Flyboku.com, a leading digital online and offline travel agency in Nigeria, recently opened talks with stakeholders on plans to build a world-class resort and park at the ancient, coastal town of Badagry, Lagos State. The FlyBoku Resort and Park will be conceived to rival America’s Disneyland. Abiola Lawal, MD, FlyBoku, discloses during a recent courtesy call on Oba Akran of Badagry, De Wheno Aholu-Menu-Toyi I. There have been multiple interests in entrenching tourism in the Badagry axis, including a media-hyped visit by a Marlon Jackson-led investors, which all fizzled out after a few months. But the Boku boss insists this time, this is for real. The project, he says, will further energize the otherwise sleepy town of Badagry.
What is your motivation for this project?
I always ask myself, the man that built Disneyland has been dead for 50 years and why do people still come to that place as the world’s happiest place? It is because they built something; they built culture. I think it is important for us to build tourism and culture so that we can begin to get over our over-dependence on oil. I am not also one of those that will depend on the government to do everything for us. Government is there to create an environment. I lived in the United States for 29 years and the magnificent Disneyland fascinated me. Walt Disney, the owner, did not wait for the government before he built the world’s happiest place.
For those who know my passion, the big thing for me is domestic tourism. I just came back from a four-country tour some few weeks ago. In each of the country, I asked myself, what do these people have that we don’t have? We went to Bob Marley’s estate in Jamaica and I saw people paying $50 to enter or get T-shirts. I said to myself, what Jamaicans have given to the world in Bob Marley, Nigeria has it in Fela Kuti, and Badagry has a lot to offer in terms of tourism. Really, I am inspired by what Walt Disney built in Disneyland.
I don’t want to believe that the Gambia is more endowed than Badagry, in terms of culture, history and awareness; but the Gambia had chosen to build everything around tourism and Nigeria had chosen to build everything around oil. We have seen where it landed us. The future of Nigeria is beyond oil and gas. Badagry was the first place where the first storey building was built and also where the first primary school was built, therefore we should have something around here.
What is the shape of things to come?
We want to build FlyBoku Resort and Park along the coastal area of the town. The aim is to make Badagry more attractive to the world as a destination and subsequently export our culture to the rest of the world.
In the process, we will create jobs. This is the beginning of the launch of a program for domestic tourism. I want to fuse tourism with culture, and I choose to begin with Badagry, because, as they say, charity begins at home. Secondly, Badagry is a coastal city. Life revolves around water around the world.
How do you hope to raise capital?
The government only needs to create an enabling environment, and the private sector would pool resources together. I can attract capital. I have traversed many sectors, including the oil and gas, we can attract the needed funds for a big resort centre in Badagry that the whole world would be coming to even when I am no more. We are already in discussion with foreign investors. We are discussing with some stakeholders. Above all, we are seeking the cooperation of the royal father in achieving this
How feasible is this project?
The future of Nigeria has to include tourism because of the multiplier effect, not just oil that we have over-depended upon. Many countries earn significant GDP from tourism. We are opening a dialogue on how we can open a big resort centre for the world. The country has been over-dependent on oil, whereas tourism entails development of the people because it creates jobs.