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Zungeru: Nigeria’s neglected birthplace

Zungeru is a town in the present Niger State and can be said to be the birthplace of Nigeria and many prominent Nigerians. The pact bringing Nigeria into being was signed there and a number of colonial relics scatter all over the town.  The first Nigeria’s indigenous Governor-General, Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, Ikemba Nnewi, Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu and the incumbent Senate President, David Mark, were all born there, yet the historic community, which ought to be a tourist centre, begs for development. ADELOWO OLADIPO reports.
LITTLE was known about it prior to the advent of the British colonialists who were undoubtedly looking for a conducive place to settle down. With its clement weather and proximity to Kaduna River, Zungeru, a historical town in Niger State where the Northern and Southern protectorates of Nigeria were later amalgamated, easily caught the attention of the colonialists who used the town as their operational base.
The colonialists, some of whom employees of the Royal Niger Company, had combed towns and villages in a place later to be named Nigeria, prospecting for the company. Lord Lugard, the Governor-General of Nigeria between 1914 and 1919, for instance, was in Jebba and Lokoja where he settled down for a while before he later shifted his base to Zungeru, the then emerging trading point in Nigeria.
With the coming of the colonialists, Zungeru, an erstwhile Gwari-Nupe settlement, shot into limelight and drew people from the length and breadth of the country who settled down there. Being an emerging base of a yet-to-be-created nation and the European lifestyle as well as the desire of many to seek a greener pasture outside their towns and villages, people from different parts of the country were motivated to migrate to the town.
Zungeru served as the birthplace of the Nigeria’s first indigenous Governor-General, Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, the late Biafran leader, Chief Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the incumbent Senate President, Senator David Mark and many other Nigerians who later rose to stardom in the country. The town is home to European military cemetery, a colonial market,  the amalgamation office, colonial prison, colonial Government House and a bridge built by colonialists as well as many other historical centres.
Sunday Tribune visited the town recently and discovered that Zungeru has been abandoned. All the structures have either collapsed or taken over by the federal highway that passes through the community. However, some of these colonial buildings, though collapsed, still have their foundations intact, except that during the raining season, they are usually overgrown with weeds.
According to Alhaji Abubakar Yusuf, the spokesman of the community, Zungeru has become the shadow of its former self. He said the problem of the town started when late Queen Elizabeth of England instructed Lord Lugard to leave Nigeria for India and Hong Kong with a view to introducing indirect rule in those two countries.
“Thereafter, somebody came to take over from him in Nigeria and the person was Brigadier Thomson Wallace, also of blessed memory. It was this man that complained of harsh weather as well as saying that so many members of the then Armed Forces were falling sick as a result of malaria caused by mosquito bites.
“He was asked to select other suitable places in Nigeria at the period and he chose Kaduna. That was exactly the foundation of what has led to the abandonment of Zungeru till date. Thereafter, Lord Lugard moved to Kaduna, after the completion of his action plan in 1916.”
He stressed that the British military cemetery in the community contained the remains of the first detachment of soldiers of the West African Frontier Force who were buried there, especially those who fought in the World War II. The military cemetery, according to him, consists 50 burial grounds of foreign soldiers and five Nigerians that were buried close to the enclosed cemetery. The Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), he said, started in Zungeru.
“We used to have a locomotive engine called Wushishi, now at Minna railway station. We also had a town hall where Lord Lugard used to assemble the community members, which is now a market square in the middle of the town,” Alhaji Yusuf added.
A prominent researcher resident in Zungeru, Malam Mohammed Jibrin, stated that the parents of late Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu worked with the colonial masters for several years as clerks before leaving for Lagos in 1918 after the white men left for Kaduna in 1916.
Malam Jibrin, who took this reporter to the relics of the family compound where late Emeka Ojukwu was born, said even though (he) Emeka and his parents did not come back to Zungeru since they left the town, the fame the family brought to the town and even Nigeria as a whole was enough for the people of the community to identify with him even in death.
“Let us not deceive ourselves; Emeka played an important role in Nigeria and across. I remember him with this simple quotation, ‘How can we be immigrants in our father’s land? We fought to unite, why should we fight again to disunite?’”
He lamented the abandonment of the town, noting that the relics of the colonial buildings in Zungeru ought to have been rebuilt and turned into tourist centres for people within and outside the country.
He said the office where the amalgamation took place in 1914 was still there and not renovated.  According to him, “Zungeru is the home of Nigeria, but unfortunately it has been disowned by its own people. The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Andrew Lloyd, was here recently. His counterpart from Australia, Ian Mccogvilce, also visited this town to inspect the relics scattered all over Zungeru. Some people from the United Kingdom came back to Zungeru with enthusiasm to inspect the tombs of their grand parents who died during the colonial days in the town. So, you can see the role this town played and can still play as a tourist centre for both Nigerians and foreigners alike if properly developed.”

