Nseobong Okon-Ekong reports that Carnival Calabar’s Seagull Band led by Sen. Florence Ita-Giwa has embarked on a touring show of performers to drive the messages on topics around Climate Change to wider and more diversified audiences
The seemingly serious ambience of solemn discourse on Climate Change carried the lighthearted undertone of amusement. Special Guest of Honour, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce spoke through one of his brothers, Mr. Guy Murray-Bruce . He reiterated the utmost importance of heeding the warning signs which were already evident everywhere that humans are fast destroying the fabric of eco-balance that holds the world together.
Giving a personal example in which he paid for cutting down trees in his home, he commended the Lagos State Government for putting several laws in place to check environmental degradation. The deputy governor of Cross River State, Prof. Evara Esu said he was at the event to demonstrate the importance that the state government attaches to the annual Carnival Calabar.
The conference on Climate Change with the theme, ‘A Time for Action’ was initiated by Senator Florence Ita-Giwa who leads the Seagull Band, one of the five competing bands at the annual Carnival Calabar which is held in the month of December. The theme of the 2016 carnival was on climate change. Interpreting that subject matter demanded painstaking preparation, wide consultation with different experts in Nigeria and abroad. Incidentally, Ita-Giwa was the chairman of the environment committee at the 2014 National Conference. Her group was populated with knowledgeable academics and seasoned activists on issues of environment. She did not only learn fast on the job, the opportunity opened her eyes to the damage done to the environment and the imminent catastrophe if not checked.
With the benefit of knowledge gained at the National Conference and her commitment to excellent presentations, the Seagull Band took home the top prizes at the Carnival Calabar 2016 contest. But Ita-Giwa decided that the implicit lessons in the Seagull Band interpretation of Climate Change topics were too important to be restricted to the carnival audience only. So, she has decided to seek partnership with different state governments, individuals, not-for-profit groups and corporate citizens to drive the messages home to wider and more diversified audiences in Nigeria and around the world.
Last weekend, at the Ballroom of Oriental Hotel in Lagos, she kicked off the Seagull Band Climate Change Conference and Road Show. This follows the global trend of competing carnival bands in countries like Brazil, the UK and Spain who increase the enjoyment of their presentation through expanded and extensive tours. The audience at the Lagos show had the likes of Mrs. Abba Folawiyo, the Emperor of Iwo, Dr. Arnold Udoka and his wife, Pamela.
At the 2016 contest in Calabar, Ita-Giwa had gathered a conglomerate of Nollywood stars. Together, they worked on the topics of going green. The movie stars included Ini Edo, Mike Ezuruonye, Mr. Ibu and Emeka Onyiocha among others. They danced and celebrated a healthy Nigeria. It was the first time in the history of Carnival Calabar that one band won all the categories. According to Ita-Giwa, “We have turned ourselves to climate change ambassadors and now we are going around to do presentations; so that Nigerians can learn. We want to use this opportunity to disseminate information on the issues of climate change. We want Nigerians to know that Climate change is real.”
One of the jaw-dropping mascots of the Seagull Band was a depiction of the ‘Forest Queen’. Other issues highlighted through dance and theatrical interpretations centred on volcano, deforestation and afforestation, landslide, environmental degradation, pollution and threat to coastal areas.
The entertainment train also had Iyanya, Kelly Hansome and winners of a talent discovery contest in Cross River State. The audience clapped excitedly when famed musician, 2Baba climbed the stage to render a spontaneous composition urging everyone to plant a tree to keep the desert at bay. More enduring thunderous cheer rented the air at the appearance of Ita-Giwa in her carnival outfit which was designed by Modella. She was accompanied by a group of young female revelers.
Keynote speaker, Mr. Desmond Majekodunmi who is the Chairman of Nigeria Conservation Foundation Committee on Fund Raising and Awareness painted a horrifying picture of the possibility of Lagos and other Nigerian coastal states going completely under water. But he raised hope that it was possible to put it in check if we take certain proactive actions. The Seagull Band’s carnival winning display is tagged ‘Green Revolution’. The show was assisted by partners like Heritage Bank, NIMASA and Big Cola.
The Chairman of the state carnival commission, Mr. Gabe Onah who led a team of officials likened the carnival to an oil well and said that Carnival Calabar is the next big thing after Nollywood that projects the good image of Nigeria and has the potential of earning foreign exchange for the country through increased number of tourists into the country.