FG, Lagos partner on Diaspora Festival Badagry 2017
• Festival To Re-Enact FESTAC ‘77
• Marketing expert On Board
Going by the sheer scope of activities and governmental synergy being mustered, with Lagos State and the Federal Government coming together to actively participate and push for a common front, Diaspora Festival Badagry 2017 might turn out the biggest cultural gathering of Africans 40 years after Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) was held in 1977. It is a rare collaboration, which the orgainsers of Badagry festival, African Renaissance Foundation (AREFO), led by Mr. Babatunde Olaide-Mesewaku, have yearned for as they persistently held on to a vision of Diaspora connection with the homeland. Diaspora Festival Badagry has ‘voyage to heritage’ as its sub-theme.
The Federal Government is already nursing a desire to help over 15 million Diaspora Africans trace their roots back home through Diaspora Festival Badagry, scheduled to hold between August 23 and 25, 2017. Its logo was unveiled last week at Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos. Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, joined the Special Adviser to Lagos State Governor on Oversees Affairs and Investment, Prof. Ademola Abass, to pledge both governments’ commitment to the festival. It promises to be a replica of FESTAC ‘77, designed to assist Africans in Diaspora to reunite with their ancestral roots.
Apart from Diaspora African issues, Dabiri-Erewa, said the festival would also provide a platform to showcase the rich cultural heritage of Lagos State and Nigeria to the world and also promote the country’s tourism potentials. She commended Governor Akinwunmi Ambode for throwing his weight behind the festival, saying the event would host the largest gathering of Africans in the world, and that it was a thing of joy that many Africans in Diaspora had already indicated interest to trace their roots back home.
According to her, “For the first time, we have been having in Badagry a festival that brings people in the Diaspora together, but when we attended this festival a few years ago, we sat together and said this would be the biggest cultural event to come out of Africa. And so, after years of planning, we have been able to come up with a programme this year to hold from August 23 to 25.
“United Nations has already declared the African Decade, and we’re three years into it already, and so within the said decade, Nigeria in particular, and Lagos will be putting up one of the biggest gathering of Diaspora Africans from all over the world in Badagry. One of the unique aspects of the festival is the ‘Door-of-Return’. A lot of people and things were taken out of Africa, and Badagry, in particular. So, our people in Diaspora would be coming back through that door that we are calling the ‘Door-of-Return,’ which is the opposite of ‘Point-of-no-Return’ through which Africans were taken out. Beyond that, we will be showcasing the beauty and culture of Lagos State in particular, and Nigeria in general, through the festival.”
Also, Abass said Lagos State Government was delighted to partner with the Federal Government and other promoters of the festival, and said the event tallied with the cardinal objectives of the state’s Project THESE: Tourism, Hospitality, Entertainment and Sporting Excellence. He further said apart from the fact that the festival was coming at a time the state was celebrating 50 years of its existence, the festival would be utilised to showcase Ambode’s desire to transform Badagry as the next tourism hub in Africa.
According to him, “This festival is going to be utilised to promote the huge efforts that the present administration in Lagos State has been putting into turning Badagry around in terms of infrastructure, in terms of tourism and this forthcoming celebration falls squarely within our government’s agenda to promote tourism and also to promote investment. As you know, we are developing a Sea Port in Badagry, among many other things, and so the festival will be a win-win for everybody, especially for us in Lagos State.”
On his part, chief promoter of the festival, Olaide-Mesewaku, said the Diaspora Festival Badagry 2017 would be dedicated to a Brazilian from Bahia, Descordes Maximiliano Dos Santos, also known as Mestre Didi, who traced his roots to Ketu in Benin Republic, 500 years after the abolition of slave trade in 1967. Mestre Didi would be honoured at the festival for his contribution towards promoting issues relating to Africans in Diaspora.
Olaide-Mesewaku also harped on the festival being the first Diasporic-content event in Nigeria, saying it would bring immense benefits to the country in terms of tourism development and Diaspora business connection.
A major stride the festival is making this year is the coming on board of a marketing outfit to propagate its ideals as the best tourism brand worth supporting among Nigeria’s corporate community. Driver of marketing communications for Diaspora Festival Badagry is Agile Communications Ltd, led by its Managing Director, Mr. Rufai Ladipo, who has promised a lined up of activities for the festival, including carnival procession, boat regatta, fishing competition, dark era procession, Diaspora dinner, beauty pageant, cultural displays, heritage site visits, heritage night, festival market, international music concert and international symposium, among others.
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