Posted in Nigerian News, Relocating to Nigeria, Tourism0 Comments

Osun Osogbo Festival: Heritage beyond religion and race

written by Obinna Emelike

…As state targets 20,000 tourists, N7.5bn by 2015

Ordinarily, tourists to Nigeria will prefer more cosmopolitan destinations such as Abuja, Lagos and Calabar for security, convenience, and accessibility. Against all odds, Osogbo, a medium-sized city in the South Western Nigeria with a population of about 1.5 million people, is attracting even more quality tourists on daily basis.

The global attraction to the city is the annual Osun Oshogbo Festival and its dense forest housing the Osun Sacred Grove, on the outskirt of the city, which is also one of the last remnants of primary high forest in southern Nigeria.
Besides, witnessing a reawakening of the age-long tradition of the Osogbo people and the African cultural heritage at large, the festival this year with the huge and calibre of tourists it attracts is a meeting point for travel and culture.
Tourists and culture buffs travelled all the way from Brazil, America, Germany, Austria, Cuba, Great Britain, China and other European countries to witness the festival. The African Diaspora in their midst were particular about using the festival to reconnect to their roots. Their moods, dances, worships and cheers earnestly yearn for this needed connection as they join the Osogbo people in the communal identity that reflects in the strong bond that exists among the founding fathers of the town and its celebrated cultural heritage. This probably accounts to the improved turn-out of over 5,000 visitors.

The grove, host of the festival and also regarded as the abode of the goddess of fertility – Osun, one of the pantheon of Yoruba gods, records the highest number of foreign guest this year than in other years. Apart from the traditional worship, the spectacular and breathtaking landscape of the grove and its meandering river dotted with sanctuaries and shrines, sculptures and art works in honour of Osun and other Yoruba deities were enough attractions for the guests.
The inscriptions on the works that is part of the development of the movement of new sacred artists pioneered by Suzanne Wenger, an Austrian artist, priestess of the grove, is on its own a chronology of Osogbo spiritual and historical events.

The month-long festival climax with the worshipping of the Osun goddess at the Osun Shrine where the ‘Arugba’- the virgin girl, carries the calabash to the shrine, and Kabiyesi hosts the visitors from near and far to a big feast. Far from the scare about the royal tussle of the Atoja throne, Oba Jimoh Oyetunji, the new Atoja of Osogboland had the support of his people and visitors at the event.
However, the town witnesses a surge in business activities within this period. More hotels, restaurants, cab operators are now springing up to relief the service and accommodation problems which most tourists and guests face before now during the festival.

Other places of interest such as art galleries, museums, local textile outfits made fortunes from most foreign tourists who purchase one or two items as evidence of partaking in this year’s Osun Osogbo Festival. Apart from the grove, Nike Gallery and Osogbo Museum were the most visited.
The festival also witnessed government, corporate and private sector presence led by MTN, the title sponsor. President Goodluck Jonathan, who was represented by Edem Duke, minister of culture, tourism and national orientation, as usual, says culture and tradition were critical to the socio-economic development of the country, and that the place of the private sector in economic development cannot be overemphasised.

For Rauf Aregbesola, governor of Osun State, support and sustenance of the festival is critical to the development of the state because it brings the state to global spotlight and possible investment opportunities, especially in hospitality and infrastructure development.  He identifies culture and tourism as sources of employment generation and foreign exchange earners, and reiterates his administration’s commitment to the development of the cultural heritage of the state.
With the infrastructure renewal and new investments in the sector, the governor hopes to increase tourist arrival to the state from 5,000 at the festival this year to 20,000 with target revenue of N7.5 billion by 2015.

The governor explains to the crowd that the festival is an integral part of his administration’s tourism development project, adding: “Unknown to many people, tourism is one of the silent money spinning economic activities. In 2010 it was reported there were over 940 million international tourist arrivals which globally raked in $919 billion.”

The governor explains further, “Our unique selling advantage is in packaging Osun State as the cradle of Yoruba civilisation and our target market is the Yoruba nation at home and the Diaspora. There are estimated 91 million Yoruba people scattered at home and abroad in West Africa, Brazil, United States, The Caribbean, Europe, Venezuela and Colombia. Of these, our target by 2013 is to bring in traffic of 10,000 tourists and rake in N3.5 billion. By 2014, the figure would have jumped to 15,000 and our projected revenue would be N5.6 billion. In 2015, we would have hit the 20,000 mark and attain N7.5 billion in revenue.”

Already, he has created a full fledge Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Home Affairs headed by Sikiru Adetona Ayedun. They are charged with responsibility of turning the face of the state tourism around to a choice destination in Africa and revenue earner especially the 16 historical sites identified in the state.

Stakeholders from the private sector at the festival also express their readiness to partner with government to engender the development of the economy.
However, the commissioner welcomes all visitors-Nigerians and foreigners alike to keep visiting the state even after the festival because there are enough to explore with over 16 historical sites, best of art and craft works, the very hospitable people and a very friendly tourism investment policy that assures on return on investment in the state. Well keep a date with next year’s edition.

