As the International Consultant to Calabar Carnival Ikechi Uko’s job is to bring all delegates to Calabar, and each year it is usually a nightmare for the same reasons. 1. Nigerian Visa is very tough to get. 2. Our processes are difficult. 3. Funny weather manages to close Nigerian Airports every Christmas season. 4. There are no accommodation in Calabar during Carnival. 5 We are Nigerians.
This year we struggled with Logistics and as usual flight delays and cancellations but the Nigerian Immigration came out as the best part of the chain. Every year, Ikechi literally ‘threatens’ the Controllers and he was always told by them in return to make sure the event doesn’t flop. But this time around, the Nigerian Immigration went beyond the call of duty to Support Calabar last year. Every Nigerian Security official was proud of the Carnival and did every thing to make it succeed. At Abuja Airport the DSS officer introduced himself to Ikechi, gave him his phone number and even the direct number of his boss. He just wanted security for the foreigners. The custom guys were all excited about the Carnival. “Are you the guy in charge of all these foreigners?” they asked Ikechi. Take good care of them. Abuja Airport AVSEC was constantly checking on me. He saw a Nigeria that could achieve great things. Everyone was friendly with the delegates.
Ikechi was in Accra on the 23rd of December when he got a call that some delegates for the Carnival had arrived Lagos. The Carnival came early. He had to catch a 6am flight back to Lagos on the 24th. He asked the whole team to report to work on the Sunday. Their Christmas was over. At the Sunday meeting Ikechi informed them that work starts immediately. Because of weather and seat availability, some passengers would have to arrive on 25th and at the Abuja Airport. He on the other hand chose to move to Abuja; so he left his team in Lagos to receive delegates.
On Christmas day, Ikechi was at the Airport to catch an early morning flight to Abuja. He ran into Dele Momodu (Publisher of the famous Ovation International Magazine) at the Airport. Dele openly wondered why the two men were at work on Christmas day. Just before he arrived Abuja, the Controller at Abuja called to inform him that his guests had arrived. The Abuja Airport and Lagos Airport controllers and their staff are indeed great ambassadors of the country.
It was unbelievable. Inspite of all the blunders by the Airlines and logistics problems that re-occcurred, Ikechi doffs his hat to everyone who made this event work again. When the suprised Governor asked him if all dancers were in Calabar and he answered yes, it was a confirmation of a Miracle.
Ikechi’s background as a Travel Writer gave him access to Airline and Hotel managers, which made his job easy. Can you imagine South African Airways and Ethiopian Airlines carrying all the Carnival passengers last minute based on just phone calls he made to the the Area managers? Imagine Nnaemeka Agbasi not just arranging rooms and buses for Abuja passengers but personally turn up at the Airport himself just because I made a late night call. Imagine Solomon arranging Hotel rooms in Port Harcourt with Buses and Security within an hour just because he made a phone call.
Ikechi told the Airlines that once they can land the passengers anywhere in Nigeria, he can get them to Calabar. “I am very grateful to my job of a Travel Writer that helped me build a nationwide network that made this project viable. Favour resides with me. Grateful me”.
Words by Ikechi Uko, International Consultant to Calabar Carnival, Publisher ATQNews.com and Organizer, Akwaaba African Travel Market
Pictures by Ikechi Uko
Edited by Sam Adeleke