Sunday, December 8, 2013

Abuja carnival: Nigerians decry low turnout



Abuja carnival: Nigerians decry low turnout

… call for proper funding
BABATUNDE JIMOH & CALEB AYANSINA
Unprecedented crowd in the past used to line up the carnival routes of Abuja city to catch glimpse of the best of Nigeria culture on parade during the annual Abuja carnival that was initiated by Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime to promote Nigeria tourism.
But that  crowd was missing this year as the 9th edition of the Abuja Carnival took place in the nation’s capital with less than 20 states of the federation participating.
As the contingents marched through the carnival routes in well cut-to-fit costumes, exciting gyration, fantastic colours and sparkling steel drums, there was handful of Nigerians and foreign tourists on hand to part take in the festival aimed at creating a platform for the 100 years commemoration of the amalgamation of Nigeria’s Northern Protectorate and Southern Protectorate by the then British Governor, Sir Lord Lugard in 1914.
In the past editions of the carnival, the participating states showcased many innovations to the delight of Nigerians and foreigners, who danced unhindered through the length and breadth of Abuja.
It  was  ironical that  the number of  states that participated had dropped from the thirty five states  that took part in the first edition  to  less than twenty  in this year’s edition with the theme “ A People for a Century, A People Forever”
Declaring the Carnival open in Abuja, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke, noted that this year celebration was special because it spiced up 100 years of amalgamation of Nigeria as an indivisible nation.
He said: “The convergence of the 36 states of the Federation and the pursuance of this carnival as a common goal is therefore a symbolic demonstration of the ties that bind us together as a people and the vigour with which we have maintained our unity for a century in spite of the challenges of nation-building”.
The low turn out of the crowd did not stop the  participating states  from parading the  selected routes  from Old Parade Ground, Festival Road and Independence Road in a colourful street parade  before moving into the Eagles square to entertain dignitaries.
The crowd of people and invited dignitaries that had waited patiently all the day for the cultural floats where treated to different cultural offerings by the participating states and foreign countries, which each state interpreting the theme of the carnival in terms of their dance choreography, costumes, dance styles and movements, floats and music to suit their tempo and mood as the ceremony unfolded.
Some of the participants called on the Federal Government to ensure proper sensitization of the public before holding subsequent Abuja Carnival.
Those who spoke under condition of unanimity said that poor publicity had over the years hindered the growth of the event.
Mr.  Bala Shuaib, an Abuja resident, disclosed that the carnival could generate a lot of money if handled properly.
“Since the inception of the carnival, we just wake up to see the street blocked without prior information. This has always been the problem. It is high time things are done the right way.’’
For Nigerians and some selected countries, the Durbar and the Boat regatta events   will remain indelible in their minds as some northern states, particularly Niger and Kaduna, tried to out do one another with the large contingents of horses, camels and elephant.
The Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, who witnessed the Durbar as a great celebration, which has survived since the colonial era to become a cultural tourism event being celebrated today across the country as one of the nation’s cultural icons.
The boat regatta remained an indispensable event of the carnival as riverian states compete with each other at the Jabi Lake, venue of the event.
Kogi, Taraba, Rivers, Bayelsa and Anambra that participated in the competition displayed their skills and dexterity in boat handling under high speed to the delight of the crowd.
Other events that could have been used to project the country’s tourism properly were the traditional cuisine, traditional hairdo and masquerade.
Nigeria has a rich and unique masking tradition which dates back to centuries of its evolutions. Masquerades are found in virtually all communities in the country and are seen as spirits which represents the communication links between the living and the dead.
When confronted with the low turn out  at the events, one of the organizers said  the Minister for Tourism Edem Duke, can not be held responsible  for the lack of  publicity as the budget for the  festival was not released few days to the  opening.
“How do you want the planning committee to perform without money? We just pray and hope that the promises made by the executive and the legislature to support the festival will be fulfilled next year.
The member added “ Tambuwal  said the Abuja carnival has created awareness, national understanding, social appreciation, and national co-habitation…Therefore,  they will  continue to support it in every way possible in order for it to boost the socio-cultural and economic development of the country, as it has proved a potent force for good over the years.”