A’Ibom Christmas Carols Festival 2017: Showpiece of Excellence

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Akwa Ibom Christmas Carols Festival 2017
Akwa Ibom Christmas Carols Festival 2017

The Akwa Ibom Christmas Carols Festival 2017 is a showpiece of excellence and creativity. Once again, it is ready to set the global scene aglow with scintillating performances and enthralling renditions by local, national and international gospel artistes. The yearly festival is one of the biggest events that buoy up awe-inspiring and soul-lifting gospel songs and rivet the spiritual landscape of the Yuletide.

Unlike other years’ carols, this year’s festival will showcase 173 choirs, three foreign artistes, 21 Nigerian artistes, 100-man Brass Band, 5,000 carols singers, and 45,000 worshippers. It is one event in the state indeed in the globe that temporalily buries denominationalism, tribalism and sectionalism but encapsulates love and unity of purpose among all human races.

Invited Ministers, Gospel Artistes and Choir Groups for the Akwa Ibom Christmas Carols Festival 2017 Edition

The great gospel ensemble has as its theme: Emmanuel! O God is with Us taken from Psalm 23:4 and will trundle on Friday, December 22 at 6 p.m. at Uyo Township Stadium. Pastor Agu Irukwu, who is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees and Head of the Executive Council of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) in the United Kingdom (UK), will minister at the glamorous event. He is also Special Assistant to the RCCG General Overseer, Member of RCCG’s World Advisory Council, Regional Pastor of RCCG England, and Chairman of the RCCG Regional Board in the UK.

Pastor Irukwu also serves as Senior Pastor of Jesus House for All the Nations, London, a parish of the RCCG established in April 1994. Jesus House, as the church is more commonly known, is now acknowledged to be one of the fastest-growing black majority churches in England, with about 3000 people attending its services on Sundays. Married to Pastor Shola, he has three children. A graduate of the University of Warwick, Coventry, UK, Pastor Agu was a former Investment Banker prior to his decision to go into full-time Christian ministry.

Gospel artistes who will light up the festival include Chris Shalom, Bob Fits, Ron Kenoly, Agu Irukwu, Ezekiel Umoh, Linda Etukudoh, The AKSG Choir, Nathaniel Bassey, Eno Michael, Jimmy D Psalmist and Amaikah Otu.

Kinsley Ike, Esther Edoho, United Cameroon Voices, Joe Praise, David Ekene, Progress Effiong, Bukky Olugbono, Elsie Duncan-Williams, Queen Favour and Uyo Girls Choir would participate in the festival that has become a record-breaking event and a rallying point to 48 million viewers beamed by DSTV from all parts of the world.

IN THE BEGINNING

The first edition of Akwa Ibom Government Christmas Carol night, the largest assembly of carol singers in the world debuted with 9,300 carol singers made of 10 choir groups with 30 members each taken from the 31 local government areas of Akwa Ibom State in 2008.

From 2008 to 2011, the events featured the Abuja Metropolitan Music Society (AMEMUSO), the Winneba International Youth Choir from Ghana, the Soweto Spiritual Singers of South Africa and many international artistes alongside best-known Nigerian artistes and choral groups. Great Men of God such as Pastor William Kumuyi of the Deeper Life Bible Church, Bishops and many Pastors graced these editions of the festival. The theme was: One God for all people.

The fifth edition of Akwa Ibom Government Christmas Carol Night, held on December 22, 2012 at the Uyo Sports Stadium, featured 9,999 choristers. The theme of the assemblage was: Worship in His Presence.

Pastor Enoch Adeboye, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God ministered in the 2012 edition of the carol night. Two international gospel artistes: Pastor Donnie McClurkin and Alvin Slaughter from the USA and an international choir performance by the Chorale Devine de Merveilles of the Republic of Congo thrilled the teeming audience during the night.

The Ibom Unity Band performed at the occasion and a host of Nigerian gospel artistes, including Aity Dennis-Inyang, Pat Akpabio, Annie Inyang, Linda Etukudoh, among others led the session of worship and praises’ songs.

In 2013, the Akwa Ibom State Government Christmas Carol night took place on December 21 at the Uyo Sports Stadium. With a blend of unique vocal and digital rendition of medley, 2013 edition featured some of the best international and local artistes at the time. The theme was: All the Earth Proclaimed the Lord.

