ARGUNGU INTERNATIONAL FISHING AND CULTURAL FESTIVAL IN NIGERIA

 

“INTANGIBLE CULTURAL VALUES AND THE PROMOTION OF PEACEFUL COEXISTENCE: PERSPECTIVES ON THE ARGUNGU INTERNATIONAL FISHING AND CULTURAL FESTIVAL IN NIGERIA”

                                                                     

 

By

 

 

Prof. Sule Bello

History Department

Ahmadu Bello University

Samaru, Zaria

Federal Republic of Nigeria

(email: [email protected])

 

 

 

Being

 

 

A Paper Presented at the “2018 World Forum for Intangible Cultural Heritage” Held at National Intangible Heritage Center (NICH) in Jeonju, South Korea, from 25 to 27 October, 2018.

“INTANGIBLE CULTURAL VALUES AND THE PROMOTION OF PEACEFUL COEXISTENCE: PERSPECTIVES ON THE ARGUNGU INTERNATIONAL FISHING AND CULTURAL FESTIVAL IN NIGERIA”

By

Prof. Sule Bello

Abstract

Culture is perhaps the most important expression of our common humanity. Its association with the creative, and productive, processes of mankind has made it the most ubiquitous feature governing the conduct and character of both human societies and human histories. Its tangible, and intangible, dimensions demonstrate an interesting relationship in the pursuit of some of the broadest, and most persistent, human objectives of freedom, dignity, peace, justice and prosperity. In this paper we look at how, through the application as well as the pursuit, of intangible values, a most exemplary edifice for the promotion of peace amongst our various communities, and nation-states, was established. The Argungu International Fishing And Cultural Festival, as an edifice, represents one of the numerous institutions that have come to symbolise a beacon, as well as an opportunity, for the promotion of peace, goodwill and friendship amongst various communities, peoples and states.

The Argungu International Fishing and Cultural Festival is a regular event which takes place in Kebbi State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in West Africa.

It brings people from far and near-including such neighboring West African countries like Niger, Chad, Togo, Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal, and Cameroons to participate in the Festival. Like many cultural festivals, in general, and fishing festivals in particular, it helps to promote deeper and wider bondages in the pursuit of unity, excellence, peace and friendship in both Nigeria, and the wider world. The creation, promotion and sustenance of such beacons of peace and friendship, the paper opines, constitute very important bases for the promotion and networking of peaceful relations at the levels of local communities, nation-states and the wider world in general.

 

Introduction

Violent conflicts and the destructive, nay annihilative, dimensions they have come to assume in the modern world have made the search for peace, and the prevention of violent conflicts a most urgent task for the international community. Indeed the contemporary international community, epitomized in the United Nations Organization (UNO) as defined by its basic objectives, principles and membership has, as its most important single task, the prevention of violent conflicts amongst its member-states.

Two other very critical concerns of the UNO are the quest for socio-economic development and the effort towards the general protection of destructive influences on the Environment. These concerns are intricately tied up with the quest for peace in the modern world. Peace could be seen as a major precondition for social development in the world, if indeed it is not its most salient and loudest expression. The increasing degradation of the environment, owing to what is widely referred to as climate change, is equally seen to be, much like the absence of peace, a man-made problem. As such, their solutions, also need to be man-made. Human creative prowess in terms of its socio-cultural capabilities, expressed in the form of a number of informed measures and observances, is therefore seen as the most critical resource, or indeed tool, for the solution of the problems of peace, development and the environment in the manner clearly expressed and formulated in the various official documents of the U.N.O among other equally important policy prescriptions, as well as theoretical expressions.

Peace is both a wish as well as a condition. Peaceful conditions ensure that human and social relationships, at all levels, are governed by considerations of respect, hospitality, openness and mutually beneficial interests as opposed to aggression, hostility, deception and violence. Peace is therefore, in practice, observed in two principal ways. The first is in the form of binding relationships whose overall purpose is not decided on the basis of force or threat of violence, but rather on beneficial values of human and social relationships associated with mutual respect, independence and integrity. The second is the need for conflicts, where and when they arise, to be sorted out on the basis of dialogue and related measures, in the context of established humanitarian, social, ethical and legal principles. These measures help to forestall any recourse to war or acts of repression, at any level, as strategies for conflict resolution. In short, therefore, the observance, preservation and promotion of peace in society, as well as in international relations, is broadly dependent on the degree, and transparent manner, in which human, social, ethical and legal principles designed to ensure, as well as fortify, peace are truly observed by those entrusted with the task of securing the peace.

