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Calabar Erupts In A Blaze of Colours At 2017 Christmas Carnival

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It was a display of glitz and glamour as five carnival bands danced round the 12-kilometre carnival routes on major streets of Calabar Municipal at the 2017 Carnival Calabar. Thousands of residents, visitors and tourists lined up the streets to catch a glimpse of the colourful attires on display at the event widely described as Africa’s biggest street party.

Several celebrities including veteran Nollywood actors; Segun Arinze, Alex Osifo, Ejike Asiegbu and Larry Koldsweat were in attendance. Also sighted were veteran actresses; Rachel Oniga, Hilda Dokubo, Shan George, Lilian Bach and Empress Njamah. Others were veteran comedian and actor; Okey Bakassi, award-winning producer; Charles Inojie and fast rising actor, Samuel Ajibola.

The carnival, which has grown in leaps and bounds since 2004 particularly with the introduction of new attractions by the Gov Ben Ayade led administration, is the brain child of former governor Donald Duke who elevated Cross River to a tourist destination with upgrade of facilities at the Obudu Ranch resort and other tourist sites across the state, including the big one – TINAPA.

Over 20 countries, including Mexico, South Africa, Thailand, Greece, Brazil, Kenya, Ghana, Senegal, Rwanda, took part in the 2017 edition of the event. Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State led more than 26 States to the 2017 fiesta.
The carnival village at the Calabar municipality field, the eleven-eleven round-about and the UJ Esuene stadium are always where to be at this period. This was in addition to the main carnival through the 12 km route.

The 2017 edition witnessed high class performance from both international and local artists. Tuface Idibia, MC Galaxy, Naeto-C, Sunny Neji, Big Daddy, comedian MC George and other notable artists thrilled the audience at the U.J Esuene Stadium on December 22 and 23. All the visiting troupes also performed to the admiration of spectators.

The Mexican troupe displayed its classical Spanish inspired dances which earned a sustained applause from the audience, while the troupe from Italy showed great skills with the acrobatic exchange of flags synchronized with drumming tunes. The United States troupe, in the company of Belize, showed some display similar to that seen in condos as the ladies displayed some vigorous buttocks and waist shaking abilities.

Former Gov. of Cross-River State, Donald Duke & wife in a Monster-Modeled Bike.

Former Gov. of Cross-River State, Donald Duke & wife in a Monster-Modeled Bike.

Gov. Ben Ayade & Wife in a Scorpion-modeled Bike.

Kenya’s performance saw them climb a pole with unbelievable skills leaving the audience in disbelief and fear of a catastrophe while France performed classical French music reminiscent of balls in the 18th and 19th century in beautiful red costumes.

The South Africans were not left behind as nude maidens danced acrobatically with indescribable energy which left the audience on their toes even as Ethiopians displayed some electrifying traditional dance steps similar to those of the Indians.

The Croatian troupe performed some stunts with the ropes on stage, swinging rope to rope. Dancers walked on stalks and played with fire to show the rich culture of theatres in Croatia. It was breath-taking and thrilling.

Apart from the glamour which normally goes with the carnival, the 32-day long festivities have inevitably become a gift to hotel owners, food vendors, artisans, cab drivers and many other service providers.

In a chat, the Chairman of Cross River State Carnival Commission, Gabe Onah he enthused that with the level of acceptability and progress the Carnival Calabar was making each year, the annual fiesta, would become one hundred per cent private sector funded by 2020.

Nollywood’s Rita Dominic, Ramsey Noah, Pete Edochie & Sen. Ita Giwa

“The Carnival Calabar is making incredible progress each year since we started 13 years ago as many countries, private and corporate organisations are joining in the celebration each year. The Carnival Calabar and festivals are becoming money spinner to our grassroots businessmen,” he stated.

It will be recalled that the introduction of power bike parade, the Utomo Obong and the Miss Africa beauty pageant in the last two edition of the event have taken the festivities to its zenith.

