Monday, 23 March 2009

Argungu… fishing to glory

LAST week, Kebbi State hosted the Argungu International Fishing and Cultural Festival. In attendance were dignitaries from all over the country, plus tourists from outside.
Aside from attracting an unprecedented crowd to the town, this year marked the beginning of a fully private sector-driven event. There were new events such as motor rally, power bike rally; raffle draws and others.
The four-day event climaxed with a fishing contest, which dates back to 1934 when it served as a unity forum between the people of Sokoto and Argungu.
It was first organised by the then Emir of Argungu, Muhammadu Sama, to commemorate the friendly visit of the then Sultan of Sokoto, Mallam Hassan Dan Mu’azu to the community.
Seeing that visitors from Sokoto were thrilled by the festival, it was then made a yearly event so it could help foster better relationship between the people of Argungu and their neighbours. Over the years, the festival has developed into a national event, with tourism potentialities.

THE opening ceremony of the just concluded edition drew participants from Argungu and neighbouring countries, especially Chad and Niger Republic; and for the host community; it was an opportunity to showcase their cultural heritage as they usually filed out in large numbers, according to their local government areas, to perform.
The same day witnessed such activities as motor rally from Gusau through Sokoto, Jega, Birnin Kebbi before arriving at the Fishing Village . Aside adding colours to the event, the audience were spellbound when a female driver, Mrs. Elizabeth Akpabio, defeated five other male contestants and a female to emerge winner of the competition.
Other activities for the day included Archery and Catapulting competitions between the people of Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara states; as well as Niger and Benin Republics.
Everyday of the festival was performances from cultural troupes across the country as well as the National Troupe of Nigeria led by the Director General, Professor Ahmed Yerima.
Activities resumed early the second day with a fair dedicated to the development of agriculture in the state. It was a forum for farmers to showcase their produce.
There was a colourful procession of floats by farmers from across the local government councils of the state, coming immediately after the tour of the fair by the Kebbi State Governor and his deputy, Sa’Idu Usman N. Dakingari and Alhaji Ibrahim K. Aliyu, respectively, in the company of traditional rulers, political office holders, Emirs and other dignitaries from across the country was one of the most exciting events – Animal Skinning.
Competitors, numbering over 10, filed out, each carrying a slaughtered goat on a mat and at the blow of a whistle, they are expected to skin the goats in less than three minutes. Usman Mujittfa smiled home with a cash prize of N30,000 for emerging winner.
Shortly after Animal Skinning was Tug of War between the community’s fishermen and butchers. For almost 10 minutes, energetic youngmen sweated to draw the opposing camp across the line to their side; and in the end, the butchers lost control and gave in.
The third day witnessed an increase in activities. It could be described as the busiest day of the four-day outing.
Actions began quite early in the morning with the Kabanci display — a series of water thrilling traditional games associated with the Kabawa people of the state. The events took place at the boarder and deeper portion of River Mala.
They included Boat Racing, Bare hand fishing, Swimming on Guards, Wild Dock Catching, Diving, Water Relay, Swimming with a pot balanced on the head, a-two man canoe race as well as Water Skiing among other displays.

BACK at the Fishing Village and shortly before the grand Durbar was an event that changed the lives of many in the community — a raffle draw organised by the Director General, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Otunba Segun Runsewe, where items such as sewing machines, refrigerators, motor cycles and motor bikes, among others were given out as a means of empowering rural dwellers.
The Kabi grand durbar, which held in the evening, involved the procession of about 500 beautifully decorated horses, 120 camels and thousands of horsemen drawn from the entire fishing village.
Also remarkable was the royal procession by the Emir of Argungu, the custodian of the festival sites, Alhaji Samaila Moh’D Mera, joined by many dignitaries including Runsewe, who was turbaned the Danburan Kabi at the last year’s edition.
The grand fishing ceremony usually brings the festival to a close; it is the climax of all events lined up for the yearly outing.

THIS year’s festival witnessed an improvement in terms of coordination; ordinarily, it would have been extremely difficult to manage the kind of crowd that graced the fishing competition, for instance.
As early as 7 am, both sides of Matan Fada River had been occupied, making the security officers to expend much effort to ensure that there was calm. In attendance were President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, his wife, Turai, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’Ad Abubakar 111, the Culture and Tourism Minister, Senator Bello Jibrin Gada, Governors, Ministers and Senators, traditional rulers as well as captains of industries, and others.
As usual, fishing commences after prayers and incantations on the river and in no time, different sizes of fish were rolled out of the river.
To curb a repetition of last year’s event, where a dead fish was smuggled into the river, every fish was confirmed caught alive before it was weighed.
The giant fish came more than 30 minutes into the competition and it was received with cheers by the excited audience, who had waited impatiently for that special moment.
Dragging the 65 kg fish out of the water was Abubakar Dabo with tag No. 180; he was followed by Mohammed Indire, whose fish weighed 45 kg; Hussen Saidu, 20kg was third while fourth place winner, Mohammed Dandije, made a catch of 19 kg.
For Dabo, it was a day of glory as he smiled home with a brand new Honda Civic and N300,000 cash. He was also promised a Hajj Trip by Mrs Yar’ Adua, fishing implements worth N100,000 and one year healthcare facility. Mohammed Indire got N200,000 cash and a motor cycle, Hajj Trip and fishing implements worth N70,000 while Hussen Saidu won N100,000, motor cycle, a Hajj Trip and fishing implement worth N30,000.

ONE of the greatest challenges faced by visitors to Argungu was accommodation. Aside few structures in the Fishing Village, there is only one hotel in the town, which is not adequate for the expected visitors.
The absence of alternative transportation means to motor bikes also caused a hitch for visitors, who would have loved to visit other tourist sites in the state.
Most visitors, who do not understand Hausa language.
Coordinators did not consider the presence of tourists as they anchored almost all the programmes in the local language.
There was, however, an improvement in coordination of events as programmes were printed in large quantities. Yet, more is expected in the area of crowd control.

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