If you are a tourist and you are visiting Badagry in Lagos State, very soon you will come across Anago James Osho, and you won’t regret meeting one who is not only interested in things that are sacred, old and historical, but also has a penchant for locating unusual tourism sites. His house is a museum and he is a ‘bookworm’ as he describes himself. He has a book in progress and is the author of LEKELEKE, composed of folk stories, poems and pictures.
I first encountered Osho while on annual leave last year. I needed to rest a bit after many months of hard work, and desired to go to a part of the country which I hardly knew, but somehow truly liked. This formula always helps me to relax and enjoy myself. I headed for Badagry with its rich history, trees, beaches, hotels and fresh air. It was at the Brazilian Barracoon that I came across Osho who conducts tourists round the site on the marina which was once the residence of Seriki Williams Abass, a former slave turned founder of towns and slave merchant who had 128 wives and 144 children. A gifted guide, he draws attention to the slave trade and the role Badagry played in that aspect of Nigeria’s history. He is also the historian of the Seriki Williams family which has branches in Lagos as well as Kano, and it is a position he handles with wisdom and dignity. This award winning guide has encyclopedic knowledge of the historical sites in the Lagos area, as well as places further afield. Citing King Kosoko of Lagos, he comments “He was said to have owned a slave ship in Bahia Salvador in Brazil. That makes him the biggest slave trader on the slave coast, and the slave coast stretched from Aneho in Togo to Lekki in Nigeria.”
He is Chairperson, West Africa Tour Guides Association (WATGA) tells me that his father was a ‘bookworm’ who also loved to travel, and as a young boy Osho was exposed to literatures from different parts of the world, and he was also put on a diet of travel magazines by an eager father. This means that his home prepared him for later work as a tour guide, an activity which comes to him easily. Concerning his work, he says “I am a tour operator, and a historian. Working as a tour operator has been wonderful because tourism is broad. I am an international tour guide and I tour guide everywhere my tourists want to go and they come from different parts of the world. I take tourists to Lekki, Abeokuta, Porto Novo, Whydah, Elmina as well as the Cape Coast in Ghana.”
A lover of nature, he speaks of an area of interest “I take tourists across west Africa, which is my specialty.Tourism is wonderful. As a tour guide I realise that I have to read very well, and I have to travel a lot. Reading very well means that I meet a lot of tourists who have questions. Some of them have read books on the subject, and there are some questions they have at the back of their minds,and they believe that I will have answers to these questions. This makes me to read very well, and this is one of the advantages of being a tour operator. It also helps one to understand the human perspective on certain issues. Tourism has become a source of living,and I developed myself while working in the area. I did different forms of training on tourism, as well as online courses on tour guiding. This is because I realised that in Nigeria, no matter how much you know a subject, people want to see certificates.” He also refers to a training done by UNIDO of which he has fond memories.
Next, he laments a growing culture he has come to notice among Nigerians “People are ready to pay a lot to go to Dubai, but they believe that these things are in Nigeria, and that they do not need to pay to see them. I tell them that if you don’t come, who will take care of these monuments. Who will take care of this history? How do we conserve this information? Whether we like it or not, we need funding to promote our heritage. Another problem is that the infrastructures are not well kept and some of the antiques are missing. People now value those sites, but they do not want to commit themselves financially to upgrade the infrastructure.”
Osho, who is President of Tour Guide Nigeria, explains “One of the problems we have is infrastructural development. If the infrastructures are well developed, I know that people will pay money when they visit.” On tourism in Nigeria, he adds “If properly packaged it is tourism that we can sell to the world. Tourism is big in Nigeria, and culture itself is tourism. History is tourism. But if we package those histories very well, if you package those masquerades, if we package those slave histories very well, and people have access to them, then people may be interested in coming to Nigeria to see all of these.”
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