ABUJA CARNIVAL Events, Featured The first edition of the Abuja Carnival was held in 2005, and many have continued to relive the dazzling displays in their minds. Abuja residents and people across the country can be heard discussing the carnival very passionately because of its yearly unique sights and sounds. Before Abuja Carnival, it is nearly impossible to find Nigerians appreciating any bit of their cultural heritage that gains national acceptability. Like many writers have noted in the past, custom in Nigeria has always competed with religion in the people’s minds, and, therefore, the current of Abuja Carnival ran deep, because it got most Nigerians talking and the international visitors couldn’t believe that there could be that much of a spectacle in a country perpetually painted abroad as being so black. The carnival, an assemblage of contingents from the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) converged on a location to make separate statements in tradition and lifestyle, the least being that one would get a snapshot of a country that has shied from asserting its native endowments on the world’s consciousness for too long. With the carnival’s modest successful taking place during the past five editions, this year’s edition will not be different, offering the usual, but in an upgraded manner. It will include durbar, masquerades, command performances, and a boat regatta procession that helped practitioners to overcome the hurdle of identifying the right tourism product for Nigeria. The entire tourism and arts communities are in agreement that the country has finally realized that the best it can offer the world is cultural tourism. Unfortunately, the ineptitude of those responsible for such a long time means the promotion and marketing of Nigeria has not taken place. Despite the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and National Orientation’s good intention of believing that the carnival and the host city, Abuja, would, with every edition, be a sort of “window” for all the states to show, as well as display their tourism potentials, not many so far have taken the platform provided by the carnival. In ensuring that the aforementioned is achieved, the 2010 Abuja Carnival management committee has opted for a bigger space to enable the states exhibits to come the carnival proper next month, moving away from the traditional Arts and Crafts village, where participating states sell souvenirs and memorabilia, such as raffia, brass, adire, leatherworks, woodcarvings, beads and other handicrafts. Many travel and tourism analysts are still quite surprised that a product, rich in content and with several unique features, Abuja Carnival still remains a hard sell. Today, Abuja Carnival Durbar parades the largest number of horses, elegantly decorated with costumes, that cannot be easily picked up in the market. Apart from admiring the dexterity of the horsemen, spinning the swords and spears in their hands every now and then, experts also say that the value of silver jewellery, draped on each horse, comes close to $10,000. With northern states bringing thousands of horses for Abuja carnival, Benue State parading its world famous and exceptional Kwag_hir puppetry, while the southern states flaunting their aquatic prowess, packaged alongside some notable historical discoveries, such as NOK sculpture and the Sukur World Heritage Site _ enough products for a quality week_long holiday package, that would excite any international tourist who wish to visit Nigeria. The carnival has suffered initial criticism by Christian and Islamic leaders, who condemned the idea of a carnival and asked organizers to discontinue it, saying that it would be a showcase of the immorality. The critics also said that the carnival was no different from the 1977 Festival of Arts and Culture [FESTAC], which many have said is largely responsible for Nigeria’s economic problems. But now the carnival is gradually becoming a household name, even among those that were against it from the beginning. Till this moment, the carnival management still continues to assure Nigerians that the event remains purely a tradition_driven project, would involve no idolatry and would not be another version of the famed sexy carnivals across the world. So far, while the marketing of Abuja carnival has not really taken off, the officials of the 2010 Management Committee are not shying away from any attempt of promoting it through the right channels. It has already placed promotional information on two major online travel and tourism websites _ www.etrubonews.com and www.travelafricanews.com , respectively. The Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Alhaji Sadiq Abubakar Mohammed, who is also the chairman of the 2010 Abuja Carnival Management Committee must use all government apparatus and institutions to market and promote the carnival. Agencies like the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation [NTDC], established to market and promote all of Nigeria’s tourism potentials within and internationally, must be seen to be doing so.