4th May, 2011
Tafawa Balewa Square, TBS, the memorial arcade was agog recently as diverse colours held the eye spellbound. It was a delight to behold as thousands of Lagosians trooped into the arena to be part of the glamorous event. It was the Lagos Carnival 2011.
Historically, the origins of carnivals are diverse; the earliest carnivals were recorded over 2,000 years ago as an ancient rite observed by the Greeks and Romans. Carnivals were used to celebrate the rites of spring by the Greeks and in the festivities of Saturn, the Sun god by the Romans. However, when Christianity became the official religion in Rome, the Emperor Constantine directed this rite towards Christian purposes.
According to the Committee, Lagos Carnival 2011, the tradition of carnivals in Lagos became mostly prominent through the Carreta festival of the Brazillian Emancipados â€”the returnees and their descendants from Bahia and Salvador to the city in the late 19th century. In line with its religious roots, the Carreta traditionally holds three times a year in Lagos: on Easter Monday, which marks the end of the Christian fasting period and the resurrection of Christ, on Christmas Day and on New Year Day.
Lagos boasts diverse people and cultures. A reflection of this was in the carnivals held yearly on Lagos Island under the banner of LOCEO (Olowogobowo, Campos, Epetedo and Oko-Faji).
Chairman, Organising Committee of the Lagos Carnival 2011, Mr. Disu Holloway said the new Lagos carnival was designed after the Brazillian (Campos) carnival. One difference, however, is that the Lagos Carnival separates the adultsâ€™ from the childrenâ€™s carnival while LOCEO Carnival involves both the young and the old. The other differences are the size and flamboyance of the Lagos Carnival.
â€œCarnivals in Lagos has roots in the church but the Lagos Carnival has now broadened its spectrum, welcoming all to the vibrancy and colour that echo the nature of its host city, Lagos,â€ he said.
Preparation for this yearâ€™s carnival began four months ago when hundreds of young Lagosians were busy working on different aspects of the carnival: designing; cutting and sewing costumes, fabricating sails, backpacks and floats.
The carnival had over 12,000 adult and young persons beautifully costumed, parading the streets of Lagos Island and Ikoyi with a grand parade at the TBS.
Very early in the morning on 30 April, 2011, all roads in the Lagos metropolis led to the TBS as a multitude thronged the venue of the carnival to behold and be part of the creativity, glamour and panache of the carnival. The carnival was the second in the series to be held under the Governor Babatunde Fashola administration. The first was held in 2010.
The carnival, which normally holds during the Easter celebrations was shifted by a weekend the victory of Fashola at the 26 April governorship polls, added to the celebratory mood. This made the celebration unique. Fashola was the man of the moment at the carnival as the celebration centred on his re-election as governor for another four years.
A capacity crowd of excited Lagosians and foreign tourists including Fashola, his wife, Abimbola and Deputy Governor, Princess Sarah Sosan, witnessed the beautiful display and scintillating performance of various colourfully attired Fanti groups representing different areas as the carnival climaxed.
An array of personalities, including members of the State Executive Council; members of the organizing committee and the Chairman, Holloway and invited guests watched with excitement as the various groups marched past the dignitaries.
The Lagos Carnival, which was a beautiful recreation of the age-long tradition of Brazil was given added impetus through a colourful display of music, dance and procession by various groups.
The event which commenced at about 10.am in the morning featured about 12,000 carnival contingents dressed in various costumes to reflect the coastal nature of the state. There was also a live musical band that thrilled the audience and theatrical performance from Jiimbay dance troupe and Sax and the Islanders.
All the six education districts in Lagos were represented at the parade which featured participants from areas like, Ikeja, Ketu, Agege, Ifako- Ijaiye, Ikorodu, Ogba, Isolo, Surulere, Odi- Olowo, Mushin, Ilasamaja, Oworonshoki Awoyaya, Addo Langbasa, Epe and Badagry. These all joined the traditional Fanti groups of Campos Lafiaji, Epetedo and Oko Faji in the beautiful display and a spirit of broader participation.
The various contingents had earlier gone in a procession through different routes like Falomo, Obalende, National Museum, Onikan to the Tafawa Balewa Square in a road show which was characterized by beautiful leg works and display.
Speaking at the event, Fashola used the occasion to thank Lagosians for their support for the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, during the just concluded election and for returning him as the governor-elect, assuring that his administration would continue to pursue people-oriented programmes that would impact on the lives of all.
Fashola restated his commitment not to let the people down, saying it was part of the benefits of the mandate given to him by the people that brought about the celebration of the Heritage Week which was meant to celebrate Easter and promote opportunities in the state. He stated that the 2011 Heritage Week kicked off earlier in the week with the Fela Show and later climaxed with the Carnival and Boat Regatta.
â€œAll the costumes adorned by all the participants at the Lagos Carnival were made in Lagos and it is a proof of the people-oriented programmes of the present administration to give jobs to Lagosians. With the successful organisation of the festival, Lagos State has taken its leadership position in many ways with the image of the state growing in leaps and bounds.
â€œMy administration will use the carnival to expand the economic sector towards providing more jobs for the people,â€ he said, adding that the recently concluded elections would signpost the readiness of ensuring political stability in the country and bring about accelerated development.
Fashola assured of his administrationâ€™s commitment to making the state a tourist destination, adding that â€œyour government for which I have the honour and privilege to head, is strongly committed to restoring Lagos to its status as Nigeriaâ€™s commercial and industrial hub.â€
According to him, the city was being remoulded into a major tourist attraction, stressing that beautification and land transportation works were going on for the relaxation pleasure of Lagosians.
â€œThe various cultural events in Lagos are being revitalized and held at specific dates to allow residents and international tourists place us on their tourism calendars. As you watch and enjoy the spectacle that the carnival parade offers, I urge you to also appreciate the hard work and dedication that has gone into preparing for an event of this magnitude.
â€œThere are roughly 12,000 participants, whose costumes have all been made over many months of tireless efforts by hundreds of young Lagosians, both male and female. All the costumes and effigies used for the carnival were produced in the stateâ€™s new skill acquisition centre at Isheri. This only goes to show that Lagos has a pool of capable hands, who can deliver world class products if given the platform to do so.
â€œThe near-term economic implications of this venture is perhaps more significant than todayâ€™s event as many of our youths have been gainfully employed as tailors, welders and embellishers for four months,â€ he stated.
However, as it has always been, the Lagos Carnival 2011 provided an avenue to establish new bonds for the many ethnic nationalities who live in the metropolis. It also provided an opportunity for new alliances to be forged while it was also a moment filled with memories to last for a lifetime.