MATHIAS OKO in Calabar reports that though the annual Calabar Carnival has continued to attract national and international visitors, rural dwellers in Cross River State, say the event has not attracted any economic benefit to them.
The fears and doubts about the sustainabil­ity of the annual Cala­bar carnival before and after governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State, assumed office on May 29, 2015 due to the state’s lean resources, has now been laid to rest.
Last week, Governor Ayade proved the doubting Thomasses’s wrong by giv­ing new impetus to the yearly street festival; making it big­ger and stronger by the year.
On Wednesday, Decem­ber 27, 2016 , the governor, accompanied by his wife; Linda and the 2016 Miss Af­rica, Neurite Mendez, jointly flagged off the 2016 edition of Calabar Carnival at the Mil­lennium Park, Calabar.
The governor who was also joined by his Imo state counterpart, Rochas Anayo Okorocha and former gov­ernor of Akwa Ibom State, Senator Godswill Akpabio among other dignitaries, told the cheering crowd that he was passionate about the yearly event, adding that he would add colour to the event since it has put the State on the global map.
Against this backdrop, the governor added the Miss Af­rica beauty completion to the 2016 event.
He described the yearly 12 kilometer trek known as Africa’s greatest street party, as the melting pot of African hospitality.
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He said: “Calabar Car­nival is where the warm and ecstatic embrace is the order of the day. Calabar has been the eye of the world over the years.
We, therefore, need to let the world know that we can change the fortunes of the continent,’
He further noted that Af­rica may not have been an industrialized continent, but that it is unfortunate that Africa bears the pains of the industrialized world, saying that it is needful to bring the world’s attention to the issue of climate change.
“It is, therefore. evident that we need to focus on climate change. And Cross River State happens to hold 68 percent of the entire forest tower in Nigeria.
“So, it is obvious that we represent the solution that will deal with the issue of cli­mate change because climate change affects everyone.
Our actions and sup­port can therefore make a difference in how the world responds in adapting cli­mate change,” said Governor Ayade.
He maintained that it was such resolve and conviction that necessitated the intro­duction of Miss Africa 2016 beauty pageant as a platform with the theme” green econ­omy is a tool for sustainable development”.
It would be recalled that the governor added the bick­ers competition during last year’s edition of the carnival, as well as the planting more trees and grasses to beautify Calabar, popularly known as the cleanest city in the coun­try.
Ayade who looked radiant during the festival, said the annual event represented the true vitality and unity of Afri­cans, saying that has been the dream of successive govern­ments in the state.
Flanked by his wife; Linda and Mendez, he noted that the carnival had grown to an enviable height over the years.
He expressed his admin­istration’s readiness not only to sustain the carnival, but to introduce more innova­tions yearly in order to make it more appealing to all.
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“I want you to recognize the fact that the carnival rep­resents the true vitality, har­mony and unity of Africans. It is the beginning of a new dawn in Africa”, he stated.
Earlier, Chairman, Cross River Carnival Commission, Mr. Gabe Onah, said, in line with the determination of the state government, about eigh­teen countries including the Republic of Korea, participat­ed in this year’s carnival. The carnival proper, which also attracted some states from Northern and Western parts of Nigeria, was preced­ed with the Bikers parade the previous day. Though a glamorous event, it has, nevertheless, attracted spate of criticisms from not a few people from the state,
The critics view the event as elitist in nature, arguing that it has little or no econom­ic value to the rural dwellers as the event revolves around Calabar, the state capital.
Many rural dwellers across the state who spoke with The AUTHORITY were of the opinion that the annual ritual of fun and merriment which is sponsored with tax payers money has not affected the rural people positively since its inception,
Though the managers of the state tourism bureau had earlier promised to extend the annual event to the rural ar­eas, the promise has not been backed by action.