Under the bright night sky filled with the soothing harmattan-season breeze, and surrounded by 20 thousand sea of happy people, the 16th Edition of Akwa Ibom Christmas Carols came alive last night and lasted, into the early hours of today.

Held at the new 20-thousand-seater Amphitheatre, which was constructed within two months, located at the lush green Unity Park, Uyo, this year’s Carols was a celebration of home-based and home grown talents, alongside national and international gospel singers of Akwa Ibom extraction.

The Unity Park, also, serves as the venue for the ongoing Christmas Park, that has, in the last 15 days showcased the rich culinary and cultural heritage of the Akwa Ibom people, and has, put the state on the world map as the emerging tourism hub of the nation.

With the theme, “Arise, Shine; for thy, light is come” drawn from Isaiah 60: 1-3,(KJV) the event, brought together choirs from all segments of the Christian community in the State, and raised the roof with great renditions to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and season of great joy and good tidings to mankind.

From popular gospel star, Mercy Chinwo, who got everyone on their feet with beautiful renditions of her favorite Gospel songs, to Bobby Friga, to Aity Denis, to Moses Bliss and a host of other talented performers, the atmosphere was one of a grand God’s party and the mood was spiritually uplifting. It was a moment of unity, where the divisive impulses of politics gave way to an infectious feeling of camaraderie and bipartisanship, working and reveling across political lines. The Akwa Ibom spirit of love, unity, and brotherhood took centre stage and it was a great feeling to behold!

The State Governor, His Excellency, Pastor Umo Eno in a spiritually expansive mood, and obviously satisfied with the huge success of the event, was effusive in his praise for the Organizing Committee, headed by the Honourable Commissioner of Culture and Tourism, Sir Charles Udoh. “ it was a little under two months ago, at our EXCO Retreat in Lagos, that I gave the marching order to the Hononurable Commissioner for Culture and Tourism to ensure that we construct a permanent site for the 16th Edition of the Alwa Ibom Christmas Carols. 2023, at this location.

“It was indeed a tall order, given the fact that this place that has today been transformed into what is easily the best and most smart 20-Seater amphitheatre in the country was a virgin land. My belief was simple: When people are determined to ARISE and shine, nothing, and I mean nothing can stop their resolve and passion.

“Today, because Akwa Ibom people have Arisen, we are seated here in this magnificent 20-Seater Amphitheatre, singing praises to God, to herald the birth of God’s only begotten Son and the Saviour of mankind, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. So I want to commend the Honourable Commissioner, and his team, especially Engr,. Uwem Okoko of Hensek Integrated Services for rising to the occasion and delivering big for our people, in line with our vision.”

The Governor harped on the theme of unity, and thanked past leaders for conceptualizing, sustaining and even elevating the event to higher realms, which he is determined to deepen, maintaining that what unites Akwa Ibom people is “greater that what separates us,” and urged the people to use this season of joy to extend their hands of friendship to others who “may have fallen on hard times.”

He used the opportunity to talk about his passion to serve the people and thanked the immediate past Governor, H.E. Udom Emmanuel, CON, for seeing in him, what others may not have seen.

When he announced that the 13th- month salary he had promised, had been paid to workers in the State, the audience broke into thunderous applause, and continued , applauding when he tailed about the nearly 7 billion Naira he has, also, in under seven months paid to retirees, in fulfillment of his campaign promise to continue the payment of gratuities.

Governor Eno, informed the audience that a world-class theme park will be constructed at the same location to provide an avenue for relaxation for families, in line with what obtains in the developed world. “Our vision for tourism is deep and as you all know, tourism is a cash cow, and we intend to develop and further the growth of that sector for the benefit of our people.”

Bishop Emma Isong, gave a rousing sermon and the event came to a close at a little over 12 midnight.

In attendance were the Wife of the Governor, Pastor Patience Umo Eno, the Deputy Governor, Distinguished Senator Akon Eyakenyi and her spouse, Wife of the Immediate Past Governor, Dr. (Mrs.) Martha Udom Emmanuel, who also represented the immediate past Governor, H.E. Mr. Udom Emmanuel, CON, Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Udeme Otong, the two Senators representing Eket and Uyo Senatorial districts respectively, Distinguished Senators Ekong Sampson and Aniekan Bassey, the Honourable Minister of State, Petroleum Resources (Gas) the Rt. Honourable Ekperikpe Ekpo, who represented the Senate President, H.E., Distinguished Senator Godswill Akpabio, CON, past Military Governors, Members of the House of Representatives, political stakeholders across party lines, clergymen, captains of industry, pop culture figures among others. It was indeed a celebration of ingenuity, love, conviviality, love and kindred spirit in line with the spirit of the season.

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