Gov Simon Lalong in the carnival spirit

Demola Ojo

In continuation of efforts to once again make Jos a tourist hotspot while also preaching its One People message, the Plateau State government hosted the second edition of Jos Carnival over a few days culminating in performances at the Rwang Pam Stadium and the Solomon Lar Amusement Park last weekend.

Described by tourism practitioners as the cradle of Nigerian tourism, Jos is making a long overdue comeback with the Commissioner of Tourism, Culture and Hospitality, Mrs Tamwakat Wali, at the forefront of fresh initiatives to take advantage of the Plateau’s clement weather and natural wonders to put the city back on the tourism map.

This is in line with Governor Simon Lalong’s twin –pronged plan of bringing lasting peace and prosperity to the state through tourism and agriculture, with the state on course to start exporting potatoes in commercial quantities next year.

Governor Lalong led the cheerleading at the stadium and expressed his pleasant surprise and appreciation at the turnout in spite the rain which, thankfully, abated in time for proceedings to kick off. Performers across local governments in the state were however bent on entertaining an appreciative audience comprised of youths predominantly, in defiance of the thunderstorm.

Plateau State is famed for being home to as many as 50 different ethnic nationalities which translates to wide ranging cultural expressions, with many of these on show at the Jos Carnival. The street parade which culminated at the stadium started about an hour before schedule due to the rain but still ended on schedule at sundown.

The headliner of concerts held at the stadium and Solomon Lar Park a day after, was local hero and international star, Ice Prince, who performed a medley of hits over the two days. He it was who had led the applause for the pilots that navigated bumpy conditions and landed the plane (coming from Lagos) in the midst of a downpour, insisting that they deserved accolades.

Not so long after, he was the one being hailed and applauded at every turn by fans, from the stadium to the park. While he was the main attraction, there were many other budding artistes in the lineup; a few will probably become household names in future as Jos is known for churning out acts that have gone on to gain national and international prominence.

To put on a show worthy of attracting tourists from around the country and beyond takes a lot of planning, collaboration and expertise. To this end, representatives of the Nigeria Association of Tour Operators (NATOP) were present in an observatory and advisory role. Part of NATOP’s mandate is to identify and break grounds for new products to be marketed by members adept at selling destination packages.

Led by its BOT chairman, Nkewerem Onung of Remlords Tours, the NATOP team also included another BOT member in Gabe Onah, the chairman of the Carnival Calabar Commission, who was accompanied by the Commission’s executive secretary, Austin Cobhams.

The visitation by the NATOP team was a follow up to a presentation at the last NATOP AGM held in Jos to collaborate and look into the tourism product offerings in Jos in particular and Plateau State in general.

According to Onah, the Jos Carnival will definitely compliment the efforts of Carnival Calabar in sustainable tourism product development if they follow the frameworks of responsible tourism through the buy-in of local communities. In the spirit of collaboration, cultural troupes from Jos have been invited to partake in the 2018 edition of Carnival Calabar.

At one of the postmortem meetings convened at the instance of the Tourism Commissioner, Onah stated that partnership is the way to go since carnivals – if well planned and executed – are avenues to keep the youths productively engaged while helping local communities across the country economically.

Cobhams further asserted that there was no basis for competition between Jos and Calabar as Nigeria’s population needs more carnivals and festivals to help boost domestic tourism and its attendant benefits.

The postmortem was an opportunity for the Carnival Calabar team to share knowledge garnered from more than one decade of hosting Africa’s biggest street party, with the organisers of Jos Carnival who are looking forward to a bigger and better event next year. It was also a chance for the NATOP BOT Chairman to thank the state for hosting its AGM about a month ago. Onung also used the opportunity to pay a courtesy call on the city’s traditional ruler, the Gbong Gwom of Jos on behalf of NATOP.

Mrs. Weli made sure that members of the NATOP team – with this reporter in tow – experienced the hospitality part of her portfolio firsthand, ensuring that numerous homemade delicacies native to Jos and its environs were served for guests to savour and yearn for more, as the countdown to the next Jos Carnival commences in earnest.