By Anote Ajeluorou
The people of Badagry are bracing up to tap into the huge potential in tourism located in their doorsteps. This year, a new logo, encapsulating Badagry tourism potential and its cultural heritage, as bequeathed by a sad historical past, await visitors to the two festivals the ancient town will host.
From March 25, when the Lagos Black Heritage Festival (LBHF) opens, Badagry will be at the centre of activities, with Day 3 devoted to Badagry alone, to mark mainstreaming the town into the festival’s calendar for the first time. Until now, Badagry had been on the fringe of the Lagos festival.
Indeed, for most Badagry people, Lagos Black Heritage Festival is a derivation from their original Badagry Festival, which had existed for almost 10 years before the state government decided to organise its own to over-shadow it. Lagos State Government had repeatedly refused to fund or participate in the Badagry festival, only to start its own years later.
Badagry Local Government chairman, Hon. Disu hinted at the state hijacking Badagry Festival from them, even when he minimally participates in it himself. Even now, initiator of Badagry Festival and boss of African Renaissance Foundation, Mr. Babatunde Olaide-Mesewaku is shopping abroad among the American Caucus of Black Mayors for sponsorship and participationin the festival in August, as a way of giving it the international stature and exposure it deserves.
But now, Consultant to LBHF, Prof. Wole Soyinka has seen reason for the active involvement of Badagry because of the sheer historical and cultural importance of the town to the festival. At this year’s festival, Badagry council sponsored 55 school pupils to participate at the Vision of the Child Art Competition out of which six pupils are in the running for the top prizes.
But this involvement is with its sets of fits and starts on the part of the state government in harnessing the tourism potentials of Badagry. Construction of facilities in the ancient town that would facilitate patronage of tourists is still half done. From the world-class golf course along the Marine Beach to Vlekete Slave Market, where slaves were sold during the period of the infamous slave trade to the Slave Tunnels and other landmark slave trade relics, Lagos is yet to deliver to enhance tourism. Badagry has, therefore, remained a rustic community and is perhaps the poorest for it among its sister towns with heavy slave trade past along the West Africa coast.
But in spite of these setbacks for the ancient town, the local people are upbeat about the cultural resource at their disposal. And so amidst a gathering of all the chiefs of Badagry except the Akran himself, Dosu unveiled Badagry Tourism logo to wide admiration. It consists of a curving coconut tree (symbol of Badagry town and main agricultural resource) and the giant traditional sato drum set against a background of a golden sunset, with Badagry Tourism blazoned beside it.
Stickers with the logo were distributed among those in attendance to openly display as means of promoting Badagry tourism. The gesture elicited wide commendation from virtually everyone. But the council boss was also urged to go beyond merely producing logo to further market Badagry as a tourism haven by taking a stand at the Lagos airport to help visitors to the two festivals on how to easily get to Badagry without much trouble.
The council boss was also enjoined to create tourism facilities in the town that would attract visitors beyond what Lagos State Government was doing that could also generate funds for the council and the local people. Such facilities like boat route from Apapa to Badagry and neighbouring states of Togo and Benin Republic to Badagry, it was canvassed, would give the town international attraction, especially now when the road leading these other places from Badagry was in bad shape.