Bishop David Oyedepo, the Presiding Bishop of the Living Faith Church (Winners’ Chapel) was the officiating minister. Reverend Jesse Jackson, the USA-born human rights activist was in attendance. The event featured the National choir of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis and such internationally renowned gospel artistes as Israel Houghton and Lionel Peterson. Some Nigerian song birds – Frank Edwards, Bongos Ikwue, Nathaniel Bassey, Aity Dennis-Inyang, Pastor Goody Goody, Folake Umosen and Freke Umoh ministered in songs.

Before the 2014 carol night, the coordinator organized 25,272 choristers who participated in the Christmas carol giving it worldwide recognition when the broke the world record that was officially certified by the Guinness World Records in 2014 as the “Largest Group of Carol Singers in the World”. The concert was against a former record of 15,674 carol singers which was achieved the previous year by CENTI, a group in Bogota, Columbia.

The Akwa Ibom government Christmas Carol night bagged the prestigious Guinness World Record Certificate as the “Largest Group of Carol Singers in the World.”

During the 2014 edition, John Onayekan of the Abuja Catholic Diocese was the officiating minister. An internationally renowned composer and gospel singer, Don Moen uniquely performed during the night. Apart from the 25,000-singer choir rendition, the Soweto Spiritual Singers of South Africa; the Chorale Devine de Merveilles from the Republic of Congo; the National Choir of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis; the Winneba International Youth Choir from Ghana and the Abuja Metropolitan Music Society (AMEMUSO) performed during the past five editions.

Also performing at the carol were the Voices of Jamaica Choir and the Harmonious Chorale from Ghana. Other awesome appearances included Panam Percy Paul, Bongos Ikwue, Angela Christie, a renowned American Gospel Music Saxophonist, Osinachi Kalu (Sinach), Buchi, Daddy Showkey, El-Mafrex, Nathaniel Bassey, Linda Etukudoh, Mosaic, Patience Esekhile, among others. The event was held on Saturday, December 20, 2014 at Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo.

The 2015 edition which was rebranded Akwa Ibom Christmas Carol Festival took place at the Uyo Sports Stadium on Saturday, December 17. This was the first edition hosted by the Governor Udom Emmanuel administration. The carols theme: When Praises Go Up

The Officiating Minister was Bishop Mike Okonkwo, General Overseer of the Redeemed Evangelical Mission. Among the international artistes who led praises were foremost American Gospel singer, Donnie McClurkin, an 11-time Grammy Award winner and American Gospel singer, Shirley Caesar, Saxophonist Angela Christie and Chevelle Franklyn. Also performing were great Nigerian gospel artistes: Sammie Okposo, Asu Ekiye, Lara George, Chinelo Dillimono, Aity Dennis-Inyang, Freke Umoh including a 12-year old saxophonist, David Eka, among others.

The festival enjoyed the partnerships of some corporate organizations like Globacom, United Bank for Africa (UBA), Le Meridien Ibom Hotels and Golf Resort and Hensek Integrated Services.

The 2016 edition of the Festival took place on Saturday, December 17 at the Uyo Township Stadium by 6 p.m. The festival with the theme Let Our King Be Lifted High drew an array of worshippers who shared in the joy of the night and lifted their voices in praising God.

The officiating minister was Archbishop Nicholas Duncan-Williams, the General Overseer of Action Chapel International Ministry, Ghana. Don Moen, a multiple award-winning American Gospel artiste, set the tone of the night and powerfully led worship with the Uyo Girls Choir. The PRM Band from United Kingdom, the Kenya Boys Choir and Kayamba Africa Choral Ensemble also performed during the festival.

Among Nigeria’s most renowned gospel singers were Julius Nglass, the classical tenor and multi- instrumentalist who played the church organ; Buchi, who offered the festival a touch of reggae, Rev. Patrick Edet and Esther Edoho who both offered songs in the vernacular language of the Akwa Ibom people; the sensational Steve Crown, Pastor Elijah Oyelade and Sammie Okposo, a multiple- award winning gospel artiste known for his energetic gospel music performances.

Ibom Orchestra, Ibom Brass Band and the Akwa Ibom State Government Choir joined the large assembly of singers in rendering carols in an awe-inspiring way during the festival. The festival enjoyed corporate partnerships from Globacom Unlimited, Dana Airline, Airfrance, Zenith bank, UBA, Stanford Bank, Nigerpet Structures Limited and Wizchino Engineering Ltd. More than 30,000 dignitaries and visitors around the country were hooked to the mind-lifting praise festival.

