Ola Awakan

The ancient city of Badagry in Nigeria is popular for tourism. But the reason the settlement has not developed beyond its present status calls for attention. Are the settlers united? Are the tourism assets of the area well harnessed? Is the host community truly benefiting from Tourism?

A visit to Lagos State without taking a tour of Badagry is perhaps incomplete. It is presumed to be a city in Lagos State, Nigeria deepened with abundant tourism potentials. Given the relics from the slave trade era, beautiful landscape, historical facts and cultural endowment, one would think that the community should have been properly transformed through tourism.


Why are some of the places linked to the history of the ancient city being neglected?This was one of the questions on my mind as I visited the Wawu of Badagry Kingdom, High Chief Tajudeen Dosa Ayipe-Wawu, member Lagos State Council of Obas and Chiefs. Not many people know about the tourism impact the Wawu Kingdom can have on Lagos and Nigeria at large, if well harnessed. I was opened to how the Wawu people migrated from Ile-Ife as one of the descendants of Oduduwa, the progenitor of the Yoruba race. I was as well privy to the role played by the Wawu forebears in the establishment of what is today called BADAGRY.

According to the 14th Wawu of Badagry Kingdom, Wawu belongs to the Onipopo of Popo from Ile-Ife, originally one of the descendants of Oduduwa. “My forebears left Ife in search of a suitable virgin land. The Onipopo of Popo had a staff of office then, called ‘Kanako’, which shortens journey. This was used to make the sojourn easy. The Egba-Dahomey war moved them to Seme. Agbede was the one relating with the Oracle to determine the next line of action on where to settle until they got to the sea shores. They were able to cut woods, tie them together to cross the river because of their experience in Dahomey where they learnt farming, fishing and other trades”.

Having crossed the shores, Agbede was said to have created a farm at the place they settled. There, Wawu received strangers and gave them space to stay.“Agbede Farm in ‘egun’ dialect is ‘Agbede Greme’, which metamorphosed into ‘Agbadagiri’ and later to ‘Badagry’”.

He added that the British came and met the Wawu family there. They gave the family a document and entered into an agreement that the family was the first they met at the place on their visit. “But when George Fremingo led the Portuguese to start the Slave Trade business in Badagry, they interfered in Wawu matter. Now we can not find the agreement paper we entered with the British because the palace was burnt down several times, every six month. When the Portuguese who aligned with the Akran came, they said they could not allow the Wawu to control them. The Akran waged war against Wawu and chased him away to Agbara area. We came back after some years to reclaim our land. The British refused to enter into another agreement with the Akran. That was how the word Badagry was formed – ‘Bad Agreement’. They said they had agreed with one family as the owner of the place and could not agree with another. But with the help of George Fremingo and the Portuguese who were staying with the Akrans permanently at that time, they gave them the power. The British people were not staying with us, so we lost to them”

He (Wawu of Badagry Kingdom) added that the only thing he wants from the government is to help him restore the lost glory of the Wawu family in Badagry and harness the tourism potential of his Kingdom.

I observed that the tourism prowess of Wawu Kingdom has not been adequately harnessed. The Seat of the British Cannon donated to King Aholu Wawu of Badagry for the abolition of Slave trade as well as the Union Jack in 1843, are still within the Palace, among many other tourism artefacts.


According to the National Bureau of Statistics, in 2017 the tourism sector in Nigeria accounted for 34 percent of GDP and about 20 percent of the nation’s employment creation. Maldives with 39.6% contribution to the GDP of the country, British Virgin Islands with 35.4% are some of the countries that depend on tourism for development.

In Badagry, it is perceived that most of the Slave Trade relics have been abandoned. Through an effort by the 2019 Tourism Innovation Development Advantage (TIDA) Conference team, Skyview Communications in partnership with Halogen Securities, I also visited the Seriki Williams Abass Slave Museum Brazilian Barracoon.

According to a tourism expert, Anago Esho, Seriki Williams Abass was once a slave but was freed because of his agreement with his slave masters to be supplying them with slaves from Badagry. That was the genesis of the Brazilian Barracoon. 40 Slaves were kept in a small room, while 40 of such rooms existed in the Barracoon. The structure, being managed by the family needs proper government attention. Seriki Williams Abass lived an affluent life as a slave merchant. He was the ruler of Badagry from 1895 to 1919 when he died. Before his death, he traced his root back to where he was taken originally as a child in Egbado. He then founded Ayetoro near Ilaro. It was recorded that he married 128 wives.

These tourism artifacts could be the basis of attraction for foreign and local tourists.

In 2018, a total of 13,609 visitors were recorded to have visited the first storey building in Nigeria, located in Badagry. This number keeps increasing because of the proper maintenance of the structure and the efforts to preserve its originality. This can as well be achieved in the Wawu Palace as well as the Brazillian Barracoon and other tourism artefacts inherent in the ancient Badagry Kingdom.

How can sustainable tourism development have more impact on the host community, like Badagry? This is the focus of The TIDA Conference themed ‘Impact of Sustainable Tourism Development and Marketing of Tourism Destinations on Host Communities’. It tends to touch on five cardinal points and keys to sustainable tourism development – employment, revenue generation, environment, infrastructure and security.

Convener of TIDA, Femi Lawson stressed that Tourism is not a stand alone business.“It is a value chain. It means that in doing one tourism activity, you need a whole lot of organisation to deliver on that assets, which is all we need to solve unemployment in particular and that is what TIDA is promoting”, he said.

I also spoke with Ogundijo Bolanle, a trader who has been doing business in Badagry for more than 10 years. “We want the authority to put somethings in place so that it will enhance the safety of people coming down from a far distance to Badagry to purchase from us and we will be happy”, she lamented.

Economic diversification from oil to other sectors like tourism can only yield desired revenue for the country if tourists locations like the ones in Badagry are properly managed and maintained.

(First published in 2019)

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