By Caleb Ayansina with agency report
When President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration in 2004 conceived the ideal of having a carnival in Abuja yearly, it was meant to promote domestic tourism and attract foreign tourists alike to the nation’s capital city. It was envisage that the carnival which later became known as Abuja carnival was to become self sustaining after five years, but ten years later the carnival has not met the aspiration for which it was set up.
In the last five years, the carnival has continued to witnessed dwindling interests from the states that take part in the events and this inveriably has led to the low turn out of Abuja residents not to talk of domestic and foreign tourists.
This year’s edition with the theme ‘Building An Enduring Creative Nation’ was marred with poor participation of state contingents, as about 30 States out of the 36 States of the Federation shunned the event.
The state contingents which took part in the opening of the carnival are those from Kogi, Zamfara, Ebonyi, Niger, Akwa Ibom, Kano State and the FCT. There was also in attendance the Ijaw Cultural Troupe. The absence of many participating states affected t he glamour associated with the street procession of the opening and closing ceremonies of the event.
As a major departure from previous events, carnival floats at the event were mounted on rick-shaws, popularly known as “Keke NAPEP”.
The opening ceremony slated for 10am on Tuesday could not start, as it was outlined in the programme of the event, until 5pm in the evening as many participants, who could not wait for the kick-off left in annoyance. The Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke, who was visibly disturbed by the situation of things, came around 11;30am and immediately left the Eagle Square, the venue of the carnival, this signaled the departure of some Director Generals of agencies under the ministry, who had been loitering around.
In his return to the venue around 3pm, Duke was sighted by the members of the press, who were dominantly visible at the carnival, seated angrily by the pavement and he was interviewed. He described the 2014 Carnival as imitation, a photo copy of real carnival that was inaugurated by the Obasanjo administration.
Duke noted that Nigeria was not really expecting any international participation due the mood of the nation, thereby the ministry decided to celebrate it in low-key.
He said: “This is low key celebration, this year, we have representation from six geo-political zones and for us this particular carnival is not celebratory carnival, but it is been done because it’s in our calendar of our activities. We are conscious of what is going on around us in the country, we ourselves decided to moderate this particular carnival.
“We have twelve state register to participate and not all twelve states may necessarily be in parade because the carnival has different segments of participation.”
Talking about delay of the opening ceremony, the Minister explained, “We want to air this programme lives that is the reason why we have a slight delay, we want NTA live broadcast that is going Birin-in Kebbi, kebbi state to finish so, as to join Vice president here in Abuja that is why we have little delay.”
Declaring the event open, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan praised the Creative and Tourism sectors for contributing immensely to the country’s rebased Gross Domestic Product.
Represented by Vice President Namadi Sambo, the President said that mainstreaming the sector into the economic was not a mistake to transformation agenda of the government.
“My joy is heightened to realise that in spite of our national challenges, the legacies of Abuja carnival continue to linger for showcasing our unity in diversity. It has indeed made invaluable contribution to national cohesion; inter cultural understanding and display of our creative potential as a people.
“The creative impetus has placed the nation as the leading economy in Africa in the recent rebased world economic report of Nigeria. Our music industry, Nollywood and fashion has broken all boundaries and are today the toast and bride of entertainment and creative industry”, the President added. He said that the desire of government was to make the carnival a private sector drive venture, while government role would be directed at provision of favourable investment climate and incentive, to attract both local and international investors.
Jonathan called on the private sector to contribute its quota in the realization of this project. Also speaking, the FCT Minister of State, Mrs Olajumoke Akinjide promised participant at the carnival safety throughout their stay in Abuja.
She pledged the administration continuous support to better the carnival which was a major boost to the hospitality industry.
NAN report that the carnival, which has the theme “Building an Enduring Creative Nation” was almost cancelled some weeks ago due to the concerns of insecurity. Some of the participants at the opening, who asked for anonymity while speaking with NAN, attributed the poor turnout to the security challenges facing the country.
Other patrons of the event said inadequate publicity was robbing the event of the glamour and expected gains.
Mr Bala Shuaib, an Abuja resident, said the carnival should be generating a lot of money if handled properly.
“Since the inception of the carnival, we usually just wake up to see the street blocked without prior information.