BY MCPHILIPS NWACHUKWU
PENULTIMATE Saturday, the nationâ€™s capital city of Abuja was agog withÂ activities as residents of the city witnessed another round of the five year old Abuja Carnival. That day the carnival routes which started from Moshood Abiola way in Garki area through Eagle Square.
Abuja was a beauty to behold as carnival floats fromÂ different states of the Federation and some countries matched through the city in their carnivalÂ attires adding beauty to the already beautified city of Abuja. As the float moved through the city, activities were literally put to a stop, as motorists, traders, students and children as well as people from various walks of life trooped to the streets to catch a glimpse of the long procession of the floats.
The street show of this yearâ€™s edition of Abuja Carnival tagged Peopleâ€™s Carnival featured contingents from 33 states of the federation and three foreign countries namely South Africa, Egypt and Ghana. As gathered, Ogun, Abia, and Akwa Ibom States could not participate this year because they could not get funds from their state governments.
The Street Show, described as the best in the history of the carnival since inception five years ago by many observers and participants in Abuja, had about 40 trucks full of well costumed artistes who displayed the cultural endowments of their states in very arresting and creative manner.
Majority of these artistes were seen dancing and singing in their various dialects to thrill the audience. Actors Guild of Nigeria, Nigeria Security and Civil Defense as well as MTN joined in the well arranged street party. Remarkably, the fifth edition of Abuja Carnival, despite lean funding from government, represents a complete departure from the previously one venue kind of festival the people of Nigeria have witnessed as carnival. On assumption of office in August as the creative director of this yearâ€™s Abuja Carnival, Professor Ojo Bakare had promised to deliver a difference by returning the carnival to the people.
He condemned the idea of the carnival being domiciled at a particular host venue like itÂ has been the case in the last three editions arguing that,â€ carnival is a street party and goes withÂ glamour and ramattazza and therefore, must be done in such a way that it conforms with the kind of traditionalÂ street festivals that the people are known for.
To realize thisÂ visionary thinking, Bakare had, before the carnival mapped out carnival routes through which the train would pass as they display their goodies. Starting from Garki Village the carnival party, he said would match through Area one to Festival Road through NNPC Road and finally to Eagle Square.
The 40 kilometre carnival walk, according to Bakare,Â was to make both the participants and Abuja residents have a feel of the colour and glamour of the event. And that was precisely how it happened.
In readiness for this great party, the innovative management of the fifth Abuja Carnival under the leadership of Professor Bakare succeeded in transforming the carnival routes covering the whole of Area one, Festival road, NNPC road right down to Eagle Square by installing carnival street lights and carnival banners.
Contrary to the past, where residents and visitors alike could not distinguish between carnival routes and free roads, this time around, all designated carnival routes had lights adorning and beautifying them even before the main event.
The lights apart from adding colour and glamour to the big event, clearly sent strong signals to many discerning observers that something great was really happening in the city. At the colourful closure of the four dayÂ 2009 Abuja Carnival, the vice president, Dr. Jonathan Goodluck Â prescribed the development of the culture sector as the basis Â for speedy socio-economic and political growth of the country.
He said the present administration ofÂ President Yarâ€™adua led government believes strongly in the development of culture as an active catalystÂ capable of enthroning better understanding, sincere cooperation, lasting unity, peace and tranquility in the nation.
According to him:â€œFor it is through cultural traits such as language, religion, behaviour pattern that individuals learn to identify themselves as members of specific communities as opposed to non members of communities.â€
At a different fora during the carnival, President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™AduaÂ described the yearly event as a cultural product that is capable of attracting tourists and foreign exchange to the country. He noted that the carnival can help in the development of the nationâ€™s economy aside laundering the image of the country globally.
Speaking through Senator Bello Gada, minister of culture, tourism and national orientation, Yarâ€™Adua hinted that if properly promoted and well organised, the yearly carnival can play a key role in the eradication of poverty and creation of employment which incidentally are part of the seven point agenda of the federal government.