By Jonathan Ugbal; Government House Correspondent
Cross River Governor, Senator Ben Ayade has rebranded its flagship festival, the Carnival Calabar and Festival, giving the event a new identity; African Festival of Arts and Culture.
The rebranding is aimed at giving the event a continental perspective as several African countries have indicated interest to be part of it Governor Ayade says.
Ayade who made this disclosure through his Special Adviser on Events Management, Kenneth Aklah over the weekend said the rebranding was done “because we are passionate about the celebration of our African heritage in a way it ought to be, we want to make the entire gamut of our events in Calabar an African show. That is why we are introducing this bigger brand as part of effort to redefine Africa and give it the proper global perception as well as attract more participation.”
“When we came on board, there were a few activities during the festival period and we decided to broaden the scope by introducing more offerings like the Bikers Show, International Carnival and many other innovations to attract tourists.
“Today, after recording such a huge success in the 2016 edition of the event, it was pertinent that we expand it, and I tell you, it will be better and bigger this year” he added.
Aklah who chairs the Calabar festival committee said the Culture Carnival as well as the newly introduced Food Festival will automatically transform into “African events”.
“As we speak, modalities to kick-start the new thinking has been concluded and will be implemented this year.
“Also, in line with the 2017 carnival theme, ‘Migration’, we are thinking that we must project the African culture strongly, especially by reminding the world that Calabar holds a great history as far as slave trade is concerned, as over 30 percent of slaves who left the shores of Africa did so through Calabar” he said.
On the issue of costume importation, He said it was now a deliberate policy of the state government that the Cross River Garment and textiles industry will produce all the costumes for this year’s event and lamented the dearth of support from the Federal Government despite expressing optimism that the current administration will act differently.
“Our major challenge in developing our tourism is that we are growing tourism as a state without the necessary support from the Federal Government. But, we are quite confident that our ever listening and passionate President, Muhammadu Buhari will think towards this direction to help us grow this huge sector and grow our economy” Ayade said.
Furthermore, he stressed that; “because of the dearth of major infrastructure, it has become practically impossible for tourists to visit our beautiful and very unique sites like the Obudu cattle Ranch, Nkarisi Monoliths, Agbokim waterfalls and others which all are on the stretch of the federal roads.”