Monday, December 14 to Sunday, December 20 upped the beat in Port Harcourt as the ‘Garden City’ hosted the second edition of Carnival in Rivers State (CARNIRIV).
The cultural event was re-introduced to the state’s calendar by Governor Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi last year.
The 2009 event began on a bright note with a parade involving the 23 local councils in the state including Abua/Odual, Eleme, Okrika, Ikwere, Obio-Akpor and Andoni, among others.
Held at the specially constructed CARNIRIV Village, where Governor Amaechi, welcomed all participants and stakeholders during the launch of the Africa Cultural Exhibition Village, the eight-day fiesta held without any trace of violence that had of recent become part of the reputation of River State. It was an opportunity to show that peace had returned to the city.
The governor and the cabinet members as well as the state legislators flagged off the carnival at Artillery Junction, amid lavish rhythms of traditional drumbeats from various groups.
Governor Amaechi and his wife, his deputy, Tele Ikuru and other cabinet members led the float that was designed in boat- like form with expensive wrappers tied around it.
About 40 floats depicting different cultural icons of the state participated in the procession which lasted several hours with all the local councils in attendance. Different floats represented the sponsors, corporate organisations and representatives of all the local councils with music blaring from vehicles on move.
Groups from Akuku-Toru, Bonny, Opobo Nkoro, Okirika, Asari-Toru Local Council of the state rode through the streets in a fishlike motor train in order to demonstrate their fishing occupation with their chairman or traditional leader on top of the train.
Also, participants from Obio-Akpor councils rode along side in a crocodile-shaped train, a representation of the amphibious habitat of the people.
Similarly, Emuoha Local Council riveted the streets with cow head motor train with palm trees around emitting smokes on top showcasing their agricultural prowess.
A lot of people including pregnant women and children danced and gyrated, not minding the long distance and the scorching sun.
Other attractions include horse ride, skating on road, bike displays and lots of fun.
IN his speech, the Governor said: “We are happy with this innovation of African Cultural Exhibition Village, it has afforded our people and our visitors across the world a first- hand assessment of our cultural values, norms, tradition and our beautiful way of life. We welcome you all to the Garden City for this year’s CARNIRIV. It promises to be exciting and interesting.”
Amaechi noted that the successful hosting of the event has demonstrated to the world that Port Harcourt has changed from the way it was portrayed by the international media.
He noted that many hotels have been opened and are all fully booked, as investors are coming in to the state, showing that peace has been restored.
The Commissioner of Culture and Tourism, Marcus Nle-Ejii, was full of delight saying, “you have all seen it yourself, it is a whole lot of activities and what I thank God for is the level of comportment of the people, we are proud that peace and normalcy have returned to River State.”
According to Jackson Tompson, “at every point in time, there is need for this kind of thing. In the time past, we used to have this kind of thing, but for reasons we cannot explain it just stopped, the re-introduction of this by Governor Amaechi is the best thing that has happened to us and we have embraced it. I can’t remember last time I trekked like this, but today you can see I trekked from Artillery Junction to the Aggrey Road still feeling happy and excited.”
For Mrs. Comfort Emmanuel, who hails from Edo State but resides in Port Harcourt, the festival has helped to solve the perennial crisis in the state.
She said, “I came out not because am from Rivers State but I like what is happening here. I started with them since yesterday, I joined them as early as 4am at the Air Force base and here we are. We are all here for this event, tribe is no longer a major issue, we are here celebrating together. This can as well enhance economic activities; for example, the hat everybody is wearing, you don’t want to know whether it is a Rivers man that produced it or an Igbo man but all you care is, it is for the carnival.”
David George, who grieved that the people had been deprived such a privilege of fun and celebration for several years, said he was glad to meet his friends and love ones at the event, whom he had lost contact with.
Hear him, “Rivers State people have been deprived of fun for over 20 years. It has been long we had this kind of experience, we are so happy for this.”
An applicant, Mr. Simeon Amobi who lauded the effort of the State government for organizing the event, however stressed the need to create job opportunities for the youths.
The acting Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Blessing Wikina, said the carnival had restored lost glory of the state. He called on investors to make use of the opportunity and start investing in business and other ventures in the state.
Commissioner for Education, Dame Nemi Lawrence, said, “this is something that has never happened in Rivers State before where there is so much unity; here you see your brother you have not seen for several years; it will enhance economic activity in the state.”
Similarly, the state Commissioner of Information, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, said the event was worth celebrating because it generated a lot of activities in the economy, particularly at the micro economy level, as River’s entrepreneurs seized the carnival opportunity in making greater sales.
In her words, “you can see there was a lot of alternative economy, people were selling water, ice cream and all kinds of things, those who made the floats, T-shirts as well as those who sold carnival costumes made some money.”
She explained that the carnival has a way it reverberates internally to generate a lot of income for the common people.
Mrs. Semenitari said apart from the feeling of togetherness, fun and friendliness, the cultural event in terms of tourism, showed the celebration of the rich culture of the state, which would help young people to understand more about their root.
CARNIRIV 2009 is an initiative of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Rivers State, sponsored by International Energy Insurance (IEI) Plc, Total E &P, Oil and Gas Freezone Authority and with support from SPDC while Yibs Ensemble is the Event Consultant and ZMC, a leading entertainment agency in Lagos is the marketing and communication consultant for the event.