The special status given to culture in peace-building, as argued in the paper, is due to the fact it represents that unique power or talents of humanity with, and through which, it solves all its basic problems. This fact accounts for the diverse forms and expressions of culture as well as its definitions. Principal amongst these expressions are its identification as the human talent, tool or agency used to record the past achievements of humanity, as well as the very manifestations of such achievements in the form of the cultures, societies and communities represented in human history. Culture is also used to connote the legacy of cultivated, as well as highminded, human attributes such as knowledge, skills and values in the form of the arts, sciences, morality, ethics, law, religion, civility and civilizations.

In considering the issues identified above the paper looks at the theoretical basis, as well as policy implications, of the significant role that culture plays towards the achievement of the humanitarian and social goals of development. Further to this attention is also drawn to the need to combine the roles of both global and local agencies towards the achievement of the stated goals. The vital significance of both global and local agencies in the prevention of conflicts, on the one hand, as well as the cultivation and defense of peace, on the other, is highlighted.

Particular attention is paid to those heritages which serve as tools for building, defending and preserving a culture of peace  through the ages. The importance, and status, of Argungu International Fishing and Cultural Festival in this regard is highlighted.

The role of cultural activities in the form of festivals is seen to be particularly relevant because they constitute, in their essence, the most important signification of the achievements of various communities towards the attainment of the principal aspirations of humanity in the form of peace, prosperity and development through the pursuit of time-tested, humanitarian, social, ethical and peace-inducing principles within, as well as beyond, such communities. Cultural festivals, in general, constitute the edification, transmission and application of those practices and principles which deserve to be continuously recognized, and pursued, because they conduce peace and development in many ways.

Towards A Theory Of Culture And Its Usages As Policy Premise For The Development Of Mankind

As mentioned earlier there is the increasing realization, resulting partly from the various activities of UNESCO, of the critical role of human resourcefulness, or culture to the solution of its most vital problems. Such view points are widely represented in current researches on the histories and theories of social growth, changes and development. There seem to be some increasing convergence of views, across various disciplines, of the significant role that culture needs to play in its capacity as human creative prowess, towards the solution of the key problems of humanity. This is particularly so in the role it needs to play towards the creation of a new humanity that more truly operates on, and answers to, the indispensable quest for true humanism, justice and equity as the most important responses  to the yearnings for respect, dignity, equality, prosperity and freedom which tend to underlie the struggles for both development and peace in human societies as they are so ably, and aptly, captured in most UNO documents.

The question of peace needs to be appreciated in the context of the relationship between humanity as a given category, on the one hand, and the character of its socio-historical development which is replete with both aggressive relationships of domination as well as claims of concern and compassion, on the other. We need to begin from the viewpoint of the UNO which avows that we ought to focus on the cultivation of the human mind because that is not only where war begins, but also where peace needs to be constructed and perpetually waged. (UNESCO: Africa Department, 1996; Jan Visser, 2000)

The Seville statement on violence draws attention to the fact that violent behavour in human societies is neither genetic, natural or ‘instinctive’ but rather a socio-cultural behavior that is learned, organized and deliberately deployed, by a certain category of people for the purposes of achieving premeditated and definite social goals or objectives. The socio-historical dynamics of human learning, as responses to the various challenges faced by mankind, therefore need to be invoked in order to discuss the question of peace as a human problem that needs to be approached on the basis of; “the wholeness and complexity of the issue as it calls for a search of human and social ways of being that reflect the multiplicity of levels of organizational complexity inherent in the problem addressed” (Jan Visser, 2000, P.3).

