Although tourism is yet to catch the bull eyes in Bayelsa State, with the state government not living up to its promise of giving attention to exploring the tourism potential of the state. However, that has not stopped the people from savouring to their feel the much they can of their rustic tourism resources especially when it comes to cultural tourism. It was in this wise that the people of Sabagreia in Kolokuma/ Opokuma Local Government Area of the state recently rolled out the drums in celebration of one of their age-long cultural festivals, the Great Lake Efi Fishing Festival, which holds every four years but was formerly hosted every seven years until recently.
The festival is cherished by the people because of its rich heritage and the fact that it is what gives identity to the people, therefore, no effort was spared to celebrate this year as it served as a rally point for the people to gather and share in their communal cultural heritage, with fishing contest on the lake as one of the major activities of the festival. The festival was celebrated with pomp and theatrics, quite enthralling for the people, with the state governor, Duoye Diri, who hails from the local government leading the roll call of guests from across and outside the state that were in attendance to savour the rich and colourful cultural offerings of the people on the day.
The celebration spanned three days with different communal activities on the bill, however, the grand finale, which was staged on the third day of the festival was a cultural feast of some sorts, with different cultural troupes from the various communities taking to the stage to entertain guests with impressive and thrilling cultural dance and music renditions.
The fishing contest did not only attracted men and women from the local government area alone but also from within the state, and states like Rivers and Delta. Governor Diri also took part in the fishing contest as he symbolically cast his fishing net into the lake to a loud applause from the people. It was also an occasion for the people to network, socialise, eat and drink, while brisk businesses were conducted by on the sideline by many of the people who displayed their wares at the open shades for the people to patronise. The festival was a fun filled one for the people as they were entertained late into the night.
It is capable of drawing tourists to our state, gov Diri
Speaking on the importance of the festival, the traditional ruler of the community, His Royal Highness, Bokumo Orukari Kala X and the Amananaowei of Sabagreia, said it was an all embracing festival that goes beyond the fishing contest, as he looks to creating a real tourist destination from it: “I see beyond the fishing festival to a lot of things that will come to this community and to this local government,’’ he said. Adding that: “We can establish the tourism industry, which is very paramount through the festival, with tourism a lot of other things will come. Hospitality industry will be there, and the film industry will be there.’’
However, he noted that this can only be if it is properly harnessed: “Through this festival if properly harnessed, this community can generate a lot of money to the state and the community. “We are still struggling to make sure that it comes up to international limelight.
There is KOLGA development initiative, that is an umbrella body for all development sites in KOLGA and they have gathered international bodies from across the world and they are gathered here for this festival,’’ he said. For one of the indigenes, Lawrence Berezi, the festival elicits communal participation, saying that: ‘‘Recently, they sent a message round that all the male children should contribute money to clear the lake for the festival.
We maintain that place till today. That was why this year’s celebration, which was done on June 17 was different as it brought home one of the sons from the local government, Governor Douye Diri, who directed that the festival should be captured in the cultural calendar of the state.’’ This development is a plus for the festival and the people of the community, as it is expected that concerted effort, going forward, will be made by the state government to develop and promote the festival as one of the tourism products of the state besides just enlisting it on the state tourism calendar.
This is as the governor assured his kin and kindred that his administration will promote the culture and history of the people through tourism, describing the festival as an event with great potential capable of scaling up the economy of the state. He commended the people of Sabagreia, Seibokorugha and Okoloba communities for sustaining the age-long traditional festival, which according to him, has rich potential.
“This festival is not just a local festival, this should be an event that should attract other tourists into Bayelsa and into this community,’’ said the governor. He noted further that: ‘‘The commissioner in charge should know that these are the events that will promote tourism, our history and our culture.
“We believe that by the time we celebrate this festival quarterly, I’m sure at the end of the day, it will attract so many things down here and the economy of the state cannot be imagined if we actually practice tourism with this festival.’’ While the chairman of the local government area, Dengiye Ubarugu, thanked Governor Diri for his presence and support towards the 2021 edition of the festival, which according to him, has given the event the required government’s attention it deserved.
“The KOLGA people are proud of this festival and we believe that it is a way of promoting tourism. In fact, the first time that the governor attended this festival was in 1975 when the then military governor of old Rivers State, Diette Spiff, was the governor. “We believe that it is a way of promoting tourism. NDDC came to this town because of the festival and brought road network to this community,’’ he said.