Friday, November 07, 2008

Abuja Carnival 2008

All eyes on Abuja Carnival 2008


By Kabir Alabi Garba and Andrew Iro Okungbowa


All eyes on Abuja Carnival 2008By Kabir Alabi Garba and Andrew Iro Okungbowa
ONCE again, It is celebration time. The event is the 2008 editon of the Abuja Carnival, an annual celebration of the vast cultural, hospitality, and entertainment tradition and values of the country. It is a gamut of the entire art and entertainment reptoire that the nation boast ranging from the performing to visual art - theatre, music, dance, costume, cuisine, poetry and oral tradition to the most modern of art form.
By now the Federal Capital Territory, venue of the carnival should wear a new look and agog in readiness for the entertainment muse that would make it way to the 'Centre of Unity,' beginning from Thursday, November 20 when what is supposed to be the greatest cultural and communal feast of the country makes a grand entry to the city and finally ends on Sunday, November 23 after four days of enthralling performances and celebration of sort.
Initiated in 2005 by the Federal Ministry of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, It was envisioned among others as a catalyst for the cultural renaissance of the country, bring together the vast and diverse cultural resources of the country, encourage Interface and Interaction among the people, endear unity and encourage the preservation of the nation's cultural wealth as well as promote creativity In the cultural sector.
The singular and major drive for this is to promote Nigeria as a veritable tourist destination using the cultural pluralities and riches of the country. Given that cultural tourism remains the main tourism product of the country It was deemed fit for a cultural carnival to be developed whereby all the cultural aspects of the country are brought under one roof for the benefit of tourists.
It was also envisaged as purely the celebration of Nigeria's best cultural output in its truest and natural form hence the event since 2005 has remained clothed in the traditional gab without any attempt to Introduce contemporary elements of carnival. A fear that almost marred the first edition as people then raised strong objection against it labelling it as debasing humanity and anathema to the country's cultural ethos and practices.
In terms of promoting and marketing the nation's tourism product, the vision of the founding fathers of the carnival was to use it as a spring board or 'draw' for tourism hence the 'Harmattan Holiday' package was put in place by the ministry starting with the Abuja Carnival as the first item on the nation's tourism calendar, which ought to commence from the month of November till January or thereabout. (This idea has since been jettisoned as the government who initiated it and the private sector to promote it is making no effort)
This period is the cold or winter season in Europe and western world; a period where most of the people and tourists seek for solace and comfort in other climes that is as not wintry as theirs. And with Nigeria enjoying the bloom of warm and summer season still, it was deemed wise to create a tourism package that is built around culture that would serve as attractive pull for tourists to visit the country and then make them to savour other attractions of the land.
The domestic traffic is not left out of this permutation as well as international. Example has shown that a real tourist dstination first thrive on domestic consumption rather than foreign traffic. Given this underlining, the carnival was given birth to with the hope that in no distant time the dream of not just using culture as an entertainment platform only would be achieved. That is a socio - economic tool for the development and promotion of the nation's tourism market.
Three years after it made a grand entry, the carnival is set to making its fourth appearance on the Nigerian scene. And this time around, the Carnival Management Committee (CMC) headed by the Director General of the carnival, Professor Ahmed Yerima who Is also the Chief Executive of the National Theatre and the National Troupe of Nigeria (NTN) as well is waxing lyrical about this year's carnival, which he says promises an exciting and fulfilling time for Nigerians and foreign visitors alike.
If the feelers emanating from the organisers are anything to judge by then the people should expect to witness the re-enactment of one the biggest and best socio - cultural gatherings in the land. A commual feast that is expected to take on the most suffusing and effervescent colours and entertaining spirit.
In the view of Yerima led team "the Abuja Carnival despite its short history has become Nigeria's cultural showpiece event, our window to the world, a 'tour de force', highlighting the very best of our dance, drama, music and our way of life, extolling our diversity and at the same time, delightfully exposing our oneness and togetherness as a people.
"The festival focuses on our unity in diversity by leveraging our cultural ethos to educate the world about our rich heritage and history and how we have built on this rich traditional platform to adapt our nation and people to the demands and needs of the 21st Century especially as they relate to modernization, globalization and technology.''
Furthermore, the committee says "the carnival seeks to educate and entertain our people and our visitors alike and also elevate our culture to a new level of understanding and empathy such that its key attributes and values would become a key selling point for the development of tourism in our land.''
