Dame Jonathan and the Gains of Tourism


Marshall Ifeanyi


Festivals are ways of remembering and celebrating certain aspects of our life be they religious, cultural or otherwise. They come in the manner of fairs, fiestas, carnivals, parties, fêtes, bazaars, or even jamborees. The fun, glamour and glitz that go with festivals are always relishing and memorable. Some festivals occur annually while others are in staggered periods. Whatever the frequency of their occurrence, people in particular areas where there are celebrated festivals always look forward to the next one.

Festivals are not different from tourism which is going to places of interest, sightseeing and visiting the attractions. In Nigeria, it has always engaged us socio-economically and served as a means of generating income as well offers employment opportunities. Also, in Nigeria, there are many celebrated festivals which do not only provide relaxation and fun but also work on the sub-conscious of the people making them inspired with pride of their cultures and giving them a sense of belonging as well as dignity. The Abuja carnival, the Ekpe Masquerade Dance, the Eyo Festival, the New Yam Festival and many others readily come to mind here. The Abuja carnival which was initiated about a couple of years ago has become so big an event comparable only to those experienced in London and Brazil.
However, an equally big, unique and more historic festival is the Argungu International Fishing and Cultural Festival – AIFCF. The Argungu Fishing Festival is not only remarkable for its frills and thrills but also for its economic, social and unifying aspects. It also offers a great deal of hospitality. I know because I witnessed the last AIFCF 2008 at Argungu, Kebbi State. Permit me to talk about the festival from the way I saw it.
It was on the instance of the representation of the First Lady, Hajiya Turai Umaru Yar’Adua, by the Wife of the Vice President, Her Excellency, Dame Patience Goodluck Jonathan at the festival. The First Lady was unavoidably absent due to the fact that she was attending to some other pressing state functions. She therefore, knowing how important the occasion meant, asked the 2nd Lady of the Federal Republic to stand in for her.
The Wife of the Vice President did not hold back her delight being in the midst of the native people of both Kebbi and Sokoto States. She shared with them, the joys, frills and hospitality offered by the fishing and cultural festival.
Dame Jonathan exhibited the qualities of a good emissary by having a good understanding of the significance of the festival. She hinted that the festival indeed created a conducive environment for peaceful co-existence, fostering and strengthening of friendly relations between the two royal houses of Argungu Emirate and the Sokoto Caliphate on the one hand and Nigerians as a whole and indeed neighbouring countries of Niger, Benin Republic and beyond on the other hand.
We saw how each of the various thrilling events of the three days of the festival culminated into the grand finale. The activities showcased the abundant skills that are indigenous to the communities. The skills exhibited were not only in the areas of fishing, but in other areas such as traditional wrestling, boxing, camel, donkey and horse racing among others. To Dame Jonathan, these and many more were testimonies of Argungu’s enviable lifestyle.
Like a woman who did her homework very well, she had a good brief of the origin of the festival. Therefore, without much ado, she informed the crowd by painting a picture of the history of the fishing festival when she said, “This fishing festival, from its modest beginnings, started with the honouring of the one-time Sultan of Sokoto who came on a visit to his friend, the Emir of Argungu”. She said that “in this modern time, the occasion is being transformed into a veritable vehicle for fostering national unity through cultural exchanges”. A statement many agree with.
Her position is buttressed by the fact that at the fishing festival, there were cultural troupes not only from within the Northern States but from as far as Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Anambra States to name just a few. This is not to overlook the cultural troupe from the Republic of Niger whose participation had become a permanent feature of the festival.
At the grand finale, we saw teeming fishermen who Her Excellency was told number in thousands and came from as far as the Republic of Chad to take part in the event. This, Her Excellency, agreed affirmed the fete as a permanent event in the international calendar of cultural festivals.
In her address, “the above justifies the steps taken so far by the Kebbi State Government as well as the Federal Government to explore the rich potential of the fishing festival as a major tourist attraction” and revenue generation.
The opportunity to attend and see the festival in person is what many Nigerians long for. To some it is a life-time wish which is not out of place. If people can travel round the world just to see and partake in carnivals, why should we not elevate our own? Notting Hill and …are the pride of London and Brazil. The NTDC should do more in creating awareness on our indigenous festival to attract more people.
For those of us who have been there, we are glad to have made it. And having seen the level of planning and organization of the festival, one can only say it stood the test of time and can match up to any of its type anywhere in the world. That was why the 2nd Lady congratulated the government and people of Kebbi State for successfully hosting the 2008 Argungu International Fishing and Cultural Festival. For the real winners, be thou congratulated! Hope to see you there next year.
Marshall Ifeanyi
Lugbe, Abuja