The governor says in his address, “This invaluable treasure is one leg of the tripod of development for our state – tourism. The other two legs are agriculture and solid minerals. As you must have noticed, this year’s festival is like no other before it.”

Posted in Education, Nigerian News, Tourism0 Comments

Idanre Hills: a natural wonder in Nigeria

written by Obinna Emelike

Imagine a terrain so high that those at the bottom go about their daily living as if they are in another planet, a setting surrounded by picturesque hills that envelope the inhabitants from incursions and scorching of the sun, while visitors savour a bit of its magnificence and panoramic view from afar.

The terrain is no dreamland or imagery of sort, Idanre Hills is a breathing landscape that also provides a window to the town’s colourful history. From a few kilometres to the town centre, a first time visitor will not cease to marvel at the aesthetics, architecture and thoroughness employed by nature in the  assemblage of hills of various shapes and sizes at Idanre, also called ‘Oke Idanre’ by the locals.

The evergreen landscape surrounding the hills provides fellowship with nature’s best. The peacefulness that pervades the atmosphere, the blossoming civilisation that existed on the hills, the rigours of climbing, a refreshing swim in Arun River, all make the Idanre Hills a wonderful place to visit.

If you are adventurous enough, the tallest of the hills rises about 300ft above sea level, challenges you to a climbing game. Those who successfully dare the peak are rewarded with the very rare panoramic view of the topography at bird’s eye, which is a unique fortitude for ancient residents.

However, you need a little background of the people and their protective hills to better appreciate the nature that adorn the Idanre setting. The people of Idanre had existed on the hills for at least 800 years.
Features on the hills lend proof to this assertion as they suggest that the security that the hills provided for the people of Idanre was responsible for their choice of the hills as their home.

There is actually no dull moment at Idanre.
The action starts with the Great 460 Steps. Climbing THE 460 steps to Oke Idanre is truly a physical challenge. But the six resting points will refresh you before taking you to the hill top. But after these steps, a short walk will take one to the ancient town of Idanre – with evidence of a civilisation that long was.

There are mud and concrete houses, the Owa Palace, residents for chiefs and the king’s wives, burial mounds, a cemetery, a prison yard, court rooms, a school and an incubator for prematurely born babies. The people of Idanre left the hills in 1923.

Again, ‘Omi Opaara,’ a narrow stream on one of the hills, is thrill for visitors. Myth has it that the stream gushed out when lightning struck the hills as a result of a bitter feud between two powerful chiefs. Some visitors make effort to drink from the hill water believed to have healing powers.

The excitement takes you further atop of the hills to the Arun River, a small river on the hill. It is believed that a swim in the middle of the river “will result in an eerie, fuzzy feeling.” Arun River is crystal clear and one can see crabs and a few other aquatic animals, and adjudge the water’s friendly depths.

The more adventurous can also dare the Agboogun Footprints, a more difficult track up the hill and atop the hill because it takes a lot of efforts to get these footprints.
he fact that the footprints can size visitors’ legs no matter how big or small makes the footprints magical.

Yet, a tortuous climb will further move you to a plain where you see a carving on one of the hills that looks like an ark. Due to its semblance of an ark, the carving is nicknamed Noah’s Ark.
If you visit during festivals, you will be home to one of the richest African cultural heritages.

In recent times, MARE festival, a sports/tourism initiative courtesy of Motherland Beckons have being attracting global tourists, investors and world mountain climbers converge at the foot of the hill to dare the towering height in a prized-contest.

Apart from the festivals, the flora and fauna of the hills are also unique. There, special specie of tailless animal called Hyrax will surprise you. Monkeys are also sported near Orosun hills.
The hill also serves as home to a group of bats, as the people hold a unique festival of bats every year.

You may also spot a group of scientists and field researchers, especially now that there is effort at enlisting the hill in World Heritage Site.
Why wait to visit this destination that offers visitors so much on a single visit.

Direction
The hill is located in Idanre Town in Ondo State, a 15-20 minutes drive from Akure the state capital.  It is about five hours drive from Lagos and about six hours from Abuja. It is better to go on a four-wheel drive, especially during rainy season because the roads are not to smooth.

Posted in Nigerian News, Tourism0 Comments

Alluring exposure for business travellers

The art of travelling has been made easy for those travelling to Africa. Booking an accommodation is no longer a problem, thanks to the power of the internet which enables tour operators bring their services closer to globetrotters. The Protea Hospitality Group has signed agreements with three global travel agencies in the past four months, partnering with Agoda.com, Expedia and Gullivers Travel Associates (GTA).

The agreements mean that Protea Hotels and African Pride Hotels will be listed on the agencies’ associated websites, thereby gaining worldwide exposure for all of their establishments across the African continent.

The websites will allow customers to book accommodation with any of Protea’s hotels online. They will also be able to access information related to the hotel chain.

According to Nicholas Barenblatt, group marketing and advertising manager for Protea, the agreements will bode well for the company’s plan to expand further into Africa. “Africa is our stronghold and so expansion has to be done on the continent,“ he said.

