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FESTAC ’77: PLANNING EXECUTION AND SOCIO-ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES ON NIGERIA FROM 1966-1977

HISTORY & INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS UNDERGRADUATE PROJECT TOPICS, RESEARCH WORKS AND MATERIALS

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CHAPTER TWO

2.0. FESTAC 77; THE PLANNING STAGE (1966-1977) 

2.1  CONCEPTION OF FESTAC

FESTAC, first emanated as a mere idea in Paris in 1956, when a group of Paris based pan African society summoned a meeting of all black and African writers as well as artists to discuss the resurgence of the Blackman’s culture1. The likes of Leopard Sedar Senghor, Eno Belinga, Alioune Dioup who were based in Paris at this time were propelled by the unfriendly and inferior treatment they received in Europe especially in France. Prior to this time however, the concept of negritude had emerged amongst Paris based French speaking west Africa students during which the likes of Sedar Senghor and Chiekh Diop used poems, writing books, journals and magazines to show the great and diverse achievements and contributions of the African culture and civilization and to stimulate black consciousness which actually had a head way in 1960s -1970s, spreading to the English speaking West Africa.

The Paris meeting in 1956 resulted in the determination of the pan-africanists to propagate the values and originality of the black culture2. The ideas, interests, discussions and decisions of the meeting motivated them to organize a second meeting in Rome in 1989 which was widely attended even more than the first meeting. It was at this meeting, that the need and demand for a cultural black festival was felt. This idea therefore gave birth to the first black cultural festival in Africa and in the history of the entire black race. The first cultural festival was held in Dakar, Senegal in 1966.

Senegal was the choice for the hosting of the festival because, Senghor who later became the president of Senegal by 1965 had been greatly used in the fight against white superiority with the concept of Negritude. The festival lasted for two weeks in April 1966, but with slight events limited to like music, and dance, the colloquium of the 1966 festival’s theme was “function and significance of black and African arts for the people and in the life of the people”.

It is worthy however to note that the festival failed to achieve a truly representative participation from all parts of the continents as only prominent countries in African like Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Tanzania etc were only represented at the festival. There was little or no representation from the Carribeans and Europe. Nevertheless, Dakar ’66 served as a fulfillment of the hopes and aspirations of the 1956 and 1959 congress.

Nigerian in rich recognition of her cultural heritage emerged as the star country at the Dakar festival and she was given the right to host the next black festival in 1970 because the programme was schedule to hold every four years. Nigeria’s performances at the events were spectacular and culturally oriented such country that excelled well is reffered to as the star country.

Although there were other factors which made Nigeria the star country and the host of the next festival3.

Firstly, the country has abundant resources and is wealthy because of the availability of crude oil. Apart from resource wealth, the country is rich culturally in traditions and practices. Also, there was also the choice of Nigeria as host country was the symbolic tie of Nigeria with the ancenstral home of the blacks in Diaspora. The black traced their origin to Ile-Ife through Oduduwa, the premodial home and father of the Yoruba. Infact, there are traces of Yoruba people in places like Brazil, Cuba, Sierra leone etc. therefore for the blacks in Diaspora, their coming to Nigeria was like a come back home to their historical roots. Also, the availability of human and material resources in Nigeria knowing fully well that if Nigerian is to host the festival, money and human resources would not be a problem.

However, due to the civil war, in Nigeria the festival could not hold Nigeria experienced civil war between 1967-1970. Although by 1970, the war had ended, but there were a lot of damages and several reconstruction and rehabilitation were to be put in place. The civil war had both internal and external consequences on Nigeria. In Nigeria, lives were lost, people starved and some died of hunger, and there was unrest. This therefore made prospective participants of the forthcoming festival to stay in their respective countries for fear of their lives.

Thereafter, the festival was rescheduled for 1974, but because the facilities required were not ready, the festival was postponed to 1975. But the change in government through a military coup, ousted the government of general Yakubu Gowon5 Muritala/Obasanjo assumed leadership of the country. This change in government stalled the plans for FESTAC as General Muritala Mohammed the new head of state, started his plans for FESTAC, He discarded some plans put in place by Gowon and cut down the prices of most things6 for instance the cost of feeding during Gowon regime for the festival was estimated for about  million was reduced to  million. The number of expected participants and visitors was also reduced from 25,000 to 15,000 and 100,000 to 45,000 respectively. Muritala could not live long because he was assassinated in February 1976. Lt. General Olusegun Obasanjo thereafter became the head of state and continue with the former plans of his master. Chief Anthony Enahoro was the president of FESTAC appointed by the Gowon regime. However, he was removed on the charge of embezzlement in 1975 and was replaced with Commander promise.

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