There are several fishing festivals celebrated throughout the world but the magic of Argungu Fishing Festival will leave one spellbound forever.
What makes this festival spectacular? Is it its colourful display, the dexterity of the fishermen or the unpredictability of the river?
I would take you into one of the most talked about event in Nigeria and how it is celebrated.
Kebbi state was carved out of Sokoto state in 1991. It is located in the north-western part of Nigeria and it is bordered by Zamfara state and Niger state.
It shares international borders with the republic of Benin and Niger republic.
The capital of Kebbi is Birnin-kebbi. It has a total land mass of 36, 800 Km with 21 local government areas.
It was founded by the refugees of the Assyrian empire around 600BCE.
Kebbi state comprises of both the Sudan and Sahel-savannah. In the northern part, the Rima River passes through the Argungu and empties into the Niger. It is predominantly sandy. While the southern part has rocky features with the River Niger cutting across the state.
The people of Kebbi are majorly Hausas with smaller ethnic groups such as the Dukawa, Kambari and Kamuku.
Both Christianity and Islam are practiced in the state without hindrance.
Argungu became prominent during the 18th century. When the Fulani invaded Kebbi in 1808, some of its rulers had to flee the state to Argungu to found a new emirate.
The city was also conquered by Gwandu in 1831 but it was not able to completely control the city hence it remained a de facto independent state.
The Argungu Fishing Festival is an annual festival celebrated to mark the end of the hostilities between the Sokoto caliphate and the Kebbi kingdom.
It is usually celebrated during the month of February after the conclusion of all farming works.
The festival was first staged in 1934 in Argungu and ever since then it has become an important event in the calendar of Kebbi state government.
The festival home is Argungu, the capital city of the Argungu emirate council.
The area surrounding the festival site in Argungu contains three rivers namely Matanfada, Mala and Gamji. The area has an irrigation system as well as orchards.
Argungu is noted for its fishing festival but it also has the presence of a historical building; the Kanta Museum.
The Kanta Museum has eleven compartments and it houses relics of the history of Kebbi. Some of their notable collections are: charms, spears, swords, wood, stones, bows, arrows, local gun and drum. It also serves a mortuary for dead emirs of the local government.
The Argungu festival is always a beehive of activities. The fishing competition is just part of the many events that take place during this four day festival. Some of its notable events include;
Watch the Documentary Video of Argungu Fishing Festivals below.
The fishing competition is the highlights of the Argungu Fishing Festival. It also marks the end of the festival. Visitors from all parts of the country usually come to attend this important festival. The festival also draws guests from other parts of the world.
At the end of the fishing competition, prize money is awarded to the fisherman who catches the biggest fish.
As a rule in the competition, participants are not allowed to use modern fishing tools. Participant may choose to either use traditional fishing tools or their hands to catch fish.
When a gun is shot, participants numbering in their thousands rush into the river with their nets and gourds with the hope of catching the biggest fresh water fish.
Ever since the festival started in 1934, it has pushed the state into international limelight. Argungu festival is not like any other festival, it represents the culture of the people of Kebbi.
It describes the rich history of the Argungu people and helps to cement the bonds between different ethnic groups in the state.
The festival helps to promote the state to the outside world, hence attracting investors to the state.
The festival creates several jobs for the people of Argungu hence helping to improve the economy of the state.
It serves as a means of recreation for the people of Argungu after undergoing the stressful farming activities. This helps to improve the general well being of the people.
The festival serves as a platform where farmers in the state can learn about new farming techniques, large scale farming and the use of improved seeds to increase harvest.
The Argungu Fishing Festival is one of the biggest festivals in Nigeria. Every year hundreds of thousands of people flock to the festival to enjoy the spectacle.
Argungu Festival has gone from a local festival to one attended by dignitaries from Nigeria and other parts of the world.
The first head of states to visit the festival was Gen. Yakubu Gowon in 1970 together with Alh. Diori Hammani of Niger Republic. Since then the festival has been visited by all presidents of Nigeria with the exception of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakir and Ernest Shonekan.
The festival also attracts states governor from all the northern states of Nigeria as well as other states.
The festival gained international exposure in 1977 when it was attended by former American secretary of State; Mr. Andrew Jack.
The festival is attended by traditional rulers from all parts of Nigeria with the Sultan of Sokoto being a prominent attendee of the festival.
During the festival, cultural troupes from different parts of the country participate, each having their own camps for their fishermen.
All in all the Argungu Fishing Festival remains Nigeria’s biggest festival attracting people from all parts of the world.