It is imperative to draw attention to the fact that the creative capabilities of mankind, which are at times expressed in destructive terms, also symbolize its abilities to affect its development either positively or negatively. This is greatly reflected in the choices open to it-which could be either positive or negative, good or evil, constructive or destructive and, indeed, basically expressed in accord with either its virtues, or vices.

Human cultural capabilities, expressions and manifestations have also been delineated into the tangible and intangible formats. Tangible cultural expressions in the form of historical sites, monuments and other physical objects have been identified, secured and promoted for the purposes of preserving the heritages of nations and promoting the well-being of mankind, by way of advancing the business of tourism as well as extending copyrights protection over distinct products and inventions.

For the purposes of this paper it needs to be emphasized that intangible cultural expressions in the forms of social knowledge, values, skills and relationships represent the most important factors responsible for social development, as well as tools for the preservation of peace in society. They thus deserve to be more closely studied as sources of both human development and the promotion of peace for humanity. Indeed greater investment, towards making humanitarian, social and ethical values more relevant in human relations, alongside the enforcement of the law at all levels, is critical to the promotion of peace in the world.

Peace has always been both a vital precondition, as well as a value in its own right, in respect of human development. Beyond the prevention or cessation of wars, and the need for conciliation and reconciliation respectively, it has also implied harmony and well being in terms of the relationships of individuals in society. Furthermore peace is also used to denote healthy, wholesome, joyful and harmonious relationship between man and his fellow man, as well as his natural environment.

Peace, therefore, is a factor that is intrinsic to the development of humanity in many ways and at different levels. Peace has always been critical to social development. It has, however, in our modern world come to assume a significance of its own, due to a number of developments. These could be seen in three major cases comprising processes of social alienation resulting from increasing causes of violent conflicts, war propaganda and the production, as well as application, of weapons of mass destruction. As is well known the destructive consequences of the 1st and 2nd WWs and the fear of the recurrence of further violent conflicts, given the ominous characteristics of modern arsenals of war, made the quest for peace all the more necessary. Human societies throughout history have always sought to maintain and promote peace between members of their own societies as well as between them and other communities, societies or polities. They have always preferred to prevent, reconcile or adjucate conflicts at social levels between individuals, married couples, social entitities, associations and gangs, or any other type of social groups. At the levels of political relations, between states or communities, the problem of peace has always been approached through various types of associations designed to promote peace in the form of alliances and friendly, as well as diplomatic and cultural, relations.

The necessity for peace in human societies therefore arises from the need to avoid the destructive consequences of violent conflicts, as well as the impossibility, and costs, of forging socio-political relationships on the basis of a policy of violent conflicts. Interdependent, and organic, relationships within as well as between societies has therefore tended to be the only rational, fruitful, integral and humane path to socio-political development. It symbolizes peace and harmony at all levels – psychological, political, socio-cultural, economic and environmental.

A cursory survey at the organization of all human societies indicates that they are constructed on the basis of three important socio-cultural considerations. The first is that they are designed to develop and cultivate the required cultural capabilities that promote the well being of members of society in general, ie human developmental talents in their creative, constructive and productive senses.

The second is the prohibition of destructive human behavior that undermines the integral, and organic, development of society on the basis of self-serving activities which constitute acts of domination or criminality as well as forces of degeneration and corruption, through the enforcement of various forms of ethical and moral, as well as legal and political, sanctions.

Finally societies also try to promote peaceful relationships with their neighbors based on similar principles of mutual benefits and peaceful coexistence. Where socio-cultural, economic and political relationships fail to take into account the concerns for mutual interests, and move in opposite directions to them, they tend to spawn violence and breach of the peace.

An important factor defining the nature of violent conflicts in the modern world is the degree to which some major nation-states of the world have come to gain control over its affairs through aggressive imperial activities which were, furthermore, associated not only with the industrialization, centralization and globalization of militarism, but were also equally used to promote the processes of establishing political control over global resources, commerce and finance. It is the fusion of political and economic interests at the highest levels, at the expense of humanitarian and cultural considerations, that makes violent aggression, as both a global and local phenomena, truly problematic. It is also this fact that constitutes the highest threat to the building and perpetuation of peace in our modern world. The capacity to build a defensive force, working to safeguard key humanitarian and social values as well as the enforcement of the laws related to the promotion of peace, is therefore a factor of supreme importance. This cannot be divorced from the democratization of the UNO itself.