Protea already has a presence in eight African countries including Nigeria, Zambia, Namibia and Uganda and is looking to add Angola, Botswana and Mozambique to that list.

Barenblatt further stated the agreements will provide the group with the opportunity to observe how customers engage with the Protea brand in an online environment. Since consumers are more trusting of online portals these days, their task has been made a little easier.

“The agreements we have reached with such diverse global partners are a clear indication that the local hospitality market is both realising its potential and competing equitably on the world stage alongside more established markets,” said Protea sales director Danny Bryer.

Extending Expedia relationship
The first and biggest agreement of the three took place in November 2010 with Expedia, the world’s largest online travel trade company. Protea Hotels and African Pride Hotels are now listed on more than 90 Expedia travel sites.

According to Protea, the group has achieved 100% growth year-on-year with the previous arrangement, and the benefits of the expended deal are apparent after just three months.

Expedia’s global lodging strategic accounts director Christopher Michau said that the agency is pleased to extend its relationship with the South African hotel group.

“Protea Hotels’ footprint in Africa, coupled with their leadership position in the local hospitality industry, makes them a highly desirable partner for Expedia,”

More than 60-million potential travellers visit Expedia’s websites, which are accessible in more than 60 countries and 33 different languages.

Protea will also benefit from Expedia’s experts who can advise the group on online distribution strategies, merchandising and promotions.

Exposure to leisure and business travellers
The most recent agreement – with GTA – will allow tourists to book accommodation with Protea through GTA travel sites worldwide, which will feature more than 120 of the South African hotel group’s properties across the African continent and offer the agency’s global network of leisure and business travellers a range of hotels in Africa to choose from at competitive prices.

GTA has been providing ground travel products and services to role players in the tourism industry for over 30 years. Over 21 000 bookings are made each day for the agency’s 35 000 listed hotels in more than 130 countries. 

Luring Asian travellers
Protea looked to tap into the Asian market by partnering with Asian giants, Agoda.com, in December last year, and now 20 of Protea’s properties are listed on the website. This has also given the company access to Agoda.com’s yield control system propriety software, which allows management to control room inventory, prices, content and promotions.

“This partnership will create more opportunities for Agoda customers to enjoy these popular and unique travel experiences,” said Agoda president Robert Rosenstein.

Some of Protea’s establishments now listed on Agoda include safari lodges at the Kruger National Transfrontier Park and a number of the chic African Pride Hotels in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Steady growth
Now almost 20 years old, the Protea Hotel Group was founded in 1984 with just four properties – two in Cape Town and one each in Johannesburg and on the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal – in its portfolio. It didn’t take long before the group was able to offer accommodation for budgets ranging from three to five stars.

Protea is today the largest African hospitality group in terms of numbers of hotels, and operates in eight countries as Protea Hotels and African Pride Hotels, the luxury division of Protea established in 2001. Travellers in South Africa, Namibia, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda are able to choose from over 100 facilities in major cities, game viewing areas, and the countryside.

Besides offering a home away from home, the company is also involved with the community and has made it compulsory for every hotel as well as head and regional offices to have social investment projects. These include a partnership as sponsor with the Reach for a Dream foundation, which helps children with life-threatening illnesses to fulfil special dreams while there’s still time.

Protea also helps in-service trainees with full tuition fees and, said the company, has managed to retain 90% of graduates to date. Protea’s bursary fund is aimed at trainees at other hotel schools around South Africa, and has contributed nearly R2-million (US$290 000) to the cause.

Posted in Entertainment, Tourism, Uncategorized6 Comments

Ogbunike cave : A world’s wonder in Nigeria

Chuma Onwuegbusi, Onitsha

ONE of the problems of the Blacks, particularly those of Nigerian descent, it is often argued, is that they dwell on negativity.

Nigerians, it is often said, do not celebrate their positive values, particularly their natural endowments.

One of the wonders of this age, according to archeologists, is the Ogbunike Cave in Ogbunike community in Oyi Local Government Area of Anambra State.

It dates back to many centuries. It is as old as history itself.

To people outside the Ogbunike community, the name alone conjures a sort of magic spell in their minds.

The famous Ogba Cave, which is located on the valley of Ikalakwum behind St. Monica’s College, Ogbunike off Enugu – Onitsha Road, attracts hundreds of visitors every month.

The discovery

Just like the archaeologists, hunters usually stumble onto hidden or mysterious objects in the process of carrying out their professional calling.

But this time around, Ukwa, a hunter, did not bargain for the kind of discovery he made. He set out from his home, filled with the greatest expectation and hopeful of the day’s biggest hunt for wild animals. Then came the shock, for he suddenly came face to face with what in his imagination looked abnormal, something clad in immaculate attire. For a moment, his mind drifted from the reality to the unknown; his heart beat failed him, and he stood petrified. Sitting some few metres away from him on an anthill was a weird looking figure of extraordinary size.

The hunter was caught in a vortex of fear, and apparently seeing the state of mind the hunter was, the monster then broke the silence and spoke for the first time, thus allaying his fears.

