Awaiting CARNIRIV 2009

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Rivers State could be one of the richest states in the country in view of its enormous crude deposits and acquatic riches but that the wealth derivable from its rich cultural heritage cannot be over estimated. The cultural plurality of the state and a lot of tourist potentials which so far remain underdeveloped can blow the investment potentials of the state to unimaginable heights if developed. In a couple of weeks from now, Rivers State Cultural village, Elekahia, will be agog again. The wild drum beats that dictate the rhythm of seemingly possessed dancers, masquaredes of all shapes, boat regatta, the floats and various cultural troupes, reflecting the true culture of the state will mount the stage to celebrate Carniriv 2009. For the past months, radio and television jingles of the Rivers State ministry of Culture and Tourism have been stimulating millions of enthusiastic cultural lovers whose urge for the fiesta grows to melting point. Little Miss Mercy Clifford is anxious to behold the treat. “I am anxious to see the Carniriv 2009 . I long for Amanikpo, Nwotam, the legendery Otobo dance and thousands of beautiful dancers will surely thrill me to no bound.” Miss Clifford, 15 and a student of Ojims College, Rumuji in Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State told The Tide On Sunday that fixing of the CarnirIv from 12th – 20th December by the Rivers State government was good because it will not conflict with her studies since many schools would be on holidays and “that means the cultural festival will not conflict with my academic programmes”. Though the Carniriv 2009 is twenty days away from today, many persons have started to express their views concerning the event. To some, the cultural displays afford them the opportunity of reflecting on the original life, culture and tradition of the various ethnic groups that make up Rivers State, particularly before the intrusion of Western culture, while few others view the event beyond the thrills and colours of the fiesta to the socio-economic importance. Comrade Christian Kokoriko said Rivers State could be one of the richest states in the country in view of its enormous crude deposits and acquatic riches but that the wealth derivable from its rich cultural heritage cannot be over estimated. Comrade Kokoriko, a tourist and president of league of character clubs, Nigeria explained that the cultural plurality of the state and a lot of tourist potentials which so far remain underdeveloped can blow the investment potentials of the state to unimaginable heights if developed. “Take for instance beaches alone, several beaches can be developed, water sports and unique cultural heritage abound to attract both local and foreign investors to the state”, he said. Also speaking in a similar vein, Mr. Charles Nweke stated that some artifacts and shrines in the state could be properly developed to showcase the life and tradition of the state. “The Amadioha Ozuzu which is in Etche Local Government Area has acquired international status but we do not give it all it deserves .” “Let the government take steps to develop them as they are points of attractions”. Mr. Nweke who is the Chief Cultural Officer, Etche Local Government advised the state government to make comprehensive documentary of the ceremony and other cultural attractions in the state for export and preservation. “This can be in book forms for sale or film and other forms of preservation,” he maintained. Responding also, Prof. John Agberia said oil economy comes and goes but the culture endures with the society. Describing culture and tourism as the live wire of the people, Prof. Agberia who is the head of department of Fine, Applied Arts and design, University of Port Harcourt said Carniriv has a lot of economic potentials that could boost the economic profile of the state. “The celebration will bring in money to food vendors, transporters, the communication industry and hotels in Port Harcourt to mention a few.” He also believed that if the festival was properly documented in various art forms, it could be sold within Nigeria and could as well be exported outside the country to attract foreign exchange. But it appears that Mr. Joshua Mike has started to reap the fortunes of the event already. Mr. Mike, a designer of floats and other art materials said he was already designing three floats for some local government councils and a corporate body for the next month’s event. “It’s one of my best periods in business because of the boom that goes with it. To design a float, I charge between N500,000, N1.2 million depending on how complex the float is. Apart from the float, other cultural materials and designs which come with Carniriv bring a lot of money to the artists,” he said. In his own reaction, Eze Sylvanus Ogbueri, the Onwanagbara Oha of Omuma regretted that oil has taken the attention of the state for too long and noted that the wealth of Rivers State goes far beyond oil economy. “You can’t quantify the socio-economic gains derivable from our rich culture. We have come of age, let this