Mixed reactions trail 2016 Abuja Carnival

Abuja Carnival

Critics note that although the just concluded 2016 edition of the Abuja Carnival between December 3 and December 6 was planned to be the biggest in Africa, there were some lapses in the planning.

The carnival was inaugurated in 2005 as an annual event but did not hold in 2014 due to lack of enough resources to run it.

However, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture, recently made frantic efforts to return the event by constituting a committee on the even that planned the just concluded edition.

Reviewing the activities before and during the 2016 edition of the carnival, Mr. Biodun Abe, Head, Organising Committee of Abuja Carnival and the Artistic Director, Federal Ministry of Information and culture, however, said the critics were not completely right with the observation.

According to him, the carnival has grown since its inception in 2005 and it has met its objectives of presenting and preserving the rich cultural heritage of Nigeria.

“I am happy the carnival was successful, maybe not exactly as I would have loved it to be or as it use to be with almost all the states in attendance.

He said irrespective of all the challenges experienced during the event, the aim of the carnival was not lost.

“The carnival is designed to give an opportunity to participants to compete for awards in the various activities with the view of developing their creative abilities for economic empowerment.

“It is also a platform to present and preserve the rich intangible cultural heritage of Nigeria available in all local government areas across the country.

“It serves as a magnet for the attraction of tourists into the country and the development of the tourism in the country.

“All these were achieved, not minding how little the impact was felt. We know that there were lots of lapses this time which economic situation of the country contributed mostly to it,” Abe said.

In his opinion, Mr. Ezechuwku Chimeze, a participant from Ebonyi, said in an interview that the carnival witnessed the lowest turn-out since inception 10 years ago.

He also agreed that carnivals were not only about the number but the fun-fairs, thrills and socio-economic development that they presented to people.

He enjoined the organizers to look into the lapses encountered and write to the state governments — the major participants — on the way to improve the subsequent editions.

Recalling some of the lapses, Mr. Robert Okoji, Director of Culture, Ministry of Information, Culture and Strategy in Abia, observed that the organizers did not give enough attention to the welfare of contingents.

“The committee did not do a good job on the welfare of the contingents; we were still on the road on the day of the opening.

Okoji, the South-East Coordinator, Abuja Carnival 2016, nonetheless, expressed delight that the event ended well.

In her view, Mrs. Oluremi Melutia, the Director Culture, Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Ogun, also expressed dismay over logistics which she noted was not well handled.

“I appreciate all the efforts to make 2016 carnival a reality but there were lots of problems with logistics such as accommodation, medicals, and mobility, among others.

“Contingents were sleeping outside, the ones that could afford alternative accommodation had to pay from the meager money they had and probably budgeted for other things; I wish there would be an improvement next year,’’ Melutia said.

Similarly, Mr. Itodo Daniel, the Director Arts and Culture, Ministry of Arts and Culture, Kogi, observed that arrangement for the welfare of contingents was not too good.

“However, I am very grateful to God that all our suffering and perseverance paid off as we emerged the overall winner of the event’’ Daniel said.

But some of the residents of Abuja blamed the low state participation and quality of event variety on the economic recession.

Many of them also observe that participants were not properly guided on where the event would kick-start, arguing that while some believed it would start from Old Parade Ground in Area 10, Abuja and went there, the street carnival began from Eagles Square to Area 1.

They note that since the carnival is expected to hold yearly, governments at all levels and the organizers are expected to fund the carnival and the participants, especially the next edition to provoke the success of the future editions.

According to them, the carnival should be better publicized and the events are expected to be scheduled at convenient times in order to prevent delays.

They advise the carnival committee to take note of the flaws of the just concluded carnival and work towards a better carnival in 2017.

The carnival with the theme “Creative Industry: A Pivot to Economic Growth’’ is seen as the desire of the Federal Government to use the creative ingenuity of Nigerians to boost the nation’s economy at this period of dwindling oil prices.

The carnival attracted more than 200,000 local and international participants consisting of contingents from the states.

Others in the contingents are visitors, volunteers, vendors, exhibitors, photographers, set/costume designers, artisans, students, security personnel, paramedics, traffic officers, officials of supporting agencies and media people.

It was an event that brought together more than 250 cultures and diverse forms of entertainment in various events which ran for four days.

The carnival events included the street carnival, durbar, children fiesta, boat regatta, masquerade, traditional cuisine and bush bar, arts and craft exposition and contemporary music fiesta.

The arts and crafts exposition consisted of locally made works of textiles, leather, carvings, bronzes, beads, paintings and plaited baskets.

The horses are decorated in rich costumes and their riders were usually adorned with swords, polished and rich traditional headwear and robes.

The street carnival was made up of key players who were mostly acrobats, dancers, fire-swallowers, jugglers, live animal handlers and jesters.

The traditional cuisine and bush bar were also organized to showcase a variety of Nigerian cuisine.

Nasarawa State, Bauchi State, Abia, Katsina State, Gombe State, Ogun and Bayelsa emerged first in available categories while Kogi emerged overall winner with 12 awards.

By and large, participants note that since Abuja carnival has been known to be a colourful and attractive annual event reputable in Africa, the organizers, and the Federal Government ought to reposition it to continue in spreading the beauty of the cultural diversity of Nigeria.

-Sharon Obi and Jean Ambele