In the light of this, the CMC hope that through this showpiece, one of the key objectives of the carnival would be realised. That is, "to utilize its richness and value to attract tourists to our shores and raise our international profile in the global tourism market and the need to reach out to other countries becomes a strategic imperative.''
In the preparation for the carnival, the organisers for the first time in the history of the three years old socio - cultural fiesta embarked on a national sensisation and mobilisation campaign to the six geo - political zones of the country and the FCT. Workshops and seminars were held at these zones with the aim of educating and enlightening the people on the various aspects of the carnival.
This tour, according to Yerima was to further deepen the people's involvement with the carnival. The carnival, he says is people oriented and to achieve this, the people needed to be adequately informed on what to do long before the carnival proper.
Gladden by this move, Yerima, at press briefing last Monday in Lagos was optimistic that adequate preparation is being perfected for a fulfilling event and people motivated performances. He expresses the view that Nigerians and visitors to the carnival ground should expect something different from the past three editions.
Come November 20, when curtain opens on the four days gathering, Yerima says, the best of the cultural resources and traditional ethos of the people would be dramatically on display. Furthermore, he says, it would be a vibrant and robust re-enactment calling on the people to avail themselves of the opportunity provided by the carnival to participant in all the events lined up.
The carnival DG also discloses that the 36 states and FCT are taking the carnival in their strides as they place great premium on it and what it has come to represent for the country and particularly for the fledging tourism industry.
The increased number of foreign countries that have promised to participate in the carnival also excites Yerima. "We are expecting participants from India, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Egypt, Kenya... and all over Africa. For these countries to have expressed desire to come, it means there is something for them to see." Said Yerima.
"For the states, it is an opportunity to showcase their tourism potentials to the global market as they all seek to diversify their revenue base in view of the global economic downturn that has adversely affected oil prices and which would drastically reduce their receipts from the federal purse.''
He also contends thus: "In effect, there is also a commercial and economic angle to this carnival which is unique and very strategic this year because as the global economic crisis deepens, tourism as a major revenue earner for the country would become a business and economic priority for our nation and would allow Nigeria to fully explore the inherent potential and opportunities embedded in the Nigerian tourism industry and revolutionize its development for the ultimate good of our fatherland.''
Speaking on the scope and content of the carnival, Yerima informs that this year's event would be richer and detailed in terms of performance, theatrics and make up than the past three editions.
The carnival's opening ceremony is scheduled for Thursday November 20 at the Eagle Square by 10. 00a.m. It is expected to feature cultural display and parade by the participating states and troupes. Other events include exhibition and cultural entertainment holding at the FCT Craft Village on the same day by 4.00p.m.
Friday, which is the second day, would witness the masquerade fiesta at the Eagle Square beginning from 10. 00am; Boat regatta by 7.00pm of the same day at the Jabi Dam while the day would conclude with poetry night/food fair at the open garden of Yar'Adua Centre.
Featuring on Saturday is the durbar event at the Royal Equestrian Club, opposite IBB Golf Club by 10. 00a.m; youth and children celebraion at the Millennium Park by 1.00p.m. and then command performances holding at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel by 7. 00p.m
Holding between Thursday and Saturday at the Eagle Square are series of contemporary musical concerts that are expected to feature some of the best of Nigerian musical icons and artistes. The concerts promise to be nights' of excitement and colours.
Of course, the carnival climax is the closing ceremony bill for Sunday at the Eagle Square by 4.00PM. The events, which would be beam live by the national TV station, would feature different cultural displays and floats among others.
About Six countries have been invited to participate in the carnival; the countries include South Africa, Niger Republic, Ghana, Egypt, Brazil and Trinidad and Tobago. For Yerima, the participation of these countries would help to boost the international appeal and captivation of the festival.
"In essence the Abuja Carnival is being gradually transformed into a world class event which is being packaged to become as famous as the Rio Carnival of Brazil and the Notting Hill Carnival of Britain, which have become cultural iconic events globally.''

Yerima's modest expectation is to have at least two of the invited countries - Brazil and Trinidad and Tobago - appear at the event. When this happens, he says his day would have been made as this would further lead credence to the international appeal and acceptance of the carnival, a feat that is dear to his heart and those of his committe members.

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