The Argungu festival in Sokoto, Nigeria
The Argungu festival which started as a symbol of peace between the former Sokoto Caliphate and the Kebbi Kingdom to put an end to the hostility between the two kingdoms has over the years became the highly priced Festival in the Northern part of Nigeria. The visit of the Sultan was honoured with the great fishing festival which was organized swiftly. Hundreds of men and boys jumped into the waters to catch fish. The largest fish caught is then presented to the Sultan as a gesture symboling peace. This event ushers in the annual festival that spans through an exciting week full of memorable activities. The grand show is the Fishing competition which involves thousands of fishermen in a breath taking spectacle as they race to get the biggest catch inside the Matan Fada River.
The significance of the Fishing competition cannot be overemphasised In Argungu. With the use of traditional fishing tools only, the competitors bring the ancient feel and experience to the audiences and tourists who have travelled from far and wide to behold the festival. With a gunshot signalling the start of the fish tournament that only last for one hour, thousands of competitors jump into the river for the hunt of the biggest fish. To further add spice to the festival many competitors prefer to catch fish by bare hands, to demonstrate their prowess.
The traditional fishing tools are also utilised such as hand nets and calabash. Calabashes serve the dual purpose of enabling participants float on water and also store fish. The excitement at the festival is elevated by drummers who move through the water on their canoes, beating drums and adding flavour to the festival. The river is small, but it is well stocked. This is achieved by enforcing a prohibition for anyone to fish after the festival till the following year. As the hunt for the big catch goes on, fishermen are also harvesting smaller fish, to be sold or consumed later. The festival is also full of other activities that thrill the audience both on land and in the river. On land art and craft exhibitions, also music and traditional dancing also brings life and colour to the event and makes fun lovers have a filled day. Archery and wrestling are also part of the side attractions at the festival. Aside the traditional fishing, art exhibitions and dancing the festival is also full of other cultural activities like cycling, donkey and camel racing. Complimenting these activities are wild duck hunts, swimming and diving competitions and canoe races.
The fishing festival takes place to the beat of drummers who move through the surging water on their canoes At the end of the hour, the fish of thousands of competitors who had competed in the competition for the biggest fish are piled up at the foot of the weighing machine. The fisherman with the biggest fish is rewarded both materially and monetarily. Despite the monetary compensation attached to the event, the winner also attains a higher social status in the state. As tradition the largest fish is still presented to local rulers. Smaller rewards are awarded to the runners up but the biggest prize of all is the party that commences afterwards that carries on well into the morning hours to celebrate the winner of and grand finale. The festival significantly benefits the local economy. A noisy night market operates throughout the event which helps to boost the economy of both the natives and companies/traders who have come to sell their products to the tourists and visitors. The annual Argungu fishing festival as over the years expanded, hence,there is no gainsaying that Argungu fishing festival is one of the best festivals in Nigeria.