The annual Calabar Festival took off yesterday with a colourful lighting of the Christmas tree, touted to be the tallest in Africa, at the Millennium Park. The revellers, including the Cross River State Governor, Senator Liyel Imoke were treated to high octane entertainment. The event, which lasted about two hours, saw the lighting of the Christmas tree at midnight.
The lighting of the tree was accompanied with fireworks.
Before then, there were performances by up and coming musicians discovered during auditions for the 2013 Festival.
Ace comedian, I Go Die left revellers that also included the Governor’s wife, Obioma, Minister for Tourism, High Chief Edem Duke and Nollywood stars Kate Henshaw, Rita Dominic, Gideon Okeke, Bryan Okwara and an Executive Director of First Bank on the edge of their seats.
Other dignitaries at the event included a former Military Governor of the state, Air Vice Marshal Gregory Agbonemi.
“We remain that place in Nigeria where every Nigerian would be proud to be, where every Nigerian will say there is one state in Nigeria where you can see the governor walking about, associating with his people, he is not afraid, he is part of the crowd, and the people are warm, happy and beautiful”, Imoke said.
While urging youth to make use of their talents, Imoke recalled that like music star, Inyanya, many talents are discovered every year during the festival.
The governor contended that the two brand recognized by the world today are Nollywood and the Calabar Carnival noting that, the tree lighting exercise will go down in the record of Nigeria that next to the tallest and biggest flag in Nigeria is the tallest Christmas tree.
On his part, Minister of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, High Chief Edem Duke, stressed the need for government to galvanise resources and train young artiste in order for them to use their creative abilities to better their lots.
Edem Duke also urged Cross Riverians to find in each of them their creative talents that they may showcase to the world instead of waiting on government to provide their needs.
“These dancers and drummers can win for us the fiture, bring resources to our families and glory to our state”,the tourism Minister said, adding, “We must establish a self-believe, believe in yourselves, believe that if you are such a good dancer or drummer, there is a future for you”.
He hinted that the siting of over N2 billion project for a creative Academy in Ikot Nakanda, Akpabuyo Local Government Area remain a clear testimony of how important government hold the works of creative Arts among youths in the area, pointing out that the project cannot be found else where in the country.
Edem Duke also used the opportunity to announce the offer of 10 scholarships by the government of Trinidad and Tobago to provide opportunities for people to learn creative Arts of carnival.
He disclosed that the scholarship would be available from next year, adding that carnival has transformed from a street party into an economy.
Executive Director Public Sector south, First Bank of Nigeria, Mr. UK Eke, lauded Cross River government for its initiative which has also helped in uniting people from several cultures while bringing happiness to Nigerians.
“The Calabar Carnival has grown to be one of the biggest tourist attractions in Nigeria and Africa at large”, Eke said, adding “it has enhanced the economic development of Cross River and our great nation.
He assured that First Bank having established its second branch in Nigeria in Calabar since 1900 will continue to partner with the state to boost social, cultural and economic gains.