BY BRIDGET CHIEDU ONOCHIE
IT was a dramatic scene to behold. And whatelse to imagine when fishermen on canoes paddled and dug deep into the water for the big catch? And when eventually, the biggest and winning catch weighing (230 kilogrammes) was caught after several grueling hours by Mallam Ubar Buba?
Nwonyo Lake, in the outskirts of Ibi town, attracted a large crowd of people, who thronged the venue, to witness the first attempt to put the Nwonyo Fishing Festival in public glare.
The 93rd edition of the festival, which held recently in Ibi, Taraba State, will remain green in the minds of the people for the top government functionaries it attracted. Among whom were the Senate President, David Mark; the First Lady, Turai Yar’Adua; the Governor of Nasarawa State, Alhaji Aliyu Akwe Doma; Deputy Governor of Benue, Steven Lawani; Deputy Governor, Gombe State, John Lazarus Yoriyo; and the Deputy Governor, Adamawa State, Bala Nggilari as well as the Deputy Governor of Niger State, Alhaji Ahmed Ibeto. Also present was the past governor of the state, Rev Jolly T. Nyame and the incumbent, Danbaba D. Suntai, among several captains of industry.
BESIDES, this is the first time the festival will enjoy the participation of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC). The presence of NTDC is part of efforts by the state to turn the yearly festival to a national tourism event.
Though Argungu Fishing Festival enjoys popularity and patronage that transcends the nation’s frontier, the Nwonyo Fishing Festival is said to enjoy a bigger space of performance.
The Nwonyo Lake is said to be far bigger than the Matan Fada River of Argungu and the catch from Nwonyo, too, is bigger.
The first day of the two-day event witnessed a number of activities, which included water games and cultural displays, durbar procession, boat regatta and swimming competition for men and women as well as canoe racing.
From the early hours of the day to the wee hours of the night, there were flashes of music, dance and feasting. NTDC also added colours to the event through its raffle draw that saw many of the community dwellers winning various items such as sewing machines, motorbikes and refrigerators.
On the second day, the grand fishing was keenly contested with hundreds of fishermen cutting across different age brackets gunning for the top honour.
While the fishermen of Argungu used fishing gourds and nets, the people of Ibi use canoes in order to prevent any attack from crocodiles and other dangerous reptile in the water.
The Senate President, David Mark, urged the people to make the festival an international event, as there are a lot of resources in the town to make the event a tourist destination.
He call on the people to think of the possibilities of constructing a golf course, and building hotels as well as other facilities to elevate the festival and attract tourist .
The highpoint of the festival was when the First Lady, Mrs. Turai Yar’ Adua, led the way in eating of the winning fish.
It was a scene to behold as the everybody took part in the communal feast with a lot of entertainment to go with it.
BEFORE the events of Nwonyo 2009 started, the NTDC team, led by its Director General, Segun Runsewe, visited Sarkin of Ibi, Alhaji Abubakar Salihu Dan Bawuro 111, who appreciated the group for partnering with the state government to organise the event.
The team was also at the palace of the Masa Ibi 11 and the Chancellor, Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Dr. Shekarau Angyu, in Awkari City to garner support for the festival.
In his response at the two palaces, Runsewe pledged the support of the government and parastatal in developing the festival into both a national and international event that will have mass appeal and also bring both economic and socio – cultural developments to the community.
THOUGH the fishing festival has the potential of rising to an international event, however, to get to that level, a lot things need to be done, especially in the areas of packaging and infrastructure, road network and tourism support facilities such as hotels, which are presently almost non – existence in the town.