BY ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA
NOVEMBER 21 was not like any other Saturday morning for most residents of Abuja, especially those in Garki Village, Area One, down Festival Road and Eagle Square, as drums and songs woke them up.
In rhythm with the ecstasy of the celebration, they all poured out to the streets in their hundreds to watch the long cultural procession, reminiscent of the 2006 edition.
The evening of Saturday witnessed a more glorious outing with the Eagle Square, venue of the opening ceremony, covered in glittering colours and motifs of different hues, accentuated by the captivating and glitz appearance of the over 30 states including Abuja, Ghana, South Africa and Egypt delegates that were on parade.
The various troupes thrilled the audience with different dance moves and gyrations as well as exhibiting captivating theatrics, opening the four-day event.
With the high tempo of Saturday’s opening many people expected the second day, Sunday, to rise to the occasion too, but thanks to the youths and children, who entertained the audience with different theatrical performances.
Sunday evening witnessed a polo game, which was one of the newly introduced events to the carnival. It was a good outing by the different teams and players that were on display as they entertained with their masterful equestrian skills.
The durbar event was another of the evening’s showing with Yobe and Borno States being the only two states that showcased the rich durbar cultural heritage for which they are famed.
HOWEVER, for many followers of the carnival, this year’s durbar event did not quite hit the bull’s eye as the absence of many of the traditional durbar participating states was obvious — a minus for the entire package.
The evening was more of a time to relax and savour some of the finest and upcoming Nigerian artistes, who entertain in dance drama and other theatricals. The venue was the amphitheatre of the Arts and Craft Village.
For many, who took part in Monday’s event, the masquerade and boat regatta presentations somehow compensated for the failings of the previous day.
Again, the masquerade show was taken to the streets of Abuja where the artistes from the participating states enthralled with zestful acrobatic and artistic displays of various kinds.
Bayelsa, Delta, Kwara, Kebbi and Rivers States exhibited their mastery of the sea with each cultural float battling for supremacy and honour on Jabi Dam, venue of the rich display.
The evening of Monday, too, was quite memorable with the command performance held at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel. The national troupes of Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa and Egypt as well as troupes from Cross River, Jos and Nasarawa States gave impressive but energetic dance performances.
On Tuesday, the various troupes put on one last befitting performance at the Eagle Square, venue of the closing ceremony. The best adjudged states in the various performing categories were honoured and celebrated for their creative and innovative.
MTN’s Musical Show
ONE of the major highlights of this year’s edition of the Abuja Carnival was the contemporary musical concert that held for three nights from Saturday through Monday at the Eagle Square.
The telecommunication outfit was at its best providing fun and excitement for hundreds of youths, who patronised the carnival for three nights to savour the various vibes and tunes on display by the musical acts.
There was no dull moment for many of the audience members, who described the event as delightful. For the Regional Marketing Manager, North, Shehu Abubakar, who was part of the celebrations, the occasion afforded the firm an avenue to bond with a vital part of its clientele base.
He described the entire carnival as a befitting platform for the actualisation of his company’s aspirations, part of which is the promotion and celebration of the country’s cultural heritage.
He said the outfit would continue to throw its weight behind the carnival while urging all Nigerians to embrace the yearly cultural feast because of its benefits to the country.
The Last Word
ABUJA Carnival 2009 may have come and gone with its thrills and colours, but not without some issues that must be addressed by the organisers if the carnival is to achieve its ultimate goal, which is to make the country an international tourist destination and to encourage domestic tourism.
As acknowledged by the Artistic Director of the carnival, Prof. Rasaki Ojo Bakare, the performance this year would have been higher than the previous editions, but for the twin constraints of time and fund, though he scored the event a great success, stressing that the fact that it held at all is a feat to be celebrated.
If the dream of making Abuja Carnival a viable venture and by extension the Nigeria tourism industry, as expressed by President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua, at the opening ceremony, is to be achieved then the country must braced up to the challenges facing the carnival.
The first major challenge is that of making it a real tourist event. In this regard, the concept and organisation have to be reviewed to make it all embracing and people-orientated. The carnival lacked this ingredient hence has failed to attract following from the people. It takes awesome time and resources to achieve this; the Federal Government, which is the promoter of the yearly feast, has failed to realise this.
The government for now has the responsibility to massively fund the project until such a time that the private sector can buy into the dream. Also, the organizers need to start early preparations for the event. The practice of appointing an organising committee yearly on ad hoc basis and three months to the schedule period and frequent change of dates are critical issues to be addressed too.
What is needed is a carnival commission with a clear mandate and tenure, say three to four years at the first instance, with the members drawn from mainly the private sector while government only assist with logistics where necessary.
Of course, the members of the committee should be tested professionals who have both the capacity and international clout to extend the frontiers of the carnival. Now is the right time to set up such a committee with the necessary empowerment given to it, otherwise the fortune of the carnival will remain threatened as can be seen from its beleaguered history.
Finally, the government must show political support for the carnival as former President Olusegun Obasanjo tried to do, though it was misdirected and not properly applied.
So far, this present regime has treated the carnival with disdain. President Yar’ Adua must be the number one promoter and audience of the carnival, if the event is to win the confidence of the community. Staying away from the yearly celebration as he has done in the last two editions is not good enough for the image of the carnival.