Following UNESCO’s 1998 proclamation of August 23rd as the International Day for the Remembrance of Slave Trade and its Abolition, the Lagos State Government joined other countries of the world to observe the historic day with a commemorative lecture and “Fitila” procession in Badagry.
Speaking at the commemoration of the annual event which took place in the ancient town of Badagry on Monday, the Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mrs. Uzamat Akinbile-Yussuf said that the day calls for a reflection on the consequences of slavery on Nigeria and the entire black race.
She opined that the International Day for the Remembrance of Slave Trade and its Abolition presented an opportunity for the country to address modern-day exploitation and human trafficking, otherwise known as modern-day slavery.
According to her, the celebration was a memorial of awareness about slavery, resolution of injustices inherited from a biased record of the history of slave trade and recognition of the significant input made by people of African Descent.
“This Remembrance Day is designed to create a global platform for the gradual re-integration of the diaspora and to celebrate the history of the African diaspora, especially those that contributed to the emancipation of blacks from slavery and to promote the tangible and intangible heritage of Lagos State and Badagry as melting points”, the Commissioner stated.
Akinbile-Yussuf explained that the Fitila procession observed across the ancient town of Badagry from the Vlekete Market towards Marina where it ended, further underscored the importance of the day and also demonstrated great honour and respect for the departed slaves.
She added that a major benefit of this commemoration of Slave Trade and its Abolition as highlighted by UNESCO, is that Africans/Americans in the diaspora are encouraged to retrace their steps back to their land of origin and reunite with long-lost relatives through the August 23rd event.
Delivering a Lecture titled “Slave Trade and Its Abolition and How Public Opinion Could Change the Law”, the Guest Lecturer and Publisher of De Voice Newspaper in Badagry, Ovi Kuponu, maintained that Badagry remains a point of reference on slavery and its abolition, saying “You have to come to Badagry when you talk about Slave Trade and its Abolition. It’s commendable that the Lagos State Government, through the Ministry, recognises this fact by keeping in touch with the tradition”.
Recalling the harrowing experiences of most Nigerians during the years when slave trade thrived, Kuponu averred that slave trade should never be something to dance over and that no part of the narration should bring joy or profit to any sane human.
His words: “The evidence abounds in my community, Badagry, to show that from 1600 when the first Portuguese slave merchant, George Freemingo (Huntokonu) arrived in Badagry, through the year of the revolution of Saint-Dominique revolution to 1808, when the slave trade was abolished, slave trade was real. Several relics and monuments dot the landscape of West African coastal towns like Quidah, Porto Novo, Freetown, Gold Coast, Sierra Leone, Badagry, Lagos and so on”.
“The slave trade as practised 200 years ago may be history. But moral blindness is ever-present. Let us not close our eyes to crimes and evils being perpetrated in society. Allowing such crimes and evil to fester will only shame us all”, he noted.
The commemorative event also had in attendance top officials from the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture led by the Director of Research and Development, Mrs. Yetunde Simpson; Director of Tourism Promotion, Mrs. Ada Oni, the retired Permanent Secretary of Lagos State Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mr. Ashamu Fadipe, the Founder of Centre for Heritage Preservation, Chief Hunkanlin Afolabi (Ijinla) and the Head of Badagry Musuem, Mr. Peter Mesewaku among others.