The place of Argungu Fishing Festival(AFF) as a tourism, economic empowerment, political tool for Kebbi state and Nigeria.
ARGUNGU, a historic setting in Kebbi state with rich natural endowment and cultural heritage, is predominantly a traditional fishing attraction since time in memorial.
It uniqueness has continued to place it on favourable pedestal of history at all times.
Is one source that promotes north’s and Nigeria’s numerous cultural activities with passion.
Besides, is a unique delight for tourists visiting the north of the Niger.
Against its rich and competitive cultural advantage, the ancient and famous town known for its fishing activities prowess, has the age long tradition of holding fishing and cultural festival, particularly to show case it’s rich ancestral occupation of fishing which began to take national perspective in 1934 to mark the end of centuries-old hostility between the Sokoto Caliphate and the Kebbi Kingdom.
In furtherance to that, the festival became upgraded to an annual International fishing competition event which also accommodates other related cultural activities in a wider perspective.
The glamour is being generated from all parts of the emirates rich cultural heritage.
These events which draw participation of locals and neighbouring places as well from Niger Republic include: traditional wrestling, shooting and cultural displays among series of entertainment activities to add more beauty and keep people alive and entertained with the grand fishing competition climaxing the usually four day long festival.
Accordingly, the festival got a little boost with the introduction of car racing to give it an international outlook.
Also, farm produce are usually on display to mark the epoch making events with large crowd from within and outside the country in attendance.
However, the festival has remained an economic and tourist hub as well political tool and platform for seating governors to consolidate their profile and popularity among the locals from diverse ethnic and tribal backgrounds.
Similarly, the ancient festival also strengthens avenue for empowerment and unity of the people of Kebbi state who see it as significant and dear to their lives.
The grand fishing event is competed among thousands of fishermen lined up by the edge of the river and at the sound of a gunshot, jump into the river and have an hour to catch the largest fish.
The winner(s) normally takes home gifts and reasonable sums of money as reward and prizes.
They use only traditional fishing tools. However, many prefer to catch fish entirely by hand (a practice also popular elsewhere and known as ‘noodling’ to demonstrate their prowess as inherited from their ancestors.
Observably,Kebbi state ranks among the lucky states blessed with many potentials in tourism and cultural heritage which further adds to that founded by leaders of Sokoto Caliphate among others which if harnessed and put to optimum use, the state will not have cause to depend on the traditional federal allocation to administer its affairs.
Similarly, the scented event serves as a unifying factor that provides the indigenes of Argungu emirate (Kabawa) the avenue to promote and encourage brotherhood among themselves.
The annual event is also to promote the ancient occupation of the inhabitants as well the unity and economy prosperity of the state and nation.
It also strengthens its political status and will, to facilitate and drive tourism activities among numerous others.
Accordingly, the unique festival has the visible potentials to support and drive the diversification of the state economy through the promotion of its rich culture.
However, it is on record that the usually colourful festival has placed Kebbi state on the global map as a unique tourism destination with significant impact in terms of value addition to the contributions of the people of Argungu.
Unfortunately,the festival has for almost a decade been put on hold which has affected the drive to make tourism more attractive and revenue generating venture especially for the state.
The development has adversely affected the facilities and the entire fishing village to a state of worry.
This in addition to the indefinite ban imposed by the immediate past Governor Saidu Usman Na Samu Dakingari at the twilight of his administration in 2015.
The then governor’s decision it was gathered was due to security challenges that bedevilled the north east and a subsequent spill over of the terrorism and banditry activities to some parts of northern states.
*However, the last time the historic festival was held in 2009 with then late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua in attendance with a 75kg winning catch which took the fitness of four men to hoist onto the scale.
Similarly, the prior to that, the festival also made one of the most thrilling, successful and interesting displays in its series during former President Obasanjo who was presented with the biggest catch worth 63kg.
However, the fishing festival competition was banned for security reasons in addition to concerns over the low water levels at the river where the fishing competition holds.
The importance of the festival to the economy base of the state,neighbouring states and Nigeria at large cannot be over emphasised as people from around the world travel to Argungu just to witness the occasion as an entertainment and tourist attraction of repute.
Accordingly, the unique event was eventually turned to a jamboree especially among fishermen who travel from within and outside Nigeria to participate,while others especially of the business strata seize the opportunity of the four days events to conduct their businesses.
Without any hesitation, government should support and improve the fishing festival to be more attractive by providing the enabling environment for the local fishing competition to thrive profitably and to international standards in line with the drive to exploit non oil potentials.
Significantly, majority of the fishermen are predominantly farmers located within fertile arid areas and regions with rivers for irrigation and orchards namely: Matan Fada, Mala, Gamji among others.
Also, the town accommodates the famous but ancient Kanta museum, a historical ,research and excursion centre in Argungu which serves visitors from within and across the globe.
On the other side, hitherto, against a basic challenge, people of the area have expressed worry over the Zauro polder project, which is an irrigation scheme in the Rima River floodplain to the south of Argungu.
The outcry is due to threats posed by the reservoir as it floods the traditional site of the festival as such request government to the problem for future benefits.
To reposition and give the festival a more befitting tourism status that would project the historic culture and traditions of the entire sate, concerted measures and synergy has to hit the ground running in collaboration with the four emirate councils which include: Gwandu, Argungu, Zuru and Yauri.
The advantage of the vast fertile land in addition to the large quantity of mineral resources would further place the state on positive pedestal of economic prosperity.
Hitherto, as the custodians of culture, tourist and religion attractions as in Argungu(fishing festival), Gwandu (historic sites of Sokoto Islamic Jihadists), Zuru (Uhola and Gwalmu annual cultural and farming festivities ),Yauri ( land and river borders) would boost its giant dreams as a tourists destination.
Fortunately, within his two years stewardship,Governor Atiku Bagudu in his quest to transform the state has responsively set the ball rolling in diversifying the economy base of the state as to comply with the APC federal government change mantra campaign of ‘back to farm’,from petroleum resources to agriculture.
This has further carved a place for the state as the fastest leading, especially in rice production with the highest tonnes through engaging peasant farmers supported by the CBN coordinated federal government Anchor Borrower Scheme.
The giant stride and efforts of Governor Bagudu remain a tripod for more developmental programmes in the state.
However, similar attention needs be directed at other sectors of the economy particularly tourism and solid mineral by the state and federal governments to further consolidate and promote the crusade of economy diversification, self reliance and improved revenue generation for sustenable growth.
Although, reliable sources confirmed moves by the Kebbi state government to lift the ban on the famous Argungu fishing festival with plans to hold the event this year.
Accordingly, sources say the governor had at different fora made emphatic statements on possible plans to organise the event.
Also, there are indications of a synergy between the state government and Federal Ministry of Information and Culture in collaboration with the United Nations which is working out modalities of capturing the event on international platform.
Doing so, will further and purposefully encourage efforts at re-activating all the necessary components and facilities at the fishing village, Grand Fishing Hotel, among other provisions for tourists attractions ahead of the epoch making festival.