The past few weeks have been a flurry of activities in Lagos and Rivers States as they celebrate the 50th anniversary of their creations from the old Federal Territory of Lagos and Eastern Region respectively. The creation of these states, together with the West Central, the North Central, Kano, Kaduna, the South Eastern, Western, Bendel, Cross River, Benue-Plateau and the East Central States was the end of regionalism as practised in the First Republic.
However, of these 12 states, only Lagos, Rivers and Cross River States are staging celebrations – while seven of the remaining nine do not exist anymore and have been split into more states; Kano and Kaduna have opted to not celebrate, even though they also have had Jigawa and Katsina states created from them since then.
It is not unexpected that many have asked if the monies budgeted to be spent on elaborate events marking these celebrations are worth it – although how much each state has exactly budgeted for the celebrations is not publicly known, it is bound to run into hundreds of millions to a few billions considering how grand they are.
Lagos, for example, celebrated each of the five old administrative divisions (Ikorodu, Badagry, Ikeja, Lagos Island and Epe) for a month, staged celebrations at the Toronto International Film Festival in September last year with eight films, and had the maiden edition of The Lagos Street Party and the second edition of the One Lagos Fiesta in December last year. The celebrations in Rivers has mostly been around official activities such as presenting state awards to dignitaries, while Cross River planted 50 trees in commemoration of the event, granted state pardons to some prisoners as well as changing the state’s logo, a move that has been widely criticised.
From all indications, it seems Lagos State’s celebrations is the best planned not just in the variety of events but also in how well-planned they have been and the purposes for which they serve. Anniversary celebrations for cities, regions and countries are intended to raise the tourism profile of these places. For example, in 2007, Malaysia celebrated the 50th anniversary of its independence with pomp and pageantry, but also promoted itself as a tourism potential with the “Malaysia: Truly Asia” campaign which was a tremendous success with 20.97 million tourists visiting that year and RM46.1 billion ($10.77billion) in tourist receipts.
It does appear that Rivers and Cross River States had a last-minute approach to their golden jubilee celebrations and did not maximise these opportunities for their tourism markets.
While the results of the [email protected] celebrations are yet to be known, it is evident that theirs was way better organised.
Hopefully, other states are watching and will take a similar approach when they desire to stage similar celebrations.