• Razzmatazz, pomp as Cross River Christmas festival begins
By HENRY UMAHI
Calabar, the capital of Cross River State, was aglow Friday last week with the lightening of the Christmas tree at the Millennium Park by the Deputy Governor, Mr. Efiok Cobham, as the annual festival commenced. One of the highpoints of the event was the guest appearance of the legendary South African trumpeter and composer, Hugh Masakela. The veteran musician marketed the state on the occasion, describing it as one of the safest places with peace loving people. He added that he was proud to be part of the festival as it was a win-win situation for everyone.
The event witnessed a large turnout of excited residents and tourists. The beautifully decorated venue and its surroundings were agog, as soon as the exquisite lightening came on. Memories are made of such nights of fun. In attendance were wife of the deputy governor, Mrs. Glory Cobham, Senior Special Adviser to the President on Ethics and Values, Mrs. Sarah Jibril; Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon Larry Odey; Mr. Nzan Ogbe and Nkiru Harry Eze, who represented the Group Managing Director/CEO, First Bank, Mr. Bisi Onasanya. among many dignitaries.
Indeed, coming into Calabar, it is not difficult to know that something is in the offing. As soon as you arrive the Margaret Ekpo Airport, you begin to breath the air of celebration and festivity. To start with, the tempo of activities at the airport has increased remarkably in the last couple of weeks, with the influx of fun seekers. Inside the capital and elsewhere, streets are decorated and swept regularly, even as lawns are trimmed and buildings repainted. Everybody in the state seems to have bought into the annual festival, which defines the hospitality and tourism sector in the state.
As Barrister Frank Umeh, Managing Director, Tradewinds Duty Free Market, puts it, “at this time of the year, Calabar is the place to be. It is usually fun galore, an unforgettable experience.”
This year’s edition of the Calabar festival promises to be bigger and better than previous ones. In terms of packaging, content and character, it offers mouth-watering packages. Apart from showcasing the cultural buoyancy of the state, in terms of music and entertainment, it parades an array of international and local stars. There are also talents hunt, competitions and pro-life activities. These underline the distinctive and multifaceted nature of the Calabar festival as a unique global carnival brand.
The festival kicked off with the lightning of the Christmas tree in the early hours of last Saturday, December 1 and it will wind up on Sunday, December 30 with soul-lifting and inspirational renditions. Billed to perform on the night of praise are gospel sensations, including Sinach, Sammy Okposo, Sabina, Hope Davies, Ohen de Prophet, Kingsley Agbor and Godswill Daniel.
According to Mr. Christian Ita, Chief Press Secretary to Governor Liyel Imoke, ending the festival with a praise night is a deliberate effort to give honour and adoration to God, who made the outing possible.
On the list of artistes gracing the festival are Akon, 2Face, Femi, Flavour, Iyanya, Davido, Timaya, Duncan Mighty, Naeto C, Ruggedman, P-Square, Mo Eazy, Jukebox, Jonathan Butler, Kunle Ayo, Moses Phillips, E-Ben, Tiwa Savage, Omawunmi, Nigga Raw, Sunny Neji and J Martins.
Others include Basket Mouth, Jimmy Jatt, Julius Agwu, Wizkid, Wande Coal, May D, King Feladey, Mr. Xto, Effiom Trombone, Ras Kimono, Blaccky, Big Bob & Da Bingy Soldiers, Nyore.
Also listed are Gen. Brown Bread, Chantaman, Prince and Princess, Betsy Akan, MI, Ice Prince, D’Prince, Real Pound and Monkals.
The icing on the cake is the command performance by Brazilian group, Vai Vai Samba Band School of Brazil, winners of Rio 2012 carnival.
How it begins
The Christmas tree lightning was followed by a four-kilometer paradise city walk against HIV/AIDS as well as the opening of the Calabar festival village at the Cultural centre complex. Gospel musician, Buchi, thrilled fun seekers with his characteristic raggae flavoured tunes. Tagged Voices of Paradise, it featured 10 choirs whose performances threw the audience into reveries.
On Monday, December 3, the youth development programme began with Obanliku Local government Day, Nnan akam okut usung (even the Blind sees) – a stage play and Calabar’s got Talent 1 (various home acts). Tuesday was Obudu LGA day, featuring a replication of a typical traditional wedding in the Northern Senatorial District by Obudu LGA.
There was kite design & flying competition as well as the Cock Shall Crow at Dawn (a theatre production) on Thursday at Yala LGA. There was a banquet of laughter on Friday. Tagged laffmatazz, it featured I Go Die, Klint de Drunk, Shirman, Headmaster, Robert Ekpo, Last Prophet and Whokes. Fada Kane, Iban and Harrisong.
Indeed, there are a variety of activities lined up for the carnival. They include royal dance, fashion show, drama, DJs parade, adult and children carnival day run, beauty pageants, the green concert, golf clinics, skating competition, dancing competition and novelty football competition among many others.