By Elizabeth Vincent, Yenagoa
The Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Douye Diri, has stressed the need for the people of the Ijaw ethnic nationality to preserve and promote the positive aspects of their culture to enable them command honour and dignity.
Senator Diri stated this at the weekend while speaking as Special Guest of Honour during the public lecture of this year’s Sagbama Ebila-Oge celebration in Sagbama Town, headquarters of Sagbama Local Government Area.
Governor Diri, who was represented at the occasion by his Deputy, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, noted that a people without a culture were a people without an existence and future.
Underscoring the need for every community in the state to regularly organize festivals to promote the Ijaw culture, the Bayelsa Chief Executive, however, expressed concern that many children born in Ijaw communities in recent times could not speak the Ijaw language.
He stressed that language was the vehicle of culture, and as such, when a people’s language fades away, their culture automatically takes its leave as well.
Governor Diri advised the people of Sagbama to be their brother’s keeper always and to continue to use their festival to unify the community.
He assured that the State Government would continue to support and identify with communities that organize festivals for cultural promotion.
His words: “Culture is the pride of a people. A people without culture is a people without existence.
“We have been so intimidated that we now live other people’s culture and not our culture. We are afraid that if our festivals are not regularly organized in our communities, at a point in time, we will be a people without culture.
“I am very sure that there are some children born in Sagbama here who cannot speak Ijaw. And that is not good for us as people.
“Language is the vehicle of culture. Once your language goes away, your culture has started going out of your body.
“The Bayelsa State Government is committed to promoting culture at all levels. So, we are here to celebrate culture because we appreciate the importance of celebrating our culture.”
Earlier in his remarks, the Chairman of the occasion, the Member representing Sagbama/Ekeremor Federal Constituency in the National Assembly, Chief Fred Agbedi, described the Sagbama Ebila-Oge as a major unifying factor among the people of the community.
Chief Agbedi, who was represented by the Secretary of the PDP State Reconciliation Committee, Chief Austin Lugbenwei, said he had participated in several editions of the festival in the past and encouraged the people not to relent.
In his welcome address, the National President of the National Executive Council of Sagbama, Mr Ebi Evinson, the creation of Sagbama LGA in 1976 and the construction of the erosion control “carpet” at the waterfront in the early 1980s as two critical events that necessitated the birth of the festival.
Hon. Ebi, who thanked the Governor and other top government functionaries for finding time to attend the programme, extended his appreciation to everyone who had made financial contributions to the celebration of the festival.
Highpoint of the well -attended ceremony was the conferment of the chieftaincy title of “Buluebitimi Amatariowei of Sagbama” on the Deputy Governor, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, by the Amananaowei of Sagbama, HRH Moses Ojo Magbisa.
The event also featured a special performance from the Bayelsa State Council for Arts and Culture troupe, traditional wrestling, and public lecture with the topic, “Love and Unity as Imperatives for Community Development” delivered by Prof. Barclays Ayakoroma.