Calabar, which is now one of the leading tourist cities in Nigeria, was once a destination of no return for slaves captured from the South-Eastern and South-South parts of Nigeria, writes Adaeze Anaekwe after an eye–opening visit….
Recently, students of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, under the auspices of the Pearls of African Society, Sciences, Education and Development (PASSED), a Pan-African movement, got to hear of Calabar’s history during a recent visit to the “Canaan City”.
As a Pan-African movement, PASSED is geared towards the development and preservation of the African culture, and the emancipation of Africans from the shackles of mental enslavement and the “white supremacy syndrome”. It is committed to the development of Africa, just as her motto states, “… in the service of African civilization.” PASSED, which was founded in 2002, now has several branches and affiliates across Nigeria and the Diasporas, and with several intellectuals as facilitators and patrons, such as Dr. Nnanna Onuoha Arukwe a senior lecturer of Sociology and Anthropology, UNN.
The UNN chapter of the organisation, embarks on annual tours to historical places across Nigeria, including the ancient and historic town of Badagry in Lagos state. The choice of the ancient city of Calabar for this yer’s tour was symbolic. This symbolism lies in the historical connection of the beautiful city with the tragic story of the inglorious human trade that left in its wake an ugly scar in the psyche of the black man the world over.
The choice of the location was not a mistake, as the atmosphere made visitors feel at home.
Receiving the students to Calabar was Richmond, an official tour guide. The tour began at Tinapa Resort. Tinapa was initiated by Governor Donald Duke and commissioned on April 2, 2007, as a way to boost business and tourism in the state.
It has a shopping centre of quality retail outlets, a games arcade for kids, a waterpark which comprises adult and children-sized pools, exciting water games, breath-taking slides, a lazy river, the ultra-modern Tinapa film studio, the fisherman’s wharf , the exquisite Lakeside Hotel and other exciting attraction centre to its credit.
We were taken round Marina resorts which housed the Slave History Museum and other relaxation centres such as Totugal Island, bars, clubs, games room and so on. The dark enclave museum formally a baracoon building (a building made of woods for slaves) served as a hub for slave transaction that began in 1441.
The slaves were kept in the baracoon building like “ice fish” to emaciate before the next shipment. Our guide, took us from one chamber to the other. It was a delicate and emotional journey into a past of sorrows and tears, reflecting man’s inhumanity to man.
In a voice laden with emotion, we were showed a chamber where we saw a replica of the ships used to transport the slaves. We were enveloped in the dark, but the lighting and other special effects helped captured the evil of slavery in bold relief.
There were effigies of slaves arranged in the make-believe ship. Their heads and legs barely showed. They were arranged, one atop the other to avoid conspiracy against their master.
The most poignant moment in the slave voyage through the history museum was the dramatization of the process of auctioning slaves to the Americans, each slave was sold to the highest bidder with an inscription on their back. Made from a hot red iron, it was for the purpose of identification.
This cruelty was also dramatically enacted. As the slaves were being branded in the drama, screams in Efik language rent the air with the words, “Ekpa pa mi o!” I found those words unbearable and highly emotional. The words sounded like the Yoruba Language of the Southwest of Nigeria “Won pa mi o!”
The meaning of this painful cry is “They have killed me o” in English Language. With these words from dying slaves tears rolled down my cheeks. I left the museum more educated but saddened.
Tortugal Island, on the other hand, is the exact opposite of the museum as it is a place meant for honeymooning lovers while Marina resort is always open until the last customer leaves.
The building originally known as the government house was prefabricated in Britain in 1884 and erected in Old Calabar to accommodate the early British administration of the Niger Coast territory. The building which was the official residence of Lord Lugard where he stayed to administer the Southern Protectorate is still a sight to behold after over 100 years of its existence.
After 1914, it became the official residence of the Old Calabar province. And after the Nigerian civil war, it accommodated offices of the New South Eastern State of Nigeria. The building which still has its wooden structure was declared a national monument No. 20 in 1959 and was renovated by the National Commission for Museum and Monument in 1986.
We arrived at the formerly known Obudu Cattle Ranch late at night and were welcomed by the cold weather. According to our tour guide, “the ranch is the semi-temperate mountain climate, which is the general weather condition experienced on the Obudu Plateau due to its altitude.”
The ranch which is presently known as the Obudu Mountain Resort is founded on the Obudu Plateau Close to the Cameroon border in the North Eastern part of Cross River state in Nigeria. The ranch was first discovered by Mr. McCaughley, a Scot in 1949 and in conjunction with Mr. Hugh and Mr. Crawfield developed the Obudu Cattle Ranch.
We rode in the cable car from the tropical climate at the base of the mountain right to the hotel’s reception area on the mountainside which is often in the clouds and is accompanied by an invigorating drop in temperature.
The ranch provides accommodation in the form of African-themed round huts and chalets on stilts maximizing the breathtaking views. It has a 2 – bedroom Governor Lodge, Presidential Villa, Terrace Restaurant and Bar with a cozy and relaxing atmosphere made complete by the blazing log of fire. Obudu is really a place to be for those in doubt about the beauty of Nigeria. Lectures were given amidst the tours from students and facilitators. Performances were also done to ease the atmosphere from musicians and artistes such as Rino, Smario, I Go Dye, Risky Jolly and a host of others.
The tour was an exciting and educating experience.