The Year of Return, which took place in Ghana, 2019, was a landmark event launched by the Ghanaian government. It was made to encourage people of African descent in the diaspora to return and explore their roots in Africa, as a way to commemorate the first enslavement of their African ancestors, 400 years ago. It also successfully served the purpose of boosting Ghana as a tourism center with about 800,000 visas reportedly issued to foreigners in 2019.
This is a feat Nigeria has failed to achieve for 3 running years with their Door of Return campaign. The rumored announcement of the 2020 Door of Return festival, which was debunked by the Nigerian Government, surprised lots of people who assumed it to be a rip off of the Year of Return fest. It was more surprising to discover that this festival was created in 2017, by the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), and has taken place consistently for the past 3 years at Badagry, Lagos.
Badagry is an important memorial of slave history, as it harbors the historical Point of no Return, which was a slave port during the Trans Atlantic Slave trade. It is recorded that as many as 10,000 Africans were shipped to America, during this era. This makes it an essential event, where the descendants of these Africans can return to reconnect with the past that their ancestors where unjustly torn away from.
While the Door of Return initiative aims to create an event where both foreigners of African descent and Africans can explore their common history–The Nigerian Government has done a rather underwhelming job at publicizing and organizing this event. It is almost embarrassing to discover that this festival has been held for the past 3 years, and is practically unknown to the Diaspora it is intended to reach. For perspective, we can refer to Ghana’s process of promoting the Year of Return festival, which was so hyped that it encouraged celebrities around the world to come back for a spiritual journey. Also, their collaboration with organizers based in the diaspora for “Afrocentric” events such as Afro Nation and Afrochella added fun to the initiative making it even more desirable.
Like Ghana, Nigeria should use this campaign to spearhead a better tourist attraction for folks willing to visit the country. Perhaps, even also conferring citizenship to people of African ancestry looking to settle down in the country as it would be unfair to deny them the opportunity of reconnecting with their heritage.
The Door of Return initiative has a perfect mission and purpose but has been executed poorly so far by the organizers. It will be impressive if a cue is taken from Ghana’s success with the Year of Return movement in the future, to improve and ensure an amazing experience, and universal participation for everyone it concerns.