Tourism can be simply defined as the commercial organization and operation of holidays and visits to places of interest. The tourism sector in other climes, is the main stay of their economies. The sector can be the cash cow of nay society, state or country, if fully harnessed. Interactively,myriad of tourism potentials abound across Nigeria .
The income that can accrue to the nation can effectively bail it out in raining days, especially when efforts are now geared towards the diversification of the economy from that of the monolithic oil dependent one to a more robust one, premised on other non oil sources like agriculture, tourism and other related vibrant sources. This should be done and the earlier it is done, the better for rhe country .
Howeve, the deplorable state of Nigeria’s tourism sector is confirmed by the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index where the country ranked 129 out of 136 countries. At that time, travel and tourism directly contributed about 2.4% to GDP. Subsequently, the number has fluctuated between 1.5% and 1.8%.Feb 16, 2018.
Nigeria, also known as the “Giant of Africa” and Africa’s largest economy with a GDP of $397.47 billion ahead of South Africa with a GDP of $376.67 billion, has undermined the power of Tourism as a great source of revenue for the country.
Countries such as Dubai, South Africa and Kenya have made great returns for their government in the areas of Tourism. As Nigeria aims to boost its economy and increase its revenue from sources such as the Agricultural sector (25.08% of GDP), Trade sector (16.86% of GDP) and the Real Estate sector (6.85% of GDP), Oil and Gas industry’s (8.86% OF GDP), Tourism should be greatly considered as a means to diversify the economic sector that would contribute largely to GDP.
According to World Travel and Tourism Council, Tourism is one of world’s largest economic sectors, supporting one in 10 jobs (319 million) worldwide and generating 10.4% of world GDP.
As at 2018, Dubai, an oil producing country like Nigeria had a GDP of $102.67 billion, derives less than 1% of its GDP on oil and about 20% was contributed by tourism. Although Oil was previously Dubai’s main source of revenue, it ventured into exploring the Tourism industry, which has been beneficial to the growth of its economy. Today, Dubai has focused its economy on tourism by building hotels and developing real estate.
There are still quite a number of tourist attractions in Nigeria that are yet to be fully developed in order to attract both local and international tourists.Nigeria’s aggregate revenue at the end of the third quarter of 2018 was N2.84 trillion, this accounted 58% of its targeted 2018 revenues .
It is in the bid to change the ugly story in the country that, the current administration in Kebbi State led by an amiable and visionary leader, Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu has been making bold efforts to diversify the economy of the state.This is to take it away from the heavy dependence on oil revenues to more robust and efficacious reliable and sustainable sources like agriculture and tourism .
Kebbi is a state in north-western Nigeria with its capital at Birnin Kebbi. Kebbi State is bordered by Sokoto State, Niger State,Zamfara State, Dosso Region in the Republic of Niger and the nation of Benin. It has a total area of 36,800 km². Kebbi state was created out of the former Sokoto State on 17 August 1991. The State has a total population of 3,137,989 people as projected from the 1991 census, within 21 Local Government areas.
The state has Sudan and Sahel-savannah. The southern part is generally rocky with the Niger River traversing the state from Benin to Ngaski LGA. The northern part of the state is sandy with the Rima River passing through Argungu to Bagudo LGA where it empties into the Niger. Agriculture is the main occupation of the people especially in rural areas, Crops produced are mainly grains; animal rearing and fishing are also common. Christianity and Islam are the dominant religions of the people. There are 225 political wards, 3000 settlements and 1036 hard to reach settlements in the 21 Local Government Areas in the State.
It is also noteworthy that, diversifying the nation’s economy or that of any state cannot be more timely, apt and relevant than now when the globe has been enmeshed in series of economic quagmire of recession , especially occasioned by the devastating effects of the raging global Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), Pandemic. Happily, Governor Bagudu’s preoccupation remains the even socioeconomic development of the Land of Equity. He has also remains steadfast in his gigantic move to revive the abundant tourism potentials of the state.
Apart from the various beautiful and budding tourism sites in Kebbi State, there a lot of annual cultural events across the state that always attract multitude of visitors from within and outside Nigeria. Governor Bagudu has since 2015,,to date, being according top priorities to these events .
For instance, after over a decade of domancy, the famous Argungu Fishing festival in Kebbi State was successfully hosted in March, 2020. Historically, Argungu Fishing festival dates back to the reign of Sultan of Sokoto ,Hassan Dan Muazu in 1934 when the then Emir of Argungu , Sarkin Kabi Muhammadu Sama hosted the Sultan and organised a grand fishing for him in an effort to foster peace and unity between the Fulanis and Kabawa after years of fierce battle between the duo. Since that time ,the event continued to prosper year after year with successive government regimes in Kebbi State introducing innovations to tally with modernity.
