Imo State Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts has reiterated the commitment of the State Government to promote, preserve and protect the cultural heritage of all communities in the state and thereby position the state as the destination of choice in culture and tourism matters.
Towards this end, the Imo State Commissioner for Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts, Mazi Uche Ohia, PhD, has given an assurance to Arondizuogu Community that Imo State Government would partner with it to ensure the success of Ikeji Arondizuogu 2022.
Mazi Uche Ohia restated the commitment and gave the assurance in his office when he received the Organizing Committee of Ikeji Arondizuogu Festival 2022 on a courtesy visit to the ministry. The delegation was led by the Secretary of the Organising Committee, Mazi Chinedu Okpareke who is also the Secretary-General of Arondizuogu Patriotic Union (APU).
The Tourism and Culture Commissioner described Ikeji Arondizuogu Festival as a major cultural event captured in the National Tourism Calendar by the Federal Ministry of Information, Culture, and National Orientation. He noted that Ikeji Festival which attracts thousands of visitors to Imo State annually is probably the largest carnival of masks and masquerades in Africa. He commended Arondizuogu community for keeping their heritage alive and stated that the state government would find areas of assistance to help harness the full cultural and tourism potentials of the festival. He said: "We are looking to send a team to your community so that we can get technical details on what we could do as a Ministry and what we could request other MDAs to assist you to do". Justifying the partnership, Mazi Uche Ohia said "we encourage communities that organize festivals that attract tourists to Imo State because our state thrives on tourism and hospitality and the Governor is determined to revolutionalize the environment for tourism to thrive. The 4 days of Ikeji Arondizuogu festival 2022 will help boost tourism. Our target is to increase visitor traffic to our state by at least 50% in the next one year".
He used the opportunity to inform the visitors that Imo State Government was delivering high quality infrastructural projects, reinforcing security, and transforming latent tourism assets such as Nworie River as part of its resolve to take tourism to the next level by raising the standards of all places of interest to attract tourists. He said government had initiated action to create the biggest recreation park in Nigeria along the banks of Nworie River up to its confluence with Otammiri River.
The Commissioner also informed them that all cultural groups, tourism facilities, establishments and services in Imo State were being recertified by the Ministry and the State Tourism Board to fast track digital marketing of tourism and to open the tourism space to more visitors and investors.
Earlier in his speech, the Secretary General of Arondizuogu Patriotic Union, (APU), who is also the Secretary of the Organizing Committee of Ikeji Festival 2022, Engr. Chinedu Okpareke, who led the delegation told the Commissioner, "we came to invite you as the Special Guest of Honour to Ikeji Arondizuogu because your portfolio in the Imo State Executive Council is responsible for culture."
Mazi Okpareke who expressed the desire of Arondizuogu Patriotic Union (APU) to partner the Imo State Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts to "formally internationalize the Ikeji Festival", appealed to the Ministry to participate at the festival by having a Carnival float. He assured the Commissioner that there were concrete plans to address traffic issues associated with festival and to ensure adequate security and sought the assistance of the State Government in that regard.
Present at the courtesy visit were the Special Adviser to the Governor on Culture, Paddy Obinna, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Culture and Creative Arts, Bobby Michaels, the Permanent Secretary, Sir TUC Nwokonkwo, and senior management staff of the Ministry.
Ikeji Arondizuogu is an annual cultural festival which lasts for 4 days. In recent years, the festival has been transformed into a major carnival. Arondizuogu communities located in Ideato North, Ideato South and Okigwe Local Government Areas of Imo State are involved in the cultural fiesta which witnesses serious participation from masquerade lovers in Arondizuogu and environs as well as from neighbouring states in the South East zone and from people in Diaspora.
The date for the 2022 Ikeji Arondizuogu Festival is yet to be announced.