By McPhilips Nwachukwu & Chris Mba
It was as though a town crier had gone round a day before to announce a banishment penalty for anyone who failed to attend. Hence, not even the suckling babies were left behind.
That was at the closing ceremony of week long activity that marked the 2011 annual Badagry Festival.
However, the people of the water front community of Badagry, who in the last few years have appropriated this important festival as a platform of revisiting their hunting ugly history occasioned by slavery and wars, also expressed grave concern with the non supportive roles of financial institutions that do business in the area, which fail to assist in the funding of this cultural brand.
In his address at the occasion, the President of (AREFO), Mr. Babatunde O. Mesewaku, the organizers of the festival said “We will not fail to express our disappointment with all the banks doing business in Badagry.
We have Union Bank, First Bank, Oceanic Bank, Zenith, Wema, UBA and Skye Bank. None of these banks has shown interest to even place an advert of only N40,000 in our festival brochure.
One wonders which other platform will provide them the opportunity as provided by Badagry festival to demonstrate that they are responsible business organisations.”
Platform for social rapport
All the same, the festival attracted the presence of well meaning Nigerians. Apart from the admonition by the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola that Badagry people should cherish what held them together, than what brings division among them, the festival with the theme “FESTIVAL FOR UNITY”, presented a significant platform for social rapport among the political class, business moguls and the academics.
Those at the event were the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) Alh. Idiat Adegunle, who represented Gov. Fashola, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Tourism and Inter-Governmental Relation, Ashamu Fadipe, Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Mrs. Olusola Oworu, Chairman of the Local Government, Moses Dosu and Director General of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, Olusegun Runsewe, represented by the Director in the ministry, Nassir Kaka.
With all the guests gorgeously dressed in various traditional costumes, the staccato of traditional music and songs announced the arrival of different dance troupes which entertained guests with songs, dances, masquerades and drama. Some of them were dressed in outlandish costumes and wore all kinds of unconventional make-ups, which enhanced the aesthetics and visual impact of the festival.
The various kinds of exhibitions and cultural performances at the event showed that Badagry people are well cultured people: people with deep and fascinating cultural and religious history.
The frenzy of the cultural milieu was further enlivened when the Association of Nigeria Market Men and Women of the Agbalata International Market, stunned the audience and turned the festive arena into a makeshift market.
They sang songs as they sold pepper, fish, coconut, meat and all kinds of vegetables and fruits.
Some of them even used the lobes of red pepper to fashion out earrings and necklaces which they wore.
Also, the mammoth crowd of spectators were stunned , again, when some belligerent masquerades known as “Zangbeto” stormed the already electrified Badagry Grammar School playground venue of the event.
They literally turned the arena into a stage as they hopped from one side of the arena to the other, displaying the aesthetics of their masquerade art. They performed delicate steps and displayed all kinds of make-believe sessions.
Memories of the slave trade was also re-enacted at the occasion. According to the festival brochure, “The Slave Trade Abolition Remembrance Day in Badagry (1852) is part of the idea of expansion in the contextual objectives of the Badagry festival.
The early history of Badagry was characterised by slave trade. As a matter of fact, this tragic event lasted for more than 350 years, but was eventually brought to an end with the endorsement of the 1852 Treaty of Abolition of Slave Trade in Badagry.”
Babatunde Fashola had earlier enjoined the community to be united, stressing that “Lagos state is committed to promotion of culture and tourism as part of its transformation programme going on in the state at present.”
Olusegun Runsewe, the Director General of NTDC, commended Badagry, which he said is endowed with rich natural and man-made resources. Runsewe said this through Nassir Kaka, a director in the ministry.