… Masta Blasta wins again

By Jimoh Babatunde

The Calabar carnival has been a game changer for the economy of Cross River state and its people since its inception in 2004, when the then governor of the state, Donald Duke, had a vision of making the state the hub for tourism and hospitality in Nigerian and in Africa.

Calabar has become the pride of Nigeria as far as tourism, carnivals and hospitality are concerned. Calabar Carnival is a unique display of African heritage, showcased through music, dance, drama and visual creativity, which is reflected in the design of floats, costumes and make up. Since inception, this festival has grown tremendously in popularity and scope.

It is not uncommon to now have families choosing Calabar as their tourism destination for their annual Christmas break which has made the carnival to grow in leaps and bounds.

So, the 2014 edition of the carnival was chosen to celebrate the successes achieved in the last ten years with the theme “Celebration Time.” Governor Liyel Imoke attested to this when he flagged off the carnival Saturday at the Millennium Park, saying that the carnival has grown in leaps and bounds, becoming the biggest street party in Africa.

According to him, for the first time in the history of the carnival, the state government did not advertise the carnival, yet the crowd that thronged Calabar to witness it was unprecedented.

Hallmark celebration

For the Deputy Governor, Mr. Efiok Cobham, this year’s event was significant in the life of the administration as it was the last to be hosted by his government. He said the 10th edition served as a hallmark celebration to usher in the next administration.

“Ten years is no mean feat. For us, Carnival Calabar has grown bigger and bigger as we promised Cross Riverians and Nigerians when we came on board in 2007. With our vision of institutionalizing the event, by allowing private sector to be the main drivers while government regulates, there is greater hope that this Carnival will grow in lips and bounds,” he assured. “He said that the institutionalization of the annual Carnival culminated in the formation of the Carnival Calabar Band Associations who are now the main drivers of the event, emphasising that, “last year you said it was the biggest carnival , but this year from what you have seen is extra ordinary.”

As the present government wound up in few months from now, the Governor Imoke has promised the people of the state and Nigerians that the carnival will not die.

“This year’s carnival is my last carnival as the governor of this state. But I believe it will continue in the years ahead. It has truly become the ambassador event for Africa. We are planning to privatize it. There must be continuity in leadership which is very critical for us. Once we can do that, I believe we will continue to deliver great performances and improve on what we have already done over the years.”

Speaking on the success of the Carnival, Chairman of the Carnival Commission, Gab Onah, attributed the gains of the last ten years to team spirit, strong political leadership, strong governors, humble people and loving people.

Mr. Gabe Onah added that today the private sector has taken full ownership of the celebration with the band enjoying enormous sponsorship.

After the flag off of what has become the biggest street party ever in the annals of the African continent by the Governor, Liyel Imoke joined by his wife, the deputy governor and his wife;  the Minister of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke;  the duo of Peter and Paul Okoye of P-Square fame, and Senator Ben Ajade, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP governorship candidate for 2015 election in the state, the spectators throng to the street to savour what the five bands have offer .

The Israeli ambassador to Nigeria and the Rwandan Minister of Sport and Culture, Ambassador Joseph Habineza were among the tourists that flooded the 14 kilometers carnival route stretching from the U. J Esuene Stadium through Mary Slessor Way down to the popular Mobile before moving back to the U. J Esuene Stadium in the early hour of Sunday. There was nothing to stop the people and the bands from enjoying themselves as they turned and twisted with magical ease in their various costumes, music, and choreography, depicting their interpretation of the theme of the carnival “Celebration Time”.

The Carnival bands, Passion 4, Freedom, Bayside, Masta Blasta and Seagull, with beautifully costumed girls that captivated the audience with their curves tried to undo one another with their dances and floats. At the end of the day, Masta Blasta band, with its presentation of ‘the Masta’s Fiesta’ which celebrates the people’s values, again came top.

The Masta Blasta band this year opened the people’s eyes to see light through the prism of Masta by celebrating the essence of life which starts with the presence of light and the love which the people need to co exist despite the differences.

Through drumming, the decoration f the static float, the throne and cake that symbolizes the essence of celebration of the 10th anniversary, Masta Blasta won the heart of the judges and people.

Minister commends winner

Speaking on the Masta Band, the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Edem Duke, who is a member of the band, said “the band is the largest of the carnival band in terms of population, it has a lot more of the masses as its membership.”

The Minister added that  the band has come to be regarded as the spirit of the carnival, because is an aggregation of people from all strata of the society and it is very informal organization and we all just have fun which culminated in winning the carnival in 2012 , 2013 and 2014.

The announcement of the Masta Blasta Band also known as “The Orange Family” as the winner of the 2014 carnival did not surprise many as the band paraded the Governor, Imoke and his wife with Nollywood stars like Kate Henshaw, Jim Iyke and Angela Okoro and the duo of Peter and Paul Okoye of P-Square fame. Sen. Florence Ita-Giwa who is arguably the face of the Seagull band was missing this year, though she was sighted a day before the carnival at the stadium.

The absence of the former Governor Donald Duke and his wife, Onari Duke, were also missed by the Bayside band.

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