By Israel Umoh

It is a common parlance in the ecclesiastical circle that prayer moves mountain, but praises move God. Akwa Ibom Government has made praise a focal point of Akpabio administration as a means of moving God’s power to oil the engine of its governance. Apart from the yearly thanksgiving service held every?January 2?and a monthly Government house prayer meeting, it has for six years now been hosting a unique Christmas Carol Night. Unlike Christmas carol night in other climes where traditional Christmas carols are rendered, Akwa Ibom Government parades 9,999 choristers from the 31 local government areas of the state. This assemblage is a world-breaking record that makes nonsense of the Guinness World Record of the largest assembly carol singers of 7,514 singers at the Bob Jones University in South Carolina, United States of America in 2004.
A pet child of Akwa Ibom Governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio, the event offers a blend of unique vocal and digital rendition of medley and lyrics as well as a repository of colourful visual decorations, dances, costumes, fireworks and lighting effects.

Beyond the music and side attractions, the yearly event is significant in many ways to Akwa Ibom Government and people. The carol night forms a common platform in uniting and bringing different choir groups, gospel artistes, preachers and tourists both locally and internationally to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ during the yuletide season. This provides spiritual refreshment to churches, gospel artistes, political office holders, politicians, clergy men and women, friends and families.

In addition, the event helps to open up the State to first?time visitors to behold the development projects tagged: “Uncommon transformation” ably exemplified by Akpabio administration in the last six years and seven months. Before now, some people had argued that much revenue allocation was given to States in the South-South Region, yet infrastructures were not commensurate with the allocation. Akpabio administration has changed such negative perception with superlative performance through the execution of high quality, people-oriented projects.
Again, the event is a remarkable celebration of Akwa Ibom now nick named the ?Gilgal of Nigeria?, thus re-enacting the era of the biblical Gilgal in ancient Israel where people moved to for solutions. Joshua 5:9 ?says “And Jehovah said unto Joshua, this day I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you; wherefore the name of that place was called Gilgal, unto this day”. For years now, Akwa Ibom has gradually assumed the status of ‘Gilgal’ by playing host to countless seminars, workshops and conferences for Nigerians and foreigners alike. Some major national events are usually brought to Uyo, the state capital.

Moreover, the carol night galvanises spiritual rebirth, victory as well as oils the engine of good governance in the State. Regarded as a ?Night of a thousand stars?, it serves as an annual ritual in opening the windows of God?s blessings for the people and unlocking the doors of opportunities of a new year to attract God?s favour. Through this, the cord of brotherhood, love, peaceful co-existence is strengthened among the dialectal groups in Akwa Ibom and meaningful development is achieved.

Finally, the event is one of the drivers of the hospitality industry in the state. Already, the State boasts of five-star hotels: Le Meridien Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort and Uyo Hilton Gardens, Ibom Tropicana Entertainment Centre, alluring tourist sites, and flyovers, among others. Research has shown that more than 70 per cent of revenue in some foreign countries comes from the hospitality industry. So, the carol night if properly harnessed and consistently sustained could turn the state to one huge internally generated revenue hub.

Director of Protocol to the Governor, Mr. Aniekpeno Mkpanang hinted that his team has raised a 200-man Ibom Choral band and Orchestra comprising a 100-man classical mass choir, a 50-man Orchestra choir, 35 singers, 10 instrumentalists and 10 lead singers as well as Akwa Ibom Voices to sing as an ensemble comprising Aity Dennis Inyang, Pastor Goody Goody, Folake Umosen, Linda Etukudoh, Fadabasi, Freke Umoh, Nathaniel Bassey, AKSG Choir and Unity Brass Band, while Akwa Ibom Scotland-based El-Mafrex is to lead the praise and worship session.

Also expected are Israel Houghton, a US internationally recognised worship leader and a five-time Grammy Award winner; Lionel Peterson, a world renowned South African Gospel legend; Sinach, an international worship leader of Pastor Chris Oyakhilome?s Christ Embassy International; Frank Edwards, a Nigerian exceptional, versatile and a multiple award-winning gospel rock artiste. The National Choir of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis and Guest appearance from West Indies would also debut on that day.
This year’s edition is billed for Saturday, December 21 at Uyo Township Stadium and will be flagged off by Governor Akpabio. To spice the carol night, Bishop David Oyedepo, the General Overseer of Living Faith Church also known as Winners Chapel is expected as a Guest preacher. The Arch-Bishop of Sokoto Diocese of Catholic Church, Bishop Matthew Kukah is also expected to grace the colorful event.

As Akwa Ibom people and other Nigerians celebrate this year’s Xmas carol night, may bombing in the country stop, may the walls of ethnicity, kidnapping, robbery and barriers to prosperity break down, may disunity disappear, may insecurity to life and property be a thing of the past and may love, joy and cooperation reign supreme in Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria.

Umoh is a public commentator


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