Monday, 6 April 2009

The ‘Beautiful Underbelly’ project

Okpara Square, Uyo

TRAVEL journalist, Pelu Awofeso, has set out on a national tour, which will see him traveling to the whole 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory within the year. The tour began from the south-south Nigerian city of Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, where the writer has lived since January 2006.
However, the first leg of this tour will take him through Akwa-Ibom, Cross River , Bayelsa, Imo, Abia and Delta states over a three week period.
On the way, Awofeso will profile the host locations, interact with the residents, assimilate himself into the local life, sample the local delicacies (and snacks) of the community; also, he will seek out lifestyles and mannerisms that stand each city, town or village apart from those of its neighbours and from the rest of the country.
The pan-Nigeria tour has been christened the ‘Beautiful Underbelly’ project, which is to communicate the fact that the really attractive side to Nigeria is largely ignored, shielded from global view, either because we are too conversant with them that they have lost their appeal, or because they are in remote places and as such they benefit from little or no media attention. As such, the tour will attempt to reveal the real spirit and the real essence of the Nigerian.
Incidentally, this project is happening at a time that the federal government has just re-branded Nigeria with a new national logo and slogan (“Good people. Great Nation.”).
Awofeso applauds this initiative and believes it is the right way to go. With the new brand identities, the negative publicity that Nigeria has been subjected to over the years is bound to diminish substantially.
Besides these Awofeso — author of a travel book on Festivals in Nigeria and a mini-guidebook on Plateau State — will use the opportunity the tour provides to actualize some of his long held aspirations, which include: to win Nigeria more recognition on the world’s tourist map through his writings; spend time among the Fulani in Kogi; spend a night out with a military patrol team on inter-state highways; attend as many coronations and festivals as may take place while the tour lasts; learn the Hausa language; and visit Nigeria’s biggest national Park in Taraba State, among many other interests. Ultimately, his impressions of the locations he visits will appear in another travel collection that will be published later this year.
Pelu Awofeso says of the project: “I am not under any illusion that this will be an easy ride. As a matter of fact, I have started to feel the pinch and the pain even on this first leg. But this is a vision I am prepared to see through in the service of my fatherland. I have the will, and because of that there will surely be a way.” And besides,he adds, “this is a practical education for me in terms of being able learn more about our people, our culture and our history, subjects I could not study as a student.”

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