By Jonathan Ugbal: Government House Correspondent
Nigeria’s Information, Culture and Orientation Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has said that the Carnival Calabar is beyond the dancing, costumes and entertainment as it is a platform for the youths to express their creativity and serves as a unifying factor for the country.
Mr. Mohammed stated this today, Sunday in Calabar, the Cross River State capital while flagging off the third dry run of the 2017 edition of the Carnival touted as “Africa’s biggest street party” where he maintained that this year’s theme was apt as it tackled a global phenomenon.
“I also want to take this opportunity to appeal to the world to see this street party beyond dancing, beyond the costumes. Let’s see this Calabar Carnival for what it really is; which is a platform for our youths to vent out their creativity, a platform to turn our creative industry into a veritable creative economy.
“I was at the two camps yesterday and I was delighted to know that everything being used especially in the camps I visited are almost all manufactured locally here. Not that alone, the people behind Calabar Carnival are not just people from Cross River State. I was pleasantly surprised that the people who work there are from every part of Nigeria which means this Carnival not only creates an economy but also unites the whole of Nigeria,” Mr. Mohammed said.
He averred that the dry run offered the best opportunity for preparations as it also aids the young creatives behind the scenes to perfect their art.
“I make bold to say that what is happening here today is reverberating throughout the world because this dry run is unique in the sense that it gives us the opportunity to perfect our art; both the organizers and also, the participants. There is no substitute for preparations and that is why this dry run is very important,” said Mr. Mohammed.
On the theme of this year’s Carnival which is “Migration” the Minister posited that: “Calabar Carnival has so many unique selling points. For one it has the longest Carnival route in the whole of the world, more than twelve kilometers of Carnival route.
“Secondly, in terms of color, in terms of content, in terms of the theme in the last three years; we can see the relevance of this Carnival not just to Nigeria but to the entire world. For two years running the theme was environment and that is … climate change. This year, the theme is migration. There is this nexus between climate change and migration.
“Migration is not just a Calabar phenomenon, it is a global phenomenon. So, I want people to see the Calabar Carnival beyond entertainment, but a serious message that we are trying to put out there. We must try and look at the storyboard.”
He called on those who criticized the moral content of the event to look at the impact of the event on the economy and the image of the country.
“And, for those who think it is just about dancing, it is about morality, we want to appeal to them to please look how many young ones have been employed and how we are also pushing the Calabar Carnival to be a major foreign exchange earner for the country.
“We have here today, 26 contestants from 26 different countries. That is a very big statement. Because each of these young ladies that are going to be here for up to two weeks will go back to their own countries as our own ambassadors with what they have seen, the hospitality of all the people of Calabar of Cross River State,” he said.
Mr. Mohammed was accompanied by the Deputy Governor of Cross River State, Professor Ivara Esu, who in his remarks said that the state was happy to have him grace the event.
“We are always very pleased, we look forward to whenever you have cause to be in Calabar or in Cross River State because we know that wherever you go, goodwill precedes you, we also know that the news precede you, we know that Nigeria will follow you and so we are very happy to have you here to perform this very important occasion, which is a very important ceremony.
“This is the third dry run of the Carnival Calabar that has become an international brand in terms of Carnivals the world over,” Esu said and disclosed that Mr. Mohammed was ready to flag off all the dry runs but for his busy schedule which he however sent a representative.
Esu who pointed out that: “This is the final of finals, this is the third and final dry run. After this it will be the main Carnival that will now come,” also averred that all preparations have being made ahead of the main event billed for December 28, 2017.
The former Federal Commissioner for Information and Military Governor of Rivers State, Brigadier General Anthony Ukpo (rtd), Speaker of the Cross River State House of Assembly, Mr. John Lebo, Senators Gershom Bassey and Florence Ita-Giwa as well as the contestants for Miss Africa 2017 and many other government functionaries were present at the flag off.
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