LAGOS, Nigeria – In major cities around the globe, people gathered to light up the sky with all sorts of fascinating pyrotechnics all in a bid to end 2016 and usher in the New Year with a bang.
In places like Dubai, Singapore, London, Paris, Berlin, and New York, people went out of their homes to celebrate, while others preferred more traditional celebrations like people in Japan who went straight to temples and in Brazil where some residents offered flowers to Yemanja (Yemoja) – goddess of the sea – for good luck during New Year’s Eve.
No city however did anything on the scale of New Year revelry in Nigeria’s Centre of Excellence, Lagos State. In Africa’s ‘Big Apple’, the party started early – a week ahead of New Year’s Eve to be precise – in what has come to be known as the One Lagos Fiesta.
Morphing from the Lagos Countdown, the One Lagos Fiesta is a grand celebration of the culture, art, and people of Africa’s mega city and Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre.
Held in 5 strategic municipalities across the city – Badagry, Agege, Epe, Ikorodu, and Bar Beach – the festival brought together millions of residents, capturing the true spirit, character, and culture of Lagos. Over the course of eight days, people from all walks of life were treated to over 40 performances and 500 hours of entertainment from some of Nigeria’s biggest artists – both upcoming acts and established personalities.
This year, residents were treated to electric performances from the cream of Nigeria’s entertainment industry: King Sunny Ade, Sir Shina Peters, Adewale Ayuba, Salaba Abeni, Stela Monye, Olamide, Reminisce, Adekunle Gold, Wizkid, Phyno, CDQ, Reekado Banks, Tiwa Savage, Dr Sid, Sound Sultan, Baba Dee, Patoranking, May D, Dammy Crane, MI, Kiss Daniel, Vector, Falz, Ice Prince, DJ Jimmy Jatt, Dj Spinall, Obesere, and a host of other talents.
There were also impressive performances from cultural groups like the Lagos State Council of Arts and Culture, Meshico Sax Traditional Band, and the Awori Troupe, entertaining the audience with traditional dances, music, and plays that one can hardly find anywhere else.
Lagos Got Talent
Beyond providing premium entertainment from established acts, the fiesta was also a means of showcasing the rich talent pool in the city through the Lagos Got Talent competition. The competition, which was just introduced as part of the programme for the 2016 fiesta, is one way the government hopes to discover new talents in the city and provide a platform for them. The inaugural event placed some 250 talents, including rappers, dancers, contortionists, singers, and other gifted youngsters, in the limelight.
Winners from all 5 locations converged at Bar Beach for the finals where Ojo Ogunlaja was crowned overall winner. Motivated by the loss of his parents at an early age, 18-year old Ojo, a first year Sociology undergraduate at the Lagos State University, represented Epe municipality alongside Opeyemi Ishola, an 11-year-old rapper, having emerged as overall winners in their zone.
Their participation showed that more than ever before, the state government is interested in encouraging young people in the city to spend their time on creative pursuits geared at contributing positively to society.
Tourists: Much Welcome in Lagos
It’s more than an eight-day distraction for residents to take their minds off a tasking year and the government’s hands-on approach suggests it isn’t just lip service. The State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, visited all five locations to engage with citizens as well as share his plans for the city. Traditional rulers were also not left out as various royal fathers and several celebrated achievers in the state were seen mingling and enjoying the atmosphere.
It’s not all fun and games either as the government has a bigger picture in mind. The One Lagos Fiesta is much more than hours and days of entertainment but also a call to the world to take notice of what the state has to offer. Home to some of the biggest global businesses and multinationals, the fiesta is also a means to draw attention to the city’s huge tourism potential.
Governor Ambode’s administration is also proving its sincerity in improving the tourist landscape by elevating the Lagos State Waterfront and Tourism Development Corporation (LSWTDC) into the Ministry of Tourism Arts and Culture.
Thus, places like Badagry – home to the Slave Museum, Agia Tree, the First Storey Building in Nigeria, the Badagry beach, and a few others – can experience more growth and realise their tourism potential.
An evidence of this was when the governor, on his visit to the historic town during the fiesta, announced plans to construct a state-of-the art cinema within the next 18 months – a move that would further expand the socio-economic landscape in the region and create employment opportunities in Badagry.
Bar Beach is also the gateway to Eko Atlantic, which is touted as the next hotspot for upmarket property developments and a future home for major businesses. Towards Epe, there’s a lineup of beaches, resorts, and conservation centres.
As the One Lagos Fiesta grows, these regions are expected to experience an influx of tourists during the season. And just like in developed cities, creating an ecosystem for thriving businesses long after the festival is over.
All these showcase the fact that aside from being a melting pot for diverse ethnic groups from all over Nigeria and even Africa, Lagos is a city with a single vision of the future. Just like the fiesta held in five locations, the city remains interlinked with a clear purpose: one people moving in one direction to create an example in this part of the world.