Babatunde Msewedo is the director of African Renaissance foundation. He spoke with Adeola Ogunrinde on the need to invest on Badagry Monuments and how African Renaissance Foundation can contribute to the economic development of Nigeria
When did you start Badagry Diaspora Festival?
It started about 1999 and this year is the 16 edition of the series. It is a festival that celebrates African history, culture and African heroes. Organise yearly by African Renaissance foundation, an NGO founded as a critical and constant of western influence on African civilization into the corridor of African heritage. The festival started as a day programme in 1999, it started as Ogun festival. A festival created to showcase the cultural heritage of the Ogun people referred to as Egun . Over time we realised it has to be expanded because we have so many other cultures in Badagry expect the Egun people. The festival is a recreation of history, African cultural history for celebration. It is about the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade of which Badagry was prominent in its development growth and abolition. The festival celebrate African heroes celebrating African in the diaspora using the history of the slave trade as the bases for that. The festival celebrate Lagos state and Badagry. Yearly we celebrate an African in the diaspora which relates to the Slave trade.
What has being the organisation challenges?
I can say it is funding and the effective involvement of Government. If the government should come in , I see this festival performing better than the Lagos black heritage festival. This festival can raise millions of naira and provide jobs for people in our local communities . If the government can come in to do the needful , this festival will open Lagos State to the world contributing to the economy of Lagos. The Lagos State Black heritage festival was a festival designed with Badagry in mind but due to reasons not clear to me was changed and the venue of the festival was taken out of Badagry. It’s concept is the reconnection of Africans in diaspora , as soon as it was taken from the original concept , the idea of the diaspora was gone. We have over 42 million take to the Diaspora through slavery and that Diaspora want to reconnect back home, who want to invest in the several departments of our economy. The future of African lies in the reconnection between Africa and the Diaspora. There are many of our professionals in the Diaspora and we have to integrate them back home. What is happening in PANAFEST in Ghana is that their government is supporting them, that is why the are getting millions of cedi’s in return . We have so many things that can be recreated here as far as Badagry is concerned which will create jobs and put money into people’s pockets.
What is the formation behind the town known as Badagry today?
Badagry actually started at Egberefu which across the boarder of Nigeria. It use to be a community but during the expansion of one of the kings in Dahomey , I think precisely King Gezo, he wage war on Gberefu, that place was devastated , many people that were there ran away to interlands and neighboring towns. Badagry before the slave trade was a market for salt , where salt specter was been sold . People travelled from Oyo down to Badagry to buy salt which was a very lucrative business to do then . Gberefu was the place were salt was been produced. Thereafter we had the slave merchant. The first slave merchant ever to touch anywhere in Nigeria came through Badagry. In history some call him Henry Hetock, a German, some refer him as George fremigo from Brazil or Portuguese, but the native people refer to him as utokonu meaning the smiling ship captain, he was the one that introduce slavery to Badagry. There was a slave company in Badagry where the French, British and Portuguese had offices in Badagry until the abolition campaign in London. The Gberefu beach was the major slave port were Africans were sailed to the Americans. After the Abolition we had the Christian missionaries in September 1843 Thomas Bash Freeman who was working in what is now known as Ghana which brought about the first elementary school in Nigeria which was referred to the nursery of the infants which later became ST Thomas primary school . The architectural revolution of Nigeria started here with the first building in Badagry. Badagry is also the first place where Christianity was preached in Nigeria was under the fallen Agia tree. Direct rule started here in Badagry before Lord Lugard started indirect rule, because the British didn’t go through kings here but the people
You have written books on Badagry , can you tell us about the books?
My first book on Badagry was publish 1999 called Badagry the cultural heritage, the second was publish 2001 titled Badagry district 1863-1999, the third one which was publish last year is a novel . It is an historic book on Badagry called Vothuno. It was publish by new generation publishing company in the UK.