By Akanimo Sampson
The 2018 edition of the Calabar Carnival, well known as Africa’s Biggest Street Party, has started. Governor Ben Ayade says the fiesta marks the 14th anniversary of the Donald Duke enduring legacy.
This biggest street party was created by the Donald Duke administration (1999-2007) as part of their vision of making the state the number one tourist destination for Nigerians and tourists all over the world. The carnival begins every December 1 and lasts till the turn of the year. It has been boosting the cultural mosaic of the diverse peoples of Nigeria while entertaining millions of spectators within and outside the state.
For Governor Ayade who spoke through his deputy, Ivara Esu, a professor, the theme of this year’s carnival is Africanism.
It however, started in 2004, when the Donald Duke administration had a vision of making the state a hub for tourism and hospitality in the country. It presented the administration a perfect platform for brand visibility and for consumers, a market awareness. The show has been growing every year.
At the inception of the incumbent Ayade administration in 2015, the Calabar carnival further expanded with lots of performances and guest appearance by celebrities across Africa. The theme for that year was tagged Climate Change. Governor Ayade who is seeking re-election next year on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that has been dominating the state since 1999, elaborated that the carnival could only get better by adding more activities to it, hence the addition of the Bikers Day and Disco Fiesta.
In 2017, the theme was Migration. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia says Africa has always known migration, and that the continent has also been the home of many cultures for many centuries. ‘’During slavery and colonisation time, Africa was the home for many foreigners. Now it becomes the land of opportunity. This time the world recognises it as the new frontier, not to be exploited for the benefits of others but to be cultivated on its own’’, the encyclopedia said.
That year, the Calabar Carnival and Festival was an opportunity to bring people together in going beyond tribal and religious conflicts. It also showcased Africa’s talent and several opportunities.
Already, the state government has acknowledged that the carnival has promoted talent and creativity, pointing out that it has also united the peoples of Cross River and Nigeria in general. ‘’We are flagging off the 14th annual Calabar carnival, the largest street party ever; the greatest show in Africa. So much has been done to showcase what the theme is all about. The time has come for Africa to be of age where the black man is seen as a symbol of integrity. If Africans can get themselves together and shun fraud, drug peddling and other forms of heinous crime, we will win back our position and compete favourably with other colours in the world.
‘’All we need to do is to change our attitude and believe in ourselves. We hope that the bands will take time to espouse the theme and tell the story of Africa and the need to respect our continent’’, Ayade speaking through his deputy said.
He said his administration has done a lot in bringing understanding to the carnival through the interpretation of the Carnival themes. Gabe Onah, Chairman, Calabar Carnival Commission, said that the state had sustained the hosting of the largest street party in Africa for a record 14 years. Onah lauded the efforts of the peoples of Cross River and the participants for coming out en mass for the dry run ‘’We are here to make a difference in this year’s carnival with the theme Africanism. The dry run signifies the commencement of the carnival. It tracks the system on the 12 kilometres routes and engage the community positively’’, he said.
Five carnival bands: Seagull, Master Blaster, Passion 4, Freedom and Bayside are expected to participate in this year’s carnival. The participants were beautifully dressed in different attires, while security was mounted in all the carnival routes. Dignitaries at the ceremony included, Speaker of the state House of Assembly, John Gaul-Lebo, Sen. Florence Ita-Giwa, members of the state executive council among others.
Chairman of the commission revealed that the 2018 edition will host more than 30 countries as well as 25 states from Nigeria. According to him, the street party will be an opportunity to tell the story of the African race in line with the carnival’s theme, Africanism.
Some of the countries expected include Mexico, South Africa, Thailand, Greece, Kenya, Ghana, Senegal, Rwanda and the popular Brazilians, among others.They will be joined by states which include Kano, Nasarawa, Anambra, Imo, Kaduna, Benue, Akwa Ibom, Kogi Enugu and more.
The carnival has over the years brought tourists from all over the world to the state and has impacted positively on the state’s economy. ‘’Calabar has been the melting point of Africa’s hospitality due to its diverse tourism events and sites, the green environment and the warm hospitality of the people.
December 29 has been scheduled as the International Carnival Day’’, the chairman said, assuring tourists coming for the event of adequate security because that has been given topmost priority.
According to Gabe Onah, ‘’the Calabar carnival is a platform that has made itself a template to measure any beautiful art of festival or tourism product because all the ingredients that make for a tourism product are present here. The carnival is a pull factor that brings visitors and tourists alike to the clean and beautiful city of Calabar. The value of any event of this nature is seen through the socio-economic impact on the people.’’
By Akanimo Sampson