Cross River Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade has said that no fewer than two million people are expected in Calabar during the 2017 Calabar Carnival.
The governor stated this on Monday in Calabar when the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed paid him a courtesy visit.
The Minister was in Calabar to declare open the final dry run of the carnival and inspect bands, costume making centres, rehearsal sessions for the festival.
Ayade said that 75 per cent of the expected tourists from across and outside the country were youths below the age of 35 years.
“Before now we used to have mostly the elderly and the rich people who have the finance capacity that come for the carnival.
“But the situation has changed so rapidly that you see more youths participating in the festival.
“The watching public has been so dynamic, there is a massive change and it is increasingly becoming a huge focussed programme,” he said. .
The governor said the theme for the carnival, “Migration” was deliberately chosen to preach to the youths the pains and consequences of illegal routes to Europe and America.
He said the carnival would be used to discourage young people from leaving Nigeria for the supposedly greener pastures overseas.
“When you see the float, procession, drama and dance, they are dramatically telling sad stories of a perilous routes which end in slavery and death.
“It is not just a dance; you must have the intellect to interpret what go beyond the performances telling stories of consequences of migration
“Calabar carnival is not just a street party but a lecture, training and formative structure to build new character and create new opportunities for young leaders.” he said.
The governor thanked the Minister for the visit noting that his presence had underscored the endorsement of the festival and it’s roles by the federal government
In a response, Mohammed said that Calabar Carnival had evolved over the years to become an international event and the federal government would continue to support it.
He said that his presence in Calabar spoke volume of the readiness of the federal government to partner and support the State in promoting the carnival.
Specifically, he said the federal government would leverage on Information and Communication Technology to promote the festival.
The Minister recalled that the Federal Government recently granted pioneer status to the Creative Industry whereby investors in the sector enjoyed tax holiday for three years among other benefits.
He therefore encouraged corporate sponsors and investors in the carnival to apply in order to benefits from the policy.
The Minister also assured that the carnival would benefit from the proposed 100 million dollar grant his ministry and stakeholder were seeking from the Central Bank of Nigeria for the support of the creative industry.
He disclosed that foreign participants in the carnival, like the 26 pageants from various countries contesting for Miss Africa 2017, already benefitted from the simplified Visa policy of the government.
The Minister said he was impressed with the level of preparation and the commitment by the government, band leaders and the performers to the carnival.