For hundreds of Lagos State residents that turned up at the 2018 edition of the boat regatta competition held at the waterfront, Ikoyi, there perhaps could not have been a better opportunity for the government to make Lagos a tourism hub.
Indeed, for a state that has a substantial geographical entity on water, a few might share the view that the state aquatic resources deserve being incorporated in the government’s intention of exploring its tourism potentials.
Although, Lagos, like the other 35 states in the country, operates a three-senatorial district political administration, yet, the old groupings and divisions still hold sway in the distribution and apportioning of resources. Of the five old divisions of Lagos, comprising Lagos (Island), Ikorodu, Epe, Badagry and Ikeja, the Ikeja division is the only one without a riverine part.
Hence, when 20 contending boats gathered on April 1 at the Ikoyi waterfront, so as to participate in the 2018 edition of the boat regatta, it was only the Ikeja division that was not represented. Five contending boats represented each of Lagos Island, Badagry, Epe and Ikorodu.
Decked in colourful traditional attires, participants in each boat cheered and danced to different beats of local drummers on board as they conducted parades. The aim was to attract good points from the panel of judges. The parading boats were also beauties to behold as they were designed to reflect the cultural affinity of the people paddling them.
The State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode used the occasion to reinstate his government’s commitment to cleaner and safer coastlines for the people and visitors.
Ambode, who was represented by his Deputy, Dr Idiat Adebule, recalled that the last time a boat regatta was organised in the state in 2017, where there was a simultaneous hosting across four different locations as part of activities marking the Lagos at 50 ceremonies.
“The success of the event, again brought the treasure of the waterways in the state to the fore, and the need to invest more in the sector. We have expanded the scope of this wonderful fanfare last year when we held the boat regatta parade simultaneously at four different venues to celebrate the golden jubilee anniversary of the creation of our state. The success of that experience reassured us of the treasure that our waterways represent and why we must nurture this God-given asset as a major tourist attraction.
“We have made a modest investment in a few luxury boats that are meant to target tourism promotion. The Lagos lagoon boasts of perhaps the busiest water route in West Africa. There is a vibrant boat club with members’ boat collection that is astonishing; there is a growing interest in surfing and our waterways are acknowledged as one of the best for scuba diving in the world.
“This is why our determination will not waver in making our waterways cleaner and safer with further investments and partnerships in the channelisation of the water routes, in the provision of more standard jetties and ferries,” Ambode said.
Similarly, the State Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Steve Ayorinde said making the boat regatta an annual festival is deliberate because aside the fact that it was designed to promote the state’s tourism potentials, it also seeks to sustain the state traditions and cultures of the riverine residents in the state.
“The boat regatta is opened to the public as a cultural and entertainment funfair meant to showcase part of the State’s rich aquatic cultural asset, being a festival that is common to the traditional coastline communities. This is one initiative we hope to sustain in the years to come because we are not relenting in our drive to make Lagos, the most sought-after city in terms of arts and tourism in the years to come.
“The boat regatta is a traditional tourism feature of Lagos State and this year’s outing, in line with the vision of Governor Ambode, will further showcase the tourism values and beauty of Lagos waterways and market its potentials to local and foreign tourists as well as investors,” Ayorinde said.
The event which also featured search and rescue demonstration, water safety tips, entertainment boat parade and cultural performances, later had Agbowa-Ikosi group from Epe division as the overall winner, while the Fanti group of the Lagos Island division as well as Badagry Olorunda group emerging first and second runner ups respectively.
Mercy Adeyemi, a middle-aged woman who brought her children to the event expressed delight with the boat regatta initiative. She said whereas the awareness about the annual event is still relatively low, it is one gesture sure to push the state on the front burner and there should be more appreciation through attendance.
“When I told colleagues at office that I would be spending my Easter Sunday at the boat regatta in Ikoyi, many were apparently taken aback,” Adeyemi said. “But for me, people must start learning to appreciate what belongs to us. What can promote us and can even boost our economy. My children and I have been savouring every bits of the fun here today and I believe it can be better. The most important is that this is taking place in our own country and it deserves being promoted beyond this level,” Adeyemi said.
Other dignitaries at the event were, members of the Lagos State Executive Council; former Deputy Governors – Femi Pedro and Alhaja Sinatu Ojikutu; Oba of Lagos, HRH, Oba Rilwan Akiolu; former Secretary to the State Government, Princess Adeniran Ogunsanya; Senators Muniru Muse, Musiliu Obanikoro, among others.
Meanwhile, journalists from various media organizations, Nollywood actors and actresses as well as other prominent personalities in the tourism, art and entertainment sector were subsequently hosted by the State Government on a boat cruise along Lekki/Ikoyi Waterway.
The boat cruise which took off and ended at the Prest Cruise Waterfront, , Lekki Phase 1, lasted for two-hours.