Those who thought that celebrating Christ in grandeur in Akwa Ibom State was gone with the Akpabio administration would be disappointed when Akwa Ibom Christmas Carols Festival 2015 organized by Special Services Department, Office of the Governor, Uyo comes alive on December 19, 2015 on a scale that would be unique, peculiar and distinct but similar in content, theme and purpose.
The event coming on the heels of a laudable social engineering, Dakkada, seems to be an initiation of a major re-orientation that would galvanize our faith in God, faith in ourselves and faith in our society. The creed which is unmistakable in its scriptural content as well as secular motive is phrased to offer the needed drive that can give our collective consciousness a turn-around. In the National Anthem which we can safely assume as secular, the opening exhorts us to “Arise” just as the “Dakkada” admonishes Akwa Ibom people to rise to their faith of greatness”. In the scripture, humanity is urged to “Arise and shine for your light has come”. In another breath, the scripture again warns the faithful to “Awake from slumber”. It is under the ambience of this inspiring socio-political philosophy that a rebranded Akwa Ibom Christmas Festival 2015 is taking place. The trappings that would produce this particular Carols Festival ensconce the event in uniqueness, peculiarity and distinctiveness. The Dakkada philosophy re-orientation has cast a fresh anchor on the event but without losing its content, essence and purpose.
Being the first under the genial Governor Udom Emmanuel, a Deacon of Qua Iboe Church and faithful servant of God, the event is fully rebranded as a spectacular celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the saviour of mankind. There is therefore a deliberate shift of emphasis from the unique numeric of 9,999 to a consuming pageantry that would celebrate Christ Jesus with a consequence of reinforcing the faith of mankind in the supremacy of God. The event as usual will feature rendition of Christmas carols, inspirational numbers; Praise and worship songs and other special performances by Akwa Ibom Gospel Artistes as well as nationally acclaimed and globally renowned gospel music icons.
The Chief host and promoter of the event, Mr. Udom Emmanuel had from ascension into office on May 29, 2015 not left anyone in doubt on his desire to partner with God for the overall good of the State. In demonstrating his faith, he had declared three days fasting in preparation for the take off of his administration. Suffice it to say that the approach has been very rewarding, if we go by the myriad of activities that have trailed his administration these past six months. And so as part of affirmation of his faith and thankfulness for God’s divine direction, Governor Emmanuel will deliver an official Yuletide Goodwill message at the event. A leading Pentecostal Cleric, Pastor Paul Adefarati will also deliver the Homily to commemorate the event which has become phenomenal in global trappings.
With the event deeply immersed in the Dakkada initiative, this year’s Christmas Carol Festivals is not only structured to blaze new trails, it is also to revamp our consciousness, galvanize us in the area of moral rebirth that would enhance and condition our greatness as well as set the State apart among its peers. Even though many may say that that had since been achieved but consolidating achievement and breaking new frontiers alongside are tasks that take genius, strength of character, good judgment and other related leadership attributes to achieve. This is what His Excellency, Mr. Udom Emmanuel seems to possess in reasonable quantum. It is also why he has minimal difficulty in arriving at critical decisions like sustaining the celebration of the birth of Christ, maintaining experienced hands to drive the project, rechristening the name of the event to uphold its essence and thematic consequence and foraying into areas that would create wealth, build capacity and improve the well being of the people.
The choice of the date, December 19, may seem ordinary but it is providential. Apart from being the 353rd day of the year in the Gregorian calendar, it has a balance of 12 days to end the year and 6 short days to Christmas. The date therefore is a brilliant prelude to that important celebration. The date also has a few other notable histories. It would be the 57th anniversary of the First Radio broadcast from space. It would also be the 24th commemoration of that date in 1991 when the Opera, “Christmas Carol” opened on Broadway for a record 14 performances.
To therefore spice up this historic date are artistes of amazing talents with national and global renown. Some of them are already becoming signatures on the programme. I am referring to the likes of Donnie Mc Clurkin, jnr, an American gospel singer and Grammy Award winner who was in Uyo in 2012 for the AKSG Carol Night. Another familiar signature on the State Christmas Carol Night is Angella Christie, an accomplished gospel saxophonist from America who was also here during the last edition of the event. Of course, Aity Dennis, Freke Umoh, Sammie Okposo, AKSG Choir, AKSG Orchestra, AKSG Band are familiar faces and features during the Christmas Festival.
The edition would up its ante with the introduction of other world acclaim gospel singers. One of such artiste of renown that would feature in this edition is Shirley Ann Caeser-Williams known professionally as Shirley Caeser. Born in October, 1938 in North Carolina, the multi-award winning artiste who has 11 Grammy Awards in her kitty is known in the Americas as the “First Lady of Gospel music. Chevelle Franklyn, the Jamaican born Grammy Award winner would also feature in the rebranded edition of Akwa Ibom Christmas Carols Festival. Lara George of the defunct Kush and winner of the Best African Female Gospel Artiste category during the 2011 African Gospel Music Awards would also be on hand to thrill Christian faithful. Of course Asu Ekiye, the Bayelsan born Gospel music maestro and trained accountant would join the coterie of entertainers that would give the night deserving vivaciousness.
Author and radio host Chinelo Dillimono, the Biochemistry and Botany graduate of University of Nigeria, Nsukka and Pastor, Music minister, worship leader and song writer is also billed to perform at the phenomenal event. The festival would be garnished by sons of the soil who have proved their mettle in the gospel music industry. I am referring to James Edikan, founder of Gospel gate invasions, a music recording firm, David Eka the saxophone sensation who has become a household name in Akwa Ibom state and Don Tom, born as Emmanuel Etuk, who is currently one of the budding jazz maestro and most visible Nigerian musician in central Europe.
For reminiscence, the event would also witness the performance of the largest Group of Carol singers in the World, the Godswill Akpabio Unity Choir, which was an assemblage of 25, 272 Carol singers massed together on December 13, 2014 as a record breaking event that met the Guinness Book of Records. The National Choir of Barbados is also one of the groups billed to thrill the audience that night. Of course, there would also be Promised Land Chorale, AKSG Choir, AKSG orchestra, AKSG Band and Ibom Unity Brass Band to add flavour to the event.
Akwa Ibom Christmas Carols Festival has joined to be one of the veritable tools of marketing the State. Governor Udom, a private/public sector operator has an understanding of the time and dynamics and so can not wish away such opportunity. Aside the abundant blessings are the economic enhancement it brings. Indeed, it is argued that if our fear of God is deepened through events like the Christmas Carols, our attitude would be imbued with sterling values that would improve our relationship with others as well as evolve public office holders who would rule with the fear of God. With such scenario, we can only urge government to codify the event as a public policy.
Joe Iniodu is a public affairs analyst
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