CHRISTMAS REMAINED FUN WITH OR WITHOUT CALABAR CARNIVAL By: AngelFlora Michaels

Oops! The year 2020 had its worst side. No Calabar Carnival? Oops! No thanks to ugly challenges that made it impossible for the eventful African’s longest Street Party to take its annual turn. The-Corona Virus pandemic and #EndSARS# many “wahala” protests. But interestingly, that couldn’t stop fun seekers, tourists and visitors alike, who trooped into the Canaan City from having their swell times as they answered the Yuletide call for- “Come And Live And Be At Rest”-the warmest acronym ever heard anywhere in the world.
It would be recalled that, due to the destruction and looting of infrastructure in the State following the protest and COVID-19 pandemic, the Cross River House of Assembly adopted a resolution that was responsible for the State
Government’s cancellation of all activities for the year’s Calabar carnival celebrations.
The House opined that government should rather address the pressing problems of rehabilitation of damaged infrastructure and security. The House adopted the resolution following a motion moved by the Leader of House, Hon. Peter Odey, representing Ogoja State Constituency. Odey decried the wanton destruction of infrastructure across the State, particularly where the Calabar Carnival events normally held. Reasoning that Calabar Carnival is an international event that attracts people from across the globe, with attendants immense economic benefits, the possibility of having a successful event organization, was not realistic because the most important arena that would have been used had been totally vandalized, citing TINAPA Lake Resort, Calabar International Conference Centre (CICC) and many others, as example of massively looted locations.
Also that the COVID-19 pandemic was not over, hence, would mean putting the teeming crowd usually associated with the celebration, in serious health danger.
Supporting, Deputy Speaker, Rt. Hon. Joseph Bassey noted that the pandemic has recorded high rates of death the world-over and reiterate that some countries were already observing a second lockdown, hence, organizing the carnival would be unwise. While other members of the House stood with same voice, the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Eteng Jonah Williams ruling, observed also that many events had equally been suspended because of the Corona virus pandemic, noting that the safety of the people is paramount.
However, even with or without the Carnival celebration, the Calabar vibes, thrills and frills still made the Christmas great, and most memorable. This is because the people always have their own ways of creating and enjoying fun.
Always ready to provide the best hospitality that visitors with the most cherished wish to return to “Come And live And Be At Rest” at the land flowing with ‘milk and honey’. The local delicacies that abound in the State fills the gaps that would otherwise, have been created by the absence of the carnival eventful times. So, while in Calabar, do know
that you have nothing to miss, no matter, what.
Our popular and sumptuous Meals that come in form of “Afang” (Efik) or “Erurru” (Boki) soup swallowed in lumps from pounded yam, cassava fufu, garri, semovina or semolina flour mixed paste, and ene plantain flour, remains a
memorable delight. So where can you possibly find and enjoy these mouthwatering meals? They can be found in every home, everywhere and around town because it is the best way we go eating healthy here. But for the Christmas
special yummies, the |Calabar Native Delicacies and Mustard Seed points, where some of the prominent places that
visitors, families and friends had their fill. Like all good joints, restaurants and bars in town, these unique places
offered guests quality service and gave them worth for their money.
One cannot talk about the hospitality of the Cross River people, without mention of the impact of Cross River  indigenous Arts and Crafts Cultural Village that is also usually mounted in Calabar yearly, in December.
Since its introduction a couple of years back and subsequent re-organization by Governor Ben Ayade to add to the tourism experience, the teeming population of tourists visiting the state during the yuletide has increased, courtesy of the able coordination of the Commissioner for Culture and Tourism Development, Hon. Eric Anderson.
The Calabar Art Craft Cultural Village is designed to project the Cross River hospitality industry, fosters unity in diversity, while propagating cultural tolerance, national integration and showcasing the vast cultural heritage of
the tourism clusters of the State, including the carnival potentials.
The annual event is set up such that each of the 18 local government areas of the State, together with some foreign nationalities and the academia, have stands, where they showcase their diverse socio cultural heritages at a point of
exchange without visitors having to travel to those areas in search of their natural products and cuisines as the case may be. The village also offers academic institutions and Other sub-nationalities of African extraction, a plethora of choices to exhibit their artifacts through culture, agriculture and products made of local craft from the villages and
memorable artworks and other carnival regalia.
For instance, the Cross River University of Technology, CRUTECH owned a stand displaying a collection of Visual Arts and artifacts where exhibition works produced by students of the Institution were put up for sale. Anderson, explained that the site was consciously made to serve as a point of exchange that is meant to take advantage of the rich sociocultural heritage of the State, amongst ethnic nationalities and also to encourage education tourism in the
State, information passage to the younger generation and also serve as a platform where people can get to try out options from other tribes and ethnic backgrounds. The Commissioner, veteran movie maker with a good technical background in tourism development, said the idea, is to reposition the State on the world’s map by showcasing its numerous cultural products which span across tourist sites, local cuisines, traditional regalia, arts and crafts, monolithic stories, natural scenery, special festivities, and content-development from major experiences. Noting
that that is especially as Cross River has the most languages and culture in the South-South and even old Eastern region of Nigeria in addition to promotional marketing of untapped resources and re-building a lasting peace amongst ethnic minorities and people of the young age bracket. Cross River serves as a historical warehouse of some of the best cultural heritages, such as having the longest serving Monarch coming from the State, the Leboku Cultural Festival, the Northfest, the regality associated with the Stool of the Obong of Calabar, the Calabar Carnival with the longest route in the world spanning 12 Kilometers, and using the film industry to promote culture as a tool for a continued peaceful coexistence of the people”, he disclosed.
He revealed further that, to ensure progressive sustainability by successive administrations, the State Governor has granted the approval of the area as a permanent site for an art and craft exhibition village, which according to the Commissioner, would serve as an-all-year-round Exhibition centre.
In keeping hopes alive however, Governor Ayade is driving the State, in his known proactive nature, to prepare early for 2021 Calabar Carnival in order to make up for the loss of last year.
Lamenting that the Carnival did not take place owing to the resurgence of the Covid19 pandemic, the Governor said that to kick-start 2021 preparations, a Content Development Team would be inaugurated in February, 2021.
The Team will have the core responsibility of working out modalities that will incorporate every aspect of entertainment into the Carnival with the aim of having a well organized Carnival that would be richer in content in all its ramifications. A statement from Mr. Christian Ita, Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Publicity, stated that the same Team, the Governor disclosed, would also be responsible for organizing this year’s St.
Valentine’s Day Celebration.