Other events that featured during the event included local boxing , wrestling , bow and arrow shooting , hunting , songs, dancing ,Agricultural show and animal race . Apart from the Kabanci display (featuring of water sports ), canoe racing, polo, car racing , motor cycle racing, bicycle racing and beauty peagent were among the events introduced with private companies like Peugeot Automobile company , MTN , Banks etc coming in as sponsors. Hundreds of millions of naira were approved and timely released by Governor Bagudu
Certainly, history and posterity will not forget Governor Bagudu’s commitment which resulted in the successful conduct of the 2020 Argungu International Cultural and Fishing Fetsival . The number one citizen of the country , President Muhammadu Buhari, the Senate President , Governors and a host of other notable guests, from within and outside Nigeria, thronged Argungu and witnessed the event . Hundreds of thousands of guests from across Nigeria and beyond its shores attended the 2020 edition which was revived and adequately funded by Governor Bagudu.
Another important crucial annual cultural event is the Rigata Cultural Festival in Yauri. The Kebbi State Governor , Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu vowed that, his administration would continue to support the annual Rigata Cultural Festival in Yauri until it attains international recognition and standard. The Yauri Rugatta feetival ( originally Yauri Boat Regatta festival), started about two hundreds years ago, when a flotilla of boats carrying warriors used to protect bridal trains from wild animals in the river, as they ( bridal trains), move from one island to another in the ancient Kingdom.
The governor who made the pledge while making his speech during the closing ceremony 2020 edition of the annual cultural festival in Yauri, played host to many important dignitaries such as Speaker of House of Representatives, Right Hon. Femi Gbajamiamila and Honourable Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Senators, House of Representative members, representatives of the Sultan, Emirs of Gwandu, Argungu,Yauri,Zuru and Kontagora, among others .
Another beautiful cultural festival in the state is the Uhola festival of Zuru land. According to the Emir of Zuru, His Royal Highness, retired Maj.Gen. Muhammadu Sani Sami , Sami Gomo II, said the Uhola cultural festival was the number one festival event of Zuru emirate marked after harvest of the agricultural crops by farmers of the area to show thanks and gratitude to God for bountiful harvest, as well as God’s protection against evil forces that come along with diseases, wars and lean harvest .
The festival is normally held around December / January in all towns and villsges around the Zuru area and other adjoining villages . The festival takes two to three days of colourful events such as dances, music, wrestling, exhibition of works of art and crafts. It holds in the ancient cities of Zuru area. During the festival, the local populace moved to the ancient city which is normally situated at a hilly area, because of defence against invaders.
It is during the Uhola cultural festival also that youths in the area undergo a transition ceremony from childhood to adulthood which qualify them to have a wife in marriage after they perform rites i e that is to work / farm for a period of seven (7) years in the farms of their in laws .As usual with the tradition of the Uhola festival ,every community from the 5 Chiefdoms of the emirate took part in the merriment of the main Uhola event which is the grand finale . However each of the five emirates : Dabai , Danko, Fakai,Sakaba and Wasagu held their separate mini Uhola festivals in their communities before coming for the main Uhola one in Zuru where the emir resides.
The Kebbi State Governor, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu said the state government was keen to develop the annual Uhola cultural festival to serve as an avenue for generating revenue to the tourism sector in the state . The Governor added: ” The state government is supporting all the festivals in the state such as the Rigatta boat festival in Yauri, Hutungo Fulani festival and the more widely known Argungu international fishing festival.” Bagudu further promised that his administration would continue to support the uhola festival because the festival according him will build mutual respect amongst people of the state and promote unity . He also opined that by the beginning of the 2018 academic session, some primary schools in the state would begin to teach C” lela language of Zuru people.
Another important cultural event in the tourism calendar in Kebbi State is the Hutungo, the pinnacle of Fulani Cultural festivals in the State. The festival annually attracts tourists from within and outside the country . Fulanis are one of the major tribes in Kebbi State, who are dominant in Suru, Bagudo, Bunza, Maiyama, Kalgo and Birnin Kebbi local governments. It is celebrated by the Fulani to mark the end of the raining season , as well as the safe return of their livestock from the southern parts of the country.
Kirya, a small village located close to Dakingari town , Suru local government area is the host village for Huttongo festival . Fulanis from the state, across Nigeria , Niger , Benin , Mali and Togo, among others , always attend the yearly colourful event . The event features activities such as : archery , ram fattening , camel racing , decorations and Sharo ( beating with sticks ), cultural dances , singing and drama . It culminates o sheep race the main event . Another fascinating feature of the festival is the cultural dance exhibited by the Fulani girls , astonishingly decorated .
Speaking at one of the edition of the festival, Governor Atiku Bagudu urged the Fulanis to live peacefully with the farmers in the State . He further promised to continue to support the routine staging of the festival , even as he promised to promote it.
Certainly, the above described festivals and many others , hold the key to the diversification of the Kebbi State economy and indeed that of Nigeria . They are also capable of attracting huge Foreign Direct Investments into the state and Nigeria, in general. It is therefore commendable as the peoples’s Governor Bagudu is hugely and religiously committed to reviving these festivals, put them permenanently on Nigeria’s cultural calendars and indeed that of the entire world .
The immediate and remote impacts of this is truly immeasurable.The multiplier effects on the economy of the state , Nigeria and the citizens are also colossal. Yes, Governor Bagudu really deserves a pat on the back on this noble track of reviving the almost long forgotten annual cultural festivals , while others had their fame waned .