Dreams do come true. For the inhabitants of the ancient city of Argungu, Kebbi State in North Western Nigeria, and for the government officials, corporates and sponsors, Nigeria’s foremost fishing fiesta holding again after more than a decade, was a dream come true. For the winner of this year’s tournament who hauled in a Nile Carp weighing at 78kg nd going home with a brand new car, it was a dream, he’d never wake up from!
Around the River Rima floodplains was an explosion of colours. Most robes, caftans and turbans were bluest, “mintiest”, reddest or whitest. There were a million clicks on phone cameras capturing the scenery. Personal Photographer to the President of Nigeria (President Muhammadu Buhari) and Official Photographer to the State House, Bayo Omoboriowo captured very rich hues from the event, like an artwork in motion.
The air was charged. Supercharged with the sound of drummers, royal guards whose horse hooves clopped endless clouds of dust and royal trumpeters who blew on the kakaaki endlessly.
Thousands of spectators, including Over 30 emirs from Nigeria, Niger and Benin republics, governors, lawmakers, members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), and the diplomatic corps had converged on Argungu, in Kebbi State. Security operatives had a herculean task controlling the crowd that thronged the gate to the fair grounds.
In a statement issued by Special Assistant on Media, office of the Minister of Information and Culture, Segun Adeyemi, he said many international festivals, such as the Argungu Fishing and Cultural Festival, were being celebrated across the country, bringing Nigerians closer together and improving collective appreciation of the nation’s diversity, while projecting the rich history and culture to foreigners.
On the final day of the festival, a competition is held in which thousands of men line up along the river and at the sound of a gunshot, all of them jump into the river and have an hour to catch the largest fish. The winner can take home as much as $7,500 US dollars. Competitors are only allowed to use traditional fishing tools and many prefer to catch fish entirely by hand (a practice also popular elsewhere and known as “noodling”) to demonstrate their prowess.
This year several auto brands flagged off their vehicles on a three-day roadshow across North Eastern states of Nassarawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto and Kebbi in the Argungu Motor Rally. From Abuja, they would recreate the defunct Paris-Dakar race, showing off their their tough, rugged and comfortable sides. According to the Minister for Information who flagged off the event,“ the Motor Rally, one of the many events slated for the11-14 March Festival….will cover 13 towns and cities from Abuja to Keffi to Kachia to Kaduna to Funtua to Gusau to Sokoto to Shagari to Dogondaji to Tambuwal to Jega to Birnin Kebbi and finally to Argungu.”
The high points included the “Dambe” fight tournament, the durbar, the farmers’ competition, the awards ceremony and Official recognition of the best male and female farmers of the year who took home N1m each.
Traditional warriors showed off their fortified invincibility to daggers sawing on or stabbing through their mid-riff. Not a sight for the faint hearted.
Speaking, Governor of Kebbi State, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, commended President Buhari for reviving the “we can do it” spirit in the agricultural sector, resulting in rising grain pyramids and employment, as well as providing an enabling environment for the Argungu Fishing and Cultural Festival to resume, saying, “We will not allow those who do not wish us well to define who we are.”
The festival began in the year 1934, as a mark of the end of the centuries-old hostility between the Sokoto Caliphate and the Kebbi Kingdom. In 2005, the winning fish weighed 75 kg, and needed four men to hoist it onto the scales.
In 2006 the festival banned fishing due to safety concerns relating to the low water levels. Last held 11 years ago in 2009, the Zauro irrigation scheme in the Rima River floodplain to the south of Argungu, has been criticized because the reservoir threatens to flood the traditional site of the festival.
Notable guests at the grand finale of the annual four-day festival included Emir of Argungu, Alhaji Samaila Muhammadu Mera; Jigawa State Governor, Abubakar Badaru; President Muhammadu Buhari; Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu; best female farmer of the year, Kulu Kotoko and Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele.
Caption: Many fishers. Courtesy: Irene Becker
Caption: Traditional Wrestlers. Courtesy: Bayo Omoboriowo. Personal Photographer to the President of Nigeria (President Muhammadu Buhari) and Official Photographer to the State House.
Caption: Trumpeters. Courtesy: Moha Sheikh. Nature Explorer | Traveller | Drone Pilot