He made it known to the hunter that his mission was to keep watch over the people of Ogbunike, to ensure their safety in times of war, and to protect them from the pangs of evil.

He pointed towards the valley where the cave was situated as his “Obi”. He told the dumbfounded hunter to visit him again on Eke market day, but warned that on no account must he be accompanied by dogs. For dogs are a taboo to the Ogba Cave even to this day.

The hunter, who heaved a sigh of relief and thankful of being set free, hurriedly ran back to the village where he broke the incredible news to the bewildered villagers.

But the hunter’s woes began when some stray hunters from neighbouring town violated the order on dogs by bringing dogs within the threshold of the cave. Instantly, the dogs were struck dead by unseen hands, and the panic-stricken hunters fled from the scene.

On the appointed Eke market day, the hunter’s party was composed of some brave hunters including his brother, Ebunu from Adegbe village, Ifite. They set off in preparation for their rendezvous with the Ogba.

The excitement of what to expect was beginning to have its effect on the party when their journey was terminated abruptly on reaching the cave entrance. The Ogba appeared before them and reproached the hunter for violating his instructions not to bring dogs to the cave, he told the party that they would never see him again physically unless consulted through an oracle. Instantly, he disappeared from their sight and nobody ever saw him again to this day.

An elder of the town, Ichie Nwoye Oduche, said “My forefather saw the Ogba then physically and he confirmed that he was a wired looking man.”

Exploring the cave

It is pertinent to note that many people in search of excitement, including students, had visited the cave, but only very few have dared to really explore the interior of the cave. Most people, due to fear, just give up along the line.

The exercise of exploring the cave is a vigorous one. One has to strip to one’s underwear, and must be accompanied by a guide or the Chief Priest.

The first object one encounters at the entrance is “Agu Ogba” or Ogba Lion. The stone profile of a lion carved by nature snarls at you, perpetually as you are about to crawl into the opaque tunnels.

After completing this energy-sapping exercise, you come into a wide tunnel which runs through the cave to the “Obi Ogba” or Ogba’s Palace. What looked like room partition of various dimensions can be seen along a wide expanse of area known as “Ilo Ogba” or Ogba Playground. These partitions serve various purposes, there is the giant water falls known as “Mbida Ogba”.

And according to Oduche, “the water falls are powerful enough to operate a hydro electric generating plant.”

The Obi contains stone chairs and tables carefully arranged in their appropriate places by nature.

Said the historian, “the Ogba was believed to have two wives. The first wife, a selfish woman, used to shed tears whenever she eats or cooks”, apparently to stop any “intruder” who may wish to share her food. This is visible in her “Mkpuke” for water keeps dropping ceaselessly on her shrine.

“The second wife,” he said, “was a benevolent woman whose shrines is filled with harmless animals for food.” Her shrine serves as a hunting ground for those who may care.

The dark tunnels of the cave make visibility difficult, you have to grope your way through to a point where there is enough light. One wonders where the daylight comes from and this is the point where the explorer finds time to relax.

The bank of Mbida Ogba or waterfalls is a swampy area and it is very difficult to walk in the quagmire. This is an area where visitors always avoid.

Tunnels

There are so many tunnels in the cave, some wide others narrow, which lead to many points. One of such tunnels is inhabited by dangerous animals and reptile such as boar constrictors, lions, bats etc, but these animals are innocuous. Even the explorer who so desire could kill as many bats as possible, provided you do not take all of them away.

Another tunnel leads to the judgment hall. This is where suspects were brought for judgment. For instance, if the suspect was innocent of the offense, he would be set free immediately, if found guilty, he would be incarcerated for a period of three days. When eventually released, the accuse would be afflicted with leprosy as a mark of guilt.

Another tunnel stretches for about six kilometres and bursts at different locations in the town. An area where a tunnel bursts into surface is known as “Onu Ogba” or Ogba entrance. There is the Onu Ogba at a point beside the Ogbunike Town Hall and another at Adagbe Ifite where the shrine is located and is still visible to this day.

Protection

When the history of Ogbunike Cave is re-written, it shall be remembered as having fulfilled its pledge to protect the people of Ogbunike in times of trouble. It has offered sanctuary to the people, and the stream that flows from the cave is said to posses some spiritual powers. Some religious organisations put it to curative uses.

During the crisis that nearly tore the town to shreds, the Ogba was said to have prevented his children from total disintegration.

This writer had watched in amazement as a blind man regained his sight when the chief priest administered the holy water from the cave to him.

An observer said the state government should not allow this ‘nature’s master piece” which is begging for development over the years to rot away. Efforts, he said, should be geared towards its development as a tourist centre.

In the words of a community leader of the town, “to develop the Ogba into a tourist centre would require huge sums of money and it is beyond the financial resources of our people.”

