Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross River State says the Yakurr New Yam Festival known as Leboku is fast becoming a major event in the Nigerian Cultural Calendar which has gone bigger and better by the year.
Speaking at the Yakurr Peace Stadium, Ugep, during the celebration of Leboku 2011, Governor Imoke, said it is not just culture, but beauty, splendor, talent and a fusion with agriculture and is getting richer and richer and symbolic which is a reflection of strength, capacity and ingenuity to showcase their effort and hard work, basic process as well as strength and intellectual capacity, stressing that it must remain one of the premier events which the young ones should not let die in order to accept the western culture.
The Governor advised that the people should see it as a celebration of peace and unity as nobody goes to where there is no peace because tourism thrives where there is peace, stating that tourism is the most relevant industry which provides opportunities for people to participate not as an event but by understanding its economic values as there is need for them to understand the essence of the festival and take advantage.
He further disclosed that the festival is a celebration of maidens, arts and crafts and all must join hands and translate into the economic benefit of the people, stressing that the State is ready to fund a programme for the women, especially female farmers, through a micro finance programme where they can borrow money as a group because N300 million is available to be spent under MEDA.
Governor Imoke noted that Laboku is also to celebrate the people of Yakurr and they must sustain the thrust while commanding them for maintaining peace and advised that they should not rest on their oars until it is taken to a greater height and become of an international standard while commending MTN, sponsors of the festival, for being consistent in its effort for the benefit of the people.
On the location of a higher institution in the area, the Governor disclosed that modalities have been concluded for the siting of a College of Technology which they want badly as a motion on its has been sent to the State House of Assembly for legislative deliberation while efforts are at hand to move Ugep from being the largest native village in Africa to the biggest town in Africa when the next phase of the urban development programme takes off.
The Senate Leader and the Senator representing the Central Senatorial District, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, in a goodwill address, averred that culture is the people’s identity and heritage and that Leboku represents the essence of the Yakurr nation, adding that it has become an item in international tourism calendar.
Senator Ndoma-Egba appreciated the people for the bountiful harvest and advised that they think ahead of the next planting season next year and hoped it would get bigger and better.
The Regional Manager of MTN, South-South, Mr. Kester Osahenye, lauded Governor Imoke for sustaining the Yakurr New Yam Festival known as Leboku and said the company has been giving out prizes to promote the best of value and cultural heritage, disclosing that MTN is the first telecom service provider to sponsor cultural festival in Nigeria because the country is not as bad as b eing painted outside.
According to Mr. Osahenye, it has now become an occasion for the protection and promotion of tourism and culture in the country through MTN to outside that Nigeria has much to showcase while advising youths to key into the different programmes initiated by them.
The Special Adviser Tourism Development, Mr. Gabe Onah said the Leboku was an opportunity for the people to express themselves as well as an expression of their beauty while prizes won were life changing, adding that through PPP it could be heightened and put more money in the hands of the people while the event will soon become fully an industry and that the only way to sustain it is for the locals to participate.
The star prize of Mr. Leboku, a Hyundai i10 was won by Wilfred Alex Offem, Second prize (Motor Bike) by Sunday Offem Iwara and third prize (Barbing Set) by Stephen James Omini while Miss. Leboku was won by Cynthia Omini Joseph who went home with the star prize of Hyundai i10, and Kemi Inah Arikpo, second – Hair dressing equipment and Patience Eno Okoi, third – Sewing Machine.
The Best Harvester was won by Mrs. Anthonia Patrick, who carted the star prize of a Hyundai Truck, Mrs. Alice Bassey Ubi came second and got Cassava Processing Machine while Mrs. Arit Eni Eno came third and went home with Hair Dressing equipment.
Wrestling men, was won by Ubanga Togol, who went home with a Motor Bike while Okoi Francis Ibiang came second and got barbing equipment while the women category was won by Kokom Usani Ibiang and went home with Hair dressing equipment and Mercy Iwara came second and got Sewing Machine.
Highlights of the festival included parade by traditional chiefs, parade of Leboku maidens/cultural troupes, final of traditional wrestling, cultural performance by troupes, women’s associations and farming organization.