Founded in the 15th century, the ancient town of Badagry is significant in many ways. Aside being a major center of the obnoxious Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, it was also a key hub of Christian missionary activities in West Africa in the 18th century. Famous Christian missionary, Rev Thomas Birch Freeman who was the first European to preach the Christian faith in Nigeria did so at Badagry in 1842. Similarly, the first primary school in Nigeria was established in Badagry by the Wesleyan mission (Methodist Church) in 1843. Equally, the first storey building in Nigeria is in Badagry and it still stands till date, thus becoming a major tourist attraction.
Badagry’s border with the Republic of Benin makes it a gateway between Nigeria and the West African sub region and an economically viable center for the country as it generates the highest Customs duties income for Nigeria till date. Inhabitants of Badagry survive mainly on fishing and agriculture and sustain a comparatively rich museum and other historical sites which make it a tourists’ center of huge repute. At present, there are relics, museums and legends surrounding that era of early contact with the Portuguese and English. The town has people from all over the West African sub region who are involved in diverse aspects of the town.
One core feature of Badagry is its interesting tourists’ centers. As it has been previously expounded, the historic antecedent of the town naturally makes it a huge tourist hub. This is quite significant for the town and, indeed, our country because tourism is an instrument of economic development. It impacts directly on the economy of any given society as it has been known to provide the resources/income that could be deployed to enhance economic growth, accelerate development and reduce poverty. Similarly, it is a veritable public relations instrument for selling a city, state or country and thereby prepares it for foreign investment.
Globally, tourism has become a principal basis of income for many countries. Consequently, the economic potential of tourism is now being exploited by many countries across the world. This explains why cities such as London, Paris, Bangkok, Dubai and New York City have become prominent tourists’ destinations. Particularly, Bangkok in Thailand tops the table of top ten most popular destinations of international tourism with an annual figure of over 21.47 million tourists. Available data indicates that the country made over $60 billion from tourism in 2016.
In Nigeria, for many reasons, the hidden potential of tourism is yet to be fully tapped into. Over the years, our country’s over reliance on oil as a major source of national income is partly responsible for the neglect of tourism. However, with current economic recession being experienced in the country, it has now become imperative for our leaders to explore other avenues to sustain the ailing economy. This is where tourism development comes in. In Lagos State, the State Government has thus far demonstrated encouraging commitment towards exploring tourism as a means of boosting the State’s GDP. T.H.E.S.E. which is an acronym for Tourism, Hospitality, Entertainment and Sporting Excellence is part of fresh strategies which the State Government is currently deploying to promote tourism in the State.
Considering its remarkable history and ancient monuments, Badagry offers, perhaps, the most vital possibility for the enhancement of tourism in the State. Aside its many historical sites, Badagry has a rich cultural heritage which epitomizes the classic African tradition. Its festivals and rich custom are among the most profound in the African continent. Also, Badagry boasts some of the most fascinating beaches along the West African coast.
It is in realization of this fact that the State Government is currently making efforts to improve infrastructure in the axis. For instance, the newly completed Imeke-Ajido Bridge, a major link bridge in the area was recently presented for public use. Similarly, the State Government has approved construction of the second phase of the project which is a 17km network of roads connecting Aradagun to Whispering Palms, a major tourist resort in the State. The completion of the project is essentially strategic to tourism in the State as Whispering Palms is a leading tourism hub in West Africa.
Badagry has also benefited from the State Government’s Light Up Lagos Project which is geared towards easing the ease of doing business in the axis. By the time the on-going redevelopment of the Badagry express way into a ten lane facility, incorporating BRT lanes and light rail, is fully completed, the Badagry axis would, no doubt, become a leading tourist hub in Africa. When this is put alongside the proposed construction of a 500-seater Arts Theatre and a Cinema by the State Government in Badagry, on-going efforts in opening up Badagry for business would be better appreciated.
In-spite of the State Government’s interventions in the axis, in order to abundantly draw inclusive awareness to the huge tourism potential of the axis, more investments in the provision of vital infrastructure and facilities are still seriously required. This is where private organizations and individual investors are expected to come in and make the difference. All over the world, it is the private sector that creatively enhances tourism development. No doubt, more investment in the sector will make tourism viable in the area and ultimately lead to employment opportunities through the various allied support services such as tour guides, transportation and hospitality.
Consequently, as previously recommended, both public and private institutions should invest more to make the key tourist centers in Badagry more attractive to tourists across the world. Provision of social infrastructures and facilities such as accessible road network, steady power supply, suitable hotel accommodations as well as security of lives and properties are of utmost importance and should, therefore, be accorded topmost priority.
The beauty of it all is that Badagry already has rich tourist’s possibilities. All that is now required is the will, dedication and commitment of all stakeholders to offer helpful support that would transform this ancient town into a global tourist hub of huge repute. If we are to effectively get out of current national economic woes, paying careful attention to the tourism potential of places such as Badagry and similar others across the country is, indeed, the right way to go.
Ogunbiyi is of the Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos.