By: Israel Umoh
The recent news that a Nigerian choral group has broken Guinness World Records, London by assembling 275,272 Christmas carol singers sounded like a tale by moonlight. But a certificate of the world body presented to Akwa Ibom Governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio last week in his office in Uyo authenticated the veracity of the news.
The certificate, no doubt, is a remarkable achievement indeed another theme song of Akpabio administration’s uncommon transformation. It was a New Year surprise gift not only to the state government but also to Nigerians and Akwa Ibom people both at home and in the diaspora. The accomplishment by Godswill Akpabio Unity Choir in assembling the largest choir in the world readily squashed the erstwhile record of 15,674 carol singers achieved by CENTI in Bogota, Columbia on December 13, 2013.
On Tuesday, January 13, 2015, the stunning news was broken. Venue was the digital executive chambers of Governor?s Office, Uyo. The ambience was convivial. Members of the state executive council were seated. The august visitor: Suleiman Abba, the Inspector General of Police together with his entourage had just paid a courtesy call on the state executive officer. The visit over, the Permanent Secretary, Government House, Uyo, Mr. Aniekpeno Mkpanang took the stage. In setting the tone, he extolled the virtues of the governor in sponsoring the event that culminated in breaking a new record thus ?You are a record breaker. In the course of your stewardship, caterpillar has become a butterfly? When you started in 2007, there were no flyovers. But today, there are record-breaking flyovers. There is a record-breaking Governor?s Office. There is a record-breaking Governor?s Lodge. There is a record-breaking international airport. There is a record?breaking Akwa Ibom International Stadium called nest of champions?? And the excited audience applauded him for the oratory.
Mkpanang, described the governor as the progenitor-in-chief of Godswill Akpabio Unity Choir. He observed that he has added another feather to his plumage by breaking World Guinness Records in assembling 25,272 carol singers, the largest in the world.
The Chief of Staff to the Governor, Sir Etekamba Umoren who represented Guinness World Records adjudicator, Liz Smith congratulated the governor for breaking the record. Armed with the certificate, Umoren declared ??This is the long-awaited certificate. This is the World Guinness Records consisting of 25,272 participants with their phone numbers who featured on December 13, 2014 at Uyo Sports Stadium. On behalf of World Guinness Records, London, I hereby present the certificate to your Excellency?. The audience cheered.
Elated Akpabio gently beamed with smiles. To him, it was a dream come true. On December 26, 2008, Directorate of Protocol, Governor?s Office, Uyo assembled 9,300 carol singers in 2008 and attempted to break the record of 7,514 singers set in 2004 in Bob Jones University, South Carolina in United States of America. In 2011, the Directorate increased the tally to 9,999 carol singers, yet another choir from a different country assembled a higher number two years after and coasted home World Guinness Records.
What appeared illusive some years has become a reality. A certificate to show that choral group in Akwa Ibom state is the current holder of World Guinness Records was a culture shock at least to many present at the occasion. Over joyed, Akpabio gazed at the Director of Protocol to the Governor now the Permanent Secretary, Government House, Uyo, Aniekpeno Mkpanang and teased ??This your madness must stop???. He seemed to ask ??How did you achieve it??? At this point, the governor cringed in the exotic chair ??I am not interested in winning the certificate, but was keen in unifying the state by ensuring that every village or clan in the state could have a participant in the choir??. Congratulating the winning team and Akwa Ibom people for the success, Akpabio remarked ?Through this record, God will bring peace to Nigeria. Because we recognise God, it shall bring an end to insurgency. No serious tragedy shall occur in Nigeria. It shall be a point of contact for God to show mercy to Nigeria and to change the hearts of the youths involved in social vices and insurgency?.
He re-echoed that his administration has formed a strong synergy with God by organising a solemn assembly at the beginning of the year and ending the year with Akwa Ibom Government Christmas Carol Night featuring 9,999 carol singers joining their voices to praise God. He, however, lauded Mkpanang for his ingenuity and hard work in beating the records set by choirs from other countries.
