Mindful of the dwindling fortunes of the nation’s economy, every state is making frantic efforts to prevent its economy from total collapse. This they do by diversifying sub-sectors of their economy and revitalising ailing sectors in a bid to improve internally generated revenue that will help them meet the needs of the people.
Having realised the danger in depending on monthly allocations from the Federation Account, each state is looking inwards on how to improve its economy. Gleefully, most states and the Federal Government have realised that the tourism sector is a potential revenue earner than oil if well developed.
In the circumstances, therefore, many states are developing their tourism sector through encouragement of the hospitality industry. Cross River State is foremost in the area of tourism sector development. Other states have keyed into it, the latest being Imo State that had just held its maiden carnival, tagged, “You aren’t seen nothing yet,” which the Deputy Governor, Prince Eze Madumere is the originator.
As the theme indicates, the Imo State maiden carnival, left tourists and observers, who converged on the state, asking for more. It was an undiluted display of the rich cultural heritage and hospitality that the Eastern Heartland state is reputed for.
The colourful costumes and artistic displays by various cultural dance groups and carnival floats added colour to the event.
As early as 8:00am, Owerri, the capital city, had come alive in a blaze of colours, as beautifully decorated men and women took to the streets, dancing gracefully to the rhythm of cultural music provided by skilful dance troupes.
Vehicular and human movements were grounded while the road show, which started from Dan Anyiam Stadium and ended at the Owerri City School, venue of the grand finale, lasted. The aged, unwell and disabled defied their challenges to participate in the much-anticipated event.
Although the turnout was not as much as expected, the rich cultural display was a confirmation that Imo State is one of the states that boast rich tourism potential that are yet to be harnessed.
In the weeks that preceded the carnival that was earlier scheduled to hold in May, this year, but was put on hold as a result of the abduction of the over 200 girls from Government Girls’ Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State, the capital city and its adjourning communities were given immense facelift.
Contractors battled day and night to upgrade existing infrastructure, while ongoing ones were given full attention to ensure that they were completed on time for the carnival.
Apart from infrastructure upgrade, other preparations ranging from security, traffic management and accommodation had also been stepped up to ensure that those coming from outside the state to witness the carnival were given the best in terms of hospitality and entertainment.
According to the Chairman of the Local Organising Committee and Special Assistant to the Governor on Culture, Mr. Paddy Obinna, the state is ready to host the world.
“We are ready. The facilities are already in place to play host to the entire world and showcase the rich cultural heritage of our great state,” he said.
Mr. Obinna noted that the carnival was conceived to expose the rich human, material and tourism potential of the state to the world, which will, in turn, attract direct foreign investments.
“We want the whole world to come to Imo State and take part in the week-long festivity where they will be treated to the uncommon hospitality and entertainment Imo State is known for,” he said.
According to him, some of the side attractions will include Igbo poetry/talk show, comedies ‘Ada and Opara Imo’ parade, new masquerade band, traditional and contemporary music performance and Governor’s band, among other activities lined up for the carnival.
He said: “The first day parade will go on through the night. We have over 3, 000 schools that are taking part in the parade, even as we have over 100 people taking part in the parade. The parade will last from dusk to dawn and security network is on the upbeat.
“The chaperons are also going to be on ground to guard the children against loitering so that they will be properly paraded. We have musical splash which is going to involve a lot of known and unknown artistes. It will be a night of wonders for music lovers and people who love artistry.”
Assuring visitors of their safety and comfort, the Chairman of the Committee said the state has a lot to showcase, especially with the infrastructure transformation of the state in the past two years under the ‘Rescue Mission’ administration.
He said: “Everything is ready for the carnival. Security arrangements are in place, the state capital is aglow with unique paintings and other artistic works, the carnival village is a sight to behold. We are inviting the whole world to come and see the rescued Imo State.”
Mr. Obinna further disclosed that in order to prevent breach of security, all performing masquerades would be accredited and given code of conduct.
Obinna urged Imo citizens to take advantage of the carnival to galvanise the economy and appreciate the growth in infrastructure, education and health.
“Every year, we stream to Calabar for the carnival. Why can’t people also come here and participate in our own carnival? Let us make Imo a point of reference in this carnival,” he said.
Speaking with our correspondent, one of the tourists who did not want his name mentioned, praised the efforts of the organisers, noting that the carnival, as in every other place, will continue to improve with every edition.
He said: “I think the organisers have done well in knowing that this is the first edition of the carnival. Subsequent editions will certainly be better because the state indeed has rich cultural endowment and if properly harnessed, Imo will be the next tourism destination in the country.”
At the venue of the grand finale, the spectators and participants did not want the incident to end as the participating floats fought to outdo one another. Young men were held spellbound by the beauty of the young ladies enhanced by their fantastic costumes.
It was not just dancing and fun; there were also beautiful prizes to be won by the groups. According the organisers, the best group will go home with a brand new bus and N2 million, while the first and second runners up will get N1.5 million and N500,000 and a brand new bus respectively