Lagos, 14 November 2010 - The first edition of Abuja Carnival was held in 2005, and it has continued every year to relive the dazzling displays of the event. Abuja residents and people across the country can be heard discussing the carnival very passionately because of its yearly unique sights and sounds.
Before Abuja Carnival, it was nearly impossible to find Nigerians appreciating any bit of their cultural heritage that gained national acceptability. Like many writers have noted in the past, customs in Nigeria have always competed with religion in the people’s minds, and, therefore, the current of the Abuja Carnival has been running deep, because it got most Nigerians talking, and international visitors couldn’t believe that there could be that much of a spectacle in a country perpetually painted abroad as so black.
The carnival, an assemblage of contingents from the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), converge at a location to make separate statements in tradition and lifestyle, where the least one would get is a snapshot of a country that has shied from asserting her native endowments on the world’s consciousness for too long.
With the carnival’s modest successful outing in the past five editions, this year’s edition will not be different, offering the very usual, but in an upgraded manner, which will include durbar, masquerades, command performances, and a boat regatta procession that has helped practitioners in overcoming the hurdle of identifying the right tourism product for Nigeria.
The entire tourism and arts communities are in agreement that the country has finally realized that the best it can offer the world is cultural tourism, which regrettably the ineptitude of those responsible for the promotion and marketing of Nigeria as a destination have failed to do for a long time.
Despite the good intention of the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation in believing that the carnival and the host city, Abuja, would, with every edition, be a sort of “window" for all the states to show as well as display their tourism potentials, not many have taken the platform provided by the carnival so far.
In ensuring that the aforementioned is achieved, the 2010 Abuja Carnival Management Committee has opted for a bigger space to enable the states more room to exhibit come the carnival proper next month, moving away from the traditional arts and crafts village, where participating states have souvenirs and memorabilia for sale, such as raffia, brass, adire, leatherworks, woodcarvings, and beads, among other handicrafts.
To many travel and tourism analysts, they are still very surprised that a product rich in content and with several unique features exists, and Abuja Carnival still remains a hard sell.
Today, Abuja Carnival Durbar parades the largest number of horses elegantly decorated with costumes that cannot be easily pick up in the market - it is an amazing sight to behold anywhere in the world. Apart from the dexterity of the horsemen spinning swords and spears in their hands every now and then, experts say the jewelry made of pure silver draped on each horse came close to US$10,000.
With states from the northern part of the country bringing to Abuja thousands of horses for the carnival, Benue State parading its world famous and exceptional Kwag-hir puppetry, and the south-south states flaunting their aquatic prowess packaged alongside some notable historical discoveries, such as NOK sculpture and the Sukur World Heritage Site, there are enough products for a quality week-long holiday package that would excite any international tourist who wishes to visit Nigeria.
Though the carnival suffered initial criticism by Christian and Islamic leaders who condemned the idea of a carnival and asked organizers to discontinue it, saying that it would be a showcase of the immoral and would be no different from the 1977 Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC), which many have said is largely responsible for Nigeria’s economic problems, the carnival is gradually becoming a household name even among those that were against it from the beginning.
Till this moment, the carnival management still continues to assure Nigerians that the event remains purely a tradition-driven project, would involve no idolatry, and wouldn’t be another version of the famed sexy carnivals, or any others known across the world for that matter.
While so far the marketing of Abuja carnival cannot be said to have really taken off, the management of the 2010 Management Committee, however, is not shying away from any attempt at promoting it through the right channels. It has already been placed two major online travel and tourism websites - www.eturbonews.com and www.travelafricanews.com , respectively.
The Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Alhaji Sadiq Abubakar Mohammed, who is also the chairman of the 2010 Abuja Carnival Management Committee, must use all government apparatus and institutions to market and promote the carnival.
Agencies like the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), established to market and promote all of Nigeria’s tourism potentials within and internationally, must be seen to be doing so.
So far, what has been playing out suggests otherwise.
In view of the seemingly unwillingness of the NTDC to market the carnival, the onus is, however, on the ministry to make provision in the carnival’s subsequent budgets to enable those in charge forthwith to take up the challenges of carrying out the promotion and effective marketing of Nigeria’s nascent tourism product locally and internally.
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