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Wednesday, March 03 2004

Vol 17 No.004






The Arts




  • Money/Market

  • Travels/Tourism

  • Property/Environment

  • Foreign

  • Reviving a heritage

    Reviving a heritage


    THE Argungu Fishing and Cultural Festival has a long fascinating history behind it. Perhaps, one of the oldest and most celebrated festivals North of the Niger. The Argungu Fishing and Cultural Festival has sadly been absent from the calendar of national events since 1997, when it was last staged. Several attempts to revive the annual event had met with little success.

    The stage however looks set for the revival of the once famous heritage of the Kabawa people, thanks to the renewed effort of Alhaji Muhammad Adamu Aliero, the Governor of Kebbi State. Fans of the festival cannot but agree with the governor who recently gave the hints in Lagos on the preparedness of the Kebbi State Government to revive the festival and once more draw international attention to the rich socio-cultural and economic potentials of Argungu.

    History has it that the Argungu Fishing Festival started as a modest show of hospitality to the then visiting Sultan of Sokoto, Mallam Hassan Dan
    "Mu’azu to the Argungu Emirate after cessation of hostilities following the holy Jihad of Usman Danfodio. The then Emir of Argungu, Mallam Muhammed Sama, organised fishing amongst his subjects as a display of the skills of the Kabawas in the art of fishing, so as to impress his guest and give him some fish to take back home to Sokoto.

    Since then, the festival has undergone modifications and eventually metamorphosed into a grand event where the rich culture and economic potentials of the people are displayed. Over the years, since the grand event was staged in 1934, the Argungu fishing festival has continued to widen its scope and participation. Today, it has become an international event, drawing global attention, as one of Africa’s richest cultural festivals and tourist rendezvous.

    Studies show that, while the Argungu Fishing Festival was initially intended as a mark of the unification of Sokoto sultanate and Argungu Emirate, torn by years of rivalry, it has been converted into a vehicle to showcase the hospitality, the social, economic and cultural potentials of the entire Kebbi State. It is still tied to the apron of a fishing festival because, fishing has remained one of the vocations of a lot of communities in Kebbi State, where rivers abound.

    Giving a brief on the evolution of the Argungu Fishing Festival, Governor Adamu Aliero was quoted as telling journalists in Lagos recently that "to commemorate the occasion of the historic visit of the Sultan of Sokoto to Argungu, following rivalries between the two during the Islamic Jihad, a grand fishing was organised by the Emir of Argungu, Mallam Mohammadu Sama. Seeing that the visitor from Sokoto enjoyed the festival very much, the people of Argungu continued to hold the festival each year. Later on, to foster good relations with neighbours they started inviting outsiders to participate in the festival." What therefore started as a humble traditional ceremony has developed into an international event.

    Records show that up to the 1960s, the festival was still considered largely a local affair. By 1972 however, the then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, along with his Nigerian counterpart, Hammani Diori attended the festival. It continued to enjoy a boost since that time, and by 1981 when the most successful of the event to date was reported to have been staged, it became even clearer that the organisation of the festival had to be further reviewed to accommodate the growing list of guests and participants at the festival.

    Unfavourable political climate and other logistic problems, however, hampered the progress of the annual event. In 1997, the then military Government barely managed to host the festival. Attendants at the 1997 event testified to the effect that the famous Argungu Fishing and Cultural festival had lost its appeal. Although people still displayed the old enthusiasm that attended previous celebrations, it could not be said to have been very successful.

    Apparently disturbed by the above scenario, Alhaji Mohammadu Adamu Aliero began a systematic and gradual plan to revive the festive and inject into it, its traditional lure and wide appeal. To this end the Governor unfolded a programme for the new look Argungu Fishing and Cultural festival.

    According to him, the festival will last four days, from March 17 to 20. While promising very fascinating and captivating event lined up for the four days, Governor Aliero for first time threw the gate open for private or corporate partnership in the sponsor of the festival. His government, he said, will provide mouth-watering incentives to prospective partners or sponsors of the festival, even as he equally drew global attention to the many benefits derivable from participation in the event.

    Part of the event lined up for the period of the festival include amongst others a workshop on investment opportunities and tourism side in Kebbi State, to be held in Birnin Kebbi. Others are archery, catapulting and dane gun shooting competitions. Agricultural and mini-trade fair and car, bicycle, horse, camel and donkey races. Also on display will be rich and famous Kabanci display, wrestling and local boxing, before the grand fishing which comes up on the last day of the festival.

    Governor Aliero further explained that, each of the events lined up for the festival has its own peculiarity and variety of participants. While the agricultural fair will attract stakeholders, farmers, government ministries and agencies, such events as the Kabana display will feature swimmers on gourds, canoe race, water skiing, swimming with eyes closed, water relay, bare hand fishing, wild duck chase and regatta, amongst other traditional displays.

    For the first time since 1981, this year’s festival will also feature motor rally, which is expected to flag off from Abuja through some major cities like Jos, Bauchi, Kano, Katsina, Gusau, Sokoto and finally terminating in Argungu via Jega and Birnin Kebbi. Major motor manufacturers have already indicated their intension to participate in the event. Equally, participants from within the country and beyond have indicated willingness to be part of the revival of the once famous Argungu Fishing and Cultural Festival.

    While promising to deploy the full weight of his government’s machinery for a repeat of the 1981 feat, Governor Adamu Aliero also assured of the possible presence of the president, Olusegun Obasanjo and vice president, Atiku Abubakar, along with some African leaders from other countries. While the festival promises to be a huge event, those who had the privilege to have witnessed past editions are already anxious. The Argungu Fishing and Cultural Festival will bring back memories of the past glory of the people of Kabawa, but most importantly, it will re-launch Kebbi State, as it did of Sokoto State of the past into international arena of economic tourism partnership.

    Bwala wrote from Lafia, Nasarawa State.

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