The Ancient city of Ugep, Yakurr local government area was agog with visitors and lovers of culture as the yearly Leboku New Yam Festival was held amidst the global Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking at the event, the Senior Special Adviser, Governor’s office/Events, Hon. Ken Aklah said the Government in line with its drive to promote agriculture is once again using the festival as a catalyst to boost the state’s economy post covid-19.
"Leboku is an integral part of the agro-industrial revolution of the state. This year’s event was restricted and reduced to two days leaving aside the grand finale which normally should be at the stadium.
This is in adherence to NCDC guidelines to help curtail the spread of Covid-19, Aklah said.”
He futher said it was difficult to have a complete covid-19 precaution in place like social distancing during the Etangala day but health officials were on ground to do health checks and ensure everyone was wearing a nose masks.
Speaking also at the event, the Commissioner for Culture & Tourism, Hon. Eric Anderson, expressed excitement at this year’s event. He said the leboku festival plays a significant role in the tourism ecosystem of the state and must always be given adequate attention.
"The Leboku festival is beyond party lines as men and women from all beliefs come together to celebrate. Culture as we know is one of the oldest uniting force of any society and my duty as Commissioner is to promote the culture and tourism potentials of Cross River State and leboku is one of it."
A community leader who spoke to our correspondent said "the Leboku festival presents us opportunity to thank God for a fruitful and rewarding harvest and to usher in a new farming season.
"The festival gives us opportunity, both old and and young to come together, share love and celebrate culture. We also use the festival to thank the ancestral spirits of the land for granting us a successful half year harvest of yams.
"The etangala masquerade which is celebrated alongside leboku also gives us opportunity to sing out bad persons and condemn evil deeds in the community." He added.
The festival usually comes with a plethora of activities, such as the Etangala masquerade parade, the Ekoi dance, Mblemi, as well as the Mr and Miss Leboku peagent to select cultural ambassadors.
This year’s contest saw Miss Obal Otu, 25 year old graduate of Animal Science from the Cross River University of Science & Technology (CRUTECH) and an indigene of Lekpankom in Ijiman emerge winner for the female category after a keenly contested stage show, while Great Obono, 24, from Kekomkole, Ijom council ward and graduate of Engineering at the same institution emerged winner in the male category.