Posted in Nigerian News, Relocating to Nigeria, Tourism0 Comments

Sukur Kingdom: The forgotten treasure

written by Obinna Emelike

If you are looking for magnificent scenery such as those that can only be imagined or seen on travel magazines or wildlife populated by rare species, a rich avifauna, a fascinating botany and most importantly, a real physical challenge against nature, Sukur Kingdom may be just what you are looking for.

Stuck far away atop one of the highest plains on Mandara Mountains in Madagali Local Government Area of Adamawa State in northeastern Nigeria, the Sukur Kingdom is something to behold. It is the first Nigerian landmark to be listed on the World Heritage Sites, while Osun Osogbo Grove made the list later in 2005.

The cultural landscape with its palace, terraced fields with ritual features and villages whose unchanged settings have survived for many centuries will engaged your strong leisure spirit. These are the features that hyped and made the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to notice and granted World Heritage Status (WHS) to the site in 1999.

The site is among the over 1, 300 sites, including historic buildings, archaeological sites as well as works of “monumental sculpture or painting” have been granted WHS status across the globe.

But it is regrettable that as outstanding as the site is, it is so neglected and unvisited till date.

Despite the fact that making it into the WHS list is a tough job; the host nation is expected to file a dossier spelling out, among others, the “outstanding universal value” of the prospective site as well as a comprehensive plan of how the WHS will be managed in the event that it became one.

Also, a national legislation is usually supposed to back relevant contents of the dossier.

This year, 2011, marks 12 years since Sukur Kingdom was designated a World Heritage Site. Sadly, since over a decade now, the Nigerian delegation (which included Boni Haruna, the then Governor of Adamawa State, top federal politicians, and the Nigerian Commission for Museums and Monuments ‘NCMM’ technocrats) to the UNESCO conference in the Moroccan resort city of Marrakech where it was designated WHS in 1999, seem to have forgotten the promise they made and effort at improving and sustaining the WHS status of the Sukur.

Surprisingly, this Africa’s trailblazer in the “Cultural Landscape” category has not been formally launched by Nigerian authorities. The launch is necessary to usher in management, maintenance and promotions that will attract the world to visit and spend their money in the locality.

As it stands, the breathtaking landscape may not be officially commissioned in years to come as a joint management committee supposed to work towards the launch as well as other matters relating to proper maintenance of this WHS has not yet been formed. The joint management committee’s composition is supposed to include representatives of the NCMM, Adamawa State authorities, Madagali LGA council, the indigenous community, among others.

Of course, less will be achieved in the towering ambition of boosting Nigeria’s tourist arrival with more visits to this somewhat virgin locality, without constituting the joint management committee.

The worse, according to Yaji Ambu, a culture enthusiast and lawyer from Yola, is that the NCMM whose responsibility it is to care for the site is pursuing shadows. “If up till now, the generating set bought with grant sent by UNESCO to lit up the village and the site is not yet installed then when will it work,” he queries. The situation, according to him, questions what the NCMM is doing with UNESCO grants meant for the development and maintenance of Sukur.

In February 2008, a possible inauguration planned for Sukur Tourist Haven, Rugudum was aborted because of lack of political will, while again in 2009 a similar attempt was nipped at the bud because Jibrin Gada, the then minister of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, did not show up.

These unsuccessful attempts query the calibre, qualification and commitment of these government personnel at delivering the tourism mandate placed on their care.

It also calls for more participation of the private sector as Olubode Martins, a tourism practitioner, notes that government grip on tourism is bane of tourism development in the country. “Go and learn how South Africa churns out dollars from its World Heritage Sites. They contract out its management, promotion, maintenance to the private sector that has competence on such issues,” he discloses.

In defense of government bureaucracy that has held down the site from making marks, Joseph Eboreime, one time director general of NCMM, says that comfortable relaxation spots will have to be thrown in, and the guesthouse under construction in Sukur Kingdom by Nigeria’s NCMM’ authorities completed before this WHS could be formally opened. But since his retirement in 2009, the site is still as it was when the comments were fresh, some stakeholders in the tourism industry argue.

More also, it takes an average of two hours to climb the 3,040 feet above sea level to get atop Sukur Kingdom. The towering height and the stress of climbing call for infrastructure like lift. But no electricity yet to power any climbing facilities as the locality is yet to be electrified.

The worse hit is the Sukur community. The expected revenue from tourists that will be used to bring modernity to the kingdom is nowhere. Social infrastructure, especially electricity, is still a promise, while educational and health facilities a joke.

It is no longer images but realities of neglect everywhere in Sukur. And abandoning this site to rot, considering the trouble, the time, money and energy the country exerted in getting it enlisted into UNESCO WHS list, every hand should be on deck to get things rolling for tourists to flow in their millions.

But if the situation persists, Nigeria may not be able to push for another site to be enlisted in WHS because the country is yet to maintain the two already existing sites.

 

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The different worlds of Kuramo and Oniru Beach

It is the tale of two beaches from Emmanuel Onyeche who visited Kuramo and Oniru Private Beach. He writes that though they are just metres apart, their vision and mode of operation place them in two different worlds.

