Abuja fiesta renamed Nigeria National Carnival

CarnivalHope that Abuja Carnival will hold this year came alive last week with the meeting of chief executives of culture departments from across the country in Abuja. The one-day stakeholders’ meeting, which was convened by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation was to brainstorm on how to successful host the carnival, which opens on November 21 and runs through November 24.

To host an all inclusive festival, culture administrators also thought it wise to rename the annual cultural fiesta which made its debut in 2005. From former Abuja Carnival, it will now be known as Nigeria National Carnival. The reason, Permanent Secretary, Culture and Tourism Ministry, Mrs. Nkechi Ejele, who chaired the meeting said, was to give the carnival a national outlook.

According to her, the former name made the carnival appear like a sectional event, thereby hampering total commitment and participation of states of the federation that perceived it as a Federal Capital Territory affair.

At the forum was the two-term Artistic Director of the Carnival, Mr. Biodun Abe, Director General, National Gallery of Art, Mr. Abdullahi Muku, some departmental heads in the Ministry of Culture and Tourism including Mr. George Uffot and Grace Gekpe, who heads the Department of Entertainment and Creative Services, where the carnival is domiciled.

While declaring the one-day meeting open, Ejele expressed the urgent need to develop the carnival to the level where it would be self-sustaining like other national carnivals around the world, including the great carnivals of Trinidad and Tobago.

She listed the benefits of the cultural festival, and said it was not only a platform for showcasing talents, projecting cultural heritage and building national identity, also creating employment and enhancing social interactions among Nigerians.

She stated, “It is therefore pertinent to note that the Nigeria National Carnival generates business opportunities for singers, song writers, make-up artists, choreographers, costume builders and designers. The recognition on the numerous contributions of the carnival to socio-economic development is vital for its sustainability”.

With this year’s theme ‘The Creative Industry: Pivot to Economic Growth,’ Ejele said the annual carnival is a noble initiative which represents the warmth, nature and rhythm of Nigerian people.

In his remarks, the Carnival Artistic Director, Abe, said the choice of the theme was to emphasise the role of the creative industry as a key contributor to the nation’s economy.
“It is however instructive to know that this carnival which started in 2005 has remained focused on its objective of presenting and preserving the rich intangible cultural heritage of Nigeria”, Abe said.

According to him, the carnival equally helps to project Abuja as a tourism destination of choice. In spite of numerous challenges, greatest of which is poor funding, Abe believed the event has become a huge tourism product, which does not only attract international patronage but also helps to boost Nigeria’s economy.

Abe, who acknowledged last year’s por outing due to prevailing socio-political atmosphere, assured the art community and indeed all Nigerians in general of a bigger and more colourful outing this year. Although there was no likelihood of government’s financial support, Abeh said the carnival committee has been working round the clock to seek private sector support.

He regretted that most Abuja residents were always in the dark as to the opening of the festival. To create proper awareness and increase participation, Abe assured that a pre-carnival event has been planed to sensitise residents of FCT and its environs.

Also, some of the measures put in place to ensure that every state was carried along is the appointment of zonal coordinators, who would serve as links between the federal government and states.
It was expected that culture executives and zonal coordinators who were drawn from states’ arts council and history bureau would return to their respective states with information that would guide artists on their rehearsals and choice of costumes.

Fortunately, in spite of the economic situation, only few states were unavoidably absent at the meeting – an indication of an increased participation at the main event.

For Gepke, who has participated actively in previous editions and whose department is saddled with the responsibility of this year’s outing, 2015 carnival will mark a turn around in the history of the carnival. She is optimistic that with efforts being put in place by the committee as well as the rebranding of the festival, it would record a tremendous improvement this year.

Some of the events planed for this year’s edition include Durbar, which comes up on November 22 at the Eagle Square. Others are masquerade fiesta, boat regatta, command performance, street carnival, children fiesta as well as contemporary music and carnival beauty queen.
According to Mr. Abe, the Carnival Beauty Queen would serve as the carnival ambassador for the period of one year.

Apart from the few initial editions, Abuja Carnival had suffered neglect from successive governments in terms of funding and participation. As the nation continues to harp on the need to diversify the economy in the face of dwindling oil fortunes, the art community looks forward to seeing how much input the new government of All Progressives Congress (APC) would make in boosting one of the country’s biggest tourism products during this year’s Nigeria National Carnival.

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