One of the sectors of the economy with high global acceptance and importance is tourism. It serves as a boost in the economy of a country or a State, when properly harnessed. Nigeria’s tourism asset is widespread encompassing natural features such as government and privately owned parks, waterfalls, and the beautiful outcrop of rocks in different shapes, plateau, forest resources and wildlife, beaches, among others. The current wide gap between these assets and potential contributions of tourism to Nigeria’s national income make inevitable the need for stronger commitment that will enable the sector assume its much-anticipated developmental role.
Definitely, the task before any forward-looking administration should be how to translate these tourist opportunities into money-generating and employment opportunities for the citizenry. In Nigeria, Badagry is a relic of Nigeria’s chequered past, being the centre of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade in Africa in the early 1800. It also holds the ace in hosting Nigeria’s first educational system as a British colony with the establishment of the St. Thomas Anglican Nursery and Primary School.
Similarly, the first storey building in Nigeria was located in Badagry. Up till today, colonial relics flood the community, making it a dominant tourist site in Nigeria. More dominant is the slave cell, known as the Brazilian Baracoon, which is a major attraction for tourists.
Its historic nature has made Badagry one of the most anticipated places to visit in the country. However, Badagry began to feel the foot of tourist receding and the one time commercial centre for West Africa Coast in the 17th and mid-18th century, known to be the broker between the European traders and traders within the locality became a shadow of itself.
Without a doubt, the State understands that tapping into the potentials of tourism in Badagry would boost the economic development of the state as well as the ancient town. So, in a bid to revive the economy and fulfil the fifth pillar (Entertainment and Tourism) of the Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration’s T.H.E.M.E.S (acronyms for Traffic Management and Transportation, Health and Environment, Education and Technology, Making Lagos a 21ST Economy, Entertainment and Tourism and Governance and Security) Developmental Agenda, concerted efforts are being made to transform Badagry into an ancestral home where people in Diasporas can reunify with their heritage and enjoy the wholeness of Africa’s rich culture.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu recently approved N1 billion for the investment in the tourism sector in the State. A huge chunk of the budget was apportioned to the revival of Badagry’s tourism potential. Hence, work has commenced on the construction of the Heritage Museum as well as the renovation of the Vlekete Slave Market. Being a deep-rooted cultural hub, the traditional religion of the people in Badagry is greatly emphasized in the festivals like the Ajido Zangbeto cult, Igunuku Festival, Coconut Festival, with the most prominent being the annual Badagry Diaspora Festival; an event first initiated in 1999 by the African Renaissance Foundation (AREFO) to memorialize the abolishment of slave trade.
In 2019, Lagos in collaboration with AREFO showcases the importance of the town during the slave trade era. The colourful festival, with array of diverse activities like the boat regatta, fishing completion and so on, was attended by people from around the world. The lushness of the Badagry culture is portrayed in the flamboyant show off of the Sato Drummer Troupe, beating their drums to showcase the heritage and add glamour to local festivals. The tall twin drum was recommended by the oracle in the 16th century to wade off pestilence that had ravaged the town. It will suffice to say that the Sato drum when beat is not just for entertainment but to wade off evil.
The array of resorts and beaches in Badagry makes it the best place for family retreat. This ranges from the popular whispering palms, coconut beach, suntan beach and many more. The beautiful beaches and its groovy shores leave more than just immediate fun for the family, but enough memories to trigger another holiday.
With all these beautiful and rich heritage entrenched in Badagry, the historical town should be a popular place to visit by tourists. No doubt, the state of the road network to the ancient town plays a pivotal role to whether or not in few years, it will be the first point of tourist attraction for people all over the world.
In pursuance of accomplishing the main objective of reviving tourism in the State, the Sanwo-Olu administration flagged-off the rehabilitation of the Lagos-Badagry Expressway. The first phase of the project spanning 4 kilometre has since been completed. Recently, Governor Sanwo-Olu restated the commitment of his government to the construction of the Expressway, saying that the delay of work on the road was based on the government’s plan to build a first-class infrastructure that people would be proud of when completed.
Of course, this is a logical thing to do, considering the ace that Badagry holds in terms of tourism development in the entire country. By the time the on-going redevelopment of the Lagos-Badagry Expressway into a ten lane facility, incorporating BRT lanes and light rail, is fully completed, the Badagry axis would, no doubt, become a leading tourist hub in Africa. When this is put alongside the 500-seater Arts Theatre and a Cinema put in place by the State government in Badagry, on-going efforts at opening up the entire axis for business would be better appreciated.
Meanwhile, it is not enough to talk about Badagry as a wonderful tourist hub, it is important that individuals, organisations, families and groups visit this uniquely endowed town from time to time to savour the wonders of its beaches and other beautiful tourist sites. The question, then, is: When last did you visit Badagry?
Otuyemi writes from Alausa, Ikeja