It was the seventh edition, the last in the administration of Governor Godswill Akpabio. “I am aware that this is my valedictory Carol Night. Next year, I will not have the honour of addressing you as your governor, but I will surely be here with you to worship our God”, the governor remarked. The packaging was creative. Musical performances, compelling. And the audience intermittently had frenzied moments during the world record-breaking event.


Call it God?s own party, the Akwa Ibom State Government 2014 Christmas Carol Night was a great spectacle to behold. It featured 9,999 choristers resplendent in white singlets emblazoned: 9999 and black trousers/skirts to match all drawn from the 31 local government areas of Akwa Ibom. The colourful event held at Akwa Ibom International Stadium, Uyo also known as ‘Nest of Champions’ on Saturday, December 20, this year attracted personages, gospel singers and guests from outside and within the country. The figure was an improvement of 9,300 choristers who featured during the maiden edition held on December 26, 2008.

At 9.10 p.m. Governor Akpabio accompanied by his wife, Unoma arrived at the stadium to the rapturous standing ovation of the teeming crowd. The stadium wore more of a carnival look with decorative lights strategically placed at the main bowl. There were two large platforms- one was for the governor, members of the state executive council, legislature and judiciary and other important personalities. There was a walkway overlaid with red carpet connected to the governor?s stage, sitting a podium with two fanciful lecterns for speakers. The other stage hosted the band stand where musical equipment and singers stood to perform. Overlooking the main bowl was an ornamental aeroplane to depict the festive mood of the event. At the front of the second stage were eclectic lights ceaselessly beaming: 9999 to the audience and a large, corrugated equipment in a silver-like colour that controlled some acoustic instruments and emitted smoke to create special effects during titillating performances. Adjacent the stages were two separate arenas with sets of chairs neatly arranged and well-decorated for members of the public. Even some covered seats in the stadium were filled with anxious-looking spectators. Adjacent it stood a conical Christmas tree atop 9999 with sparkling lights.

As the governor stood at his seat, the Master of Ceremonies (MC) ordered AKSG Band to play the national anthem. The MC in a velvety voice declared ??The event was geared to re-enact a festival that will remain a legacy of Godswill Akpabio’s administration?? An applause greeted him. The event had then started in earnest.

Shortly, the Presiding Bishop of Christian Chapel International Centre, Calabar, Bishop Emah Isong offered the opening prayers. It was the turn of the initiator of the programme who mooted it as the then Director of Protocol to the Governor to set the tone of the event. Aniekpeno Mkpanang, who is now Permanent Secretary, Government House, Uyo who sonorously rendered ?Afo Omodot Itoro, Abasi Ibom k?enyong?? meaning that ?God Almighty, you are worthy of praise? ? excited the audience in his prodigious speech. He welcomed everybody to the annual festival and paid glowing tributes to Governor Akpabio who would complete his tenure of office in 160 days of eventful administration for keying into the vision of the programme. ?I stand totally humble by this achievement of the governor whose legacy has attracted a global attention… I remember him as a man who saw tomorrow because this is the biggest homecoming?, he recapped.

Candour, incandescence and razzmatazz characterised the event. The first family of Akwa Ibom led by Chief Akpabio, his wife and children strolled the well-lit walkway to flag it off. The governor declared ?Today, I have come to kick off 2014 Christmas Carol Night done in a spectacular state in uncommon stadium in an uncommon state by people who love God in uncommon way and God has blessed them in an uncommon way in what has come to be known as uncommon transformation… I, therefore, kick off God?s own party in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost?. And the corrugated equipment emitted a thick smoke that covered the podium. A thunderous applause rang.

Thereafter, Akpabio in an eight-page welcome address said “…The only known reason God created mankind was for man to praise and worship Him. The Muslims worship the Almighty God ? one God; the Christians worship the Almighty God ? one God. God is love, out of love God gave His only begotten son to come and be born amongst us at Christmas in order to pay the supreme sacrifice, thereby redeeming mankind. Therefore, I welcome you once again to the uncommon celebration of God?s love”.

He reminisced “On that cold wintry night, 2,000 years ago, there was an angel who could not hold his peace. The angel declared to shepherds in the field the ‘good tidings of great joy to all people’. When he concluded his declaration, the Bible says, ‘suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men”.

The governor who took his first Bible reading from Matthew 1: 8-28 explained ?Glory to God in the highest? is our testimony, as a people. God deserves the highest praise for the uncommon transformation of our land. He deserves our highest praise for causing the stone the builders rejected to become the chief cornerstone in the comity of states in Nigeria. He deserves our highest praise because since we began our unlikely political odyssey based on the audacious slogan ‘Let God?s will be done’, we have seen His love in every stride, in every step and in every inch of our journey. He has made us more than conquerors, overcomers in our time.

“However, our journey has not been easy. We have fought the giants of ethnicity, insecurity, and divisiveness every inch of the way. When they came like a flood, God raised a standard. When they came like Goliaths, God gave us the sling to bring them down. When they transformed as angels of light, God gave us wisdom to prevail”, he said.

