Saturday, January 28, 2012

Calabar Carnival and the Governor’s Booth Tourism


Calabar Carnival and the Governor’s Booth Tourism

For instance at the stadium yesterday (during the carnival), a seat at the governor’s booth sold for N25, 000 and I think that we made more than N5 million ($35, 000). So there are products that we think we can generate revenue from and we are hoping to get to a stage where we can concession it whereby somebody comes in and says I want the governor’s booth and pay for it then market it. The same on the carnival routes, vendors on the routes are registered and pay for space.

~ Senator Liyel Imoke, Governor of Cross River State in Nigeria, in DESTINATION , page 42, TRAVEL & TOURISM SECTION of The Guardian of Nigeria on Saturday January 28, 2012.


Only God knows how much in billions of naira the administration of Senator Liyel Imoke of Cross River State has spent so far on the so called Calabar Carvival, dubbed as Africa’s Biggest Party . And as the governor himself confirmed, the carnival is presently in debt, because the state government is not generating much revenue from the billion naira investment in the annual December carnival of music, dance and drama with the glitz and razzmatazz of over 50,000 costumed revelers and "2 million spectators?" in the coastal city of Calabar staged to boost tourism. But the panorama is yet to attract even a thousand "Oyibo" tourists who as we know are scared of traveling to Nigeria, because of the spate of deadly terrorist attacks by the Boko Haram "Jihadists" on rampage in the north and Niger Delta militants kidnapping both foreigners and natives in the south. So the deplorable state of insecurity is enough to strangulate and puncture the colourful balloons of the optimism for tourism in Nigeria. But insecurity is not the only reason why the Calabar Carnival is not a bankable event for now?

The Calabar Carnival is a good concept of the immediate past Governor of the state, Mr. Donald Duke, who started it in 2004, but it has been mismanaged by opportunistic jobbers and political contractors like his other equally mismanaged Tinapa with an ultra modern film studio that has attracted more lizards and spiders than filmmakers.

Personally I like carnivals, but only when they are not bacchanalian feasts of debauchery for orgies of sex by hordes of “dogs” in heat. Because, carnival celebrations are believed to have roots in the pagan festival of Saturnalia.

The model of the Calabar Carnival is the famous Brazilian Carnival which originated in Rio de Janeiro in 1641 when the city's bourgeoisie imported the practice of holding balls and masquerade parties from Paris. It originally mimicked the European form of the festival, later absorbing and "creolizing" elements derived from Native American and African cultures.

Calabar Carnival begins on every 1st of December and lasts till 31st , with almost copycats and replicas of the Brazilian Carnival on parade.
Last December, the different bands like Masta Blasta, Seagull, Freedom, Bayside and Passion 4 competed to interpret the theme of the Carnival, which was "Endless Possibilities", but might as well also mean the endless financial liabilities of the jamboree with many useless events like the football competition and wasting money on foreign entertainers like Wyclef Jean, Nelly, Kirk Franklin, Sean Kingston, Rick Ross, Akon and even the defunct American bands like Midnight Star, Sky, Cool and the Gang and others specially resurrected for the Calabar Carnival and get paid what they would never have earned playing in New York today.


There are some niche events in the Calabar Carnival that will be enough to attract thousands of foreign tourists than the indigenes and make millions even in a week and I don't think the Governor's Booth is one of them. Again, stop stretching the events unnecessarily for one month of monotonous activities repeated by the same bands every year.

You don’t need one month to do a great street carnival, except it is a conduit for sleaze and public graft and run an annual government racket.

The famous Rio de Janeiro's carnival does not last more than a week and this year’s edition starts on Saturday, February 18th and ends on Tuesday, February 21. In 2011, it attracted over 4.9 million people, of which 400,000 were foreigners.

The Calabar Carnival should focus on the panoramic fanfare of the pageantry of street floats, the Boat regatta, Christmas Village (with live music concerts and fashion shows to showcase the rich haute couture of Nigerian culture), and Governor’s Masked Ball should be strictly for paying audiences. And the carnival should be used to take tourists on excursions to the exotic tourist attractions in Cross River State.

~ By Orikinla Osinachi, prize winning Nigerian writer and author of Children of Heaven, Scarlet Tears of London, Bye, Bye Mugabe, In the House of Dogs and other book.

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