Sun | Oct 2, 2022

Nigerian culture delights at Emancipation Jubilee

Published:Friday | August 12, 2022 | 12:05 AMPaul H. Williams/ - Gleaner Writer

“And every time they win it’s a victory for us, Nigerians, because we are one. Jamaica and Nigeria, one people, one destiny, one history,” declared Geoffrey Onyeama, Nigeria’s foreign affairs minister.

He was making reference to Jamaica’s “superstar athletes” during his address at the Emancipation Jubilee vigil at the Seville Heritage Park in St Ann last Sunday night, where he was a special guest.

“They are not just Jamaicans, they are Nigerians, they are Africans. And every time they are sprinting, we are, 210 million of us, cheering them on,” he also said.

Black Jamaicans are people who are descendants of the Africans who were brought to the island and enslaved on sugar cane and other plantations. The Jamaican culture, therefore has its foundation in what the Africans brought over from Nigeria, Ghana, and other West African regions.

Seville in St Ann was the first Spanish settlement on the island. It was a plantation where many Africans lived and died. A tomb containing the remains of Africans found on the property sometime ago were reinterred. Now, Jamaica and Nigeria have strong diplomatic ties, with Nigeria being one of very few African countries which have a permanent diplomatic post established on the island.

Over the years, the ties seem to have gotten stronger. And, according to Minister Onyeama, the Nigerian High Commission in Jamaican is “doing so much to bring our people together”. So, in more ways than one, the theme for the night, ‘Reigniting the African Spirit’, was fitting, and the Nigerian High Commission and the Nigeria government were fully onboard.

“President Buhari was determined that Nigeria should be represented here. He asked me to come here to represent over 200 million Nigerians and to show love to our brothers and sisters in Jamaica; to tell you that we are very much with you, and we feel very much a part of you; and, of course, you are a part of us. And to bring solidarity and good wishes from the people of Nigeria,” Minister Onyeama said.

He remarked that this was his fourth visit and that it was always a “great pleasure to be in Jamaica”.

The minister said that he felt more at home in Jamaica than in any other country, and that it was as if he had not left Nigeria.

“When I see a Jamaican, I see a Nigerian, no difference physically, or any other attribute.” He noted that the two peoples are similarly aggressive, stubborn and strong.

In congratulating those who put together a “fantastic jubilee”, Minister Onyeama described Sunday night’s show as “spectacular”. The Nigerians themselves were part of the spectacle, too, as the Nigerian government had sent “one of its finest cultural troupes” to show us “just a taste of the rich culture of Nigeria”. They teamed up with some compatriots living here for an entertaining display of traditional Nigerian theatre. There was also a ‘Welcome to Nigeria’ booth that displayed traditional items and printed cloths.

In a well-received, four-part presentation, there was the dramatisation of a traditional Nigerian wedding, in which the parents of both the bride and groom were integrally involved. It was a depiction of a real-life situation in which a wedding/marriage is a very serious matter. Then, there was a serenade to Jamaica from a female Nigerian doctor working at the Kingston Public Hospital. And showcasing different tribal dances were couples from the Yoruba, Ibo and the Hausa people.

Through an enthralling narrator, holding a ‘spearhead’, the climax came with a war dance, in which there were characters similar to those in the Jamaican Jonkunno, only that they were more elaborate and flamboyant. And as the performers mesmerised the audience, Minister Onyeama and Dr Maureen Tamuno, the high commissioner of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to Jamaica, looked on and beamed with pride.

On the diplomatic and bilateral cooperation side of things, Minister Onyeama paid tribute to Foreign Affairs and Foreign trade minister Senator Kamina Johnson Smith for the work “she is doing in cementing the relationship between Nigeria and Jamaica”, for which there should be greater contact through direct airlinks. He shared that it is the policy of the Nigerian government to prioritise Nigeria’s relationship with the Caribbean, with Jamaica being the hub for such a relationship.

He expressed delight that Jamaica was becoming a real tourist destination for many Nigerians, and that there would be greater cooperation in sports, business, tourism, music, economics and trade. “The Nigerian government has specifically supported a programme of a technical aid corps to encourage young Nigerian professionals to come and share their knowledge and skills with the people of Jamaica,” he said.