people attracted to Lokoja by Colonia Opportunities were without prejudice tolerant of one another while also intertribal marriages deepened hegemony which evidently form the basis of what we have today as the heritage of our people.
I recall with nostalgia how in my formative age young men usually form a ring as spectators to either watch or participate at the annual local wrestling known as Chali at the yaragi market square up the old garage. This cultural feat as we had it then no longer exist today.
In retrospect, permit me at this point to refresh our memory with graphic descriptions of some of these seasonal cultural events indigenous to us as a people of Lokoja:
CHALI was the local wrestling crafted around what was known as Lagwa: Spinning to hit the opponent with leg from a standing position. The initial posture of this event appears as though a Taekwondo but a bit more brute due perhaps to lack of clearly established rules of engagement. I guess Chali must have been a creation of juvenile wrestling interplay coined out of different socio-cultural backgrounds of the people domicile in the community. Thus, in addition to derived recreation, Chali has the potential that could turned around into annual cultural event to generate income if the approach is standardized.
WORIWO: Is the replica of European Bonfire. At the period of Cika Ciki every year, young men cluster around the market square at night with folds of long grasses burning with fire chanting “Woriwo Bandagudu” moving around slowly until the final trench is dispersed into the air to scatter on the multitude of spectators as residue of ashes or fire particles without severe or negative impacts compare to when tyres were to be involved. I believe a whole more pleasant Woriwo can be organized if the format is governed by a set of rules. Beyond its mere cultural values, this event can as well serve as annual platform of burn fire gyration to engage the youth on topical issues relating to violence, Drug Abuse and other antisocial vices at the both ends of opening and closing ceremonies. It is an avenue through which the Maigari could as well convey annual messages of good wills and peaceful coexistence to his subjects.
CLIMBING THE MOUNTAIN: This was Pseudo adventurous tour involving Pupils of Primary schools at the completion of their Primary Education from schools across Lokoja and Environs. At the end of each academic year, school children converge at the foot of the mountain in Mahadi and trek to the top of the mountain of about 1200m above the sea level essentially to catch the glimpse of the legendary building which served as the Rest House to Colonial Governor General Lord Fredrick Lugard. Ascending the mountain through rocky path for the children was as adventurous as descending from it through the motor hill way referred to as the S-road with thrilling views of wild monkeys crisscrossing branches of the trees adjourning the thick forest. At the end of this Carnival-like Picnic children often leaves behind indelible inscription marks on the exceptionally huge baobab tree hitherto conspicuously adjacent the Lugard Rest House as epitome of their signature of ascendance. Apart from derive exposures for the children, climbing the mountain can be expanded to accommodate older citizens as a way of strengthening their physical fitness with prizes and certificate of recognition given to those able to achieve the feat at a record time. In resuscitating this all important event, adequate security measures must be introduced to ensure safety of the whole experience.
DANKO: Fish festival is to Kogi what Argungu fish festival is to the kebbi people. Both are annual competitive ceremony to catch the Biggest Fish. Whereas proper coordination and adequate publicity has lunched Argungu to global recognition, the competitive edge of Danko over the Argungu obviously abounds. With Danko located in Lokoja, a town so rich with Colonia history and relics, confluence of Rivers Niger and Benue etc, what is required at this moment is little impetus to rebrand the event into a great tourist’s attraction.
DUKAN RUWA was a form of diving to swim the Niger Rivers whenever the flow is full. At the peak of the season, young men took their turn to dive into the River from the top of Johnholt bridge or the bridge by Sarkin Zango Kpantankoto end. Being a riverine Community, there was hardly any home where the children do not swim except perhaps for children of the elites mostly resident at the quarters of IWD, marine or the fegge. Although bridges where these diving events usually take place no longer exist due to urban pressure, it is possible to replicate similar structure at different ends of the Niger River to serve as a platform for a well-coordinated diving competitions.
ENA: was a group of teenage girls ranging between 13-18yrs formed into peer associations headed by a male adult referred to as Ndakotsu. These groups normally regroup at a period when Sallah approaches. The different Ena group as far as my memory could take me includes: Ena Skola, Ena mashadi, Ena madabo etc, each distinct by their colorful attairs known as yayi and solidarity renditions. The Ena may have been proscribed due to unhealthy rivalry between them without any known rational cause, in this twenty first century, Ena group could be registered into different Non Governmental Organization to advocate on critical challenges Faced by the girl child, specifically focusing on the campaign against harmful cultural practices, trafficking in girl child, campaign against rape, importance of girl child enrolment to school and the Affirmative Actions on Women.
DUBAR: Eid Dubar was the riding of horse by the Maigari from the Eid ground to his residence flanked by a number of title holders. In those days, residence look forward to Eid days and with great enthusiasm lines up the street to catch the glimpse of this colourful Dubar waving at the unique dancing steps of the horse by Alhaji Ebaiya and the Magical prowess of the Sarkin Zango from the Eid ground through Gwanciku, Kporoka, Kabawa to Kpatankoto, Simiti corner, Gareji and terminates at the Maigari Palace. Due to Distance and Security concerns, there is the need to re-invent this Dubar itinerary in such a way that Maigari Chauffeured in his limousine would be accompany by retinue of horse riding title holders in a slow motion across the street to his palace in full admiration of the local residence waving in show of respect to the Royal Father and his entourage as they move pass the adjourning street.
Distinguished guest ladies & gentlemen, in summary, culture refers to collection of acceptable norms, customs and the tradition of the people shared over time, therefore efforts must be made to constantly review some of these shared norms with the view to modify aspects of it that are harmful or inimical to peaceful co-existence so that Chali, Woriwo, Dankwo etc as core value of our heritage do not go into extinction.
In addition, through these cultural events curious and adventurous minds of our youth could be positively engaged with alternatives to cult or cult related endeavors
In this regards, traditional titles of lokoja should be organized into standing committees to address matters relating to our cultural values as well as other issues confronting the Community from time to time. Like the committee of the king makers, other standing committees to be set up include the followings:-
Committee on Culture and Traditions
Committee on intelligence and security
Committee on Education and Enrolment to School
Committee on Contacts and Diaspora
Committee on interfaith Dialogue
Committee on Special Group Interests
Committee on Political Awareness
Committee on Dispute Resolution
Committee on Destitute Rehabilitation
Committee on Poverty and Job Creation etc.
Whereas, these committees assignment may be clearly specific, information flow between them must be flexible and tailored towards strengthening our unity in diversity. The imperative of these however lies not only with mere rejuvenating cultural heritage of our people but to evolve a whole modern standard that meets our collective aspirations of improved wellbeing for peace social stability progress and above all greater allegiance to the throne of Maigari.