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Their Excellencies, the Carnival governors

LAST weekend, the streets of Port Harcourt, the Garden City, were on passionate flame as the grand finale of Rivers State Carnival (CARNIRIV) sent the city and its people into an orgy of celebration.First held in 2008, CARNIRIV has become a platform for display of the state’s cultural heritage amidst lavish fun, colour and grandeur.

Tomorrow – December 27 — it will be the turn of Calabar, otherwise known as the ‘Paradise City’ or ‘Canaan City’, as the 2010 edition of Carnival Calabar lights up the city.

One of the towering personalities that will be at the Calabar feast tomorrow — as the Carnival Calabar makes its way from the Millennium Park through the streets — is Governor Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State just as the Cross River State’s Liyel Imoke was a major presence at the CARNIRIV. It is a spirit of camaraderie as well as reciprocity; the ingredients for unity and love among the peoples of the two states.

The Carnival tradition, and personal involvement by first citizens of the states seems to have come to stay, with the governors of Rivers, Amaechi,  and that of Cross River, Senator Imoke, not only helping to boost the yearly cultural show, but making big social, political and economic statements through showcasing the cultural resources of their states, and in the process, empowering their peoples economically.

TOMORROW’s show in Calabar will showcase the vast, colourful and unique culture of the various peoples of Cross River as the carnival train makes its way in pageantry through the streets of Calabar from dawn till the wee hours of next day.

Last year, about 1.5 million people were said to be in attendance, but this year, the expected figure is put at over two million, which in the words of the state governor, Imoke, is a demonstration of the growth of the festival and following that it has gathered along the way.

Instituted in 2005 by the former governor of the state, Donald Duke, as part of effort to build what is regarded today as ‘Cross River Tourism’ with focus on developing the tourism potentialities of the state as an economic growth factor.

The dream of Governor Duke then was to elevate the culture of the people to an industry that could engender employment, empowerment, and socio-economic growth. And today, this dream has been fully accepted and recognised within and outside the state.

To make things easy, Duke instituted the Calabar Carnival among other events to run for 32 days, beginning from the last day of the month of November to January 1 when  it ends with a thanksgiving service.

Rather than jettison the carnival – as successors are won’t to do in Nigeria’s peculiar democratic culture — Imoke on assumption of office three years ago, upped it by injecting new verves and ideas into the 32-day feast now known as ‘Calabar Festival’ and the carnival also referred to as ‘Carnival Calabar’.

BORN on July 10, 1961, Liyel Imoke, the Cross River State governor, ventured early into politics; becoming Nigeria’s youngest Senator in 1992, at the age of 30.

The son of the late Dr. Samuel Imoke , a first generation politician who eventually became a cabinet minister and leader of Parliament in the former Eastern Region, Liyel on leaving Federal Government College, Enugu, in 1977, enrolled for a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations (Major) and Economics (Minora) at the University of Maryland, United States. He graduated in 1982, and went on to study Law at the University of Buckingham, England, earning an LLB degree in 1985.

After law practices in Washington DC and Lagos, Imoke ventured into business from where he made entry into politics in 1992.

Having been elected, young Imoke was appointed by then  President Olusegun Obasanjo to be Special Adviser on Public Utilities in 1999. He also served as executive Chairman of the Special Board charged with the responsibility  of winding down Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission, OMPADEC as well as Chairman of Technical Board of the National Electricity Infrastructure to deliver 4,000mw of electricity, a feat that was accomplished and has not been surpassed to date.

In July 2003, Imoke was appointed Nigeria’s Minister of Power and Steel, and at a point doubled as Minister of Education.

According to him, the changes in the administration of the state’s cultural festival are parts of the efforts to make tourism industry to be active throughout the year.

The vision, he said would enable Cross River State Tourism to significantly contribute to the state’s GDP through job creation and increased internal revenues generation.

The theme for this year’s carnival is: ‘Our strength and resilience — the bedrock of our future.’ At the end of the day, the band best in terms of its interpretation of the theme through its dramatics, costumes, music and other displays would be announced winner and would go home the cash rewards.

BORN on May 27, 1965, in Umuordu-Ubima, Amaechi started his primary education at St. Theresa’s Primary School, Ubima, where he obtained his First School Leaving Certificate in 1976.

He later attended the Government Secondary School, Okolobiri, (now in Bayelsa State) where he sat and passed his West African School Certificate Examination in 1982. Thereafter, he gained admission into the University of Port Harcourt and graduated in 1987 with Bachelor of Arts degree in English. He later obtained a Master’s degree in English from the same institution.

While in the university, he was President of the National Union of Rivers State Students (NURSS), a platform he used to organise and coordinate the affairs of Rivers State students in all tertiary institutions across the country.

Upon leaving university, Amaechi started his working career as Public Relations Officer (PRO) with the PAMO Clinics and Hospital Limited, Port Harcourt in 1988. It was at PAMO Clinic that he met with Dr. Peter Odili, the former Governor of Rivers State, who was then the proprietor.
During the aborted Third Republic, Amaechi joined the National Republican Convention (NRC), and was elected Secretary of the party in Ikwerre Local Council.

He was appointed a Special Assistant to the then Deputy Governor of Rivers State, Odili, who later became the Governor for eight consecutive years from 1999 to 2007.

Amaechi was the Speaker of the state House of Assembly from 1999 to 2007 before he became the governor after the court declared him the qualified candidate of PDP in the 2007 election.

A widely traveled man, Amaechi has been honoured with so many awards and titles. Pope Benedict XVI conferred him with the Papal Knighthood of St. Sylvester.

Says Ameachi: “The Rivers State Carnival is a celebratory convergence and display of remarkable cultural content, originality and aesthetics that provides deep insight into the rich heritage of the people of Rivers State. The fun and grandeur enacted yearly tells the story of a people and our determination to continue the legacy of cultural value and appreciation.”

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Posted by on Jan 1 2011. Filed under Cross River, Governors, Rivers, State News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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