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‘Lagos Tourism Will Be Entertainment-Driven’

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Coker

Coker

Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Hon. Folorunso Folarin Coker, has plans to improve tourism in the state through active promotion of all forms of entertainment and the arts. The One Lagos Fiesta held last December sets the tone Coker’s tourism vision will take to stimulate tourism and create jobs. He spoke with ANOTE AJELUOROU

What are your plans to stimulate culture and tourism practice in Lagos?

We have just started a New Year after a few months of a new administration in Lagos. I think what happened from December 27 through 31, 2015 in One Lagos Fiesta crossover has set a standard that we are going to implement in Lagos State. It is the experiment for tourism. For example, during that period what we did was that we used entertainment as a tool to provide tourism. So instead of having one crossover count down event at Bar Beach, we had to decentralise it to different locations.

We have just started a New Year after a few months of a new administration in Lagos. I think what happened from December 27 through 31, 2015 in One Lagos Fiesta crossover has set a standard that we are going to implement in Lagos State. It is the experiment for tourism. For example, during that period what we did was that we used entertainment as a tool to provide tourism. So instead of having one crossover count down event at Bar Beach, we had to decentralise it to different locations.

So, instead of one location, we now had it in Badagry, Ikorodu, Ekpe, Agege and Bar Beach. We took it to the community, which is a small group of people that normally would have to travel to Bar Beach to watch the crossover fireworks. We took it to them. We also transferred the values that we always focused on in Bar Beach; we decentralised them to those localities.

The suya makers made money, the hotels in Ikorodu, Agege, Ekpe and Badagry and bar Beach were filled to capacity because. For example, in Badagry, people moved from the Republic of Benin and from Festac Town to Badagry to watch all those great artistes. I think that sets the tone of change but with the understanding that it is continuous, that there will be continuity. We keep doing the same thing the previous administration did. But we are just doing it in a different way and it is that change that will bring continuity for our tourism.

There is a lot of tourism in Lagos but people do not define it as tourism. People come from all over West Africa to buy goods in Lagos. That is economic tourism. It is equivalent for us saying, ‘where am I going to be buying goods to bring to Lagos?’ The buying power of Lagos cannot be disregarded. They buy in volume and people come to pick it up.

There is religious tourism in Lagos as well. Look at the biggest churches in Africa. They are here. So their Mecca is here where people come for pilgrimages. Look at The Experience that occurs at the Tafawa Balewa Square every year. Do you know how many people come from far away each year? That is another form of religious tourism. There is medical tourism. If you can afford it and you are critically ill anywhere in Nigeria, where would you go? If you have a friend coming over from America, where would you invite them to out of all the places you want to showcase? Lagos!

How do you synchronise these collective into net profit-making both for government and the people?

Now, what are our plans? We have to do a lot of research to find things out: What do we have? Where is it? What condition is it? How is it working? Who controls it? What is the revenue? What is the importance of that specific thing to the general future of our entertainment economy?

Our plan for tourism is going to be entertainment. With entertainment as we proved in the last five days of 2015, people within Lagos moved from one location to another location to consume entertainment. What of transportation, the revenue generated? Why did they move from one location to another because of entertainment? They went to consume the entertainment of Davido, D’Banj, Don Jazzy and others performing on stage in a place they would not normally have performed.

For us to get the artistes and for the people to go there, we had to create befitting platforms in those areas. We have the stage, lighting, sound, security, and barricade. People were employed to do these. Entertainment as a tool can drive tourism in an economy. It got to a point at Bar Beach that I had to order another big screen to be put on the stage because of the volume of people so that those at the back could see what was going on without pushing their way to the front. They had to bring the screen from Aba, Abia State, because we had consumed all the big screens in Lagos.

Research is being developed and it would allow us to plan certain things. By planning, I am talking about looking at the different communities, what their cultures are, and the art that comes out of their culture and how we are going to showcase those cultures. Showcasing that culture means introducing a platform for it and we have to document it in such a manner that you can now place it on your website which is the window through which everybody around the world can see Nigeria.

So, you can sit down in Alaska and see it. It is from the quality image that is online that will encourage people to overcome the negative image Nigeria has. Then also people can get up from Atlanta or wherever and say ‘let me go and try this thing in Lagos, Nigeria.’ It’s what will make them conclude that this place is not so bad.

Will One Lagos Fiesta be a yearly event? Also, only singers were showcased. What about other sectors of the arts and entertainment?

First of all, there is a gallery we put all the pictures of what transpired in all five locations online. We asked all the different ethnic groupings (Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba and other groups) what aspects of their arts and culture they wanted to showcase in the five locations. So, it was the same stage that the mega superstars performed with light and microphone that I put the native and traditional dancers on. So there was culture, there was theatre.

We had Lagos State Arts Council theatre group. They put together a play and the theme of the play was ‘We cannot just sit back and expect change.’ If we want change, we must change ourselves. It was a production that was meant for both children and adults and we ran that through all five locations one day at a time. It was really delightful in Ikorodu and Ekpe as the little children demanded that they too wanted to go on stage and sing. There were beautiful photographs of children on a massive stage dancing. We did not have enough time to cover some groupings.

For example, I would have liked it if Nollywood was represented on this platform and I hope next year Nollywood would be strongly represented. I would have liked to see indigenous contemporary musicians like Kwame I, Salawa Abeni and Adewale Ayuba. I would have liked to see them playing non-stop for five hours and I know that someone like Kwame I does it.

In January, we launched Apapa Amusement Park; in February we had the Lagos Marathon; in March we have Surulere or Alimosho Day. We have also asked the local governments to give us one day a year to celebrate them.

So, if you come to Lagos for a business meeting on Wednesday you do not have to run away on Friday because it probably coincides with the Island Day and you can go and have a very good time.

Let me tell you something about One Lagos Fiesta. It was a continuation of the Countdown. It was sponsored by corporate organisations. I do not have a budget for festivals. It is a sponsorship deal. We get funds from big corporate organizations – telecommunications, oil and gas, banking, food and beverage. There are companies that come and say we want to sponsor. If you go online, you will see them. They also get a lot of benefits from it in terms of exposure. We have partnered with quite a few of those corporate citizens and now I must speak directly to them. I am looking for partners for the next show. I am looking to shake hands with partners for the development of entertainment economy in Lagos.

The Minister for Information and Culture has set aside N500 million for the 36 states to come up with 10 festivals each and the FCT five. What festivals will you present for Lagos?

I have written to him about my 10 festivals and I am waiting for him to approve and fund the 10 festivals and that takes care of 10 out of 20 local governments. These include the food and beverage festivals, fashion festival, jazz festival, Afro-beat festival and festival of drums. That is the one that actually excites me the most – the drum festival. I want to call all the kings’ drummers from the different regions of Lagos from the palaces for the festival of drums. We speak to the drums. We appreciate the drums and I think it is something that is falling by the way side and that is what we are going to major on. Somebody suggested the jollof rice festival.



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