By Katdapba Gobum

When the name PUSDUNG was coined through a submission by Peter E. Tungon of blessed memory, except for the Ngas people, not many expected it to change the cultural festival landscape of the state. Many thought it might be staged for a year or two and perhaps go into oblivion. That may be true in certain situations, as cultures and traditions of a people are easily facilitated to disappear when practitioners don’t value them.

That was not to be, for those in that category were hugely disappointed, that it has even outlived some of them. Indeed it was an idea which time was ripe. It changed and brought positive things to the world about the Ngas people; and before long, the bug of cultural festival like a wild fire had been ignited all over the traditional communities of Plateau State.

Many who thought so underestimated the thoughts and enthusiasm that gave birth to it; but much more than that, the Ngas people love their culture round and about it. That could be observed in the annual mobilization from the districts and of the friends of the Ngas people across the length and breadth of Nigeria. That could be observed in the ‘home return’ of sons and daughters of Ngasland during Easter for the festival.

It blazed the trail, ‘conscripting’ other tribes on the Plateau to take to the floor on the way; and making many others to go for new dancing boots. But more importantly, apart from the show of love and togetherness that often characterize the festival, tourism became the major beneficiary. It made the authorities of the industry to take a second look at the map so that the industry can benefit as well as the people.

The beginning of the Ngas annual cultural festival was indeed a harbinger of some sort to some of the festivals that later metamorphosed in the state. The positively infectious wild wind of the celebration of the people’s cultures caught up with virtually all tribes that it became apparent that the state government soon got inundated with several suggestions to having a time table for the festivals.

Such cultural festivals apart from Pusdung, include Bit Gamai, Nzem Berom, Puuskat, Ilum O‘tarok, Bit Miship, Wvang, Bogghom Day, Pus Kang, Puus Dar, Zerechi, Kiim Tehl, Dagaran (Atten), Kiche Day, Tukunku, Kwat Nriyem, Bwanzuhum, WUS, JepJan, . Indeed the list is not limited to only the above; there are many as there are tribes on the Plateau.

Since the idea was mooted during the chairmanship of Mr. Emmanuel G. Manasa of the Ngas Youth Movement in 1988, it has not stopped to be held. This was the period when vibrant Ngas youth sought to change the face of doing things positively for the community.

The presidency of the Ngas Development Association of Nde Gideon G Barde kept the event going by staging it in succession leading to its acceptance and degree of enthusiasm it has generated over the decades is an indication that the concept was in the interest of the development of the Ngas people; and by extension, draws its friends to celebrate in its rich culture.

As a rallying point for the Ngas people, the Ngas Development Association (NDA) has diligently executed its mandate in the area of organizing the cultural festival, as much as in unifying the peoples of the various districts that make the land. Greatly so, the Association’s objectives are not at variance with what they have continued to do over the years; neither have we had a major scenario that may have questioned their legitimacy. There is tremendous growth on a yearly basis.

That explains in graphic details why the Association has succeeded as much as in bringing together the sons and daughters of the land together on a yearly basis to celebrate its culture and indeed the determination of loving to live as a united entity together with its neighbours.

Over the years, several things have been undertaken by the various leadership of the Association and for the interest of the people, so as to enable it play the expected, but major role in the development of the state and nation. The zeal with which the Engr Gonen Gofwen-led Exco came on board in 2017 aptly captures these desires.

The visibility the Gofwen-led NDA wanted for the Ngas people has not been in doubt. It realized from inception that the Ngas people have not been heard where tribes of the same status or even those in the ‘lower league’ are placed. The leadership realized that the world must be told and the respect hitherto not accorded them is restored.

It is in this regard that this year’s annual festival is taking a different dimension and orientation. What used to be a one day fiesta apart from other side attractions has been upgraded to run for a whole week. During the week, several events tailored towards changing the concept and ways of executing the annual festival are realized for the nation and for the development of the people.

Hitherto, the festival was held during the Easter period when sons and daughters and friends of Ngas land would suspend all activities to plan to attend. For a period, it went on in this arrangement, until certain voices questioned the rationale of using the holy period for traditional celebrations. Those voices were heard. And they won the day.

To ensure that the Easter period this year is not disrupted; the festival will be held April 21-27, 2019, after the holy festivities have been consummated. In fact, one of the items on the programme of events released by the Association so far is the call for thanksgiving on April 21 for all sons and daughters of the land. It is intended to seek the face of the Almighty to help the nation succeed in the tasks its leaders have set to achieve.

Interestingly, only last year the Association came up with a decision that seems to have woken up many to the realization that education has been neglected. As a result, a fund to manage contributions to that effect was established. Since then, sons and daughters of the land have continued to make contributions to this dedicated account for the purpose of encouraging and assisting students and the Ngas people generally.

Whatever has been collected cannot be sufficient. There are hundreds of thousands of indigent students desiring assistance to get themselves through their academics. While some could get to the other side, many more have to be assisted. Such is the kind that they need from the Ngas Development Association; and it could come in handy from this initiative.

The leaders of the Association are aware that for them to be engaged in education can be tasking, as it requires them to avoid yesterday’s pitfalls. What is needed is for everyone involved to be sincere; so that it can be successful. The future belongs to those who value the direction education has taken nations through; the Ngas people have not less been blessed through it over the years. It is little wonder that is receiving a boost having noticed that something has to be done to up the ante and return the land to the days of glory; that we all year for.

Realizing that the economy of the Ngas people deserves to be encouraged and elevated to an appreciable level, one of the ways to stimulate it is through ideas which would be generated in a roundtable meeting. Expectedly, the plans are in top gear, given the importance the Association attaches to its success.

A day out of the Ngas Week, according to the chairman of the Ngas Investment/Economic Roundtable meeting, Nde Ezekiel Gomos would ‘be devoted to the issue of economy of Ngasland, today and the future within the context of the national and global perspective’.

The theme, The Economy of Ngasland- What Next? will be discussed by the myriads of ‘relevant professionals and experts in the business and economic areas’, which ‘idea is to ex-ray the economy of Ngasland, its endowments and potentials, and what needs to be done to address issues like women youth empowerment, agriculture, industry, commerce etc

Apart from an ‘exhibition showcasing goods, arts, crafts, products etc produced by Ngas entrepreneurs at home and beyond, a competition among Ngas entrepreneurs-especially women and youth to pitch their unique business ideas/innovations or proposals from which the best three will be awarded prizes’ are all part of the programme.

The committee is of the view ‘that like many parts of Plateau State, there is a serious lack of data and statistics on the economy of Ngasland, and this poses a challenge for planning and economic intervention’. In the course of the roundtable an opportunity would be provided ‘to develop relevant statistics and data about the economy of Ngas land’. Much more, ‘developing a framework or model for the Ngas nation is a process that will commence with the Business Roundtable’.

The Central Planning Committee, which is headed by no less a personality than Nde David Shikfu Paradang and the other sub-committees have been working assiduously to ensure that the best is achieved during the festival.

Indeed, it is the best that is in the offing, given the determination of the leadership of the Association.

Katdapba Gobum is a Trustee member of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (National), a former Plateau State NUJ Chairman and the Editor-in-Chief, Nigerian Standards Newspaper, Jos, Plateau State.
Comments can be directed to him through Gobum.katt17@gmail.com.