Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Let’s Go Fishing

THE 2009 Argungu International Fishing and Cultural Festival will hold from March 11 to 14.
Besides being the first and major event heralding the 2009 tourism calendar of events of the country, its significance also touches on preserving the culture heritage of the people as well as boosting the socio-economic fortunes of the people.
The hosts and organisers –– the Kebbi State government; the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC); and a pack of sponsors –– are enthusiastic about the four-day tourism and cultural gathering.
This was gathered from the two separate media conferences held in the last few weeks to give details of the celebration. At the first forum held in Abuja last month, the Kebbi State governor, Alhaji Sa’idu Usman Nasmu Dakingari, spoke extensively about plans for the event.
And just last week, the deputy governor of the state, Ibrahim Aliyu, who heads the festival’s main organising committee, also led a team to Lagos to speak on the event.

IN Lagos, Elizade Toyota, the motor company supplying vehicles for the motor race had on display, a fleet of cars painted in the festival’s colours while Nigerian Brewery Limited (Maltina) and MTN have also shown their support.
As observed by someone at the event — ‘I hope say this blitz go also show face when we reach Argungu next (this) week.’
Aliyu promised that this year’s event would be remarkably different.
He stated that the approach adopted by the state government is that of public – private partnership, stressing that the reason is not only to ensure the active participation of all the sections of the society, but to completely hand over the staging and management of the annual festival to the private sector.
He also spoke of plans to restructure the entire processes of the event and expand the existing infrastructure. “We are also making arrangements to reconstruct, replace and upgrade the ageing structures at the Argungu Fishing Village under the same private – public partnership arrangements.
“We hope that by the time the re-organisations of the festival are completed, the festival will not only be made more attractive, but will be used to attract other activities, through out the year, in the state and the fishing village in particular,” he re-iterated.

OVER 16 different events have been lined up. These are the motor rally, which is to herald the festival. Others are archery, catapulting, cultural dances and music, agricultural exhibition, fish fair, traditional boxing and wrestling.
The Durbar event would also be re-enacted along horse race, Fulani cultural activities, kabanchi display, camel, donkey and bicycle races. There is also the grand fishing event holding at River Rima.
This actually is the most colourful and dramatic aspect of the festival with thousands of fishermen clinging to their gourds and fishing nets diving into the river at the same time. It is always a captivating scene to behold.

Historical Background
Historically, the festival is believed to predate the era of ‘Kanta’ — Mohammed Kanta — one of the most powerful and popular emirs of Argungu, whose influence and reign is said to have resounded round the region.
It used to be a local celebration, where the people gather to entertain themselves in different acts. However, it assumed a new dimension in 1934, when the then Sarkin Musulmi Sultan Hanssan Dan Mua’azu (Sultan of Sokoto) visited the community and a grand fishing festival was organised in his honour. The ceremony apart from being used to entertain the visiting Sultan, also served as a peace offering and a bridge to build good friendship between Sokoto and the Kabawa people, which before then had a fragile relationship. Since then, the festival, which has held annually except for a short break, has continued to hold the fancy of the people.
In terms of organisation and form, the festival has undergone a series of changes with new contents and formats introduced.
Today, it is about the only known cultural and communal event that has come to signpost the state, giving it a cultural identity that is a notch higher than most of the states in the country. If not for anything, the festival has huge potential; and if exploited beyond its present level can take the economy state higher.
Despite the inability of the people to latch on the festival, to build an enviable tourism product and destination for Kebbi, however, the cultural festival is believed to have contributed immensely to the infrastructural and socio-economic growth of Argungu town and its environs. It has also brought both national and international acclaim to the Argungu Emirate.
Events’ Billboard
Day One — Wednesday
National Archery: It’s a shooting competition using bows and arrows; and holds at the fishing village race course. The traditional hunters are the participants. A target range of 15, 20, and 30 meters will be set with the contestants lined up in one section to aim and shoot at the target one after the other. Local guitarists and praise singers (Makadan Gurumi) would buoy the contestants.
Catapulting: This would also take place at the race course and is a junior category of target shooting competition by young men, who practise day to day catapulting; a target is set by hanging an object at a distance range of 15, 20 and 30 meters respectively.
Cultural Display Competition: This is staged in the evenings with cultural troupes from different parts of the country in attendance alongside other cultural troupes from countries such as Niger Republic and Republic of Mali. This holds at the open-air theatre in the fishing village.
Day Two — Thursday
The morning session would feature Agricultural shows and trade fair to be followed by the flag-off of the motor rally while the afternoon session would witness such activities as Tug-of-war; animal skinning competition; traditional wrestling and boxing.

Day Three — Friday
The day begins with Kabanchi display (Water sports and games) while horse, bicycle, camel and donkey races would be in the afternoon; followed by the final laps of the motor race in the evening.
Day Four — Saturday
It is the grand finale, when the grand fishing competition will hold. It is indeed the climax of the four-day gathering with thousands of fishermen fishing in the river and expecting to take the coveted prize that would be given out later in the day.
Last year’s event was won by 28 years old Malam Bello Yau, who caught a fish weighing 65.95 kilogramme. However, his celebration was short lived, when he was discovered to have engaged in fraudulent practice by presenting a lifeless catch, which was undetected until the end of the event.
That was the first time of recording sharp practices in the history of the festival. To forestall future occurrence, the organising committee has set up a monitoring committee that will prevent people from getting to the river before the event.
Accessing Argungu
Argungu, venue of the feast can be accessed by road and air. Virgin Nigeria, which is one of the event’s partners, is providing air services during the festival. By road one can get to Argungu either from Sokoto or Birnin Kebbi, the capital city of Kebbi.
The Sokoto and Birnin Kebbi roads are in good condition and can be covered in less than one hour.

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