The 2019 Calabar Carnival was concluded exactly two years ago, and quite incomprehensibly, for two years down the line; those of us who were involved in the 2019 Carnival Calabar event as adjudicators have yet to be paid our statutory honorarium for the 6 days of passionate but grueling services rendered to the Cross River State Government, through the agency of the Carnival Commission.

The crux of this narrative is to appeal to the authorities responsible for the payment of the 2019 carnival Calabar honorarium to please pay us for services rendered. Even the Bible demands that the labourer deserves his wage and should not be so denied.

For the uninitiated, the Carnival Calabar adjudication process is a highly tasking, intellectually draining and physically sapping exercise. In the first instance, for the 55 of us who have been severally trained and internationally certificated as adjudicators for the then annual Carnival, 20 of us are sourced and selected from across the country… Abuja, Lagos, lafia, PH, Uyo, Illorin and so on; while the other 30 are based in Cross River State. The reason for this mix is to strike a balance and assure integrity in the outcomes of the adjudication results, one that will not engender litigation from dissatisfied band leaders. But that is story for another day.

I have been an adjudicator with the Calabar Carnival for about 11 years now and we get paid our stipend the day after the Carnival. This has not been the case with the 2019 Carnival. My intent here is to appeal to the authorities to please pay us our laboured due as the situation is quite pathetic to say the least.

The carnival adjudication is a very herculean task. We begin with the logistics team going to the airport to wait out the flights for the arrival and accommodation of our co-jurors coming in from all over Nigeria from the 22nd of December. Then 23rd – 25th December begin a strenuous and compulsory training and retraining workshop for review and updates on adjudication criteria for the year. It is at these 3 days workshop that starts from 7am to 8pm daily, that all the carnival bands submit the synopsis of their expected presentation. We don’t spend Christmas with our families. Because of the love we have for the work and the value we add to the entire system, we don’t complain. At the end of the day, we take the stipend with a “smile” and go home. Appeals have been made for the honorarium to improve after 7 years on same level, but all entreaties fell on deaf ears. The one that we have been managing has been held back for 2 years.

I am seizing this opportunity and using this medium to appeal to the authorities to please pay us for the 2019 service.

At this juncture, maybe the Carnival Commission should be reminded that of the 55 adjudicators who worked for 7 days for the 2019 event, 7 were full professors, 8 Associate professors, 25 PhD holders from the arts and humanities callings, while the rest were reputable media practitioners, design professionals, acclaimed choreographers, performance art critics/carnival enthusiasts and carnival history scholars. It may also be useful and pertinent to remind the authorities that on the main carnival day of 2019, the adjudicators sat at their duty post for 26 hours at a stretch … from 7am on the carnival morning till 9am the following day when the last band Passion 4 finished performance.

The results were collated and authenticated at about 2pm, yet by 4pm, the adjudicators were seated again at the stadium for the adjudication of the international carnival, which itself finished in the wee hours of the next morning. Yet till today no honorarium has been paid to the labourers in the vineyard. And in a Year that the Carnival Calabar celebrated “Humanity” as the theme for the carnival: where both the vice president of Liberia and His Excellency the Governor of CRS exhausted themselves on the import of that year’s Humanity Carnival theme to Africans, the world and the carnival revellers; this treatment is nothing short of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man.

I mooted the idea of making this appeal in public space to someone and he said to me that there will be consequences as the authorities may ban me from taking part in future adjudication participation for daring to bring this sadly inhumane truth to the public space. I’d like to say here that, I’ve come too far and i recognise that I’m on the return curve, so I am not worried. I bear in mind the words of Wole Soyinka, “the man dies in all who keeps silent in the face of tyranny”. And I refuse to keep silent for too long as injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

I thank you for your time.

God bless Cross River State.

God bless the Calabar Carnival.

I wish you all a Happy New Year.

Ogbeche, Paolo

Calabar – Nigeria

1st January 2022.

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