Domesticating the carnival and the Obudu Mountain Race is the surest way to guarantee the sustainability of these projects.
The carnival should have been organized for showcasing our traditional cultural exhibits, like Ikom Moni Nkim, Ugep-Leboku, Anong Bahomonu, Ikpobin dance, Ekoi, Obam, Emukei, Etangala, and Ekombi dance of the Efiks all strategically displayed in the streets of Calabar annually.
Each local government should have been able to sponsor their troupes to the events and if needed, the state government once in awhile can subsidize the council’s efforts.
Rather we started by internationalizing the carnival. We started by bringing foreigners who dance barely naked in the streets of Calabar. We lost our cultural touch and over the years, the spice of the carnival became adulterous cultural displays of foreign cultures.
We even pay heavily just to invite these foreign cultural troupes and American Rap artists to display their undeveloped and uncultured stage and street mannerism in Calabar, the cradle of African civilizations.
So instead of the carnival to grow and generate income for the state, it is becoming a financial burden. The law of diminishing returns is setting in, and the tempo is dying because rather than improving on our cultural heritage, it is weighing down our lean state finances.
Culture like every other development program, should be domesticated first before internationalizing it. Overseas cultures have everything to learn from Africa, they have little or nothing to offer us. It has been a result of inferior complex that African leaders lean on them to provide spice to our cultural displays.
As Africans, we lost our political social and economic dignity to western civilizations. We govern ourselves with western democratic models called democracy, we practice a western modeled demand and supply market economy called capitalism, and our young people socially copy everything western, including wearing baggy trousers and tattoos on the body of our girls.
The only thing westernization has not perverted is our culture, however, they are gradually brain washing our children that our culture is primitive. This we will not allow.
So in promoting our culture, we should not adulterate our unique traditions and pollute our lands with westernized patterns and cultural displays. Today, it is obvious that the carnival momentum is dying gradually, and it is not economically viable for her continued sustainability by the state.
Looking for new avenues to stimulate the carnival momentum from without is a policy in the wrong direction. Spending millions of Naira inviting American music artist to perform in Calabar is outright waste of state resources.
In similar way, The Obudu Ranch International Mountain Race, a running competition that takes place in late November often described as the race with the largest total prize money available of any mountain race known in sports, some describe it as “the world’s richest mountain race”.
The men’s and women’s competition winners receive US$50,000 each, and there is a total prize pot of around $250,000. (Source Wikipedia).
It baffles me that we host the world’s richest mountain race in a state where we could not afford to construct a road to the city hosting the race.
Today, the new administration of Professor Ayade has proposed to scrap it. Why? Certainly it is glaring that it is a waste and makes no economic sense. In all cases, we start internationally just to show off, and when the laws of diminishing returns sets in, we discover that it is a wasted effort that cannot be sustained.
The suggested way forward for the Mountain race:
We can still have a mountain race but on a local level. As our children and school kids embark on yearly mountain races at the ranch as a school competition, they will grow up to become international stars on mountain races, and the world will visit Obudu to behold our exploits.
Meaningful development starts from within to without and not vice versa. Development is progressive and gradual. But if you start too big, you have no were to grow further rather than to go down the sloop.
The suggested way forward for the carnival:
Domesticate the carnival for longer sustainability. Let us use what we have to obtain what we don’t have. If any monies must be spent, finance our local cultural troupes in the villages, help bring out the best from our local people, sustained tourism is selling what you have and not displaying other people’s culture.
Engaging our local villages with activities whose build up yearly ends at the Calabar carnival, will not only rejuvenate local tourism, but it will create small scale jobs within the local economy as local tailors in villages will sow costumes and other aspects of economic growth will boom.
We can learn democracy and it works for us, we can learn free market and it works for us, but we cannot learn our culture from another’s cultural experience, our culture is unique, from the Ikom Moni Nkim, Ugep-Leboku, Anong Bahomonu, Ikpobin dance, to Ekoi, Obam, Emukei, Etangala and Ekombi dance displays, this is what defines us, let us encourage these dances and cultures, let us preserve and finance these dances at local levels.
While some of these local dances have featured in past carnivals, the bulk of the financing and funding has often gone to international troupes and international artists.
In some cases, some of our own youths who dance out their lives to make the carnival interesting are never paid. That mentality has to change.
We can scrap all international cultural displays, but we should preserve and continue to maintain our local dances and use it to redefine the new carnival.
Princewill Odidi is a Public Consultant writing from Atlanta USA. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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