It is no news that Nigeria is richly blessed with over 300 ethnic groups all scattered in her 36 states. These groups all have their own languages, modes of dressing, festivities and traditional leadership. Although virtually all Nigerian ethnic groups identify themselves with either the Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa, they all have peculiar cultures which they promote and protect. In every state in Nigeria, there resides at least five to ten ethnic groups cohabiting. Sometimes, these groups have intercommunal clashes, due to varying factors ranging from farmland dispute to territorial ownership, these clashes have led to massive loss of lives and destruction of properties. To prevent future occurrence of these clashes, elders and traditional rulers are saddled with the responsibility of promoting peaceful coexistence and when they are faced with overwhelming challenges, the government wade in to ensure peace through various mediums.
Cross River state which is a coastal state in south-south Nigeria is blessed with many colourful cultures and exciting way of life. With Calabar as her capital, it is home to the Abayon, Adun, Boki, Akajuk, Bahumono, Bette, Yalla, Efik, Iyala, Mbube, Ekoi, Ikorn, Nkin and many more ethnic groups. Many of these tribes are minority and this usually create tension in the state as many feel marginalized and neglected. To forestall occurrence of violent classes and in a bid to transform Cross River into the tourism hub of Nigeria and Africa, in 2004, the then governor, Donald Duke started what is now the largest festival in Africa, The Calabar Carnival.
Since Calabar is home to many ethnic groups, the carnival was created as a medium through which the colourful cultures and celebrations of these tribes can be showcased to millions of tourist from around the globe. This was aimed at creating a sense of belonging among all groups as they all had to partake in this colourful event. Calabar Carnival & Festival which is also referred to as Africa’s Biggest Street Party is now annually anticipated for.
During the event, tourist and spectators are awed with the cultural display of rich native African culture and heritage. Indigenous music is played, different ethnic groups showcase their attires and wow crowds with drama plays thereby enlightening all about the native cultures. Also, various creative individuals and groups are given the platform to showcase their skills and talent to wide variety of audience which can then project them forward in their respective careers. The carnival also has a day set aside for foreign artists and celebrities. On such days, they occupy the streets of Calabar and partake in the program of the day while being cheered and encourage by the locals.
The carnival which begins on every 1st December to 31st December has improved the cultural outlook of Nigerians in general and that of indigenes of Cross River in particular. During the event, tourists are able to have a taste of locally made delicacies and appreciate the rich cultures of Cross River State. This experience linger in the minds of tourist and many look forward to being in Calabar as soon as possible. The carnival has boosted the cultural mosaic of Nigerian people while entertaining millions of spectators within and outside, thus, boosting economy and industry for all stakeholders.