The remark ofÂ GovernorÂ Â Â Â Â Chibuike Â Â Â Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State that the just Â Â Â concluded Calabar festival is a re-establishment of the peoples culture that will grow the tourism industry in Cross River State can not be faulted.
For some body who was part of the carnival on Sunday to have made such a comment is not surprising as the Governor told reporters thatÂ â€œI saw a lot of foreigners, Nigerians and people from Port Harcourt who came to spend Christmas vacation in Calabarâ€.
It was not from Rivers State alone that tourists moved to Calabar to be part of the festival, indeed families moved from Lagos, Abuja and other cities in Nigeria to be part of the Calabar Festival/Carnival (formerly Cross River State Christmas Festival/Carnival).
The CarnivalÂ is today undisputedly the biggest and longest multi dimensional, multi_faceted tourism leisure and entertainment programme in West Africa.
Thirty_two days of exciting events, colourful activities and unprecedented participation by the people is arguably, Nigeriaâ€™s strongest tourism brand.
It is a 32_day Festival that incorporates the Carnival Calabar, the Calabar Carnival Queen Pageant, the HIV/AIDS Walk/Conference, an African Weekend at the Obudu Ranch Resort, musical concerts featuring local, national and international artistes, a Cultural Fiesta, Boat Regatta, Christmas Camp for children, Children Carnival, Christmas Village, African Food Expo, Fashion Shows, Film Festival, Carol Night, Golf and Soccer tournaments, Fireworks, among others.
This yearâ€™s carnival which falls on a Sunday did not commence at the usual time of seven in the morning as the government shifted the kick off time to mid day to allow the people attend Church services.
Before one knew what was happening, the Millenium Park becameÂ a beehive of activities: The place was crawling with security men, photographers, ice_cream vendors, spectators, participants in the carnival, trailers, buses and anÂ helicopter that was hovering and droning up there in the sky. Sometimes for a few seconds the helicopter would be stationary and then it would move on, circling the place and perhaps on the look out for trouble makers.
In a tickle of an eyeÂ the park was peopled by participants all dressed up in traditional colours of Five competitive carnival bands namely Freedom Band with its traditional Yellow colour;Â Masta Blasta BandÂ _ Orange;Â Bayside Band _ Blue; Seagull Band _ Red and Passion Four_ Green ready toÂ interprete the theme of thisÂ yearâ€™s Carnival Calabar theme ofÂ â€œLand of our Birth, Our People, Our, Cultureâ€.
The carnival also had non Competiting bands thatÂ included Apache Aliens, Lagos Dolphin, First Bank with its logo, International Association of Lions Clubs, Fire Service, Civil Defence, Immigration Service, Prisons, Mobil Police, NYSC, Nigerian Navy, and Nigerian Army while Rotary International Clubs, Oceanic Bank, Bournvita, Amber Tinapa, Prayers to all Nation aka Prayer City and Christ Embassy presented carnival floats.
The Governors of Bayelsa State, Diepriye Silva and Rivers State Amaechi Rotimi took part after the carnival was flagged off by governor Liyel Imoke of Cross River State assisted by his wife, Obioma and Deputy Efiok Cobham and wife, Glory.
Some personalities and dignitaries who participated in the procession included Mrs. Obioma Liyel Imoke with a very strong supporting team in lion skin attire which gave Masta Blasta its much needed pep and backed by carnival floats tagged Dance of Victory, Sights and Sound of Africa, the Plundering of Africa/The Cradle of Civilization (Africa) and the Deputy Governor Mr. Efiok Cobham and wife, Glory added colour to the Freedom Band.Â Another notable person was High Chief Edem Duke, who is deeply involved in the hospitality industry.
Bayside Band had such persons as Mrs. Onari Duke wife and Donald Duke, Senator Victor Ndoma Egba, Mr. John Odey Minister of Environment and Mr. Julius Okpotu Commissioner for Environment , Professor Offiong Offiong Commissioner for Education and Sir Victor Uwaifo and his wife.
Senator Ita Giwa was supported by Hon. Uduak Akiba of the State House of Assembly, Mrs. Patience Ozokwo, (Mama Gee) Shane George, Rita Dominic and Kalu Ikeagu all of the Nigerian Nollywood.
Ntufam Ekpo Okon, State PDP Chairman was identified as a strong backbone of Passion Four.All participating bands were lined up for the famous trek around town which is the carnival proper.
Freedom Band, led by Captain Henry Brisbe which was the first in the procession, interpreted the theme of the carnival under Tribal Wars, Era of slavery, and Tribes, including Efik, Yoruba, Ibo, Hausa and countries like South Africa, Kenya, Cote Dâ€™Iviore, Niger and Senegal with different costumes and dance steps to match.
Next was Masta Blasta Band led by Chief Gershom Bassey with the topic Government and Women, Hunters, Farmers and Harvests and followed by Pyramid of Egypt, Gold of Africa, Diamond, Coal, Crude Oil/Black Gold, Golden Revelers and Slavery.
Bayside Band led by Mr. Donald Duke the immediate past Governor of Cross River State was the third band in the procession.
It carried such sub themes as Cradle of Human Civilization; Tourism, Nature At its Best _ Skill; West Africa, Rich in Happy Friendly People, Pioneers in Learning; Bravery, Resilience and Talent.
The fourth band, Seagull which has Senator (Mrs.) Florence Ita_Giwa as its leader, came up with a sub theme of the Story of A People _ The Efik, followed sub titles like the Origin, the Sojourn in Ghana; Adventure in Arochukwu, Pains and Tears; Uruan Settlement; Creek Town Settlement; The Advent of the Missionaries, the Efik Kingship; West Minister Coronation; and the Homage to the King by Benin, Tivs, Ife Empire and Sokoto Caliphate.
Passion Four Band led by Chris Agibe, a one time Commissioner in the state, carried a floating banner with the sub theme, A Feather to Becheve (A Journey to Greatness) Tiny Toes and Green Fingers, Footprint in the Jungle; Ships on Our Shores;
The Biggest Street Party in Africa, however, was concluded late in the night at the U.J. Esuene Stadium with four times winner Passion 4 BandÂ and Seagull BandÂ clinching the first position.
Judgment on the 12 kilometres long carnival procession was based on Best Decorated Float, Carnival Move, Makeup/Costumes, Best Interpretation of the Carnival Theme and Best Reflection of the Carnival Spirit.