Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Marlon Jackson...My Mission to Badagry

AFTER nine days of touring the country to consolidate arrangements for his proposed tourism project on the Badagry slave ground, musician and elder brother to Michael Jackson, Marlon Jackson was recently sighted at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos boarding a flight back to the US, where he shed light on the project and the controversy around it

Controversy seems to be trailing your proposal to build a theme park at the Badagry slave ground…
Let me correct that impression. It is not a theme park. The slave ground is a sacred ground. The objective is to capture black history so that people all over the world, blacks and non-blacks, will understand what really took place on the ground. What people know is that they captured slaves. When we came, here we realised that people could walk on the ground when they wanted to, without really knowing what really took place. We think this is a sacred ground that we need to preserve so that millions of people will understand the black history. It is not theme park; it is not a theme park at all.
What name will you give the project when it is completed?
It is Badagry Park.
I understand you have been around to make consultations and fine-tune arrangements for the project. Is this your first time in Nigeria?
This is my second trip back to Nigeria. And in this trip, I spent about nine days moving around the country.
How successful is this trip, in terms of getting the necessary approvals for your project?
We held discussions with the local government of Badagry, Lagos State Government; and then we met with the Federal government. They all understand, support and love the project. There is no place in the world that the local, state and federal governments will agree to give you the right to the use of land to develop a project if they don’t practically understand and agree to it. It is not a theme park.
I don’t understand how people could use my name without calling me, without talking to me to know what is really taking place. If they really wanted to know, they would have done a due diligence to understand what is really happening.
Our history, to me is important. It is what we should transfer to our young kids and generations to come about what really took place in black history, because they really don’t know.
What economic promises does this project hold out for Nigeria and Nigerians?
What the government seems to understand is that Nigeria cannot survive by depending on a revenue stream from petrol. They have to develop tourism. Tourism is one of the biggest businesses in the world, and Nigeria has a lot to offer when it comes to tourism. They can now develop their tourism.
Not only that, people will begin to come from all parts of the globe to visit Nigeria; about more than 250,000 tourists annually. When that takes place, government will create jobs for the indigenous people. So, everything is built around the economic growth of Nigeria.
What is the actual cost of the project and how is it going to be financed?
Right now, we are looking at it and I would not want to mention a figure.
What kind of partnership do you have with the government on the project?
We are already in partnership with the government but we are working on the final details on giving us the land to get things done, to start the project.
At what point did you realise that the Badagry project was necessary?
This is a Unity Park for the unification of our people. We intend to bring our people from all corners of the globe to this one destination so that they will understand what took place with regards to black history.
Let me say that there is no Nigerian that does not like this project. The indigenous people of Badagry will like to see their culture promoted and that is exactly what we will do. It’s just that somebody does not like to see me do this and he says it it’s a theme park. It is not a theme back. Badagry is a sacred ground.

You seem to have quit the music scene, after the Jackson Five experience…
I did not quit the music scene. Music will always be part of me. I and my brothers may decide to come together again to do another record.
How would you describe your professional relationship with your other brothers, especially Michael?
I have a vibrant relationship with all my brothers. As you get older, you have your own family. So, I do my own thing and they do their own thing. But as brothers, we have a relationship.

As an African American, what does President Obama’s victory mean to you?
With President Obama’ victory, I saw with my own eyes, the unification of the globe, and we are beginning to see peace around the world.

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