FG to enlist Arugungu Festival into World Tourism Map

Posted: October 14, 2013 in travel & tourism

nigeriaMINISTER of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke, Tuesday in Abuja  said the opportunities inherent for the country to grow the Argungu festival, not only in its traditional form but also to restore those elements of it that has made it one of the most internationally acclaimed festivals in Nigeria cannot be over emphasised.

Duke who stated this while playing host to the Emir of Arugungu, Alhaji Samaila Mera said the country will develop the infrastructure around the scene of the festival which will propel it into the future as one of the greatest festivals in West Africa.

Welcoming the traditional ruler in his office, Duke said “your royal highness, let me be placed on record that first and foremost for me one of the most depressing aspect of my leadership of this ministry has been the inability for me to attend an Argungu festival since my assumption of duties as minister.

“Only a few days ago I was discussing with some of our directors about the very urgent need for us to meet with you and members of your emirate to discuss the Argungu fishing festival only to be told that indeed you yourself were planning a visit to our ministry.

“So I believe that there is a hand of providence in that and therefore we must work assiduously to ensure that we intervene, reactivate, reposition, re-energise the Argungu festival and make it what it had always been, one of the most prominent heritage festival in the calendar of Nigeria tourism.

On the national heritage status of Surami, the minister disclosed that in a few weeks, will play host to the Secretary General of UNESCO adding that he will present her with a document on this request of Nigeria for the re-enlistment in the evaluation of this heritage site as a world heritage site.

He disclosed that his ministry have spoken to many people especially in corporate Nigeria, “in fact today I had the opportunity of attending the Nigeria economic summit holding in Abuja and a number of corporate organisations spoke with me about the need to fast track the development of tourism asset of Nigeria. And I want to say that in a couple of days I would sit with our senior management staff in the parastatals and the ministry itself to prepare that document”.

He said the history of the Argungu festival is always something to behold and people can see that it is not adequately promoted by the country internationally.

“I would like to cease the opportunity as we, through the permanent secretary to the parastatals that as we prepare our budget for 2014, we must try as much as possible to make provision for the promotion of some of our festivals, most importantly being the Argungu fishing festival for 2014”, he assured.

Duke said he would call for the setting up of a small intervention, very critical intervention team that will work quickly toward the plans for the celebration of the next Argungu festival come 2014.

He disclosed that he has sent word across to the SGF for him to fast track the promise he made to the emirate and “I believe we’ll get some word from him in a very short time from now”.

While noting that Nigeria’s heritage and its culture is the common wealth of Nigeria, he tasked the media practitioners to enhance their knowledge of some of these heritage endowments “so that when you write about them, you write in an informed manner, when you advocate for them, you advocate in a way that will elicit support rather than criticisms that are not constructive and will end up not endearing us to the purpose.

“We have the asset please help us to propagate it, help us to uphold it and help us to use it as a platform for national cohesion, as you heard his royal highness say this was a festival that brought people from all over the country in pursuance of one great objective which is national unity but in a game of fishing”.

On the dispute on owners of a particular heritage sites in the country, Duke said “it is important and it is possible for two great civilizations and communities to share a heritage site, siting Victoria Falls which is shared by Zimbabwe and Zambia, noting that the two communities are enjoying immense benefits from it.

In his words, “we must develop also the attributes of sharing heritage that is what make the diversity of Nigeria what it is today as our most priceless asset”.

He called on the Emir to be an inspiration to traditional rulers across Nigeria adding that the country must not sit and allow her heritage sites to go into dilapidation.

“We must stand up and raise our voices to the political leaders and then we the servant of the people will go in as soldiers and try to see how we can find support to restore many of these”, said.

The Emir, Alh Samaila Mera earlier in his remark noted that the Arugungu emirate received a letter from the ministry in which it was scheduled for argungu festival to be one of the heritage events to be used to celebrate as part of the festivity in the coming Centenary celebration adding that ever since the receipt of the letter they have not heard anything from the office of the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF) or from the office of the tourism minister.

He pointed out that since 1970 the federal government has been a partner in celebrations of the ancient festival, which was used by the federal government then after the civil war to reconcile the north and the south.

The traditional ruler disclosed that fishermen from southern part of Nigeria were brought to argungu to participate in the festival with the locals from the north-west, north-central, all over Nigeria and Niger Republic and ever since, all Nigerian Presidents has attended the annual festival with the federal ministry of tourism and culture has been their strong partner.

According to him, “we felt with this new intention and with the long silence on the letter, it is only pertinent that we come to find out what the intentions of the government are because the festival is not a one day event, there are things that precedes the festival and normally they have to do with accommodations, invitations, getting some of the parties involved to take part in the pre-qualification event among other.

“That is the main reason why I requested for appointment to see the minister to discuss this age-old partnership and also to hear first-hand whether the proposed letter we earlier received is still on or something has happened to it”.

He noted that Argungu cante museum has been handed over to the ministry through one of her agencies, National Commission for Museums and Monument (NCMM) regretting that bout 4-5years they did all the paper work, but ever since they handed over the museum, there has been only but a project, building and some conveniences which to him is unrealistic.

The Emir noted that the over 200years old structure housing the museum needed to be maintained minimum annually and the emirate council has been settled with maintaining it.

“In our opinion it is now a federal structure, this year I had to write to the governor to give us some funding because we experienced a very heavy raining season last year and that has impacted negatively on the structure. Like I said it is about 200 years old, so that is something I would want us to discuss here, possibly see how we can move that forward”.

Argungu motor rally was another important matter on the agenda of the Emir, as he noted that Nigeria and Dakar were the first countries in West Africa to be given the licences to do motor rally, in Senegal Dakar, and they have the Dakar rally and in Nigeria we have the Argungu safari rally.

The Emir noted that Dakar rally has become great while the Nigerian national safari rally has gone dormant adding that “I felt there is a lot of benefit in resuscitating that aspect of the festival. Nationally, the licence is there. It is the only licencing rally we have in this country and the only two rally licence we have in the whole of West African sub-region, leaving it lying fallow is a terrible waste and I think and believe that the federal ministry should have something to do with it because we are all concerned”.

The Director General of MCMM, Yusuf Abdulla while welcoming the guest said Surami heritage has been on the commission’s list for enlistment as a world heritage site for the last 10years or so adding that they have done a number of things in this direction.

He informed the gathering that physically Surami is in Sokoto state but the soul and spirit is in Kebbi where it actually resides. “As a point of fact, the last stakeholders meeting we did in Sokoto the emir passionately took time off from Argungu to be in Sokoto and he spent the entire period of the stakeholders meeting with us just to show how dear it is to him”.

He implored the minister to help facilitate the move to facilitate the nomination of this site while hoping that an action plan with timeline will help to achieve the nomination of this site.

On the Kante museum, he said they have received a letter from His Highness to take over this museum and it is going to be part of the dossier for them, it will be one of the three key features that will constitute the nomination for Surami another one is Hungu which will be like a triangle from Surami to Hungu to Argungu and as the emir has said, some interventions have been carried out where there was a presidential intervention fund and some work have been carried out.

Courtesy: Onyinyechi Udemezue, Abuja

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