AFRICANGLOBE – “Carnival of Peace and Harmony” is the theme of the Abuja Carnival 2012 that will hold between Saturday, Nov. 24, and Tuesday, Nov. 27.
Observers note that the theme aptly reflects the eagerness of the carnival’s organisers to use the event to promote peace in Nigeria, in view of the current security challenges facing the country.
They believe that the carnival – a tool of cultural tourism — presents a veritable avenue to sensitise participants from various parts of the country to the importance of peaceful coexistence in efforts to bolster the nation’s socio-economic growth.
Mr George Ufot, the Deputy Chairman of the carnival’s planning committee, says that the event will reflect on the nation’s current security challenges as well as the need to promote peace and harmony among its people.
He says that the carnival, as a rallying point for artistes all over the world, will also showcase the rich tourism and cultural potential of Nigeria.
Buttressing this assertion, the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Mr Edem Duke, says that 15 countries from Africa, Asia, South America and the Caribbeans have indicated interest to participate in the carnival.
According to him, the countries include Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa, Cameroon, Botswana, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Ghana and Senegal.
He says the carnival will also feature 15 events instead of the nine events that were held in the last edition.
“We are enjoying collaboration with other tiers of government. This is because there is going to be participation by not just the various states of the federation, but also some local government areas and some members of the legislature,” he said.
Duke says the carnival has been diversified to include various competitions among schools, as part of designed efforts to promote culture and tourism in schools.
Besides, the minister says the Institute for Hotels and Tourism Training will also be organising a food festival as part of the carnival.
Abuja Carnival 2012 Showcasing Nigeria
To showcase the country’s cultural values, Duke adds that the National Council for Arts and Culture, National Gallery of Arts and National Commission for Museum and Monuments will stage special exhibitions throughout the period of the event.
He particularly notes that the carnival will foster the economic growth of Nigeria, while enhancing its image.
Tourism experts, nonetheless, believe that some challenges facing Nigeria such as religious conflicts, ethnic clashes and discrimination, the Boko Haram threats and militant activities can be effectively addressed via events like the carnival, which foster interactions among Nigerians.
They, however, stress that it is pertinent to put the ongoing carnival in proper perspective by foregrounding some issues arising from the last edition of the carnival.
They particularly cite President Goodluck Jonathan’s remark at the carnival in 2011 that “the Abuja Carnival has come to create an enduring platform for the promotion of unity, peace, social cohesion and integration”.
Mr Fonke Ibok-Ette, the Director, Akwa Ibom Council for Arts and Culture, recalls that in the 2011 edition of the carnival, “every segment of our contingent represented a build up from conflict to resolution.
“We tried to represent end to militancy because we are from the South-South geopolitical zone, where militancy has become popular,” he says.
He urges all the citizens to cash in on the fundamental message of the carnival to promote peaceful coexistence in the country.
Stressing the symbolic values of the various displays at the carnival, Mr Debo Shotuyo, a member of the Ogun State contingent to the Durbar event of the Abuja Carnival in 2011, recalls that Ogun State’s participation in the durbar “shows that durbar is not strictly a northern show.
“In fact, in Ogun State, almost all the Muslim communities organise durbar and use it as an instrument of paying homage to their traditional rulers during Muslim festivals,” he says.
Supporting Shotuyo’s viewpoint, observers stress that more states from the southern part of the country should be encouraged to participate in the carnival’s durbar event.
However, Mr Moses Oshibe from Ebonyi, a participant in the 2011 edition of the carnival, says cultural displays such as masquerades could also be used to strengthen the country’s unity.
“Masquerades perform a lot of functions in the traditional societies; some use them as peacemakers, some use them to settle land disputes. They are also used in social activities like ceremonies and festivals in several states,” he says.
Oshibe, however, suggests that the participants’ costumes at various events of the carnival should reflect the indigenous cultures.
He, however, urges the carnival’s organisers to make adequate arrangements for the participants’ security, feeding and accommodation.
In her remarks in the lead-up to the carnival, FCT Minister of State Olajumoke Akinjide says her ministry is also planning to organise a similar festival in Washington, the U.S., annually.
“The carnival is being taken beyond the shores of Nigeria to attract the much-needed international popularity to it.
“We are also doing this to optimise the commercial opportunities which such events could offer,” she says.