The echo of a loud shout from Oniru Private Beach would be heard at Kuramo Beach. These

two beaches, located along the shore line of the Atlantic Ocean in high brow Victoria Island, promise lots of fun and entertainment to their visitors.

But that is where the comparison ends. Oniru – very private and exclusive – offers serenity and protection to its upper class visitors while Kuramo – chaotic, untidy and unsafe – continues to wallow in the notoriety it created for itself with its swarming presence of cheap prostitutes and criminals.

To cross over to Oniru from Kuramo, one would need to first scale the hurdle of money and security. Oniru collects a gate fee of a minimum of N1000 per person. This amount could be up to N4000 when a show is being hosted there like the one popular musicians, Tuface Idibia and MI the rapper participated in last Christmas Eve. Quite a number of security personnel and bouncers at Oniru are also ready to embarrass any intruder.

Even if the struggling average guy manages to sneak into Oniru from Kuramo, he would need to be careful as the charges could burst his pocket. Bottled beer is not allowed at Oniru and each can beer costs N300.

To sit under a canopy with four chairs and a table, one would need to pay N1,500 exclusive of the drinks and food. Also, the bottled spirits – wines, whisky and champagne – are quite expensive and they are even much more so depending on the exclusivity and popularity of the bar where you drink them.

At G12 – a popular and highly patronized bar – you would need as much as N11,000 for a bottle of Moet Chandon – a popular champagne. VSOP brand of Hennesy costs N10,000 while the ‘Ox‘ brand can go for as much as N50,000. G12 is so popular that it was declared the best youth hang out in 2010 at Dynamix awards. Dynamix organization publishes a youth magazine. Mr. Daniel Ekaragha who works at Oniru says a group at a table in G12 can sometimes spend hundreds of thousands of naira in a few hours. Dagrin, a popular musician who is now late is said to have cut his musical teeth at G12

But it is a bar called D-Block, owned by one of the princes of Oniru, that is the most exclusive. Mr Ayo Alele who also works at Oniru says you can have your pockets bursting with money and still be refused entry at D-Block. Other notable bars are The Royale, Hi, Arisco, Handyz, Tommy and Ekaabo.

Food at Oniru is also different from what obtains at Kuramo where several local restaurants offer local varieties from N50 and above depending on what one can afford. At Oniru, Lolac restaurant, said to be owned by an unnamed wife of a celebrity, handles the popular local varieties like pounded yam, ‘fufu‘, ‘amala‘ with assorted meat and soup and you need a minimum of N700 to eat there. Lolac is said to operate a branch in the United Kingdom.

Different Babacue fish stands at the different bars also cost between N1,300 and N3000. Shawama hot dog costs N800 for the single and as much as N1,200 for the double. The fish is exclusively croaker and it is grilled and garnished.

There are also lots of summer huts owned by the same people who own the bars and they are rented out to people.

For all these, a clean and tidy beach front awaits the visitor at Oniru which is quite a big contrast to what happens when Kuramo where cheap prostitutes rent a space that is the size of a dining table‘s top for N500 a day and ask for as low as N300 for few minutes of sex.

A source who did not want his name mentioned says that many of these prostitutes are under age girls who are regularly made pregnant by men old enough to be their daddies and uncles.

At Kuramo, the beach front is an eyesore and it is nothing to be shocked about to see people defecating openly there. To lie down on the beach sand at Kuramo is akin to a big risk. Kuramo is also home to lots of homeless Lagosians whose kids are seen running over the entire beach and getting enmeshed in the quagmire.

Kuramo is also said to be the hideout of criminals who are always close to where there are prostitutes.

Pastor Adamson Orioye who operates a church said he had been at Kuramo for over a year and his regular members were not yet 10. He said his possible converts at Kuramo preferred a church where they could go and worship and still have the freedom to engage in their wrong doings.

He nevertheless said he would not relent in his effort to win souls at Kuramo as he had been called to do so.

Business goes on all day at Kuramo but at Oniru, if you are not in by 12 pm, entry is restricted but once you are in, you can leave when you like.

“The special thing about Oniru is that you enjoy the regular services of a night club but this time at the beach,” says Ekaragha.

Women of easy virtue are also found at Oniru but they are said to be the ones in a special class that can pay the gate fee and buy the expensive items on their own while waiting to catch the man of their dream.

At Kuramo and Oniru however, smoking Indian hemp seemed to be a common occurrence as it is done openly with no one bothered about it.

Posted in Entertainment, Relocating to Nigeria, Tourism1 Comment

Fela Anikulapo Kuti: Nigeria’s hidden Tourist Attraction

Great Fela in action, the pioneer of Afro Beat, multi-instrumentalist, original choreographer, greater than the Beatles, bigger than the Rolling Stones and uniquely Nigerian. Lets celebrate him. Elvis Presley the King of Rock n Roll is celebrated in the US.

Today Graceland where he lived before he died is a National landmark, second most recognizable private house in the USA and also a multi million dollar income producing Museum.