Summary Perspectives On The Quest For Peace

In order to generalize on the history of the quest for peace in previous societies I believe we should concentrate on two major factors. The first is the lesson we need to learn on the absolute, irreversible, unconditional and invaluable role of peace to the development of humanity, in and of itself. The second is the equally absolute lesson we all need to imbibe on the futile and destructive nature of violent conflicts, as strategies for the solution of conflicts. Violent activities are only permissible where they are designed to safe-guard the peace and prevent aggression. Otherwise violent conflicts and the acts of suppression and repression, as well as depression, usually associated with them only lead to anarchy, alienation and emotional destruction.

Three basic approaches have always been critical to peace-building and the prevention of violent conflicts. All the approaches emphasize the supreme importance of observing the values that seek to promote peace as well as the capacity to enforce it. They draw attention to the fact that the humanitarian, social, ethical and legal principles, as well as the institutions designed to enforce them at all levels, need to be seen to be effective.

The first set of values are those that define our common social objectives and preoccupations in terms of the quest for the well-being of all members of society on equal bases in terms of the dignity, freedom, prosperity and equality of humanity as a whole. A collective, unalloyed and committed concern by the relevant institutions for the achievement of such common objectives of humanity, at all levels, is therefore very critical to the construction of peaceful conditions, objectives and endeavours that will greatly help to eliminate existing sources of divisive conflicts and promote bases for the common cooperation of mankind.

Secondly a survey of the various national constitutions and international agreements indicate that they are rooted in principles, procedures and purposes that identify, and promote, the achievement of the basic human, citizenship and civic rights of humanity as the most important objectives for the development of all human societies at both the international and national levels. These constitute the major quest and indices for equity, equality, fairness and justice as well as the only basis on which our world should be judged as a peace-builder or not.

Thirdly in order for the humanitarian, social and national values to which we all subscribe to be effectively achieved they need to be promoted on the basis of other related values which attest to the fairness, objectivity and commitment with which such goals are actually being pursued in practice. Such values underlie and help us to evaluate our social transactions at all levels, constituting yardsticks for the organization, operations and assessment of our societies in terms of what they are and what they need to be, in the light of what we have set out to achieve. They are the basic test for the credibility of our actions, and the sincerity of our claims. It is in this regard that terms like Transparency, Democracy, or  Anti-corruption, not to mention Trust and the Rule of Law, cannot be simply reduced to mere ideological clichés or labels. They are principles rooted in definite political and administrative processes, and procedures, designed to achieve definite ends which alone could guarantee justice, equity, fairness and peace in the conduct of our societies.

It needs to be observed that what we have referred to as the futility, as well as destructive, character of violent conflicts need to be viewed in certain given contexts. At the level of our nation-states instruments of violence, or coercive action, are usually designed to shore up, defend and promote the legitimate values, and rights, we have expounded above. The same assumptions underlie the possible and combined use of military force at international levels. However various accusations of chaos, and impunity, have been made even at the level of the 2018 UN General Assembly (UNGA) in respect of the dominant, and defiant, role that a number of powerful nation-states, constituting the UN Security Council, usually exhibit in the pursuit of their own isolated interests against the common interests of the UNO. It has been observed that such behavior constitute major threats to global order or peace. An international force which could be seen to fairly, and duly, police international affairs need to be increasingly pondered on, and developed, as an essential or primary factor for the preservation and advancement of peace in the world.

Agencies For The Promotion Of World Peace

It has been indicated earlier that the UNO, constituted on the basis of the membership of the various nation-states of the world, under the guidance of the Security Council, serves as the principal peace-building agency of the world. Its activities have been greatly supported and promoted by various local, national and global agencies as a well as individuals committed to the search for a better world. Its indispensability, critical role and achievements have been widely recognized and commended. In the same manner attention has also been drawn by relevant member states, professionals and organizations to many of its shortcomings, lapses and problems.

