Everything looks good for 2016 Calabar Carnival, writes Bassey Inyang

The 2015 edition of the annual Calabar Christmas Festival was generally acclaimed be to a tremendous success when it climaxed with the Calabar Carnival, which, has been established as one of the foremost attractions in the line-up of events in the Nigeria’s tourism calendar.

Like those of other years, the last edition carnival had as its major feature, the usual 12 kilometres parade by the participating bands, namely, Passion 4 Band, Seagull Band, Master Blaster Band, Freedom Band, and Bayside Band; from the Millennium Park through select major streets in Calabar, to the UJ. Esuene Stadium, in what has assumed the status of ‘Africa Largest Street Party.’

But, the introduction of the governor’s band, comprising beauty queens and Nollywood stars as well as the Bikers Carnival (race), by the state governor, Professor Ben Ayade, spiced up the entire carnival content and re-enforced its value, perhaps, as Africa’s most priced tourism event.

Not a few applauded Ayade for the tremendous success recorded due to the innovations he introduced to the carnival, even when he was just six months in office, having been sworn-in on May 29th, last year.

At the close of last year’s Calabar Christmas Festival, most observers and participants agreed that with the success of the event, Ayade had kept the state’s tradition as the tourism destination in Nigeria.

Obviously elated by the success of the 2015 Calabar Carnival, Ayade , early in January 2016, commenced preparation for this year’s carnival by unveiling the 2016 Calabar Carnival Theme ‘Climate Change’ at a dinner staged in honour of sponsors of the 2015 edition.

“The carnival presents our people the opportunity to be happy even in the challenges of the year,” he said the carnival has gone global with millions watching it live via over 30 channels across the world and stressed the need why the business connection to the carnival must not be ignored to ensure the state benefits.

“As you know it is not a Calabar carnival, it is not a Nigerian carnival; it is indeed not an African carnival. It is a world carnival. Let us focus on this to ensure that we broaden the horizon of opportunities that will come and Cross River State will be better off for it,” Ayade said at dinner which held in the state.
Nothing short of last year’s standard of success is expected this year from the people based on feelers from town.

It appears Ayade has a Midas touch to events of the nature as streets corners and designated places in Calabar and most places the state are already bubbling with celebratory activities, an indication that the 2016 Christmas celebration is here again, and expected to climax on with the now famous Calabar Carnival billed for Wednesday, December 28 , 2016.

The governor had promised earlier in the year that the 2016 edition of the carnival would be the best and biggest since the event was established.

Apparently buttressing the seriousness he attaches to the state’s reputation as the nation’s tourism destination, Ayade who doubles as Cross River State Commissioner for Tourism, has ensured that preparations for this year’s carnival commenced early enough.

For instance, on Sunday, December 11th, a carnival dry run or carnival rehearsal was staged across the carnival route by revelers, who adorned colourful costumes and danced in response to the rhythms sounds that blared from musical instruments as they moved along the routes.

According to the state carnival commission, the dry run, the third of such in the last one month, is the last to be staged before the main carnival.
Earlier, on Sunday, December 3, a Bikers’ Carnival dry run was staged from Mary Slessor Roundabout to Efio-Ette Junction, preparatory to the Bikers carnival or display, slated for Tuesday, December 27.

Also flagging of the Bikers’ dry run, the state governor said it was to enable the riders get familiar with the carnival routes ahead of the main bikers’ carnival.
Flagging off the second dry run on Sunday, November 20th, the wife of the state governor, Mrs. Linda Ayade, said the carnival represents one of the unique platforms that showcase the rich cultural splendor of the peoples of Cross River State.

“Last year, the theme of the carnival focused on Climate Change, and how to make our environment better. This year, we are continuing with the theme and through our tourism efforts, things will get bigger and better.”

At the moment, commercial activities have peaked at the carnival village at municipal council ground, declared open by the governor on December 1, at the end of the Anti-Aids Day Walk.

The village which has about 200 temporary shops is a hub for leisure and other forms of merriment for fun seekers throughout the month of December to January, since it was established over a decade ago.
There are other interesting events lined up on different days to herald the carnival, considered as the climax of the month long celebration.

The events include carnival Christmas Day Music Concert, Sunday December 25; Street Party , Kings & Queens of Bands Competition and Pre Carnival Music Concert, slated for Monday, December 26; Youth Carnival and Cultural Parade, Tuesday, December 27; Bikers Festival Calabar 2016 by Metallic Knights Motorcycle Club, and Governor’s Ball, Tuesday 27; while Carnival Calabar, featuring: Africa’s biggest street party and other fascinating side attractions on the carnival route, and Nigeria’s Most Wanted Music Concert and DJ Grand Slam, Wednesday, December 28.

The Convertible/ Exotic Cars Parade, a fresh innovation introduced by Ayade, will hold on Thursday, December 29, the same day designated for Green Carnival, International Carnival Segment/Competition, International Artist Performance and Music Concert.

Added to entire package are the Tinapa Dark Knight Motor Drift Rally and Stunt Display, Green Ball Sponsors/Stake Holders Dinner and Unveiling of 2017 Christmas Festival/Carnival Calabar Theme, and the Calabar Rocks Music Concert and DJ Grand Slam scheduled for Friday, December 30.

After the successful hosting of the carnival, the star event for the Christmas festival, the organisers have slated the Fireworks Night to usher in 2017 for 12 midnight of Saturday, December 31 at the Millennium Park.

Speaking at the Millennium Park, while flagging off Sunday’s carnival dry run, Ayade promised that 2016 Calabar carnival will be bigger and better than the previous years.
He called on the people of the state to open their hearts and doors to receive tourists who will be trooping into the state for the carnival.

“The event which has become part and parcel of our state will be bigger and richer in content this year. So, we must continue to exhibit the hospitality nature we are known for in receiving visitors. “Cross River State will experience massive turnout of visitors to watch and participate in the biggest street party in Africa as it will be free, interesting, bigger and bolder,” Ayade who was represented by the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Mr. John-Gaul Lebo, said.

The governor praised the various carnival bands for their active and brilliant performances in the dry run.
He appealed to the bands to maintain the trend of their laudable performances during the carnival.

Chairman Cross River State Carnival Commission, Mr. Gabe Onah, said the Sunday event was tagged “dry run of celebrities” as some members of the Nollywood were in the state to participate in the event prior to the 4th edition of the “Cross River Movie Awards”
“This is the last dry run after two successful hosts; hence we expect a great show on December 28,” Onah said.

Given the importance of security for such magnitude of events the state police command has assured that it will leave nothing to chance to secure lives and property during the carnival, and indeed the entire period of the month-long Christmas celebration.
The state Commissioner for Police, Mr. Jimoh Ozi-Obeh, who spoke on the preparedness of his officers and men, said: “We have witnessed the first and second dry-run and there were no security hitches.

“The command is ever ready to provide adequate security for thousands of tourists that will be coming in for the festival.
“I want to assure you that we are working in collaboration with other sister agencies to ensure that the carnival period is celebrated peacefully in the state,” the commissioner said.

The Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), has also given assurance that it would participate in providing security during the carnival.
Commandant of the NSCDC in the state, Mr. Clement Adesuyi, said: “I want to assure the peaceful people of Cross River and tourists that the state command of NSCDC is on alert to respond to all security challenges within the carnival period and beyond.

“Our men on uniform and those of the Intelligence Department will be deployed to strategic locations in the state to ensure a smooth carnival, and Christmas celebration.”