By Roberto Lopez and Bassey Okon
from now, Karu citizens will still want to share stories about what
happened on Thursday, December 4th, 2003. These stories will be
shared over meals with out-of-town guests and during family gatherings
with grandchildren. Karuans will tell stories of how hard the community
worked to refurbish the Karu Local Secretariat. Had it ever looked
so good? They will say there were seemingly endless lines of children
dressed in bright pink school uniforms, all waving along the roadside
to greet her. And about the community Cultural Celebration, they
will say that it was one to remember. They will say they danced
and sang, and that everyone on that day was proud to be a Nigerian.
The images of that day will last for lifetimes.
who was the focus of this excitement? None other than Her Majesty,
Queen Elizabeth II!
recognition of the cultural diversity of Nasarawa State and Karu
Local Government, the Nasarawa State Government and Academic Associates
PeaceWorks (AAPW) organized a cultural celebration at the Karu Local
Government Secretariat and the Esu Karu’s Palace. This community
event was attended by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II during her
official state visit to Nigeria as part of the Commonwealth Heads
Of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Abuja. During her visit to Karu,
the Queen also launched the BBC radio drama, Voices, which is sponsored
by the Department for International Development (DfID) of the U.K.
The Executive Governor of Nasarawa State, Alh. Abdullahi Adamu,
was the host of the occasion, which had fellow governors, principal
officers of the National Assembly, members of the diplomatic corps,
traditional rulers, and other dignitaries as distinguished guests.
on the success of the Karu Unity Festival in January 2003, Karu
was selected as the Queen’s only opportunity to see “real
Nigeria”. The site of this event was carefully selected to
highlight the unique diversity of cultures present in Karu Local
Government and Nasarawa State in general. Karu Local Government
is a mini-Nigeria, with virtually all of the Nigerian ethnic groups
present. Nasarawa State is also a meeting point of various groups
from north, south, east and west, being one of the states most centrally
located in the heart of the country. With events such as the Unity
Festival and this Cultural Celebration, Governor Adamu has taken
a proactive approach to encouraging peaceful coexistence of people
of diverse backgrounds in Karu.
the day of the Karu Cultural Celebration and the Queen’s visit,
we realized how much we had learned by organizing the previous Karu
Unity Festival. Organizing our share of duties for the event between
members of AAPW and its creative arm, PeaceWorks Productions, was
effective and efficient. We were able to capitalize on our relationships
with many of the cultural troupes and quickly direct and choreograph
their performances. In the Secretariat, AAPW organized professional
cultural dance troupes to perform for the visiting dignitaries and
to give Her Majesty a proper welcome to Karu. In order to adequately
and fairly represent the diversity of Nasarawa, Governor Adamu invited
cultural troupes from every local government in the state to perform
at the Esu’s Palace for a public community festival and a
final show of unity. Constructed by Voices, a temporary market display
was also toured by the Queen, and the Voices project was launched.
From the smile on her face throughout her visit, we could all tell
Her Majesty enjoyed Karu.
Queen’s visit to Karu received national and international
press. There were some misperceptions created by the BBC press release
which referred to the site of the Queen’s visit as a permanent
sound stage for their Voices project. In reality the site was the
Karu Local Government Secretariat where an artificial marketplace
had been purposely built for the launch of the Voices workshop.
This discrepancy was noted by numerous members of the international
press. Despite these shortcomings, the Queen’s visit did provide
positive press for Karu and Nasarawa State Also although the set
was dismantled the day following the visit, we are still enjoying
the fresh paint and paved road which were by-products of the event.
the citizens of Karu, they were just thrilled to catch a glimpse
of their famous visitor. The images of this historic occasion will
surely last lifetimes. Hopefully in the future, Karuans will look
back on the occasion and remember to continue celebrating their