The task of the UNO need to be appreciated against the backdrop of its predecessor, the League of Nations, and the critical problems that led to the latters failure to ensure world peace resulting in the outbreak of the World Wars.  In the first place the League of Nations was organized around very few states that did not actually have the power to maintain, or guarantee, world peace. Similarly, the League of Nations was not, in any serious sense, committed to the very values that were necessary towards ensuring the common development and well-being of humanity on the basis of the principles, rights and obligations that were seen to be in the interest of humanity either at the levels of their own societies or in relation to their colonial possessions. It was only out of a desperate need for survival that the Allied Powers themselves appealed to, and mobilized, the support of their various colonies as well as other independent nations in the world, in opposition to the policies of aggression of the Axis Powers..

Indeed even well after the 22nd WW the Allied Powers did not only persist in holding down their colonial possessions but, in many cases, actually went to war in order to deny them independence, as well as continue the racist and apartheid policies which greatly defined the Nazism which they claimed to oppose.

In the available literature on world peace, and more recently the increasing chaos in the global order of things, there is a tendency for many observers to associate the extreme nationalist policies of the U.S President, Donald Trump, with the prevalent problems of the global order. According to these views there is a tendency to see nationalism, as opposed to globalization, as the key problem of world peace and development. It however needs to be remembered that German Nazi National Socialist Party, in terms of its ideology, was not only national-it was also global. It believed, like all the other major imperial powers of the day, in subordinating other nations to itself on the basis of its own fabricated ethno-cultural mythologies and other related pretexts. The problem of peace in the world was not nationalism, per se, but rather the unequal relations between nations, or impunity on the part of the imperial powers, which was here and there promoted in one nationalist disguise or another. The problem of the world is not simply ‘globalization’ but the need for global integration on the basis of equality, mutual inter-dependence and equity between the various nations of the world, signifying a partnership founded on the basis of respect, fairness and justice.

The UNO need to be seen, in particular, to embrace the very principles of human rights and democracy which it seeks to promote as the most ethical principles for the rest of the world. With over 180 member nation-states and 7 billion people under its jurisdiction it is time for the UNO to ensure that the Security Council is more democratically representational in line with basic democratic principles.

The UNO relates to a good number of civil society organizations as well as global NGOs in the process of conducting its affairs. This very significantly ensures popular participation and, specifically, the participation of civil society organizations (CSO’s). This should enhance cultural and diplomatic relationships between the various states, as well as at the level of global institutions. These should tend to prevail over militarist, and hostile statist affairs, in international relations in favour of more cultured, civic and peaceful activities. The latter have for a long time been identified as time-tested processes for enhancing peaceful, civic and development-oriented relationships within, as well as between, nation states. Relations at the levels of cultural activities in the form of artistic, educational, scientific and sporting activities in addition to the promotion of commercial, industrial, technical and other social linkages, as well as people to people visitations, go along way to build friendship and promote peace between nation-states. In this regard contemporary educational, tourism and cultural exchange programmes count among the key peace-building activities of our world. Cultural policies of nation-states, along with the international cultural exchanges and relations they engender, therefore, constitute very important peace promotion instruments.

In order to fully appreciate and consolidate the contributions of cultural processes to peace-building it is essential to recognize the role that cultural festivals in our various communities, in their own right, play in this regard. Such festivals are not only agencies for the promotion of peace and development they also constitute institutions which tend to expand and integrate, creating a universal space for peaceful development as opposed to institutions which generate, promote and consolidate violent conflicts.

Festivals, and the fiestas usually associated with them, are built around some of the most important, enduring and iconic achievements of mankind that are seen to deserve being celebrated, as well as transmitted, to other generations as worthy sources of knowledge, information and entertainment. They stand symbolic of the socio-historical localities within which they have grown, as well as representational of the common humanity to which we all belong. They strive to transcend their localities by the ever-increasing, and dynamic, appreciation of our common quests through the very principles we all share and which they have always, in turn, cherished, embodied, adopted and transmitted across the ages-for the sake of peace.

