Nigeria will beginning today – Saturday – witness to a new vibe, colors and celebration as the country’s prime cultural tourism event, the Abuja Carnival, opens at the nation’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. The yearly celebration, which is making its 9th debut, is a four-day celebration of the best of Nigeria’s culture, which is expected to climax on Tuesday.
This year’s celebration holds a lot of promises for the people of Nigeria and the hundreds of tourists who are already in the city for the yearly feast. According to the country’s minister of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, High Chief Edem Duke, who is spearheading the cultural fiesta, it is a mega cultural tourism event that has been specially packaged to herald the celebration of Nigeria’s Centenary celebration, which is scheduled to commence in January 2014.
With this in mind, the minister disclosed during a pre- carnival media event that the theme of the carnival this year is: “A people for a Century, A people for forever,” therefore, the carnival, he said would be infused with a lot of Nigerian flavors. This, he said would be a foretaste of the centenary celebration and something that people, especially tourists should look forward to.
As the festival kicks off this morning with street parade, beginning from Area 10 Garki through the major streets of Abuja and then climax at the Eagle Square for the formal opening ceremony where dignitaries from across the country and outside are to be treated to the pomp and pageantry that characterize the cultural menu of Nigeria from the 36 states of the country and the FCT, the minister said, people should expect a lot of fireworks and frenzied festivities laced with competitive edge by the various participating states and foreign troupes, which has over the years helped to add pep to the feast.
High Chief Edem Duke is quite enthusiastic about the foreign troupes’ participation this year, which he said has increased and shown that the carnival, which first made its debut in 2004, has caught the attention of the international community with over 15 foreign countries set to showcase their culture alongside Nigeria in the course of the carnival.
Some of the countries expected to be on display today and during the duration of the four days cultural gathering includes Cameroon, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Niger, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Zimbabwe, China, Saudi Arabia, and Trinidad and Tobago.
The minister expressed happiness that the carnival has come at a time where the rest of the world will be focusing on Nigeria, the biggest black nation on earth, with a people of immense cultural diversity, and a people whose culture and creative industry had redefined the shared strength of Africa and its creativity.
“This is a season for the celebration of carnivals around the country and you all will recall that as soon as Abuja Carnival kicks off, there will be a relay of carnivals across the country. There will be the Calabar Carnival, Carnival in Rivers State (Carniriv), Bayelsa Carnival, the Enugu Fiesta and, of course, the Special Celebration of Christmas that is usual with Akwa Ibom state and so on,” he disclosed.
The line-up for this year’s carnival includes cultural display ranging from music, dance, masquerades to acrobatic performances, durbar event, boat regatta, cultural nights and command performances, art and crafts, fashion, cuisine among others and what has been described as a window to the “fascinating Nigeria” offerings as well as children performances, which will hold alongside the adults’ events at the Millennium garden.
One of the special events for this year, which the minister said would be a share delight to experience, especially by the foreign visitors, is what he said, is the debut performance by Opera Abuja. According to him, the carnival, which is the biggest festival on the African continent, is growing and rising to become a truly international tourism event and be enhanced by the various programs that we have put together, especially with the introduction of an operatic performance by Opera Abuja.
On the flip side, there is also a lot of expectations by many businesses in the FCT, the endless list include the hotels, which should be smiling if they get the expected patronage from the visitors, the eateries and leisure spots, gardens, bars and disco halls across the city are already in colorful and expectant mood for the festival while the numerous of vendors of various items from food items to clothing and souvenirs, which normally congregate at the city and round the various venues of the festival are already set for today’s event.
When the carnival was first introduced in 2004 by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo with Ambassador Franklin Ogbuewu as the minister of culture and tourism, part of the objectives was to create a window for international tourists to sample the exciting, creative and colorful as well as the diverse and rich culture of Nigeria, to open the country’s tourism, to position Abuja as an international conference and tourism capital, to attract investment to the city and development its infrastructure among others.
It did started on a shaky note though as there was a swell ground opposition against buy some religionist leaders and puritan who thought it was a way of celebrating archaic and mundane culture, promoting immorality because of the nudity associated with carnival. But it has however got pass it first acid test and survived eight editions and now the ninth edition is just about beckoning.
The challenges, according to many of the stakeholders is not just in the hosting of it but in ensuring that it is developed and promoted as a truly tourism event with the private sector really participating in it and driving the process in order to give it more economically viable for the people and the nation; as well as win the confidence of tourists – both domestic and foreign tourists, which are believed to be very crucial to the future of the carnival, as carnival all over the world are owned and celebrated by the people.
The Nigeria Development Board is a member of the ტურიზმის პარტნიორების საერთაშორისო კოალიცია (ICTP) .