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Carnival Calabar Returns With Bang, As Otu Host World Revelers

Carnival Calabar has returned with bang after two years lull occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic as Governor Bassey Otu host the world to biggest street party.

The annual fiesta, introduced in 2005 by the former Governor Donald Duke, has been celebrated from then until 2020 and 2021 when the world witnessed the great pandemic. One unique thing about the Carnival is the introduction of competing bands including Bayside, Freedom, Master Blaster, Passion 4 and Seagull. Since then, the fiesta, this has grown by leaps and bounds for 17 years up till 2022.

Besides, the Carnival, each year, comes with different themes and sub-themes to depict the time and season. Some of the notable themes include the maiden edition in 2005 with Carnival Queen in 2005; ‘Our Beauty, Our Culture’ in 2006 with Passion 4 as winner; ‘Celebrating our Heritage Through Culture’ in 2007 with Bayside as winner; ‘Sustaining Earth’s Treasures Through Our Culture’ in 2008 Passion 4 as winner; ‘Land of Our Birth, Our People, Our Heritage in 2009 with Seagull/Passion 4 as joint winners and ‘Our Strength And Reliance, the Bedrock of Our Future’ in 2010 with Passion 4 as winner.

Other themes and winners were ‘Endless Possibilities’ in 2011, Passion 4; ‘Celebrating new Dawn’ in 2012 Masta Blasta; Ain’t No Stopping Us’ in 2013 Masta Blasta; ‘Celebration Time’(10the anniversary) in 2014 with Masta Blasta as winner; ‘Climate Change’ in 2015 and 2016 with Passion 4 and Seagull as winners respectively; ‘Migration’ in 20117 with Passion 4 as winner; ‘Africanism’ in 2018 with Passion 4 as winner and ‘Humanity’ in 2019 with none declared with Freedom Band and Passion 4 as joint winners andAgro-Industrialization’ in 2022 with Passion 4 as winner.

So far, various administrations in the state have queued into the Carnival calendar, an indication of the importance of the Carnival to the people of Cross River and revelers. It is a deliberate plan aimed at transforming Cross River state from the tag of a civil service state through the performing arts and Procession Theater.

While former Governor Donald Duke (1999- 2007), initiator of the glorious dream, saw tourism as a veritable tool to make the state a destination and hence gave it a huge space in his administration, Governor Liyel Imoke (2007- 2015) saw the Carnival Calabar dream as lofty and introduced the Children Carnival in addition to the previous administrations initiative in that direction. During the governor Ben Ayade era (2015- 2023), he introduced Green Carnival and Vintage Cars Carnival even as the festival suffered a serious setback due to COVID-19 Pandemic.

Enters 2023 Season of Sweetness Carnival

And in continuation of yearly Street Party and in what looks like the culmination of the Carnival, the organisers themed 2023 Carnival "Season of Sweetness." The Governor Bassey Otu's administration inherited an abandoned Tourism sector with disenchanted staff, idle because of inactivity owing to the neglect of the immediate past administration of Ayade. Otu's interest in hosting the world at these difficult times is borne out of the need to recover quickly the losses brought about the six year lull in the tourism industry of Cross River state. The overhaul started with appointment of right caliber of management, staff and re-giging the sector with training programmes.

With the prince on the saddle, the tourism facilities are beginning to wear their original look and are restored to their original frame. The Calabar Cinemas now with a new name, Kada Cinemas. This billion Naira project provides entertainment to all without any age barrier. It's a wise restoration of investment.

Kada Cinemas is just one out of the many other tangible moves and preparations made in Government's earnest desire to deliver a world class carnival in Calabar. Checks by The Beagle News showed that the state capital, Calabar, wears a new look with serious road rehabilitation even as some roads are experiencing the new cement technology. With this move within, the City of Calabar has a brand new name.

Calabar once noted for its clean environment lost the lush, Fiona and serene neighborhood as filth almost swallowed the environment, but Governor Otu's deliberate action towards returning the city to its glory as the cleanest city, has been one big step that has proved to residents that Otu means well and has the will to change the story of the state for better.

Today, after six months, Calabar has returned to its former status as a safe haven and a destination for business and leisure owing to the pragmatic approach by the government of the day. Though with pockets of kidnappings still troubling the city with sustained efforts on the part of government, the issue of insecurity would be put to rest at least to the barest minimum.

The return of the CallyAir has boosted the tourism sector and the Carnival. Out-led government has increased it to three aircraft to move guests and tourists in and out of Canaan City during the festival even as the tourist sites have been increased and are undergoing renovation as part of preparations to receive guests who would visit those locations during the festival.

Activities of the 32 day Carnival Calabar festivals have been followed faithfully with more than 41 events already held at different locations, time and days, the major venue being the traditional center of Eleven-Eleven Roundabout. Further checks by The Beagle News showed that all the dry runs. a preparatory platform and test for the bands, have been completed; Children Carnival, Queen of Humanity and the grand finale of the festival holds on December 28. The Carnival day witnesses a parade of bands on Carnival routes sailing through adjudication points for assessment. Carnival Calabar, Africa's biggest street party is the signature event and grand finale of the 32 daylong celebrations in Nigeria's foremost Tourism Destination, Calabar.

This presentation of processional- theater is accomplished through exotic exhibition of rare colors, costumes, floats, pyrotechnics, entertaining magic, acrobatics amongst other didactic 'wonders' beamed upon smiling faces of spectators and laughter and mouths singing along with the music blaring from acoustics and loud speakers.

The Florida leaves the live and online audiences spell bound a breathless through a 12 kilometer Carnival route. This ecstatic presentation is offered by the host, the People of Cross River state to celebrate her heritage of hospitality and Africa's warmest welcome since the millennium year.

Notable musicians foreign, national, international and local have been engaged during this once in year festivities to show case their artistic powers, leading to the discovery of talents and offers a business opportunity to Cross Riverians and other residents alike. But Carnival Calabar begins with a gradual decent with the famous Bikers Carnival featuring Naija most wanted, Nyoro Ekpe Calabar, festival color run and closing ceremony of the art exhibition titled Traces of Times, fireworks and the declaration of the New Year on January 1, 2024.

The festival terminates with a thanksgiving, recommitment of the state for a New Year. Tinkoriko, a cultural music and dance that cuts across all social strata, would usher in the New Year in grand style just as the curtains fall with Nkod Mbok, an assemblage of cultural parade of different peer/ age groups.

Otu hosts the World

Flagging off 3rd Carnival Dry Run at the Millennium Park in Calabar, the Cross River State governor, Senator Bassey Out, stated that the state is ready to host the world, describing the theme is also apt because after a tough season a season will definitely come where people will smile and this represents that season.

"This particular theme came as a result of almost all the other themes which captures the carnival from inception. After COVID-19, there was a total breakdown and people were so disillusioned. After that, the Carnival has been trying to pick up and never really picked up.

"Whether people like it not, after a season of very tough situation, hunger and other things there will actually come a season where people are going to smile and fortunately this is that season and people are going to smile. The preparations for this edition of the Carnival as seen from the dry runs are massive. All hotels are out and the world is going to see Cross River State.”

Welcoming tourists and visitors across the world to the 2023 carnival, the Governor said: “They will enjoy the hospitality of Calabar and see the real destination of tourism as far as Nigeria is concerned.”

By Ndifreke Bassey and Victor Udu, The Beagle News