Calabar Carnival 2011: Street party of many colours

...As Passion Four tops them again

2011 Carnival Calabar Queen, Miss Emem Udonquak, flanked by Cross River State Governor, Sen. Liyel Imoke (R) and wife , Mrs Obioma Liyel Imoke,beside of the star prize of the contest shortly after presenting the queen with the car keys at the grand finale of the event in Studio Tinapa, Calabar.

It was another song of victory for members of the Passion Four Band during the just concluded Calabar Carnival in Cross River State capital. The band clinched the first position in the yearly street party, having presented the best and most colourful cultural float, which interpreted appropriately the theme of Endless Possibilities in the adult category.

 Trailing Passion Four Band was Seagul Band, which was rated second best in the overall adult category. Also coming third in the same category was Masta Blasta Band. Meanwhile, Seagul Band had its queen and king coming ahead of other bands while the same band was rated best in the Moon.
 In the children category, Seagul also had the best queen while Freedom Band won in the Junior King category. The best children parade was won by Masta Blasta Band while Seagul and Bayside bands went home with second and third positions respectively.

 The highpoint of the carnival was the First Bank-sponsored street parade on December 27, which saw the five bands, competing in carnival floats and creative interpretations of this year’s theme. Each of the bands demonstrated its creativity in choreography, costumes, movement, dance and music. A huge and restless crowd trailed the bands in ecstasy while security operatives watched and conducted people with caution.
 Interestingly, much as the crowd looked bigger this year, there were still no cases of thefts or outbreak of law and order. It was as if the local and foreign visitors have all imbibed the culture of peace and orderliness for which the Cross River people are reputed. Coupled with this was fact that every participant complied with the neatness syndrome by refusing to litter the floors indiscriminately.

 Earlier in the month of December, the carnival kept the people and city of Calabar thrilled with diverse creative and social events at different venues. Among these were Tree Planting ceremony, City Walk Against Aids, Carnival Essay Competition, Canaan Rhythms by foreign artistes, Theatre Night, Carol Night, Dance Jam, Carnival Beauty Pageant and Musical Jamborees. Some of the leading stars who entertained visitors were Tuface, D’Banj, Sunny Nneji, Bright Chimezie, Dare Art Alade, among many others.

 While explaining the mission of the Carnival, Special Adviser to the Governor of Cross River State and Chairman, Calabar Festival Planning Committee, Mr. Nzan Ogbe, described the 32-day event as a blessing for the people rather than being a waste of resources as alleged by some critics According to him, when it came in with the return of the millennium, the carnival was being planned and financed by Government. His words ‘It was planned to mark the Christmas festivities and to also pull in people into the State. As a concept, we believe that that was laudable, at least with good strategies. It is not the only place in the world that this is being done. Everywhere in the world you have events that are similar to this; that draw in crowd and when the people come into the city, they spend money, and you make money out of that. So it is an event that focuses on the economy than anything else. We want to see how we can transform this 32-day calendar event into an economic thing that can empower not just the people, but that Government utilizes benefits from it’

 Ogbe said the carnival means many things to many people. It means something to the media; and another thing to the church. But from the standpoint of government and the organizers, what has been done so far is to groom the event to what it should be, and that is ensuring empowerment the people of Cross River State. Said Ogbe ‘When you have festival and you have over half a million people coming to watch, that means that photographers, taxi drivers, okada riders and bus drivers will be making money. They have to eat and drink. The restaurant owners, food sellers and owners of provision (stores) will be making money. Also those who make costumes for those wearing them would also be earning their income. The tailors will have to make money as well as hair dressers and cosmeticians. So the full sectors of the economy will be engaged from the top to the bottom.

 If you are selling handkerchiefs or sachet water, be sure that the possibilities to make more money will be there. So it is important for us to take advantage of that and maximize them as much as possible. When the people make money, it translates to what the government gets. At the tourism level, it is usually five per cent of whatever tourists spend. If half a million people come into the city and stay for, let’s say only one night, and each of them spends N10,000. If you multiply half a million people by N10,000, it is about N5 billion, then divide that by five percent, that is N250 million which goes into the coffers of government. That is only for tourism.’

 On how the festival has been gaining wider acceptability, in consonance with the various tourism standards set out by the United Nations, Ogbe said ‘ I am one of those who believe that there is no new idea in the world. Everything that one is doing has been done before at one time or the other. So in terms of acceptability, there are other festivals around the world. And we want to catch on this. The celebration is not only peculiar to Cross River State. It is not a new concept. People are trying to say, oh, Rivers state is having its own carnival and they are copying Cross River State. Why should we get angry? We also look at other people’s festival and see how we can improve on ours. The question is, does it fit into your global strategy, global plan because Cross River State is a tourism State and its strategy should benefit tourists. It will not be out of place for us to have an event that is well strategized, and as a State Government, part of our strategies is to attract events.

 Speaking on modifications that are being made to enrich the carnival, Ogbe who hinted that the state government trains people at corporate and personal levels recalled ‘In 2007, we introduced sponsorship. In 2008, we got in new set of equipment, that is world class equipment; 2009 was the year we structured the sponsorship document in such a way that sponsors will now take up specific events rather than sponsor the whole festival, in 2010 we carried out a survey of traffic coming into Cross River State and we discovered that in the month of December, under the 32-day period, traffic increases by 175 per cent. It is a documented fact. Then in 2011, we went into ICT areas: Facebook, twitter and the World Wide Web, and we are hoping that by next year (2012), we will be totally international.

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