Nigeria is the most populous black nation in the world with over two hundred ethnic groups and languages. Nigerian is adorned with many natural resources as well as a rich cultural heritage. These cultural heritage is contributing significantly to the tourism boost of the country.
Every ethnic group in Nigeria is identified with one or two festivals which depicts their heritage and culture. From these numerous festivals we shall be listing the biggest and most popular ten. These are those ones that have become identified with Nigeria as a country and have attracted international tourists as well have boosted the growth of tourism industry in Nigeria.
Ten Biggest Festivals In Nigeria
1. Osun Oshogbo Festival
Osun Oshogbo festival in Nigeria is more identified with the Yoruba nation of the South western Nigeria. The annual festival is Regarded as one of the biggest festivals in Nigeria. The festival was said to have lasted over 600 years and its long two weeks’ celebration attracts visitors and tourists both locally and internationally.
The festival is in appreciation and celebration of the great god of the Osun river who the devotee believe is the founder and defender of the Oshogbo city. In 2003, the UNESCO recognized the 67acres of land and the forest where the Osun river is situated as world heritage sites.
Over the years, the festival keeps getting bigger and have attracted the sponsorships of some of biggest brands in Nigeria. The festival begins with a week-long celebration which feature dance, processions, drumming etc.
In the recent, the popular Lagos masquerades Eyo have associated with the festival. The forest which surrounds the river in which it is believed the Osun river god lives in is called the grove forest and is located in an outskirt of Osogbo city.
The climax of the festival comes on the last day of the festival in which a virgin maiden leads a procession carrying a calabash on her head marching to Osun river to perform sacrifices to the god of the river.
It is believed that the calabash (small locally made pot) contains the petitions of the worshippers of the deity and the those who seek favours from the deity.
It is again believed that barren women who petitioned the river god for gift of a child during the festival will conceive before the next celebration marking the festival. The festival is celebrated between July and August annually. The festival is more divine than entertainment.
2. Argungu Fishing Festival
Many have argued that Argungu fishing festivals is the biggest festival in the northern Nigeria. The festival is used to showcase the fishing skill of the locals. The fisherman with the biggest catch is rewarded with cash gift of over 7000 us dollar.
The festival is celebrated in four days, during which many activities are used to mark the annual celebration. Before the fishing contest, a homage will be paid to the emir of Argungu.
The festival marks the end of planting season. It is usually celebrated between February and March every year. Furthermore, as part of side attractions for the festival, series of activities such as canoe racing, swimming, bare-hand fishing, diving competition and wild duck hunting is organized during the festival.
At the end of the festival, merriments such as dancing, drinking and singing are witnessed in to the night. The festival is domicile in Argungu district in Kebbi state and has grown bigger and better as years go by with foreign and local tourists gracing the occasion each year.
3. Durbar Festival
Some historians have opined that durbar festival is the oldest and most prominent festival in the northern Nigeria. It is festival that aimed at showing the military powerless of emirs and paying of homages to emirs and traditional chiefs.
This festival is identified with people of Northern Nigeria and can still be witnessed in Kano, Kastina, Bida among other northern cities. The festival was introduced in 14th century by Sarkin Muhammad Rumfo.
During the festival, warriors use horses to showcase their military skills as obtainable in the ancient times. The festival is now celebrated at the end of Ramadan season as part of activities to mark the celebration of Eid el kabir and Eid el fitri.
The annual festival remains alive in northern Nigeria and have continued to contribute immensely to the tourism and rich cultural heritage in Nigeria.
4. Calabar Carnival
Popularly known as biggest Africa Street party. In a bid to make Calabar the number one Africa and Nigerian tourism hub and destination, Calabar carnival was created. The Calabar carnival was created in 2004 by former governor of Cross River state Mr. Donald Duke.
The carnival is aimed as show casing different Nigerian cultural heritage and costumes. As the carnival grew bigger different countries were invited to participate in the 31 days long celebration.
For the year 2019, the commission in charge of the carnival is inviting over 10 countries to take part in its 2019 edition. The Calabar carnival always attract lots of tourists who come from far and wide to witness the event.
Renowned world musicians like Lucky Dube, Jay-z, P-Square, Young Jezzz, 2Face among numerous other artistes have been invited to perform at the Calabar festival. The festival has put Calabar in the world map as one of the top tourism and hospitality destinations in the world.
5. Carniriv Festival
Carniriv is a River state cultural festival aimed at showcasing the rich cultural heritage of the state. The state is made up of different ethnic groups so the carniriv festival is used to bring together and promote unity of the people of the state.
Over the years, the festival has grown better and now sits up the chart with biggest festivals in Nigeria. It’s a week-long celebration during which many activities are done to mark the celebration.
It is an annual festival which takes place in the month of December. Notable personalities and artists have graced the event in the past.
6. Ofala Festival Of Obi Onitsha
The revered Obi of Onitsha regarded as one of Nigerian ‘s first class traditional rulers, every year set aside two weeks long celebration to mark his ofala festival. It is a time in which the people of Onitsha and beyond pay homage and show total respect, solidarity and support to the revered monarch.
It starts with a week-long celebration in which the youths of Onitsha in a procession display different ethnic cultural consumes. The popular popular musician Ikem mazeli is always in attendance to spice the festival.
Obi of Onitsha ofala festival has gotten an immense sponsorship over the year with many multinationals like Glo, Mtn, Interfact, Nigeria brewery out doing each other to be major sponsor of the festival.
Like Calabar carnival and Argungu festival, Obi of Onitsha ofala festival also attract both local and international tourists who are always there to witness the historic event.
7. Opobo Regatta Festival
Every year, December 31st precisely, Opobo tribe in bonny Island celebrates the Opobo regatta festival. It is a festival aimed at asking for blessings of the gods as they anticipate the coming of the new year.
During the festival celebration, in a bid to make it colorful and entertaining, boat racing competitions are held among other aquatic competition games. Opobo people live in riverline areas and are mostly fishermen.
8. Ikeji Festival Of Arondizuogu
The Ikeji festival of Arondizuogu has as many as four different origin version. The most acceptable version opined that the festival is in celebration of new yam and bountiful harvest.
Allover Igbo land, yam is regarded as the greatest food. In Arondizuogu of Imo state Nigeria, only men can cultivate yam. Annually between March and April the Arondizuogu town mark this festival.
It is a festival that bring from far and wide the sons and daughters of Arondizuogu and Imo indigenes. Multinationals like MTN have sponsored the festival in the past.
If you have visited Imo state without attending the Ikeji festival of Arondizuogu, then you have an unfinished business with the state.
9. Eyo Festival
Eyo festival is identified with Lagos state Nigeria. It’s a 24-days long celebration during which homage is paid to Oba of Lagos state.
During the festival, the popular Eyo masquerade can be found all over Lagos Island and their sight is a joy to behold. The festival has set the tourism industry in Lagos state to a new pedestal.
10. Sango Festival
Sango festival is up there with the best there is in Nigeria. It is festival most associated with the Yoruba people of southwest Nigeria. It is a festival in honor of Sango the god of thunder and fire.
Sango was a warrior that ruled and protected the old Oyo empire. It is an annual festival held every August in the palace of Alafin of Oyo. It is a very high held festival among the Yourbas.