The world acclaimed Carnival Calabar which was introduced by former Governor Donald Duke and sustained by his successor, Governor Liyel Imoke has undergone a lot of transformation under the incumbent Governor, Professor Ben Ayade within his short time in office.
Through the application of innovative ideas, the Governor has catapulted Carnival Calabar to global reckoning. It is now ranked amongst the best in the world, just as it continues to pull record crowds yearly.
In order to get the best from the various bands that electrify the carnival with scintillating and breathtaking performances, governor in one fell swoop, increased their fundings by 100%. This singular act was applauded by all involved in the planning of the carnival as it allows for better and more elaborate preparations.
He didn’t stop at that. He ensures that the winning bands promptly paid their prize money.
Ayade has also ensured the Carnival themes are unveiled on time to allow for proper and effective interpretations by bands.
Another novel idea he has brought into the carnival is the introduction of the Governors Band. This undoubtedly, has given the carnival a niche above other carnivals in the country and beyond.
The introduction of more exciting attractions like Bikers Carnival (Wonders on Wheels), Formula K Vintage Car carnival, and most recently “Miss Africa” which has broadened the carnival’s horizon, prompting participation from other African countries, has given it a more global appeal.
The Governors Ball, Green Carnival, Black Music Festival, and increased participation in Cultural carnival and prize monies are innovations that have brought a lot of verve and panache to the carnival since Governor Ayade took over in 2015.
He has also increased the participation of more states in the main carnival and expanded the Carnival Village where the public go to unwind throughout the month-long period of the fiesta, while the locals and tourists go there to shop for Christmas.
The governor in his quest to introduce more innovations sponsored Carnival Calabar contingents to carnivals in countries such as Egypt, China, Brazil and the world acclaimed Nothinghill Carnival among others. This, in no small measure, has helped the organizers of the Carnival Calabar to garner even more experience and apply same in Carnival Calabar.
For most tourists, Carnival Calabar & Calabar Festival is foremost in their calendar as the place to be every December and they can’t trade that for anything else.
The security situation in the state has also received the governor’s attention as he has set up a joint military task force on constant patrols in Calabar metropolis, ensuring that citizens can go about their duties without fear of molestation. Indeed, not many states in the country can boast of hosting such massive crowds every December without incidences of violence.
It is all of these innovations that have attracted tourists in droves to the Carnival Calabar & Festival. The Governor through the carnival has made Calabar a place to be every December. From his inexhaustible bank of ingenuity, Cross Riverians and indeed, the entire Nigeria and the world can expect more exciting fun ahead.
Effiong Ekpenyong is former Special Assistant to Governor Ben Ayade on Carnival Planning