By Joe Iniodu —
Akwa Ibom State Government would on December 22, 2017 launch the State on global orbit using its most cherished identity – worshiping God. It would be the Akwa Ibom Christmas Carols Festival billed to hold at Uyo Township stadium. And by some incomprehensible act that one cannot divorce from providence, Akwa Ibom is the only State in Nigeria named after God. Therefore, every December, the State Government as if to live out the semantic import of its name always organizes and throws open invitation to a worship event in the State. The event which is annual has come to serve as one of the defining hallmarks of the State and, indeed, its identity.
Earlier in the life of the State, Christmas carols night was always an event of small scale which often had in participation, the State governor and members of the State Executive Council and perhaps a few dignitaries invited by the governor. It was often held within Government House premises and it drew neither attention nor impact. Yours truly was privileged to attend that of 2007 at the then Government House and witnessed firsthand the solemn event which also had cocktail as a part.
But in 2008, the event assumed a new dimension and became epochal in content, scale and character. Held on December 26, 2008, the historic carols became the largest assemblage of carols singers with a record breaking number of 9,300. The event brought together gospel artistes, preachers, residents of the state and visitors alike in a unique commemoration of the birth of Christ. It come in a manner never before then witnessed in the State. It was an evening of praise, worship and exhortation. It was a watershed event that gave the State an identity with the historic entry into Guinness Book of World Records as the Largest Assembly of Carols singers on the face of the earth.
The annual event continued with the number 9,300 from that 2008 till 2011 when the number of carols singers was upped to 9,999. The unique number which was short of one to make ten thousand gave room to many interpretations and speculations. But the midwife of the event, the creative and energetic Aniekpeno Mkpanang jocularly stated that the remaining one was reserved for the helmsman of the State being the governor. The number became a brand for the annual carols and maintained the place of the largest carols singers in the world until December 2013 when it was replaced by another record set by a group known as CENTI in Bogota in Columbia which recorded a mass choir of 15,674.
But Akwa Ibom would not easily allow its place in the worship of God to be snatched or compromised. And so not ready to let go, another major outing was recorded by the State on December 13, 2014 at Uyo Township Stadium with a record breaking number of 25,272 corals singers christened the Godswill Akpabio Unity Choir. The State by that feat again returned comfortably to reclaim its place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest carols singers on the face of the earth. It was a rigorous feat as the event was closely monitored by officials of Guinness Book of World Records.
The tradition of the annual carols has continued unhindered and uninterrupted confirming it as an identify of the State. It may interest many to know how many people hook up to their television sets to watch the programme which is always beamed life on terrestrial and satellite platforms. While Senator Godswill Akpabio was governor of the State, he often talked about phone calls he received commending the carols night. They were often from eminent personalities who relished the event from their homes. Personalities like the Oba of Lagos, the late Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade, the Sultan of Sokoto and several others were reported to have personally called the then governor. What a great work of evangelism the State is doing through the carols night. And what shall it profit a man or a State if he cannot win a soul for Christ?
What Akwa Ibom State has done effectively from 2008 is to use the carols night to fish for souls for Christ. And God is rewarding the State in blessings. Many who consider themselves too knowledgeable and scientific in their analysis would view this opinion as a product of a jaundiced mind. That is because they, in their confusion seek to analyze God in empirical terms. But the works of God defy scientific analysis and represent themselves as the miracles that they are. I believe that God has been faithful to the State. From the good governance we have enjoyed, the prosperity we are witnessing, the peace and security that we have; all of these and many more are proofs that the grace of God abound in the State.
One of the qualities people seek in leaders is the fear of God. It is expected that a leader who fears God would be compassionate, sensitive, kind, honest, discipline and incorruptible. He would have love for the people as well as possess integrity. It is why leaders who possess the fear of God and manifest love for the things of God should be encouraged and supported. Society is always at great peril when it is led by people who neither fear God nor love the people. Of course you are unlikely to love the people if you don’t love God, but most likely to love people and lead them aright when you love and fear God.
The Akwa Ibom Christmas Carols Festival is inhered with that sense of fellowship amongst Christian brethren. It is often to remind us that a man out of love paid the price of our sins with his life to reconcile us with our Creator. Yet as beneficiaries of that uncommon act of love, we, while effusively professing Christianity find it difficult to give fellow humans cause to simile. We relish evil and thrive in wicked acts. We dig pits for our brothers and persistently seek their downfall. We practice hate as a religion and harbor no room for forgiveness. We strut around in our majesty of wickedness and make doing wrong to our fellow men habitual.
Continuous fellowship through this Carols Festival should serve to remind us that we are all under one God.
The Akwa Ibom Christmas Carols Festival, which is scheduled for Friday, December 22, 2017 by 6.00pm at Uyo Township, has the theme, Emmanuel, meaning, God With Us.
Let our knowledge that God is with us at all times compel us to do the right thing. Let this theme lead us to love one another. Let it interrogate our conscience and sensitize us to know that we must be our brother’s keeper.
As we prepare for this year Carols Festival, let the event turn our lives around and reinvent in the State a new spirit of unity. May this Carols Festival not come and go in vain with us in the same spot of pulling our brothers down. #AKcarolsFest2017