The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has flagged off the third and final dry run of the Calabar Carnival with a pledge to help turn the event into a major global attraction.
Performing the flag-off in the company of the Cross River State Deputy Governor, Prof. Ivara Esu, in Calabar on Sunday, the Minister said the street processions preparatory to the 2017 Calabar Carnival later in the month have commenced.
“I make bold to say that what is happening here today will reverberate throughout the world as we shall leverage the power of information and technology to bring this event to the notice of the entire world.
“There is no substitute for preparation and that is why this dry run is very important,” he said.
Alhaji Mohammed said the Calabar Carnival has grown into a major unifying factor in Nigeria because it serves as a rallying point for people all over the country.
He said the Calabar Carnival is now a platform for the youth to demonstrate their creative ability, and a practical demonstration of the nation’s drive to turn the creative industry into a viable creative economy.
“I want to take this opportunity to appeal to the world to see this street party beyond dancing and beyond the costumes. Let’s see this Calabar Carnival for what it really is, which is a platform for our youths to vent out their creativity and a platform to turn our creative industry into a veritable creative economy,” the Minister said.
He described the Calabar Carnival as the biggest street party in Africa, saying it has many unique selling points, being the longest carnival route in the world covering a 12-kilometre route.
Speaking earlier, the Chairman of the Carnival Commission, Mr. Gabe Onah, said this is the first time that a Minister will attend the dry run of the Calabar Carnival.
He commended Alhaji Mohammed for his uncommon support for the carnival, having earlier sent the Permanent Secretary of his ministry, Deaconess Grace Gekpe, to flag-off the second dry run in November this year.
The Calabar Carnival dry run is marked by dances, processions and displays by various groups across the major streets of Calabar.
The main event will be held 27-28 December and will attract participants from 25 countries.
Meanwhile, Alhaji Mohammed, has described the Calabar Carnival as a veritable platform for job creation and the promotion of creativity among Nigerians.
The Minister made the remarks on Saturday during the tour of some carnival bands ahead of Sunday’s flag-off the Third Dry Run of the 2017 Calabar Carnival.
He said the Carnival has grown beyond being a mere street procession and dancing to a venture that is positively impacting on the economy and the unity of the country.
“What we have seen today is an industry that is making use of the abundant talents of Nigerians not just in dancing but even in manufacturing and creativity. We have seen the shoes that they are going to wear, they are made in Nigeria – the design and materials. So Calabar Carnival provides that platform to give vent to your creative energy,” he said.
Alhaji Mohammed highlighted the critical role of the themes of each band, which include “Climate Change”, “Bush Burning” and “Environmental Degradation”, describing the themes as topical issues in the global discourse on the ecosystem.
He expressed delight that the Calabar Carnival has keyed into the vision of President Muhammadu Buhari towards promoting locally-made products in order to make the country self-reliant economically.
“The President said until Nigeria produces what it consumes and grows what it eats, it cannot be economically independent… This is a very good example of made-in-Nigeria both in terms of materials, in terms of the labour force and creativity. So I am really very fulfilled coming here because I see how much the carnival is contributing not just to the economy but to bringing individuals to self-reliance,” he said.
The Minister used the occasion to commend the band managers, whom he described as patriots who are actually not driven by profit but by the passion and commitment to grow the nation’s economy.
He also appealed to the private sector to show more interest in the Calabar Carnival because of its huge impact on the economy.
Alhaji Mohammed visited the Freedom and Seagull Bands and inspected their costume making factories, which employ a lot of people in shoe-making, tailoring, weaving and knitting, among others.