By Ayo Akinfe
(1) As we celebrate Easter, do Nigerians ever for once give a thought to cashing in on the commercial opportunities it presents? For a variety of reasons, we are uniquely placed to make millions from Easter in foreign exchange both through tourism and the sale of memorabilia but alas, we are fast asleep
(2) When I look at the billions chocolate companies like Cadbury’s, Mars and Nestle make from the sale of Easter eggs, I cannot but ask how come cocoa-producing countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Cameroon are not seeing any of this wealth. Between them, these four countries account for 80% of global cocoa output
(3) Good Friday too is another cash cow as it is symbolised by palm fronds. We should be manufacturing special Good Friday palm fronds and shipping them around the world. Just imagine how much we would generate if Nigeria exported 2bn special Good Friday Palm Fronds around the world at a cost of say $10 each
(4) Now, this is a picture of the Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume basilica in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in southeastern France. It is supposed to contain the remains of Mary Magdalene and is another huge money spinner for the French as it attracts millions of tourists annually. Just imagine how packed it is today
(5) According to legend, after Jesus was taken off the cross, he was in a coma for three days and when the Roman authorities were looking for him, his wife Mary Magdalene, his mother Mary and his daughter Sarah set sail for Gaul in southern France because it was not under the rule of the Romans. It provided a refuge because it was a rebellious region fighting for independence from the Roman emperor. They were welcomed with open arms by the French rebels
(6) French historians claim that the small party fled the Holy Land in a small miraculous boat with neither rudder nor sail and landed at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, in the Camargue near Arles. It appears that Jesus did not survive the crossing and was buried at sea but his family did. They set up base in France and Mary Magdalene continued Jesus’ work, preaching, healing and performing miracles. It is thus no surprise that France has the highest number of Catholics in Europe
(7) Anyway, let us leave the controversy aside for now and concentrate on the economics of the matter. The fact remains that this St Mary Magdalene Basilica is said to contain her remains and subsequently attracts millions of tourists and generates billions on foreign exchange annually. As a result, a whole industry has spring up around the town with hotels, restaurants, theme parks, amusement parks, shopping malls, etc. Special holiday packages are on offer for tourists worldwide and people visit from all over the planet
(8) They market their tourist packages similar to the way the Saudis package pilgrimages to Mecca and Medina and the way the Israeli’ package visits to the Wailing Wall, the Church of the Nativity and the Temple of Mount Olives. With the incessant growth of Christianity in Nigeria, it is only a matter of time before we have the highest number of Christians in the world. Do we have any plans to cash in on this bonanza?
(9) I have always maintained that for Nigeria and Cameroon to account for 10% of the world’s languages, the Tower of Babel simply has to be on their border. We simply need to go and find it the way we found those Goma people several decades ago. If Zimbabwe could uncover those stone walls hidden in the bush, why can’t we locate this tower, renovate it and turn the area into another major tourist attraction like the Kaaba, Temple of Olive Mount or the St Mary Magdalene Basilica?
(10) Religious pilgrimages account for 1% of Nigeria’s budget as we subsidise trips to Mecca and Jerusalem. How come we are brilliant at spending on religion but hopeless at making money from it? Maybe we need a minister of state for religious tourism to look at this area and cash in on its economic potential. Crude oil exports only generate about $50bn a year for Nigeria. I can see religious tourism doubling that is well packaged