Mr. Aniekpeno Mkpanang, Permanent Secretary, Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Culture and Tourism and Co-ordinator of the festival, speaking with StraightNews in Uyo, Akwa Ibo State capital described ‘The Akwa Ibom Christmas Carols Festival is one of the biggest and well-attended festivals in the world and we are expecting over 20,000 artistes and visitors to fly in from other parts of the country, Africa and the world, hence the need to join ranks and partner with one of the most consistent airlines in Nigeria, Dana Air right now to ensure a hitch-free, hassle free, seamless, and on-time travel for all our guests and visitors.’’

Mkpanang said, “As you may be aware, the Akwa Ibom Christmas Carols Festival is the largest assembly of carol singers in the world and this is a global achievement officially certified by Guinness World Records. We have a track record of hosting world-class events and we can’t afford to let the ball drop at this point when we are aiming to beat even our existing records.”

Dr. Nestor Udoh, a retired permanent secretary in Akwa Ibom State government, who spoke with StraightNews in Uyo, reminisced “I have been attending carols organised by the state government for the past eight years. If we are to be frank, it remains an achievement of the state government and I know God is pleased with the state. Although people see it differently thinking it is expensive, I think if the state government spends few millions to organise carol to sing praises to God that is too much. Again, the carol is global- it is a worldwide event.

There was a time it reported that over 50 channels hooked on to beam the event from Akwa Ibom to viewers worldwide, showcasing Akwa Ibom to the world, exhibiting its rich potentials, and what our people can do. This serves as tourism.”

“Apart from that, it brings personalities, the likes of Jesse Jackson was invited last time. I remember Jesse saying that he has travelled around the world, but he was yet to see such display of talents. If such a statement came from an American and a human rights activist, this indicates a stamp of authority. So, the carol is a very good thing, and I urge our young men to refrain from unconstructive criticisms.

“The idea and philosophy behind organising the carol is that: Akwa Ibom State is named after God. Now if you name a state after God and you forget about God, what do you think would happen? So, what we should do is to join hands with government and promote the carol. I am happy the present government has continued hosting and organising the carol event, which the former Governor Godswill Akpabio initiated. I commend Governor Udom Emmanuel for organising the event, and I know God will continue to bless Akwa Ibom and the governor and his family.

“When the carol began in the state, it was just a few people who turned up. But now, people struggle to buy patent right to air the carol. It is exposing the state. People are gradually to knowing Akwa Ibom. If you travel to America and mention Akwa Ibom State in Nigeria to average America who watches television he will know. It is beaming the state in good limelight. We might not see the impact of the event immediately, but the economy of any state depends on exposure because it is not indigenes of the state that will bring money to develop the state but outsiders. If we keep hosting the event at a certain point the turnout will stimulate the economy, then we will see the impact.”

According to him, “For me, the only thing political about the Christmas carol is that it is organised by politicians. Outside that, it has nothing to do with politicians. It is an excellent event to showcase the state both physically and spiritually. Even the money spent to organise the event as I said before, it is God that brings money. I think, therefore, there is no amount of money too big to give to God.

Up till now, the Bible records that King Solomon is the richest man in human history. King Solomon was worth in the present world more than $650 billion dollars. Even the richest men we have now like Bill Gates, there are worth about $60 billion or $90 billion. So, looking at it, what did Solomon do? He built a temple for God, which was the genesis of his wealth. So, no amount of money is too much to give to God provided you have it.”

Udoh noted “If Akwa Ibom State that earns the highest in oil revenue in the country spends just a few hundreds of millions to organise a carol, people should not criticise it. Apart from the spiritual benefits, it is boosting tourism. At the end of the event each year, petty traders make a lot of profits. So, I am not surprised because people who criticise unconstructively are those of low mentality, and they cannot get beyond that level. People abroad spend much money to organise events without any religious connotation like thanking God, talk less of this one that combines both spiritual and physical impact.”

When StraightNews visited the Uyo Township Stadium on Friday, carpenters have constructed the superb stage, the Stadium repainted, Christmas tree and other decorations/paraphernalia mounted, hotels booked for the artistes and payments made to DSTV to beam the event to 48 million viewers in the world while Dana Airline has been slated as the official airline for the festival.