Radiating with joy, he noted “But today we stand at a historic juncture. When the children of Israel crossed the Jordan, they encountered the walls of Jericho. God instructed them to go around the thick walls and continue to praise him. It was a curious instruction. How could you praise God when the obstacle was still there and you were going around it?

The Governor narrated “But they went around the wall. At the seventh call, there was no earthquake or wind but the walls fell down flat. This is the seventh edition of our Carol Night. Some persons have re-erected and re-fortified the walls of ethnicity and divisiveness because of the upcoming elections. But as the walls of Jericho came tumbling down in the seventh watch of praise, every wall of evil will fall down flat in this seventh edition of our record-breaking Carol Night.

“As we join our voices together, the walls of insurgency will come tumbling down. These insurgents you see today, you will see them no more tomorrow. Through our voices tonight, the walls of Ebola will come tumbling down and the scourges of poverty, crises and economic hardship, will be erased in this great continent of Africa. These walls of evil will surely come down as we declare, ‘peace, goodwill toward men’. Floods of peace and good will shall quench the fiery darts of insecurity, ethnicity and divisiveness. Nothing shall withstand the streams of love, which are poised to unleash tonight.

“Like Jacob, who anointed a stone as a memorial, we want to leave this as memorial of His goodness to our State forever. Let each succeeding generation of Akwa Ibom people use this to recommit and rededicate themselves to God. Let the praise from this event bring everyone to God?s banqueting hall, where love is served and righteousness reigns”.

Akpabio enjoined “Therefore I say to Akwa Ibom people let the music play, no matter how many strings you have left. Let the music play when a string or two is cut. Let the music play in high tide and in low tide. Let it play when trouble like a river attends our way. It is in letting the music play that it shall be well with you. It is in letting it play that our hearts would fuse together in love and harmony. It is in letting it play that words like ?Yoruba”, ?Hausa”, ?Igbo?, ?Ijaw,? ?Annang,? ?Ibibio,? ?Oron,? ?Ekit,? ?Ibeno,? ? Obolo?, etc will become mere descriptions of ancestry, and not walls of ethnicity and division and barriers to progress. After delivery of the address, he smartly jugged to his seat and the spectators hailed him loudly.

Akwa Ibom Voices comprising Aity Dennis Inyang, Godfada, El Mafrex, Umoh, Nathaniel Bassey and Linda Etukudoh ministered choruses in vernacular and the stadium was enlivened. Quartet by Nigeria, Congo, South Africa and St. Kitts and Nevis also featured in the ensemble. At 10.50 p.m. the event came to a climax. The conductor stood at the centre of the stage and the 9999 choristers rendered ?Sing to all Jerusalem? and ?Christ was born in Bethlehem?, among others.

The Bishop of Abuja Catholic Diocese, Cardinal John Onaiyekan who gave homily pointed out ?What we are doing today is to re-enact what happened in that wonderful night. On the first Christmas night, only poor shepherds heard the carol from the Heaven but today in Uyo the rich are hearing from the edification of the rich? He congratulated the governor for the event that cost money and hoped the activities of Xmas take charge in every affair of the government. ?In those days, there were no hospitals, but children were born in manger. Today, kings and nobles are having babies. Politicians and others are welcomg babies When children are born, they are all the same. Put the children of the rich and the poor, they are all the same. It demands care and love. We are challenged to have greater concern for the children especially those than Jesus…”

Then the Harmonious Voices of Accra, Ghana and Soweto Spiritual Singers of South Africa up a scintillating performance with two songs that attracted huge applause. After, Sinach, Nigerian sensational, popular gospel singer mounted the stage and the joyous audience cheered. The musical maestro rendered two enchanting tracks ?Chosen generation? and ?This is your season?. The atmosphere was charged. The International Choir Appearance from Jamaica joined and rendered two pieces of reggae Christmas carol including ?Joy to the World?. Ageless Nigerian gospel singer and guitarist, Rev. Panam Percy Paul sang ?Let?s Praise the Lord?. The US-based saxophonist, Angela Christe jazzified ?Igwe?. Don Moen, the US-born gospel star singer backed by AKSG Band ministered ?Hallelujah?, ?God is Good? and Celebrate Jesus?. Renowned gospel reggae musician, Buchi sang ?It is well?, among others.

The programme was televised live by DSTV (African Magic and dedicated channel), Channels Television, AIT, Silverbird, NTA International and live streaming. Goodwill messages came from the Deputy Prime Minister of Kitts and Nevis, Hon. Dr. El Martin, Jesse Jackson, a US Human Rights activist and Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (retd). Then, Bongo Ikwue thrilled the crowd with his “Amen” masterpiece. The final curtain fell when the 9,999 choristers sang “Hallelujah? chorus. And fireworks ensued. Gone, the event served as a source of spiritual illumination to many Nigerians and foreigners who attended it as well as boosted the tourism potentials of Akwa Ibom.

Umoh writes from Uyo


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