By Frank Ulom
The representative of Cross River at the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC Board, Rt. Hon. Orok Duke on New Year’s Day led the multitude during the 2024 Tinkoriko Calabar Heritage.
Duke who has been championing the Tinkoriko procession for the last 30 years said the purpose, which is to curb youths’ restiveness and social vices, has never changed even though this year is to complement the Back-To-South agenda.
In an interview on Monday during the procession in Calabar, Duke said: “First and foremost we were included in the calendar for the carnival for the first time since 1999, and for the second time too we decided to come out and celebrate our victory in the last election because Tinkoriko was totally in support of ‘Back-To-South’. We are saying a big thank you for voting for Senator Bassey Edet Otu as our governor. That’s the basic thing.
“We are still using the platform to canvass against certain social ills and also using it to serve as a platform for the youths to vent their feelings.”
Can you talk about celebrating Tinkoriko for 30 years?
“When we started, we used to circulate around Egerton. It started as Tinkoriko Mission Hill, that’s wards 4 and 5. Then we expand through Mayne Avenue because Gershom Bassey was there and he was a leader of some sort. So when transiting we used to touch Fenton with Essien Ayi there, and then through Edgerly then Mayne Avenue, but the route became too long. Of course, Tinkoriko gave birth to the carnival. When Donald Duke resumed in 1999 he called me and said we should make it a state affair, but I told him we would not leave Tinkoriko.
“I sponsored the bill for the creation of the Carnival Commission. I told him it could be expanded to include the 1st of January. But over the years they used to stop on the 31st of December. This is the first year that they have made the carnival run for 32 days to include Tinkoriko. Tinkoriko is now drawing the curtain of the 2023 carnival and it’s not going to stop.
“For now we are part of the Calabar Carnival calendar. We are thankful for that in our 30th year. Of course, the governor has always been our grand patron for like 15 years now.”
What is the essence of Tinkoriko Calabar Heritage?
“Tinkoriko is a provision of a platform for people who fly different colours to ventilate. The different colours here mean whatever social standing you are. The simplicity of Tinkoriko is such that you don’t get initiated. You don’t wear costumes. It’s just your pair of canvas shoes, your jean trousers and then we give you T-shirts.
“Unfortunately T-shirts have been so expensive. This year each T-shirt costs N5,000. We printed 5,000 T-shirts, that’s N25 million. So that’s how expensive it is.”
Last year we had a lot of politicians involved, but this year we’ve not seen any of them?
“It’s because they use us and dump us. But we still stay on and do what we do. That’s the essence of what we do – consistency. They come and go but we still remain the same, otherwise we would not have remained the same for this long.”
For the past 30 years, how has it affected the youths?
“It has. Let me tell you – I use this as an example. If a young man plays Tinkoriko and sees another young man it will be difficult for you to go on a hit and kill that man the next day. We need more platforms for us to be meeting ourselves. Haven’t you seen the reduction in crime rate during the 32-day carnival? The more these young people are occupied, which is one of those things we will talk about when we start articulating programmes of NDDC.
“Right now we are trying to register a minimum of 1,000 youths per state because, for the past 22 years, we’ve been seeing the same set of people come for training. We empower them and give them the same set of kits. So we are trying to do a database that would have a list of young people, 1,000 each in every state so that we can fall back in case there’s a programme. We need to engage them because an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.
“It used to be January 1st and Easter Monday, but I got tired of Easter Monday because plenty of T-shirts would be needed. If you observed, this year we have removed the year inscription on the T-shirts. That limits the T-shirts to a particular year. Now we’ve opened it to be a generic thing for them to wear at all times. It’s very expensive. They love it as they are showing it.
“We are saying a big thank you to the state for having voted for Governor Otu. We are also saying we did it! That’s more or less.”
How does Tinkoriko fit into the season of sweetness?
“We were included in the calendar and the theme for this year is the season of sweetness. It’s getting sweeter by the day. I told somebody that we were just warming up. This is testing the microphone. We will expect more things and we will get more things from the governor. Thank you.”
See photos from the 2024 Tinkoriko Calabar Heritage below…