THE razzmatazz, fanfare,brightly adorned streets, gaily dressed youths and even carols which are sine-qua-non in Calabar this season of year are completely absent this 2020.
This time of year in the last fifteen years had been an attraction to revelers and holiday makers across the globe who throng the city in large numbers to savour the Christmas fanfare and ambience of of revelry prevalent in the city.
Beginning from the first day in the month of December every year, schools are shut, workers given thirty days work -free period with salary alerts sent to them to enhance the celebration.
Festivities are usually kick- started with a walk around major streets by the governor and his aides to highlight the danger of HIV scourge and at midnight crowds gather at the famous Millennium Park located at the centre of the city to light the Christmas Tree which heralds commencement of activities at the Christmas village.
The Christmas Village, is a place specially created for all-night -all -day frolicking session and provides assorted drinks at subsidised rate to go down with assorted grilled meat, fish and other delicacies and chops.
The dance sessions at the Village are usually endless as musicians and slapsticks both local and international are arrayed each day to provide music and comedy both night and day. This funfair usually comes to a climax during the last five days of the year with the famous Carnival Calabar aka Africa’s Biggest Street Party. The Carnival brings several participating bands to complete in choreography and aesthetics display. Skimpily dressed girls from across the country and outside are given the opportunity to join bands of their choice to display their dance skills and it is always a must watch to fun lovers as the events are usually beamed across the world on television, DSTV in particular .
All these have turned a mirage this year. The dreaded COVID19 pandemic has completely ruined all such plans for the year. The prolonged lockdown, distressed economy, exacerbated fear of contacting the virus and government’s resolve not to expose people to the scourge have scuttled the fun and everywhere is still and quiet in the city.
The average visitor to the city this time of year accustomed the atmosphere of festivity and enchanted beauty would almost miss his way or not believe that this is the famous Canaan City.
Everywhere looks drab and dark. Even private organisations like banks and eateries which usually joined the celebration by gaily painting and adorning their edifices and premises in Christmas colours did not do so this year. Some which tried to carry out ‘skeletal’ attempt to beautify their buildings still lack the glitz.
The Calabar Municipality which rented out part of its sprawling premises to serve as Christmas Village seems to be wallowing in regret as the turn out to the place is more or less of a caricature as no crowds have been seen in the place in the last two weeks. This is made worse by the curfew imposed by the state government at the wake of EndSARs protest in October which is still in place.
Announcing the cancellation of Carnival and Christmas festivities for the year, Mr Eric Anderson, the Commissioner for Tourism and Culture said because of large crowds that usually gather at Carnival and other Christmas events, the government cannot enforce COVID-19 protocol and so had to cancel the programme.
“The state government cannot, with the large crowd that usually gather at Christmas events enforce strict compliance with COVID-19 protocol; it is necessary to suspend the events this year” Anderson stated.
Before Anderson’s statement, the State House of Assembly had earlier adopted a Resolution to suspend the Carnival until damaged infrastructure during the EndSARs protest are fixed.
Mr Peter Odey, the member representing Ogoja State Constituency who moved the motion said that the state witnessed extensive devastation of infrastructure and simple wisdom demands that the money to be used in the Carnival should be deployed in the repair of damaged infrastructure.
He added that even the Rio Carnival in Brazil and the Nothing Hill Carnival in the United Kingdom were suspended because of COVID-19 and there is nothing unusual to suspend the Carnival Calabar to protect lives.
Though some people have attributed the state of insecurity in the city as the major reason for the suspension but that is neither here nor there.
However, children who are nostalgic of the fun this time of year have decided to create their own idea of the Carnival by forming bands and dancing round the city. The picture above is one of such spectacles.