Christmas is here again. It is a period of homecoming for the people of Eastern Nigeria living in other parts of the country and in the diaspora. This period is typically marked for family reunion, celebration, traditional wedding, conferment of chieftaincy titles and other cultural events. It is both a religious and cultural celebration for billions of Christians across the world. This explains why the period before, during and after Christmas day, down to the New Year is usually marked by conviviality, merriment, wining and dining.
Interestingly, the yuletide season in 2018 will be different especially in the ancient city of Onitsha. This is because the city is gearing up to host the unprecedented maiden edition of the Golibe Festival, the first of its kind in South East Nigeria and one of the biggest in West Africa. Sponsored by indigenous energy multinational, Aiteo Group, The Golibe Festival Onitsha is positioned as a family-friendly, fun-filled festival with high educational content to showcase the city’s rich cultural heritage. It promises to fill the gap in entertainment offering available to over 20 million residents and visitors to the South-East, especially from the diaspora, during the yuletide.
‘Golibe,’ the name adopted for the festival has captured, in its totality, the essence of what the people who will decide to spend their holiday in Onitsha would be seeking. The yuletide season is the time for enjoyment and ‘golibe,’ the Igbo word for rejoice, is assured. The programmes that have been specially packaged by the organisers of the event point in this direction.
Being the biggest of its kind, the festival is slated for a period of ten days. It will commence with the Onitsha Choral Rendition, an event created to thrill all and sundry in the spirit of Christmas. The rendition will also feature a carol singing competition where the finest choral groups in South Eastern Nigeria will perform variety of Christmas songs as well as give their own interpretation of the Golibe theme song. The singing competition which commenced from the 10th of December will have its grand finale on the 23rd and 24th of December, 2018, at the Ime Obi Onitsha, ushering in the grand festival.
Being a family event, specially put in place for the young and the young at heart is the Golibe Dreamland Fun Fair which will feature arcade games and entertainment (bouncy castles, train rides, video games booth), Video documentaries about Onitsha people, history, culture and traditions, Cultural dances, Arts and crafts exhibition among others. Techquest is also on board with a Robotics Master class for children. This will run from the 25 of December to the last day of the festival. Venue is also at the Ime Obi.
For those who just want to relax in a comfy environment, the The Chill Zone, a hang-out arena for youths and adults which features a cozy lounge arrangement with music, games and gastronomy, is just for you. Besides entertainment, it provides avenue for promoting local talent and identifying new ones. Musical entertainment will be provided by A, B and C List artists, renowned DJs, stand-up comedians and dancers within the Eastern Region. The chill zone will open from Christmas day and run till the 30th of December at the Festival Arena, Chuba Ikpeazu Stadium.
The festival will also feature the prestigious Ado League, a football competition among the 18 Onitsha villages. It started in the 1990s and has remained an annual event ever since. The event was conceived to provide additional flavour to the usual family reunions, marriages and similar events that take place during the Christmas season. The league started in November (with 2 matches per week) and will end with the final match on 26th and 27th of December.
The highlight of the festival will be the Golibe Carnival, the largest street party in South Eastern Nigeria and one of the biggest in West Africa. With a line up targeted at the teeming masses that return annually, the carnival will feature a pageant for the Golibe King and Queen, as well as the Golibe Homecoming King and Queen. This will be on the 27th of December.
As part of the carnival is the Street Arts Festival which is about promoting the spirit of street art, without imposing limits in the domain of the genre and medium of artistic expression, and without dividing art into elitist and popular. The street Art will involve Visual Artists and Musicians performing at various venues throughout the carnival route. This event slated for the 28th of December is for the purpose of the revival of Onitsha as the geographical-cultural cross section of what Omambala peoples used to be and what the town could become.
The festival will flow into the grand carnival parade scheduled for the 29th of December. Start off for the parade will be at the DMGS roundabout, through the Oguta road/ Ugwunabampka intercession and then Awka road. The parade will end at the Chuba Ikpeazu Stadium.
What is Golibe Festival without a Masquerade carnival? The 30th of December has been set aside specially for an event that will feature masquerades from all over Anambra, Bayelsa, Kogi and other States. Some of the Masquerades to feature at Golibe Festival 2018 include: Ayolugbe, Agbogo Mmuo, Ogolo, Agaba, Ijele, Nnekwu Ugo, Ogwo Tulu Mgbe, Wonder, Ada, Izaga and Enyi (Elephant).
The masquerades will hold a procession along the Carnival Route and stopover at homes of selected eminent indigenes and residents of Onitsha.
Capping off the festival will be the Crossover Night Concert on the 31st of December. The Cross Over Concert will be a celebration and thanksgiving concert that combines gospel and Afro-Pop music in a world class concert setting with lights, sound, stage effects and adrenaline, and musical performance by A, B & C -List Artists from across the country.
Event will start at 8pm with gospel music, choral rendition and bible readings from priests and clergy from multiple Christian denominations till 11:50pm. At the top of the hour (midnight) there will be 5 minute fireworks to usher in the New Year followed by music till dawn.
For a city hosting a major festival, Onitsha meets the full criteria for the Golibe Festival. Onitsha is one of Nigeria’s biggest cosmopolitan cities, strategically located in the east and serves as a gateway to the Igbo heartland as well as the rest of Nigeria.
The city is well-suited for a mega festival like this because of its peculiarities. It is well known as the commercial capital of the Eastern Nigeria and boasts the largest market in West Africa with well-established trading links and visitors from across Nigeria, Africa and the diaspora. It is also an enterprise haven for digital and creative economy and a nerve centre for arts and culture as well as home for everyone!
Over 100,000 guests are expected to flood the city of Onitsha for the festival. The city is ready to play the capable host with its well-developed hospitality and transportation links (the city serves as headquarter of some of the major transport companies in the east). It has direct access from the South-West by road and the rest of Nigeria by air through the Asaba Airport, a mere 25 minutes away by road as well as a direct road linking Bayelsa State.
Onitsha is a culturally rich town, historically composed of the Igbo and peoples of the middle belt as well as peoples from the South-West Nigeria. It is thus a melting pot of peoples and culture with a history of trading across Nigeria and the West African coast. Onitsha is also one of the safest towns in the South-East with very low crime rates and thus attractive to both domestic and international travelers.