Nigeria 50th Anniversary plans in Cross River State
The race is on and the clocks are ticking for which band will emerge the ultimate at this year’s Carnival Calabar. But to walk away with the star cash prize of N10 million the winning band must first be able to create entertainment through the proper interpretation of the carnival theme.
The five competing bands: Masta Blasta, Freedom, Bayside, Passion 4 and Seagull, now have a herculean task ahead as they have to put on their thinking caps and churn out ingenious creations to meet up to the challenge of this year’s Carnival theme. The theme, ‘Our strength and resilience- the bedrock of our future’ was announced recently in Calabar in a ceremony that was brief, colorful and entertaining. As the carnival has evolved over the years to become a national treasure, the Carnival Commission this year in a novel gesture invited entries from all over Nigeria so that interested Nigerians could be a part of the theme’s selection process. Despite hundreds of entries sent in from all over the country, the commission felt that none could do justice to the increasingly high standards set by a carnival that has spiraled beyond our national borders and is fast gaining international repute.
“The process of finding a theme is getting more and more challenging by the day. The right theme must be one that all can appreciate and must be appropriate for today,” Imoke said.
Interestingly, the task of suggesting this year’s theme landed squarely on his desk when the Carnival Commission’s search came to a dead end. And for the reason why he chose the current theme, Imoke drew references to the recurring theme of resilience in the history of the Cross River people and Nigerians as a whole. ‘From pre colonialism through colonialism to the transformation to the current political process, Nigerians as a people could have been divided, but rather we have been strengthened and through resilience have built on those experiences to emerge a stronger nation. Few nations or groups of people have remained this focused in spite of our diversity, while we have remained unified in our differences. Cross River represents a microcosm of that resilience which is the bedrock for the future of our State’. The theme he further said corresponded with the reflections of the Nation as it prepared to mark its 50th Anniversary.
The event featured the presentation of awards and cash prizes to the winning bands from last year’s Carnival. Sea gull band carted away most of the awards in both the senior and junior categories, winning the Best expression of Spirit of Carnival, Best Junior King and Best Junior Queen in the junior category and Best Senior King played by Nollywood Star Kalu Iheagu and Best Senior Queen played by Nollywood star Lillian Bach in the senior category. They also won prizes for Best Interpretation of Theme, Best Costume and Make up and tied with Passion 4 for the grand prize of 2009 Band of the year.
Other winners in the junior category include Best creative band- Bayside band, Best interpretation of theme- Masta Blasta, and in the senior category Best reflection of Carnival Spirit- Bayside, Best band on the move- Bayside and The best float on the Carnival route- Passion 4.
First bank of Nigeria Ltd, major sponsors of Carnival Calabar who were also at the unveiling ceremony pondered back at the amazing history the bank has had with Calabar since the early 19th Century. Onche Ugbage, First Bank’s Chief Strategy Officer said Calabar was the second location where the bank established a branch when it first arrived at what is now called Nigeria. ‘Similarly, we have also associated with Carnival Calabar since inception and have watched it evolve from a regional, national to now an international event. It has indeed been a journey for us on both counts and we will continue to be here in a major way.”
“Carnival Calabar 2009 was a huge success despite the State’s low finances,” said Elenda Osima Dokubo, the Executive Secretary, Carnival Commission. “It was courageous and recorded many firsts. For the first time three State Governors took part in the carnival. The future is even brighter.”
Carnival Calabar is Africa’s Biggest Street party. Over the last couple of years the show has evolved into an enduring brand attracting more than 1.5 million spectators from all over the world and pooling in an estimated television audience of over 32 million viewers. And despite limited resources owing to the harsh economic climate which prevailed in the state last year as a result of the loss of the State’s oil wells, Fun loving Cross Riverians still were able to pull off a Carnival that has been described as biggest ever.