The record-breaking event was not attained on a platter of gold. The Directorate of Protocol, Governor?s Office, Uyo had to apply to body to attempt the feat. Legal formalities were entered into and agreed upon between the directorate and Guinness World Records. Based on the agreement, a Record Attempt Co-ordinating Committee was set up to go round the 31 local government areas in Akwa Ibom for interviews and auditioning of 868 choir groups. Eventually, a list of 30 participants comprising 26,040 choirs was obtained. The committee which had in attendance choir directors from the three Senatorial Districts of the state held six meetings to thoroughly explain to the participants the guidelines of Guinness World Records. A total of 45 rehearsals were held to prepare for the event.
On December 13, 2014 at Uyo Sports Stadium was packed with the choristers. Turnstiles were mounted at the entrance of the stadium. A Lagos-based Arcezia Security Solutions which served as Access Manager controlled the turnstiles that conducted the head count physically and electronically and transmitted the data of each of the 275,272 participants in the record attempt. When the main event started, the choir sang a medley: The First Noel, Joy to the World, O Christmas Tree, Hark the Herald the Angels Sing, Once in A Royal David?s City and O Come All Ye Faithful. And the break-taking event that lasted for 20 minutes, 58 seconds drew a thunderous applause from the spectators.
The event was adjudicated by the Guinness World Records via video adjudication audited by Alexander Forbes Consulting Actuaries, Supervisory Actuarial Agency approved by Guinness World Records. It was verified by Guinness-approved independent witnesses: Mrs. Aity Dennis Inyang, a renowned music icon and Ukeme Udoh, a university don in the Department of Music, University of Uyo. The event also had 500 official Attempt Stewards with each assigned to monitor a group of 50 performers to ensure strict compliance with record guidelines by Guinness World Records. Each steward was required to submit a signed report to Guinness World Records alongside the reports of the witnesses and the Supervisory Actuarial Agency.
Satisfied with meeting guidelines of the concert, Guinness World Records certified and pasted the news on its website, www.guinnessworldrecords.com. For three days the choir concert was trending on its website, more than 8,000 likes were recorded. And the concert is still trending on its site. Guinness World Records adjudicator, Liz Smith, who did the announcement at Guinness World Records headquarters in London, United Kingdom, said ?It is now time to reveal the report of the official attempt to break the Guinness World Records of the largest group of carol singers. Our team of highly trained record specialists have reached a decision. The record to beat was 15,674. I can now confirm that your attempt to break the record has been successful. Congratulations on receiving a new Guinness World Records Title. The title of the largest group of carol singers has been achieved by Godswill Akpabio Unity Choir. You are officially amazing??.
Barr. Chris Inwang, a member of Record Attempt Co-ordinating Committee described the feat as a welcome development having repositioned the state as a destination and putting on it on the path of positive global reckoning. He appealed to the successive administrations in the state to adopt the Christmas carol night as a yearly ritual and a deliberate government policy as it is an effective means of evangelism especially for the local churches.
Unlike other laurels won by Akpabio administration in seven and half years, this exploit has raised its achievement profile to an unprecedented global reckoning in the comity of nations. It clearly untangles the common saying: where there is a will, there is a way. Though reaching such an unassailable and enviable height by a State in African country was a backbreaking one, the record unzipped by the state would for ages remain indelibly embalmed in the chronicles of world history. The smashing record has brought many accolades to the country indeed to Akwa Ibom State.
Both at state and national levels, the achievement is a plausible vindication of one of the policy thrusts of the present administration that hinges on unity. The choir brought virtually most families and churches in the state to sing praises to God in a healthy contest aimed primarily at becoming world bride. At home front, it became a potent volte-force to ethnic barriers and Pentecostal apartheid, thereby helping to achieve ethnic harmony and spiritual inclusiveness among the people. It has further oiled the wheels of spiritual tourism among the participants. In addition, the choir was an source of empowerment to the choristers who were basically unemployed graduates and students. The stipends paid to them drastically improve their living conditions albeit temporary. By so, many families got the lifeline to meet some financial challenges during the Yuletide. Kudos to Akwa Ibom people for becoming world champion as this may serve as a ladder of success in challenging them to work harder and aim higher. Bravo, Akwa Ibom is the unerring World Guinness Records holder!
Umoh writes from Uyo