The sorry state of Badagry Heritage Museum
Recently, I went to Badagry with my friends in a bid to learn more about Nigeria’s slave history. During the learning process, I kept wondering at the terrible and unkempt state of the historical sites. It was depressing.
From the lack of electricity and having to turn on the phone’s light to get around in some dark areas, to threading lightly on the floor because it looked to be falling apart. Age has been terrible to the buildings. The lack of electricity that greeted us at the Badagry Heritage Museum was amusing, because really, what did we expect? But the holes in the floor jarred me out of my amusement. It became a game of finding a solid area to walk carefully on and stay safe whilst trying to focus on learning more about our terrible history in slavery.
Badagry is another gold mine in tourism that the Nigerian government has seemingly ignored. Let’s not get started on how dangerous and unkempt Osun state’s Erin Ijesha is or the abandoned elevator in Abeokuta’s Olumo rock. In the past couple of years, tourism in Nigeria has been a trendy topic by the Nigerian government in how to pull the country out of its recession. Yet, works to improve historical and tourist sites have not been forthcoming despite the increase in the number of people visiting these places; thanks to the initiative of local tour providers. Somehow, the government would rather spend millions of Naira on creating fleeting events for tourism, instead of parsing the funds through lasting legacies that need the support. I reckon that there might have to be a well-publicised tragedy, like one of someone falling through one of the many holes at the Badagry Heritage Museum, before the much-needed renovations at the site is attended to.
It was shocking to witness historical artefacts that are probably valued at millions getting destroyed by time and dirt in Badagry due to the lack of proper care and storage displays. It is one thing to listen to a story that tells of how a mirror was worth the lives of ten humans and it is another to see the mirror our ancestors placed so much value on. It is sad that the government does not seem to care about keeping it in good state for generations to visit and learn about our history in slavery.
On the path to the Point of No Return, a beach area where the slaves were taken into slave ships to other countries, and in many cases, their death, I noticed a large rusting structure that was commissioned by the government to become a modern tourist site. I shudder to imagine how much money was put in to it instead of first focus on maintaining the others that have been left in utter state of disrepair. Really, why build something new when the old sorely needs to be cherished and maintained? Without the support of the old structure telling the story of our history, the new structure does not have a solid foundation to emphasize its story.
I remember getting lost in the beauty and arts of the Vatican City in my younger years, and seating in the Sistine Chapel to gaze upon Michelangelo’s paintings. The Sistine Chapel’s paintings date back to the 1500’s, Badagry Heritage Museum was built in the 1800’s and was opened to the public in less than 16 years now. Despite the vast difference in the time of creation and millions of visitors pouring through the Sistine Chapel, its pristine condition shames our younger heritage sites. Nigeria needs to wake up to its fledgling tourism market and start giving it the support it sorely needs.
I wonder if the artefacts would survive our future generation at this rate. Despite how terrible our history is, it is something to be cherished and remembered, and something our government should support in maintaining. Besides serving in its telling of our history, these sites serve as locations for travellers around the world to visit and learn from. Many countries survive solely on the inflow of tourism, and these are countries that realized how profitable a business it is for their economy, our Nigerian government should realize that too.
I do know that Governor Ambode proposed a development of Badagry into a major tourist attraction and I have to salute him on his efforts in many parts of Lagos. I really do hope his proposed vision for Badagry becomes actualized because Nigeria sorely needs this.