Graceland was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on November 7, 1991. On March 27, 2006, Gale Norton, the then United States Secretary of the Interior, designated Graceland a National Historic Landmark—joining the White House.

In 1977 Fela’s Kalakuta Republic was destroyed by the then Military Junta on the grounds that the enclave was a cannabis joint. Kalakuta would have been a bigger money spinner than Graceland, it had a recording studio, it had a free health clinic, it was a spiritual home for many, even when he was still alive, you can only imagine what It would have been now, if it was still in existence, a Tourist Heaven generating Millions of Naira for the Government. Anyway, that was the past. Fela still has a following both home and abroad.

 Let the Nigerian Tourism Board maximize this opportunity to really kick start our Tourism industry.

Posted in Tourism1 Comment

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Posted in Education, Entertainment, Housing, Investments, Jobs, Relocating to Nigeria, Tourism25 Comments

Obudu Mountain Resort: Nigeria’s best kept secret

ObuduObudu has increasingly become popular among tourists and event planners from all around Nigeria. Though, local travel companies are yet  to fully respond to this phenomenon by increasing the range of services they offer, which could help Nigeria’s best kept secret assume its position by attracting even more travellers.

 
 

At the moment, visitors come from Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and a few international travellers. Travellers to the ranch, now christened Obudu Mountain Resort by the management company [African Sun Hotels] following the upgrade of facilities by the owner, the Cross River State Government.

Today, Obudu Mountain Resort under African Sun Hotels is working with several travel companies that are now offering virtually all types of travel services; ranging from educational and entertainment tours, conferences and eco-tourism, just to name a few.

 Obudu Mountain Resort, which had hosted prominent event such as ‘Gulder Ultimate Search’, is set in few weeks to also hosts’ world’s most enduring and famous ‘Mountain Race’ (Obudu Mountain Race) that has brought prominent runners from around the world.It is quite possible that in the near future, arrivals may double with plans being worked out by African Sun Hotels, not only for local, but also tourists from abroad will increase in numbers to enjoy the fascinating aura, serenity and tranquility of the surrounding beautiful hills that seems more ideal for the strong and fit alone, but the addition of the second longest cable car in the world and a world class water park on the foot of the mountain are all clear indication that the resort is for everyone.

Like a British resident in Nigeria, Ian Hunter who was returning from is first visit to the resort aptly puts it, “Obudu is Nigeria’s best kept secret” Noting further, “the resort, is a true gem of Nigeria.”

Since the upgrade of the accommodation facilities at the resort, Obudu is becoming increasingly recognized and respected on the national and international scene, and it is no surprise that Obudu Mountain Resort and Cross River State have been hosting a number of various regional and international meetings and symposia, just as more business and leisure tourists are visiting the resort and the state, and you may find yourself becoming one of them.

With well over a 160 accommodation categories, made up of standard rooms, executives, huts and chalets to a presidential apartment, amidst its extreme eco-tourism potentials, there’s more than enough space for other activities. Admirers of eco-tourism and adventure, bored by comfort of the hotel accommodations could easily get busy with a ride down the hill on the cable car and indulge in some water sports.

One of the greatest assets of the resort is its sustainable tourism practice that gives priority to the interest of its host communities. For instance, the local communities that are largely farmers and cattle rearers supply some of the ingredients used at the resort. This guarantees steady income for those that are not fully employed by the resort.

Managed by one of Africa’s most respected hospitality chain, African Sun Hotels of Zimbabwe, the chain is obviously redefining franchising and management landscape in Nigeria. Besides, the Obudu Mountain Resort, the chain is currently running Amber Tinapa, and Utanga Safari Lodge all in Cross River State, Nike Lake Resort, Enugu and Holiday Inn Accra Airport, Ghana, the hotel that hosted the Obama’s during their historic visit to Africa.

In less than three weeks, once again, the management skill of African Sun will be put to test again, as Amber Tinapa, Calabar and Nike Lake Resort, Enugu will host eight teams participating in the coming FIFA U17 World Cup holding from October 24_Novemeber 15, 2009.

However, few months after taking over, African Sun Hotels, with the approval of the Cross River State Government is showing commitment at ensuring that the resort gives lasting experience to both visitors and locals. The determination also goes with the change of name from Obudu Cattle Ranch to Obudu Mountain Resort.

The change in name only applied to the resort, whilst the rest part of the community that were hitherto in a single package remains. The cattle and honey businesses remains very much alive.

Seating on the altitude of 1,575.76 metres above sea level, the resort has a temperature of between 26°C to 32°C between November and January, and the nights are cool to cold during this period. Meanwhile, the lowest temperature ranges of 4°C to 10°C are recorded between June and September, which is the rainy season.

Warm clothes, raincoat and water boots for hiking in rainy season are important companion when visiting Obudu Mountain Resort.

Written by Jimoh Babatunde

Posted in Tourism0 Comments

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Tourism

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Our Experts in this sub-sector will aim to showcase the numerous beautiful tourist destinations in Nigeria.

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