It was a season of first of some sorts recently, when the Alara of Epeland, Oba (Dr.) Olufolarin Kayode Ogunsanwo, accompanied by his retinue of palace officials and dignitaries, made an historic visit to Antigua and Barbuda.
Interestingly, this is happening at a time when Africa is trying to make another inroad into this island, which is noted as one of the most blessed Caribbean islands. This time not on slave ships but cruise ships and luxurious airliners. Recall that the island was one of the islands in the Caribbean that was built by the sweat, brawn and brains of slaves from Africa.
What is playing out right now is what may be described as ‘Return to Motherland’, a new move which is speared by renowned Nigerian and African leading tourism developer and investor extra-ordinaire, Otunba Wanle Akinboboye, who is the Founder and President of La Campagne Tropicana Beach Resort and also Motherland Beckons among other entities.
Through Motherland Beckons, Akinboboye is presently making historic effort at creating the first ever Africa Tourism Free Trade Zone in the island.
The first phase of this historic project, which is meant to make the island the sixth region of Africa, as it will be a playground for Africans and the world to interact and savour once again the best of Africa’s art, culture, heritage, music, dance, fashion and lifestyle among others, has since began, with the construction of the first in the series of resorts that would dot the tourism free trade zone in progress.
It was an auspicious moment for the traditional ruler and his team, who were received by the Prime Minister of the island, Gaston Browne. The visit afforded Alara the opportunity to explore the richness of the island and how his kingdom can use the new vista now on the horizon, to export its art, culture, heritage and gastronomic offerings among others for the mutual benefit of his kingdom and the island.
What makes the visit most significant, is the fact that it is the beginning of a long envisaged partnership as Alara will in the coming days on a regular basis visit the island in furtherance of the dream of establishing cultural and economic link between his kingdom and the island.
For many, it is the dawn of a new cultural alliance between Africa and the Caribbean. Made possible by this new activation of Motherland Beckons, Antigua and Barbuda, is expected as part of the new vision to play host to African monarchs.
The vision of Akinboboye for the African Tourism Free Trade Zone, is among others geared at creating a return for people of African descent. As recently noted by him, ‘‘we believe that the movement should begin from where it started from, the monarch.
‘‘It is in this regard that African royalties will form a major part of this Return to Motherland movement on cruise ships and luxury airliners. This is because the monarchs’ visits will be weaved round cultural, economic and educational prospects to help with the growth of the continent of Africa.’’
It was through the partnership of some African monarchs that Africans were traded off and shipped to the island during the slave trade era. Therefore, it is only natural and fitting that through this same monarchs, the Return to Motherland, is effected as the monarchs are in a better position to explore and promote this new move given the permanence of their thrones.
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Antigua and Barbuda, will according to Akinboboye, serve as the neck in this new nexus, noting that, ‘‘Africa is a body without a neck. The heads (Africans) in the continent and the Diaspora, don’t have a neck to connect them to the body. But now, Antigua and Barbuda, which was the middle passage, will be the neck and connecting link to connect Africans from within the continent and those in the Diaspora to the Motherland (Caribbean), where a new marriage is proclaimed.
‘‘The monarchs will be part of the centrifugal element that would make this happen and when it does happens there will be business opportunities in all spheres to explore because what has been missing before now is that connection, which Antigua and Barbuda now offers.’’
One of the signature activities that would herald this new move is Ipada Carnival (The Return), an annual “pilgrimage” of people of African descent to motherland. It would feature among others live music from 54 African countries, cuisine and fashion from the six regions of Africa and six Caribbean countries, Nefratiti – the Queen of Africa beauty pageant, Ose award – an award to appreciate one African that has made impact in the world and Africa.
In the coming days you will be spoilt for choice when you visit Antigua and Barbuda, as you would have the opportunity of exploring endless options of in tourism and business. It is this yearning gap that the Alara of Epe is hoping to latch on to promote his kingdom and fuse with the Caribbean.
Ogunsanwo is the 55th Alara of Ilara, Epe Division and the Vice Chairman of the Lagos State Council of Obas. With three years stint now on the throne of his ancestors, Ogunsanwo is committed to improving on the lots of his people and kingdom hence his fascination with the beautiful and alluring island.