The world is today home to a number of global cultural and sporting events many of which could be traced back in history to certain distinct customs or traditions in the past, but most of which have expanded, developed and changed to suit the needs and requirements of the modern world for knowledge, skills, fun and peaceful coexistence. As earlier noted these include artistic, sporting, educational and various other vocational activities. Such activities are not only found at the global levels, they mostly have their roots deep in our various cultures, societies and nations. They operate not only to ensure our diversity as peoples, but also our common integration as humanity in the modern world. One example of such important cultural heritages is the Argungu International Fishing and Cultural Festival.

Perspectives On Argungu International Fishing And Cultural Festival

Introduction

The Argungu International Fishing And Cultural Festival is an annual event, usually held in the first week of March in Argungu, Kebbi State, Nigeria. It is a festival that has come to enjoy the support of various governmental agencies starting with the Argungu Emirate Council and the Kebbi state Governments that have been the principal promoters, financiers and hosts of the Festival. Furthermore the Festival had enjoyed the moral, technical and financial support of the defunct Regional Government of Northern Nigeria, as well as the various Federal Governments of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

As a festival that takes place in Kebbi state, one of the 36 states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it has on various occasions also enjoyed the participation of the various other states, as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), of the Federation. In the words of one of the principal officials of the Festival: “The fact that the Argungu Fishing and Cultural, Festival has been able, over the years, to draw audience from other states of the Federation, the West African neighbours, the European Community, global corporations, and the Diplomatic corps resident in Nigeria is eloquent testimony to its having international recognition and participation” (Omar, N. Umar, 2005, P6.)

It is important to draw attention to the fact that the Argungu Fishing Festival is only one of the fishing festivals, and probably the most-successful, in the country. It, along with numerous other agricultural, hunting, occupational, religious and related social festivities in the country represent the eternal, as well as enduring, quest for peace, prosperity and development deeply rooted in Nigeria’s various communities, much like in other human communities (Aig-Imoukhuede, 1991). It is equally important to emphasise that the enduring success of Argungu International Fishing and Cultural Festival is reflected in its unwavering focus, and consistent commitment, to the humanitarian and social values that make peace-building both possible and sustainable.

Finally the lesson that the story of Argungu International Fishing and Cultural Festival teaches, like many such cultured, friendly and peace promoting ventures, is that the cultivation and development of spaces of peace and friendship, as opposed to militarism, espionage, war and the incitement of violent conflicts, is very necessary for the creation of functional and enduring peace that is critical to development.

In order to appreciate the importance of the above observations in respect of the relevance of the Festival, as an integrative and peace-promoting venture, we need to look closely at its objectives, origins, scope and development.

Objectives, Origins, Scope And Development Of The Argungu Fishing Festival

It is important to draw attention to the fact that Argungu International Fishing and Cultural Festival has, since its inception in antiquity, been a planned activity designed by its principal promoters to achieve certain basic humanitarian and social ends. The successive planners of the Festival have always been the agents of the local community working in cooperation with the governing political powers responsible for the control, and day-to-day administration, of the area over the years.

It is in this regard that the role of the Federal government of Nigeria in collaboration with other levels of its administrative organs, as well as the international and global partners with which it is associated, constitute the most dominant influence on the current conduct of the Festival. To a great extent the modern organization, administration and promotion of the Festival cannot be divorced from the achievement of the objectives of Nigeria’s Cultural Policy, on the one hand, as well as the discharge of Nigeria’s international obligations towards global peace and cooperation, on the other. Notwithstanding the influence of the Nigerian state, a closer look at the origins and development of the Festival also reveal similar, and earlier, concerns with the quest for peace for human and social development at all levels.

As a modern cultural Festival, with national and international obligations, oriented towards peace, unity and development the Festival is similar to many other such festivals in Nigeria as well as in many other countries. What distinguishes it is its deep-rooted commitment and endurance- demonstrated in the historical development of the festival for well over eight hundred years. Its commitment to peace as a human, and social, factor is designed to directly support the productive activities of its own local communities. From this we can all learn a very important lesson relating to the overriding value of peace for productivity, and the wellbeing of our communities, as well as the necessity for its patient construction and preservation. The second lesson is that the commitment, as well as investments, made towards the persistent and endless promotion of peace have combined to create a positive attitude towards the possibilities of peace and the containment of violent conflicts. Such a tenacious commitment to peace, and hope for peace, is reflected in most other social and community festivals especially in the manner they are continuously, and persistently, staged despite all odds. In part, all festivals are not only festive, commemorative, educative and informative but also integrative and dynamic. Moreover cultural festivals, and related social edifices, contain within them the wishes, prayers and hopes of humanity on the possibilities of better futures, even amidst the most disturbing turbulences and pestilences.

