Stars set to shine in Otukpo as Idoma International Carnival kicks off December 23
Notable world’s famous carnivals, such as Notting Hill Carnival (UK) and Rio de Janeiro Carnival (Brazil) are noted for their cultural expression. The Idoma International Carnival is not an exception, as it was conceived as cultural expression, “show beauty, hospitality and rich cultural heritage of the Idoma people,” according to its founder, Prince Edward Ochai.
With the ultimate goal of cultural renaissance, the Idoma International Carnival was designed to invigorate the latent heritage of the Idoma people of Benue State in the North Central region of Nigeria. At the same time, it is designed to create a platform for economic negotiations, mobilizing investments by identifying business potentials and resources of the zone, leading to youth empowerment and economic revival. These hallowed objectives are meant to be achieved through the instrumentality of culture and art.
The annual fiesta traditionally kicks off on December 23, in Otukpo, the traditional and economic headquarters of the Idoma people, and lasts till Boxing Day, December 26.
Back in 2013 when Prince Edwin Ochai created carnival (then known as Agila Social and Economic Carnival) his objective was the showcasing to the world of the rich social, cultural and economic endowment of the Idoma nation through art, craft and social exhibitions.
Today, renamed Idoma International Carnival, it has grown into a movement that attracts Idoma sons and daughters from everywhere across the globe.
The fiesta has gained widespread acceptance: endorsed by the Benue State Government and the paramount ruler of the Idoma nation, the Och’Idoma, and partnered by a panoply of brands.
The main events, starting with the parades, happen during the official three days of the carnival, Dec 23-25. But the festivity will not ebb until the evening of Boxing Day, December 26.
In just a few years, the carnival has metamorphosed into one of the biggest tourist events in the middle belt zone of the country, and without doubt, the biggest Yuletide festivity north of the Nigeria. Christmas Day’s Face of Idoma beauty pageant with brand new car winner’s prize, Idoma food fair, traditional wrestling, football match, cultural exhibition, sprawling street party, Ogbureke, Mr Macho, comedy and music concert featuring A-list artistes, fireworks to mention but a few the Idoma International Carnival has no rival. The festival’s street art form, in which every wall of the streets in Idomaland is daubed in beautiful sketches and colour, and the Carnival Village, a quaint, cultural melting pot, attract culture enthusiasts from from all over the world.
The carnival has had memorable highlights down the years one of which was the 2014 edition which started with a colourful procession from Otukpo to Apa and lasted from morning to evening of the first day, before it was capped by bonfire and music performance in the night.
The morning of December 24 had featured extravagant carnival displays followed by scintillating masquerade showpiece and distribution of gifts to widows, while the evening was devoted to music and comedy performances by HERO’s ambassadors. December 25, officially the last day of the carnival, saw the migration of people from Apa to Otukpo, after the Face of Idoma beauty pageant.
In 2018, the organizers had brought one of the sons of Idoma and Nigeria’s biggest Afro Pop star, Tuface Idibia popularly known as 2baba, as the headline entertainer for the year’s festivity.
The 2020 version of the carnival was put on hold because of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic which cause unprecedented disruption to socioeconomic activities globally.
The organisers considering that it would amount to insensitivity to stage the carnival as doing so would contravene government’s restriction on social gathering and thus put peoples lives at risk, instead, they joined the human community in what was the year’s defining activity: philanthropy. Themed “Ohigbu Acholalo” which means “For The Sake of Our People” the 2020 Idoma International Festival was strictly devoted to humanitarian activities tailored to ameliorate the devastation of COVID-19 by distributing palliatives (rice, groundnut oil, yam and noodles etc) health necessities (hand sanitisers, face masks etc) and cash to people across Idomaland, irrespective of religion or location.