I wasn't among those privileged to watch Calabar carnival live this year but thanks to Africa Magic World, a cable television channel, I was able to catch a good piece of the carnival. And like past editions, I enjoyed it. From dance moves to costumes and logistics, there was enough to cheer about. Calabar carnival once again gave us enough reasons to be proud of being Nigerians.
Okay, the Governor of Cross River was conspicuously absent, something unusual about it as we've become used to seeing the governor, wife and important dignitaries dress up in colorful costumes. Many could live with the absence of the governor at this year's event but are still coming to terms with the flagrant display of flesh packaged as the icing of the cake for this year.
Thombais Vai Vai Samba Band, Sao Paulo carnival champions and Leventila Steel Band of Trinidad and Tobago were international inspirations that graced Calabar carnival this year. This was one decision taken with little or no regard for children and teenagers in the audience, considering this is a family event.
Well, according to media reports, this decision was taken with eyes set on emulating the best carnivals in the world - the ones in Brazil and Trinidad and Tobago for example. I quote, "the Cross River State Government showed its commitment to its international aspirations by inviting the Sao Paulo carnival champions, the Thombais Vai Vai Samba Band and the Leventila Steel Band of Trinidad and Tobago to play at the carnival. Neither of them disappointed. Both bands brought their own unique styles to a carnival which without them has already garnered widespread appeal. But the diversity added spice." One media report said.
Hmm, both bands were in town in glittering g-strings and bikini tops festooned with feathers and other vegas-like (red-district) accessories. The girls were hot, no doubt, with bodies that can compete favourably with beauty queens in international beauty pageants (even though we all know Brazil offers one of the cheapest plastic surgeries in the world and one out of every three Brazilian women has gone under the knife albeit successfully).
A spectacle to behold as these ladies danced, jiggled raw flesh and temperatures went sky-high. Men swooned, women admired (quite a number probably wishing for statistics as perfect as these ones) and children gazed transfixed at this open soft porn playing before their eyes without any parental discretion (the best Christmas present in years, I dare say).
Obviously, there was something for everyone...even security operatives on duty threw all caution to the winds and starred at these angels that must have fallen from the sky, asses (buttocks) and ample cleavage on display.
You can call me crude, old-fashioned, Yes, I agree but Calabar carnival promised us a wholesome family-type entertainment. Not this semi-debauchery event with near-naked women displaying their dancing abilities in day-time with children watching. So, why the digression? This is not Brazil and we are not used to this kind of genre of carnivals. Little wonder, three million condoms were distributed at this years' event because those dancers provided the best sex stimulants for years in this part of the world. Forget cameras clicking and recording something to be gloated over privately for sexual stimulation.
If this is some kind of side-dish, Calabar Carnival organisers got it wrong this time and it seems to me they are slowly losing the plot.
If they had to bring in Brazilian and Trinidad and Tobago carnival winners, they should have been mindful of their far-from-decent attires and found a better time for their presentation, maybe leave it till evening/night time for adults only. There is no excuse for this because we all know how scantily-dressed these performers can be, so that should have been taken into cognizance.
I was in Calabar last year for some days during the carnival and I watched one of the dry runs; the energy, originality and modern infusion left a lasting impression on me. The zeal and seriousness they took their craft with fascinated me. The carnival day was not less fascinating with indigenous costumes sometimes with modern flair (understandable in this modern era), fast-paced music and mesmerizing dance steps. But all that paled into significance with the samba dancers.
Can we please leave this kind of carnival display to the samba people, that's the norm with them and the whole world is used to it. Please, let's return to our rich cultural and traditional displays that are what Calabar carnival is known for. The performance by the Brazilians and Trinidadians took a shine off other performances; (little wonder the internet is aglow with mixed reactions).
Believe me, those foreign tourists, Nigerians in Diaspora and domestic tourists didn't buy tickets, fly back home and book high-rates hotels and private homes in Calabar to watch half-naked samba dancers. If they wanted to, they would have flown to Rio de Janiero during Brazilian carnival.
According to Seyi Soremekun, a banker, 'Nothing cultural in these pictures. Nudity is in fact, against Nigerian culture. I wonder the motives of the Calabar Carnival organisers. If those pictures were really taken during the Calabar carnival, then the carnival organizers have derailed from the original concept of showcasing the rich Nigerian cultures for the world to behold.'
Bukky Odusina, a business woman said: 'Were there age restrictions for the carnival venues? What are the implications of these actions? Is it now ok for us to go about our day to day business naked?'
If the organisers need interesting side dishes as carnivals in Nigeria are becoming two a penny and there's a constant need to re-invent themselves, this is not the way to go about it. There are enough side dishes to borrow from all over the world, Nigeria-inclusive that are wholesome family entertainment and refrain from turning the largest street party into the largest soft-porn street party.