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Carnival Calabar… all roads lead to Canaanland

By Chuks Nwanne
24 December 2016   |   3:30 am
No doubt, Lagos remains the entertainment capital of Nigeria. Aside the fact that most Nigerian entertainers reside here, the number of concerts that hold in the city yearly ...
Representatives of the five Carnival Calabar Bands.

Representatives of the five Carnival Calabar Bands.

No doubt, Lagos remains the entertainment capital of Nigeria. Aside the fact that most Nigerian entertainers reside here, the number of concerts that hold in the city yearly is enough for Lagos to retain that title. However, once it’s December period, all eyes, including tourist from different parts of the world, usually focus on Calabar, the Cross River State capital, for Carnival Calabar.

Dubbed Africa’s largest Street Party, from a humble beginning years ago, the carnival has become a major part of the country’s events calendar. From Africa to Europe, America and the Caribbean, the yearly Christmas party has always played host to thousands of tourists from around the world.

However, to ensure a robust outing this year, the state government engaged the services of travel & tourism expert Ikechi Uko as the international consultant. This is in line with the repositioning of Carnival Calabar as the number one event in Africa. With his wealth of experience in the sector, Uko, who is leader of The Team Africa and convener of Akwaaba Africa Travel Market, is saddled with the responsibility of mobilising other countries and international bands that will participate in the carnival this year. About 11 countries participated last year, which informed the decision by Governor Ayade to reappointed him in that capacity.

In the area of marketing, the state government also engaged Mary Ephraim Egbas’ Okhma Global Limited to take care of that aspect. A marketing, promotions and consulting company inspired by the love of creativity and entertainment, the organisation has carved a niche in the last few years in media, movie-marketing and entertainment promotions, with fresh and innovative approach.

Already, activities for this year’s carnival event commenced on December 1, with World Aid Day and Aids Awareness Walk, and the opening of the Christmas Village. The aids awareness walk aims at engaging young minds on how to stay safe from the disease. Since then, Calabar has been prep with one event or the other, all geared towards making this year’s street party a success as it has always been.

Part of activities for this year’s event include a talent hunt show dubbed Calabar Got’s Talent Series 1 and 2, which was held on December 20 and 21. The talent show is expected to identify people that are gifted in one area of life and can be groomed to become future stars in life.

Then comes TINAPA Family Christmas event, which commenced on Thursday December 22, with a Cultural parade, a continuation of Calabar Got’s Talent Series 3. On the 23rd of the December, it was time to display the rich cultural delicacies of the Calabar people with African-Food Fest, as well as series 4 of the Calabar Got’s Talent.

As part of the TINAPA Family Christmas programme, the Utomo Obong Efik Cultural Colourful Event will hold today at the Obong’s (King) residence drive way Tinapa and Family Carol Service with Her Excellency, Dr Linda Ayade. Meanwhile, the Christmas Carnival Concert, one of the biggest in the country will come up on Christmas day at the Calabar Township stadium. The Children party will hold alongside the Youth Carnival on Boxing Day, with Kings and Queens of Bands competition and a music concert.

One of the highlights of the carnival, Hot Wheels Bikers Parade by Metallic Bike Club, will hold on December 27. Last year’s event played host to over 1,000 power bikers drawn from Nigeria, China, Canada, Australia, Germany, the US, Philippines, Togo, Ghana and Benin Republic. Governors Ball will take center stage on the same day at the Calabar International Convention Centre at 9 pm.

Africa biggest Street carnival is slated for December 28 with the traditional five bands: Freedom Band, Bayside Band, Passion4 Band, Seagul Band and Master Blasta Band. The bands with their colourful customs will be on ground to thrill revelers added with other side attractions. There will also be music concert at the UJ Esuene stadium to entertain guest at night.

The international musical concert slated for the 29 and powered by MTV Base, is expected to feature top music icons in the industry. Then there will be Green Symposium, Green Carnival, Tinapa Dark Knight Motor Drift Rally and Stunt Display, Green Ball/Sponsors Stakeholders Dinner & Unveiling Of 2017 Christmas Festival/Carnival Calabar Theme, Calabar Rocks Music Concert & Dj Grand Slam will hold on December 30, while the Carnival party will wrap with Fireworks Night on December 31.

Speaking at a media briefing held recently in Lagos to herald the event, Cross River State governor, Prof. Ben Ayade assured visitors of maximum security through the carnival. Ayade, who was represented by his Commissioner for Information and Orientation Mrs Rosemary Achibong, said, “we in Cross River are in extreme joyous mood recently, when the Supreme Court affirmed the election of Gov. Ayade. That has given us the boldness and confidence to come and talk you about Carnival Calabar 2016.”

While assuring that all arrangements have been put in place for a successful outing, Achibong said, “We can boldly say that Calabar is more than ready to present so far the biggest carnival this year. The governor has left no stone unturned to welcome visitors. We’ve taken security measures to ensure safety of lives and property during the carnival. We’ve also provided WiFi on carnival routes for easy communication,” she said.

For Chairman of Calabar Carnival Commission Gab Onah, the event has become a platform for job creation for youths of the state.

“People used to say that we are laid back, that has given us the opportunity to take advantage of the hospitality industry; we’ve put our best foot forward. Tourism is one sector you don’t need special qualification to be part of. We are fighting hunger using carnival; we are fighting crime using carnival,” he hinted.

Onah also hinted that Nikon is participating in this year’s carnival, adding, “They will be training our young people in the area of photography. When Ayade came in Last year, nobody gave hi a chance, but today, he has brought in new dimensions to the carnival.”

According to the Governor’s Special Adiser (Events) Mr. Ken Anklah, “Whener December comes, all we do in Calabar is to see how we satisfy visitors. We are prepared and we are waiting. We believe that in doing this event, people will see what we have to offer as a state.”

For Mary Ephraim Egbas, “one of the reasons the Carnival Calabar has no rival is because it’s organic; there’s continuity. Donald duke started it but it outlived his administration; Imoke took over and sustained the project. Now, the new government is planning to take it to a higher level.”

She informed that a new theme song has been produced for the carnival. Written and produced by Cobhams Asuquo, the track featured artistes such as Sammie Okposo, Banky W, Felade, Iyanya and other, who have connection with Cross River State.