Ashamu Fadipe, a retired Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Culture and Tourism is the Managing Director of Badagry Convention and Visitors Bureau, an outfit formed to incubate the cultural – tourism business opportunities of Badagry. He spoke with Wale Ojo-Lanre on this and other issues. Excerpts:
What is the essence of Badagry Festival?
The essence of Badagry Festival is to create awareness in Badagry, to sell Badagry as a destination and to also attract Africans in Diaspora and visitors to Badagry.
When was the programme initiated?
It was initiated in 2001, it started with the Black Heritage Festival organised by Lagos State government. When Lagos State government stopped sponsoring, the indigenes resuscitated the festival again.
For how many years was the Black Heritage celebrated here before Badagry people took over?
The Black Heritage festival was celebrated two times at the beginning, then the indigenes took over the year after. In 2010, the state government came back again and it was not being celebrated as it used to be. They only brought one or two programmes here and shifted others to another location that is why the people of Badagry continued with this programme.
So, who is sponsoring the programme?
Nobody. We usually have a sponsor that is steady which is the MTN, since then, they have been doing something even now that they have crisis, they still do little. At least, we got 15 per cent of what they used to give us before this year, it is just unfortunate.
So, the rest is being taken over by the Badagry communities…
Yes, it is by the community.
People hearing about Badagry Festival expect something bigger than this
Yes, it used to be bigger, but now, the paucity of fund makes it unnoticed, but I want to tell you, that you will see more of it next Saturday which is the grand finale. When it started like this, it’s always very low. We have series of programmes for instance, on Monday, market women, are involved, they will assemble at the point of no return with the Baale offering prayers in his palace, then they will cross the water and move to the market.
Is it the traditional system or you are just creating a myth?
Festival is about creation. It doesn’t happen without creation, so it comes with the idea of an all inclusive event so that people can be involved in participating in the festival more so when we don’t have money to give them.
Is it that people are not enlightened on the import of things coming to Badagry?
My people don’t understand. I am trying my best. I even met with the company manager and I told him that I was not there to quarrel but to assist him and urge him to look at raising professionals among the youths so that it will not turn to another Niger Delta crisis. We sat together with some of the Baales whose land were among the ones that were taken over by the government for the Port. I told them that we are not quarrelling, but trying to let them reason that certain things must be done for the people, that they might not be aware of, but when they know, it becomes a problem. But if you have five or 10 of them at the managerial level, they will call the people and let them know the situation that is why the government need to help us and we will also need to help them. We supported the port as we hope it will be a prosperous investment in Badagry.
As one of the best brains in Tourism industry in Nigeria, having worked with the Lagos State Ministry of Culture and Tourism, involved in promotion of tourism in Nigeria, don’t you think it is an opportunity for people here in Badagry that a port is being planted?
Yes, on my own part, I told you that we should be doing something the port is going to annex, it is going to help tourism industry, more people will come, but if only we are ready, when people are trained in tour guiding, operation and so on, they turn the opportunity to gold.
Particularly the absence of four or five star hotels that can handle the capacity…
The issue is not five or four star hotels. How many people can even afford that, let us have maximum three stars – hotels. If we have many two star hotels, I think it is enough and where a room is not more than N5,000, people afford it, but when it is 15 or 20 thousand naira or more, you will see that it will be a classic thing. We must encourage visitors to visit. This was why we came up with the idea of Badagry Convention and Visitors Bureau which I am the MD, today.
What is the Bureau all about?
It is to sell Badagry as a destination.
Does it have a government backing or support?
Yes, the local government has interest in it. We signed a MoU with the local government to market, source for investors, promote Badagry as a destination. The council has made the Bureau its contact and facilitation agent for showcasing and marketing of Badagry. This was achieved through a rigorous elucidation of the benefits of having the bureau in Badagry. I had to sit with my people and enlighten them. It took me about five months to get them enlightened and we have signed it now.
Does the local government realise the essence of having the bureau?
I sat down with them, before they could understand it took them some time, but they’ve understood now.
Is it true that foreign investors are coming around in search of where they will establish their businesses based on government’s decision?
Yes, some have been coming. We have been entertaining inquiries from members of the private sector, multi – national corporations on the investible areas. We have some hospitality industries that are springing up. We are not short of hotels in Badagry, if we have 500 visitors in Badagry today, we have where to accommodate them.
As an investor coming to Badagry, who should I talk to?
Talk to the Badagry Convention and Visitors Bureau. This is the main reason why we are created. Investors and corporate entities must have a platform of trust with government cover to deal with. We are inaugurated to serve as a go – between agent between investors, the local government, the people and business community in Badagry. When an environment is undergoing a spontaneous transformation from a rustic town to a cosmopolitan city, there is tendency for fraudulent organisations competing and pretending to be what they are not and thereby ripping off people and damaging the image of Badagry or whoever. This bureau is government interface for transparency and credible transaction. We are founded to inject credibility, guarantee authenticity and fair play. Badagry Convention and Visitors Bureau is the clearing house of trust which genuine investors are expected to deal with.