administration with its interest on culture preserve the various displays, package them in the forms of books, films, cassettes, carved art forms for local and foreign market”, he said. Apart from the money it will bring into the state, such arrangement, he said, will portray the image of the state outside as a rich one made up of happy people. “It will go along way in correcting the negative impressions in some countries that Rivers State, albeit, Niger Delta was in crisis and this would attract more foreign investors who yearn for a conducive business environment”, he maintained. He stressed the need for the state to look beyond oil just as Cross River State had done with the TINAPA project, noting that such step will lead to diversification of economy. However, a man of God, rev. Charles Amadi had a different view about the cultural festival. He said the festival has religious or spiritual angles. “The gathering of some cultural troupes, particularly the masquerades whose members pass through various stages of initiations invokes some evil spirits. They affect not only the participants but spectators”, he revealed. The clergy explained that such spiritual traits manifest after some new yam festivals and cultural carnivals as some persons get possessed by the evil sprits behind these displays. The man of God advised that such ancient heritages should be modified so that the aspects that go with spiritual undertones could be removed and men of God should be involved in the entire organization. “At this modern era, people are talking of Christianity, such mystical and spiritual displays with emphasis on modern images and water spirits would be abhorred and the only way the government can achieve this is by involving true men of God in its organization”, he advised. Hon. Eric Ejigini in his own contribution, commended the Governor of Rivers State, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and the Honourable Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Hon. Marcus Nle-Ejii for reviving Carniriv and making it an annual event. He regretted that the festival went comatose for years until the present administration revived it. Hon. Ejigini, former supervisory councillor for Youths and Sports, Port Harcourt city Local Government Area, appealed to the state House of Assembly to back the celebration with legislation so that it would outlive the present administration. He also called on multinational organizations and other corporate organizations in the state to show more concern by playing active roles. The politician also called on Niger Delta development Commission (NDDC) to build its own float and present its own cultural troupe during the occasion. “By so doing, they would be playing their social responsibility to the state that has been hosting them and protecting their operations”, he remarked. The honourable Commissioner, Mr. Marcus Nle-Ejii said “a people without history are not in existence. A people without language are dumb, without culture, you are lost and anti-social”. He said it was for these reasons and more that the Rivers State Ministry of Culture and Tourism was poised to preserve the rich history, unique languages and project the cultural identity of the state. Mr. Nle-Ejii who spoke to The Tide On Sunday through his press Secretary, Gloria Ogan said “the event is being heralded by Miss ECOWAS Beauty Peagent which took place on November 14, 2009 and between 9th -12th, we have the ion film festival. Immediately after that, carniRiv stays till 20th December,” he said. The Commissioner said aside the cultural representation by the twenty-three local government areas in the state, contacts had been made to get more troupes from outside the state. The celebration which was initiated in 1988 went comatose only to be revived by the present administration last year. During last year’s edition, people feared that it would not be a success because of the security challenges in Niger delta region but Governor Amaechi surprised all doubting Thomases when he went ahead against all odds to organise a successful carnival. The governor also made the cultural event an annual ritual and has taken steps to develop it to an international standard. Hon. Ejii said Carniriv was aimed at re-awakening Rivers people’s cultural pride and values as well as to unveil a people with the most beautiful culture in Nigeria and the world. “It is indeed a festival that parades the pride and the true image of the people of Rivers State”, he remarked. Barrister Paul Awoyesuku, Chairman of Akuku-Toru local Government council said the council was coming out with a bang. “We have already set up a committee to organise ours and ensure our participation in Carniriv is better than ever before. We are coming out with a bang”. Also speaking on the level of preparedness, the Rivers State Police command said it would provide adequate security throughout the period of the festival. The command’s PRO, Mrs Rita inoma-Abbe promised, “we have all the machineries and resources to provide the needed security and there will be no hitch, I can assure you everything is going to be smooth.” Chris Oluoh