This spirit of hope, even amidst some of the most hopeless of circumstances, remain one of the very important lessons we can all learn from the various human struggles, and quests, for survival, freedom, peace and prosperity that are usually communicated through festivals and other related iconic cultural symbolisms.

Argungu Fishing Festival originated as communal rites among the fishing communities around Argungu and its surroundings long before the 16th century. As a communal rite it was designed to appease the gods and also celebrate bounty catches, in addition to transmitting the skills and values essential for the existence and development of a viable fishing community far beyond the festival itself. It is important to stress that these practices, even in their earliest origins, were not only committed to the well being: peace, prosperity, health and vitality of the community, they were also organic in their character-in other words they recognised the need, and necessity, for wider and broader peaceful associations as the basis for social development. It needs to be noted that the Bori cult, which served as the basis for the coordination of the rituals under consideration, was itself a very broad and widespread cult in the West African subregion, practiced far beyond the confines of Argungu and Kebbi.

Similarly the early fishing rituals of the communities around Argungu were practiced alongside, and in conjunction with, civic and agricultural rites which brought together the civil population, and associated occupational groups, into common social observances and practices. From its earliest origins the festival was centred around the observance of four major, and interconnected, objectives as follows;

  1. Gyaran Gari (The preparation/propitiation of the Town)
  2. Shan Kabewa and Fura (Agricultural celebrations in the form of feasting on pumpkin soups and porridge made from milk and millet balls)
  3. Gyaran Ruwa (Preparation/propitiation of the Waters)
  4. Fashin Ruwa (Permission for, and the Initiation of, Fishing in the Waters)

It is to be noted that these festivities were not limited to fishing rites but also included other rites which served as prayers, in addition to other physical preparations, for a healthy town as well as bountiful agricultural and fishing seasons.

In the dynamic nature of the Festival it increasingly shed its earlier cultic, and limited, origins due to the increasing wider developments and broader influences in the region, leading to its increasing incorporation into the West African subregion to which it adapted very well. It similarly came to expand, in terms of the various events hosted at the Festival as well as the various participants and peoples patronizing it. In this regard some important observations on the conduct of the Festival need to be made.

The first is that it established rules of conduct which operated to retain the technical, or technological, integrity of the festival by ensuring that the original fishing equipment, boats and the practices related to them were retained. This has greatly helped to maintain its picturesque character, as well as ensure its cultural authenticity.

Secondly it has worked to enforce restrictions on the fishing season, in line with its earlier origins, in such a manner that over-fishing does not undermine, and deplete, the industry. In keeping with the earlier practices the local authorities have tried to ensure that at the end of every fishing season, the required plants that are needed as feed for the fish to re-grow are duly planted, in order to ensure new stock for the coming seasons.

Finally Argungu and the various settlements associated with it have adapted very well to the historical changes that they had to go through in the last one millennium. They have been able to preserve and develop the productive activities, as well as the peaceful relations they have forged with their neighbours and the environment, to the extent that they have outlived and outgrown many other settlements and societies which were not anchored in creative, productive and humanitarian ventures such as the ones they pursued. Most of the urban centres that became capital cities associated with Kebbi kingdom, such as Surame and Birnin Kebbi, today lie in ruins. (Balogun, 1974, P.404: Boahen, 1964.).

