Argungu Fishing Festival and Bagudu’s preservation of culture




In furtherance to his avowal to improve the lots of the good people of Kebbi state by building a virile economy that will be the centre of attraction for international tourists as well as a hub for investors globally, the Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu administration successfully conducted this year’s Argungu International Fishing and Cultural Festival after a decade in hibernation. This year’s festival, which ended at the weekend, was as significant as it was memorable, parading an array of dignitaries including President Muhammadu Buhari, Senate President Ahmed Lawan, many governors, namely, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal (Sokoto), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Abubakar Sani Bello (Niger), Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa).

Historically, Argungu Fishing Festival is probably one of the most eloquent efforts by an African people to relive and maintain a significant feature of its socio-cultural heritage. The annual festival at Argungu, indeed, signifies a Nigerian’s people unique efforts at reasserting its basic values and beliefs, hence its relative distinctiveness vis-à-vis the other peoples around it.This cultural revival among the Kebbawa of Kebbi state is particularly laudable at a time when most African nations have been trying to relive their past by probing and adjusting the Blackman’s heritage through such joint activities as the second World Festival Arts and Culture (FESTAC), which was held in Lagos, Nigeria in early 1977.

Argungu Fishing Festival began in 1934 in honour of the visiting Sultan of Sokoto, Late Malam Hassan Dan Mu’azu, to mark an end of hostility between the Jihadists and the Kabawa. Since then, it was observed annually until 2010, when it was put on hold due to security challenges confronting the Northern part of the country. The arena is decorated at both ends with Rice Pyramids as evidence of a milestone achieved by the state in the field of agriculture.

This year’s festival kicked off in Abuja with the revival of Argungu Motor Rally, one of the major events in the festival syllabus. The Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who performed the opening ceremony, described it as a testimony to the current administration’s efforts at restoring peace and security in the country. The minister, who represented Mr. President at the event, noted that the participation of only made-in-Nigeria

vehicles at the rally buttressed government’s commitment to building local capacity and diversifying the economy through manufacturing. He added that another attribute of Argungu Motor Rally is its tendency towards tourism promotion in the country.

The revival of the Argungu festival, no doubt, underscores the pragmatic commitment of Kebbi state governor, Senator Bagudu, in not only preserving the cultural heritage of the people but also taking it to the global stage in the mould of Grand Canyon, Great Barrier Reef, Great Wall of China, Pyramids of Giza, the Taj Mahal of Agra, Status of liberty, Cannes Film festival, Scotland’s Cultural Show, Marrakesh Motor Show, the Annual Dubai Bazaar and several others that attract millions of spectators and visitors from across the globe. This feat by Governor Bagadu is highly commendable for its unquantifiable cultural and economic benefits to Kebbi state in particular and Nigeria as a whole.

Governor Bagudu’s successful hosting of the 2020 edition of the festival is even more laudable, considering the attendance of President Buhari and a coterie of top government officials, the diplomatic corps, over 30 monarchs all of who personally graced the 24th edition of the event. This added colour, glamour and finesse to the annual fiesta. His Eminence the Sultan, Emir of Gwandu, His Royal Majesty the Ooni of Ife as well as kings, emirs, mais from Borno, Yobe, Plateau, Bauchi, Kaduna, Zamfara states, the neighbouring Niger and Benin Republics came in large number in solidarity with their host, Alh Sama’ila Muhammad Mera. In fact, Argungu town was overstretched.

The festival has once again lived up to its foundation based on peace building, unity and brotherhood. It was a gathering that brought all Nigerians from all ethnic, cultural, faith, political and social backgrounds together enjoying the aroma of hospitality, smiling in unison and admiring the beautifully, artistical displays embedded in the festival.

President Buhari had at the agricultural show expressed fulfillment, having harvested Rice Pyramids and multi-billion naira rice mills from the seed he officially sowed at the launching of Anchor Borrowers Program in November 2015. The president declared that restoration of the Argungu Agricultural and Fishing Festival after 11 years of its suspension is a manifestation of improved security in the country. He, however, lamented that insecurity created a lull in tourism and entertainment for many years, with ripple effects on the nation’s economy, as it restricted movements, gatherings and investments, promising to promote policies that would stimulate interest in tourism and entertainment.

He said many international festivals, such as the Argungu Fishing and Cultural Festival, were being celebrated across the country, bringing Nigerians closer together and improving collective appreciation of the nation’s diversity, while projecting the rich history and culture to foreigners. “In both instances, massive jobs are created in the tourism sector, which is still not fully developed. We must, therefore, continue to encourage, support and promote such festivals. Let me use this opportunity to commend Governor of Kebbi State, Emir of Argungu, Minister of Information and Culture, Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria and members of the organising committee at the local, state and federal levels for this remarkable event”.

The president also commended private sector sponsors and international development partners for supporting the festival, saying Nigerians have the capacity to tackle the challenges facing the country. He stressed that the revival of the Argungu Motor Rally and the annual Argungu International Fishing and Cultural Festival was a testimony to the success of federal government’s efforts at restoring peace and security in the country.

Speaking, Governor Atiku Bagudu commended President Buhari for reviving the “we can do it” spirit in the agricultural sector, resulting in rising grain pyramids and employment, as well as providing an enabling environment for the Argungu Fishing and Cultural Festival to resume, saying, “We will not allow those who do not wish us well to define who we are.”

It is evident that the Bagudu administration’s revival of the Argungu Fishing and Cultural Festival is the right step towards the government’s efforts to deliver the dividend of democracy to the people through building a buoyant economy and preserving the culture of Kebbi state. But beyond this, the festival seems to be a breeding ground for future Olympians, considering the raw talents of young boys and girls at the “Kabanci display”. This is an area the government should leverage on.

Najeeb writes from Kaduna, Kaduna state.

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