Emma Okocha, Dateline: Holecity,Barbados.
”In the end, Journalism will kill you, but before then, it will keep you alive and like the Navy you will see the world.” – Pardo San Gil Juan, Spanish Expert on Small Navies of the World Wars in his Comments in The Auxiliary Navy of the Basque Country [1936-1939]
”The vision, the commitment of our early public officers paved the way for the success story of this small Caribbean country of only 280 thousand people. With little natural resources we have managed to develop our human resources to the level where we lead not only the Caribbeans in the human development index. Presently this island is maintaining its lead as one of the IT centers of the entire world.

Our politics is traditionally progressive, non divisive and the two political parties know and respect their limitations.

Whenever, the Labour Democrats hold a Convention, the opposing Barbados Labour Party is expected to be present and engage in healthy debates with the end purposes of coming together to provide good government and serving the people.

From the father of our nation to the present government, the people will always return only the party and the politician that have performed irrespective of his political association.”  -Deighton Marshall, MD Industrial Solutions, 7 Industrial Park, Christ Church, Barbados.

American and world’s greatest golfer of the modern age Tiger Woods, celebrated his wedding in pomp and sumptuous extravagance here, in the Golf  lush gardens of Sandy Lane very near Holecity. Holecity, the Royal Westmoreland Golf Course, the Sandy Lane Golf Courses are all located in the Parish of St James. The island which sleeps in between the rugged Atlantic on the east and the tranquil waters of the Caribbean in the west, is divided up into provinces called Parishes.

Barbados is a coral island just 21 miles long by 14 miles wide. Originally a British colony, Barbados gained its independence on November 30, 1966.  With the approximate population of 280, 000 the island is a friendly mix of many races and nationalities. From the eastern port city of Bathseheba, Senegal on the west African coast  is some 2825 miles away.

There are other Parishes. Christ Church province where the Grantley Adams International airport is located is down in the south. There are some ten more Parishes  which include the southern Parishes of St Philip, St George, St Michael, St

Thomas, etc. However,  it is the arresting intrigue and the beautiful sexy beaches of St James that more than any other, pronounce Barbados as the tourist paradise in the sun. St James, is therefore the home Parish of the grand golf courses; where the rich, the famous and the unrepentant sun bathing godfathers fish, dive the blue waters of the ocean, and in the late evenings, return to the gleaming night clubs and graze in common with the long legged daughters of Eve..  St James Parish reminds me of  Negril, Jamaica.

If Barbados can trample the world because of the creamy sophistication of Holecity, Sandy Bay and its other very developed beaches, come to Negril and lose it all. In the beaches of the latter, clothes are not permitted and the music is intimately Jamaican.

Ask the soothsayers of the Armageddon when the Jamaicans decide to sing and  play home there are no boundaries. The birds of the sky and the fishes of the water are instantly  tamed.  Cultivating unexpected civility, they abandon their kind to join the entranced party of  these outlandish bemused  Negril worshipers.

Like the native Rastafarians who believe that the Lion of Judah, the direct descendant of the Queen of Sheba , the Late Emperor Haile Selasie of Ethiopia is god, these giddy apostles of Negril believe that a summer promenade on this Jamaican beach is the end of the world.

So why is the Tourism Industry so widespread and taken seriously in the Caribbean? Apart from  Jamaica, Bahamas, Trinidad, Barbados, St Lucia, Grenada or Haiti, which other of these islands, are the countries that make up the Caribbean nations? What are their characteristics and why is Guyana a South American nation and communist Cuba considered part of the Caribbean? In my years of carrying the pen around, I have been lucky to work under globe trotting publishers and consequently, as a foreign affairs writer or a sports reporter, covered  the big ones.

The Olympics , the World Cup, or the Tennis Grand Slams. Carrying the pen around, we also  logged many miles of  world travel. Martyred Nigerian politician and business mogul was our Publisher when we flew the National Concord newspapers. He had his fleet of planes. Depending on his mood he might decide to reach the King of Morocco in Fez in the evening of the day he had arrived Lagos, from a London morning flight.

Chief Moshood Abiola enjoyed the company of Journalists and in those days he would invite some select few in his stable to join him on his way to the airport. While we have in this pen sojourn, traded the excitement of Africa with the sophistication of western Europe, we have always been intrigued by the Caribbean.

We have read about its legends; Marcus Garvey, Fidel Castro,  Bob Marley, Peter Torch etc, and continue to be marveled by her history especially the peoples’ ties with the mother continent. When at last the earthquake decimated Haiti and we read from Hilary Beckles, we knew it was time to touch down on this island in the sun. From here we can situate and project further .

In the few days we landed here, we are embraced by a warm people who are so much in complaint with their laws and regulations. The roads may not be that wide but the traffic is most orderly, and driving is smooth with few policemen in the highways.

Away from Holecity, we come over to Paradise Village, St. Lawrence Gap, Christ Church. Like other Parishes, there are lots of clean beaches and hotels . All these are the goldmines for this country which has developed its tourism to international standards.  Canadians, European tourists invade the holiday resorts and the government and the people do all in their powers to keep the cities safe and clean for these tourists. So also have Jamaica, Saint Vincent and Saint Lucia.

Those other two island saints, with the little island of St Kitts operate one single currency,and make up the British Caribbeans in the far east. As in many remote places of the world, the Nigerians who live there are professionals, medical students and medical doctors. This summer like every other, the Caribbeans are catching up with the Nigerian fashion and really adore the effervescent plot lines of the Nollywood.

The Caribbean may not be too schooled on who is in power in Abuja but surely households here and all over the Caribbean are plastered with wall to wall posters of  the electrifying Genevieve Nnaji, diamond and multi talented sister Damascus, neck bender nollywood super stars, whose mouthwatering poises like those sisters from the Niger bend, continue to gasp their audience and cause civil wars among men.

Two days ago we arrived at the University West Indies and was lucky to see Historian, and Provost of the University, Professor Hilary Beckles. In my wonderings all over the islands, I have not forgotten to organise my thoughts on our primary focus for coming along on this trip.

Why did some of these islands succeed so much that they are keeping all their professionals and brains at home? What happened to Cuba that has over 98% literacy ratings and was the leading sports nation of the Caribbean?. Why has Cuba been overtaken by the recent sports upsurge in Jamaica? What is the secret of the Jamaican sports ascendancy?

What is Trinidad doing with its oil earnings? Why is the off- shore banking Cayman Island the most investor friendly country in the Caribbeans? Why are the  Barbados Ministers comfortable driving their own cars ?.Infact, why would one of its most former prominent Minister refuse reappointment but rather would advise the government to appoint a fresh hand in his stead.

The same Minister refused a house presented to him and preferred his apartment. He thought the house of four rooms was too big for him!

In our country by country travelogue on the Caribbean, we shall analyse the Cuban national shift from Sports supremacy to its present aspiration to lead and expand medical services all over the region. Cuba as of now may be providing the most standard and affordable eye medical services in the world.

NEXT WEEK: With Nigeria’s Human Rights Crusader and former ASSU leader, Prof  Iyare,
Provost Hilary Beckles


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