During the bikers’ parade led by Gov Ayade and former governor, Donald Duke and their spouses, spectators watched in utter disbelief acrobatic display by more than 250 state-of- the-art exotic power bikes and vintage cars as if they were watching movies.

Gov. Ayade explained that the wisdom behind the parade was an economic model to connect the wealthy in the society with the young people, adding: “If you look at the audience in the carnival, it has undergone dramatic change in the last 10 years-from the elderly to the middle age, now to the young people and if you don’t change the content of the carnival to reflect the enthusiasm and the adrenaline pumping nature of the young people, you will be boring to them.”

The 2017 Miss Africa beauty pageant was another attraction as beauty queens from 26 African countries took part in a keenly contested event, which had the theme ‘Climate Change and Migration.’ While Angolan beauty idol, Miss Neurite Mendes, took the crown last year, Miss Gaseangwe Balopi of Botswana emerged winner of the 2017 edition, and carted home the star prize of $35,000 and a Ford Edge Sport Utility Vehicle.

 

Gov. Ayade (r) with Sen. Godswill Akpabio & others.

Gov. Ayade (r) with Sen. Godswill Akpabio & others.

Governor Ayade had posited that the theme of the event was chosen to create awareness on the need to protect the environment and cautioned youths against illegal migration, stating that the beauty queen was expected to use her position to create awareness on the need for Africans to see themselves as one.

His words: “Today in Calabar, we have people from the United States, Germany, Mexico, Sweden and others celebrating with us in this carnival; we want to tell them that Africa is so rich. … sometimes we begin to wonder why we have young Africans going through Morocco, Mediterranean Sea, Sahara desert and all the difficult routes to find themselves in Libya and being used as slaves and as sub-human beings. …Today, we are here to tell a story in form of a drama and procession, a story of migration, the problem of Africa. …Our young men and women take risk through perilous roads finding themselves in Europe and America in search of greener pasture. …today’s carnival is to tell the world that Africa is the richest continent. Africa is blessed, we have everything; and we have no reason, as a young man or woman struggling, to leave African continent. …We are telling this story of pain, melancholy and frustration that indeed, the best place you can be is Africa.”

Another new side attraction was the boat regatta introduced by the Calabar based administration as prelude to the Utomo Obong cultural festival at Adiabo, the country home of the Obong of Calabar in which The Efiks normally used to pay customary homage to their king, the Obong of Calabar His Eminence Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu V.

The colourful regatta which took place at the beautiful Marina resort by the Calabar River, saw 12 Efik clans slugging it out and at the end, Enwang clan emerged winners and went home with five hundred thousand Naira (N500,000.00) while Itu and Eki clans were runners-up and were given three hundred and fifty thousand Naira (N350,000.00) and two hundred and fifty thousand Naira (N250,000.00) respectively.

The Calabar monarch, in his remark during the event, commended the governor for adding value to the annual Utomo Obong with the regatta, saying Calabar has indeed become a destination for all Nigerians to come, live and be at rest. He challenged youths to eschew gangsterism cultism, kidnapping and all other vices so that they could fulfil their destiny.

The Utomo Obong event, which came up two days after the regatta, was also very colourful as 12 clans of the Efiks, dressed in their traditional attires, stormed Adiabo to pay homage. The Obong also used the opportunity to call for unity and increased support for Gov. Ben Ayade’s administration.

The carnival, which took place on Thursday, December 28, witnessed unprecedented mammoth crowd along the 12 km carnival route particularly at adjudication points. Apart from participation of many non-competing bands from across the world, five com peting bands the Passion 4 Band, Freedom Band, Bayside Band, the Masta Blasta and the Seagul bands slugged it out. The five carnival bands were designed to tell the story of migration to the world from the African perspective.

At the end, the Passion 4 Band emerged winners of the 2017 Carnival Calabar while the Freedom Band and Bayside Band came second and third respectively.

Although the 2017 edition of the Carnival Calabar and Festivals may have come and gone, fun lovers and millions of tourists who thronged the ancient city would, no doubt, continue to savour the memorable experience.

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