Pusdung Festival: Driving Education, Economic Development On The Plateau

In this report the various socio- economic benefits of the Pusdung annual festival of the Ngas community of Plateau state Pusdung is a cultural festival celebrated annually by the Ngas speaking people of the central senatorial zone of Plateau state.

The annual event is meant to take stock and showcase the Ngas culture to the outside world and is usually held at the Nefur arena in Panksin local government area of the state, the headquarters of Ngas nation.

The week long event has the potentials to boost tourrism in the state which prides itself as the home of peace and tourism. 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 the rich cultural festival might be staged for a year or two before going into oblivion. That was not to be, as it has outlived expectations.

Indeed it is a positive reflection of the Ngas people as it has changed and showcased positive things about these ethnic group to the outside world; and before long, the torch of cultural festivals, like a wild fire had been ignited all over the traditional communities of Plateau state. The Ngas people are known to cherish their culture and this could be seen in how they mobilise friends and relations across the length and breadth of the country to grace the festival mostly celebrated during the Easter period.

But more importantly, apart from the show of love and togetherness that often characterises the festival, tourism has become one of the major beneficiaries. It made the authorities of the industry to sit up and take a second look at the tourism map so as to benefit from it as well as for the enjoyment of the people.

The beginning of the Ngas annual cultural festival is indeed regarded as an 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 timetable for the festivals.

Plateau state has over 54 ethnic nationalities with different cultural festivals which 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, and JepJan. Since the idea of the Pusdung festival was initiated during the tenure of Mr Emmanuel Manasa as chairman, Ngas Youth Movement in 1988 and staged same year, the acceptance and degree of enthusiasm it has generated over the decades is an indication that the concept is 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 organising the cultural festival, as much as in unifying the people of the various districts that make up the land. That explains in graphic details why the association has succeeded 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.

The zeal with which the Engr Gonen Gofwen-led executive of the association came on board in 2017 aptly captures these desires. The visibility the Gofwen-led executive wanted for the Ngas people has not been in doubt. It realised 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 realised 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 took 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. Hitherto, the festival was held during the Easter period when sons and daughters and friends of Ngas land would suspend all activities to grace the occasion.

In fact, one of the items on the programme of events released by the association so far is the call for thanksgiving 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 realisation 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. Realising 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 at 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”. According to him, 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’, whose ‘idea is to ex-ray the economy of Ngas land, its endowments and potentials and what needs to be done to address issues like women, youth empowerment, agriculture, industry, commerce and so on.

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.

During a world press conference that heralded the activities of PUSDUNG 2019, the President, Ngas Development Association (NDA), Nde Gonen Gofwen pointed out that for those who are aware, the annual festival of the Ngas nation is the foremost on the Plateau having started and is held as far back as in May 14, 1988 at the beautiful Nefur Arena, Pankshin. He said that since it began as an initiative of the Ngas Youth Movement, then under the leadership of Mr Emmanuel G. Manasa, it has metamorphosed into a first class festival drawing lots of people and tourists from far and near to celebrate with the Ngas nation, its rich culture and traditions driven solely by the Ngas Development Association. According to him, what started practically as an experiment that did not gain the acceptance of many, today, has over the years; changed the course of the organisation and management of such cultural celebrations. Increasingly, the tourism potentials of the state hitherto hidden by certain bureaucratic tendencies had been unveiled by the rich celebrations of most of the tribes in the state. He said Pusdung has, over the years, added colour and character to the calendar of the state’s quest to rise above the slogan ‘Home of Peace and Tourism’, to a truly tourist destination. “We have continued to make it come to reality as well as other cultural festivals being held in the State.

The Pusdung cultural festival has been a purveyor of all that the state needs to actualise the dream, even as they are aware of the declaration of a state of emergency on this sector by the Governor Simon Bako Lalong’s administration. “I am sure the Ngas people as well as other tribes could help stimulate this drive, as they are willing to up the tempo of the cultural extravaganza.

Over the years, there has been an increase in the quantum of human traffic to Pankshin for the purpose of the festival. We are aware that businesses benefit in great deal due largely to this same number of visitors,” he stated.

Credit: ACHOR ABIMAJE

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Pusdung Festival: Driving Education, Economic Development On The Plateau

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