Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Badagry Festival offers atonement for centuries of slave trade

By Anote Ajeluorou

Last Saturday, the yearly Badagry Festival got underway but not after the wronged spirits of a continent steeped in blood, of those shipped away or those who died in over 400 years of Transatlantic Slave Trade had been appeased in ritual offerings of atonement

Clad in his traditional white attire, the chief priest of Badagry, high chief Posu, got into his natural element at the Heritage Museum, Badagry, as he broke the cola nut into several pieces to cast the divination of appeasement on a flat plate before His Majesty, De Wheno Aholu Menu-Toyi I, Akran of Badagry, who also declared the festival open and the other traditional rulers and chiefs of the ancient waterfront community.
  It was a solemn moment punctuated by benevolent prayers for the living not to ever again witness the tragedy of blood and tears that marked that dark epoch in Badagry. And so, Posu prayed, “As we perform this atonement rites for the lost souls during the slave trade era, may Badagry kingdom be good to us all. May God almighty that created us be good to us; we shall not die young; what we do today will be good for us. Pregnant women will deliver safely. We will not offer blood sacrifices again in Badagry.
  “God does only good, not evil! We should stop hatred or discrimination in the land on account of religion. Let’s come together as one for things to be good for us all so there won’t be spiritual killings anymore. We pray God not to see the evil of slavery again. God should use all the families of slaves taken away to promote peace!”
  After praying on the gin and cola nut, Posu offered them to the Akran, who then blessed and sanctioned Posu’s prayers, saying, “By the grace of God, we will not see wars again in this town”. Posu then poured generous portions of the drink in libation to the departed spirits in ritual appeasement before the gin was shared round.
  The Akran then took the opportunity to comment on the slave trade debacle, the kind of relationship that should exist between Diaspora Africans and those on the African continent and the significance of the Badagry Festival for which he is the chief patron.
 De Wheno Aholu Menu-Toyi I, Akran of Badagry admonished, “What took place (slave trade) was a very bad one and should not be allowed to happen again. But happily, the children of the slaves are in other places like America, Brazil and the Caribbean. We should thank God for the descendants of the slaves for creating a larger community of Africans outside the parent continent, where they were taken to work in the plantations. They should not harbour any animosity against us in Africa.
  “It was a tragedy; it should never happen again. But it is akin to the situation of the Israelites, who were slaves in Egypt but God saved them and then gave them a better heritage. They should see themselves like Joseph, who later became Prime Minister of Egypt. Descendants of slaves in America are in good positions in the economy and politics.
  “Today, we have a black man Barrack Obama as President of the greatest country on earth. We should thank God African-Americans are doing well. When we celebrate abolition of slave trade, we should be happy slave descendants got their freedom and are doing well. African-Americans shouldn’t feel they are not part of us. But they should assist Africa to develop and come out of the Third World status and be developed. We should talk about progress and forging ahead and the interest of African and necessary collaboration with Africa for its growth”.
  The Akran also took time to ask young Africans not to forget their culture in a hurry as was prevalent all over the continent but that they should appreciate it so as to make progress. He said, “Young Africans don’t appreciate our culture. The way they dress, the music they listen to do not portray them as Africans.”
  He, however, expressed optimism that the reality was fast dawning on Africans to take what was theirs seriously as even the educated ones that used to look down on African culture were beginning to see things differently and were now appreciating the culture. He asserted that nothing was being done wrongly in a festival like the Badagry Festival but that it was a celebration of a people’s heritage, which was “a good thing to do as a people derived their greatness from their culture”.
  While noting that attendance was poor at the opening, the Akran urged corporate bodies to emulate the support communications company, MTN, provided towards realising the laudable goals of the festival. He also stated that it was through festivals that “we can showcase our African culture and start initiating children into the core values of the continent by making them appreciate their culture”.
  Earlier, Africa Renaissance Foundation (AREFO) president and organizer of the Badagry Festival Mr. Babatunde Olaide-Mesewaku said the festival was organised yearly to “Reminisce on our history, our heritage and origin and for us as a people to develop and the progress of Badagry. It is a tool to make Badagry a tourism destination haven on the West African coast.
  “Today is dedicated to the Abolition of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade in Badagry, whose early history was characterised by slave trade, which has become an important heritage in the world. On March 15, 1852 (159 ago), Badagry chiefs sat together and signed a treaty to abolish slave trade in Badagry. We must line up with global trends to remember our great great grand fathers so that Badagry would not go into extinction.
  “We want to use the occasion to atone for the souls of those who shed their blood in Badagry to cleanse the community of the sins of the past. Today, we have relics in Badagry of the slave trade. The first white slaver in Badagry has his grave at the oba’s palace. We use this festival to say that our community does not forget its history”.
  Different activities have been being performed daily since Saturday all through to Saturay, August 6, when the curtain falls on the 2011 edition of the Badagry Festival with a grand finale at the Badagry Grammar School playground.
  Other events at the opening ceremony were a painting exhibition, which the Akran was conducted round, a fashion parade put together by the Skills Acquisition Centre, Badagry, a lecture on the importance of culture by Mr. Damola Dacosta and the performance of drama piece titled, Wailings from Badagry.
  Also present were event chairman and former Provost, College of Health Services, Igbinedion University, Okada, Edo State, Prof. M.O. Padonu, MTN Regional Marketing Manager, Mr. Dola Bamgbose, Hodonu Nathaniel, who coordinated the children’s painting competition, Badagry head, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the chief Imam of Badagry Division.

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