In terms of its overall objectives for peace, prosperity and development the Festival has remained relatively consistent and has, above all else, demonstrated its ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

In line with its earlier origins it is important to note that the Festival which started as communal rites prevailed even when these localities came under the influence of the Songhai Empire, which was the largest state in the history of the West African subregion between the 15th and 16th century. In the 16th century, heralding the fall of Songhai Empire, the Kanta of Kebbi led a rebellion which created the Kebbi kingdom. Towards consolidating his powers the Kanta of Kebbi came to rely on the Chiefs of the waters, as well as communal heads, of the fishing communities in and around Argungu. Through them the festivals were consolidated into recognized activities in the various riverine communities resulting in the consolidation of general annual festivals centred around the key rituals, or social concerns, identified earlier. The festivals continued to grow due to the various catalytic developments impelling the growth and integration of the region up to the coming of the British, and their conquest of the area, between 1903 – 1906 (Olagunju, A, 2010: Boahen, A. 1964)

After the British conquest of the area between 1903-1906, Argungu Fishing Festival was greatly reactivated in 1934, as an activity designed to enhance peaceful cooperation between the Sultan of Sokoto Sultan Dan Muazu and the Emir of Argungu Muhammadu Sama. Relations between the two had remained sour, since the precolonial times, due to a number of political and religious disagreements. As part of the reconciliation process, it was said that  “The Emir and his Council decided to organize a grand fishing festival devoid of the traditional rituals of spirit propriation and focus more on showcasing the hospitality, dominant personality  types and values of the Kabawa”.(Olagunju,A. 2010, P. 71)

It was in the spirit of harmony and hospitality, as well as overtures for peace and cooperation, that the Festival was built and rebuilt, as well as sustained, from its humble beginnings to date. The Festival had been used to promote, as well as enhance, peaceful relations within the Sokoto, province; Protectorate of Northern Nigeria; the Northern Region of the Federal Republic Nigeria and the Nigerian Federation, in addition to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The Festival was used, after the Nigerian Civil War, to promote reconciliation between the aggrieved parts of the Federation concerned. It was also showcased as an important part of the 2nd All-Africa Festival of Arts and Culture (Festac) hosted by Nigeria in 1977. Today the Festival hosts participants, and visitors, from all parts of Nigeria, West Africa and the World. It has remained and continues to operate as one of the peace-building cultural edifices of our times, in the context of its own locality and times. Over this period the activites hosted have, among other collaborative activities, expanded to include the following programmes:

  • Kabanchi Display (Canoe Racing, Swimming, Diving, Bare-hand Fishing and Wild Duck Catching)
  • Agricultural Fair
  • Local Boxing and Wrestling
  • Racing sports competition (Motor Rally, Bicycle and Camel Racing)
  • Cultural night (Music, Songs, Dances, Drama and Acrobatic Displays)

In order to conclude on this aspect of the paper it is worth while to note that within Nigeria the Festival also serves as a nodal point for the celebration and promotion of fishing communities, and activities, thereby serving as a people-centred perspective on economic development matters.

Finally it demonstrates patient, consistent and enduring commitment to the noble values which alone make the building of peace possible; the prevention of violent conflicts necessary, and the reconciliation of warring parties critical to the well being, development and civility of humanity.

 

 

Conclusion

Peace-building and promotion are essentially efforts geared to establishing and maintaining a sustainable culture of peace. This is what makes it a human and social project that is intricately tied to humanization and socialization activities through processes of enculturation which depend essentially on educational, and legal, strategies for their constructive development.

Of critical significance to the process is, therefore, the need to promote an appreciation and general, as well as deep, commitment to the humanitarian and social values that define, qualify and strategize the very objectives and programmes of peace building as indicated above. Further to this there is also the need to ensure that the agencies designed for the construction and defense of peace, at all levels, are not only seen to be committed to these values but also capable of enforcing the provisions of the law relevant to the promotion of peace as well.

Commitment to peace promotion is also greatly demonstrated in the organization and conduct of various community cultural festivals. They tend to signify enduring commitment to the principles and objectives of peace in society, as well as the necessary activities and relations needed to sanctify them. They constitute very important efforts towards the building, and expansion, of spaces of peace and development. They stand and develop in opposition to those activities which tend to promote hostility, aggression, violence and destruction. They therefore deserve to be seen, supported and promoted as important bases for the construction and development of peace at both the global and local levels. The International Argungu Fishing and Cultural Festival provides a good example of such constructive Festivals.

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