By Onwukamike & Eno Louis Enobakhere
Every Easter Monday, the historic importance of Lokoja, the colonial capital of Nigeria is re-enacted as indigenes of the State, via-a-vis politicians, technocrats top military brass and corporate citizens congregate atop popular Mount Patti.
According to the Times of London in its edition of January 8, 1897 (a few days before Oba Ovonramwen of Benin Kingdom was taken to Calabar after the punitive expedition) ,Sir Goldie left England on December 4 and reached Lokoja, the Military capital of the Niger Company on New Year’s Day.
That settlement in the Northern fringe of Nigerian by the Niger Delta company inaugurated the historical and political interference with indigenous administrative systems by the British invading exploiters.
Interestingly as it were, it is also atop this 1,500 miles above sea level mount Patti, a point from where one can get an artistic view of where Niger and Benue rivers come together to form the Niger Delta that emptied into the ocean and thus define our great country, Nigeria that Mungo Park, the acclaimed discoverer of the Niger was conquered.
So, the yearly retreat to Mount Patti every Easter is both symbolic as it is ritualistic. It’s symbolism lies in the fact that just as Christ died and rose on Easter Sunday and through his resurrection guarantee salvation and freedom to humanity, such retreat to the mountain in all its ritualistic paraphernalia re- affirms the people’s joy in their new lease of life through political and economic freedoms.
Lokoja is also important in another great sense. It was in this great town that the British flag, Union Jack replaced the Niger Company’s flag on 1 st January, 1900. And also,Lugard, Nigeria’s first Governor General assumed office in the city of Lokoja.
But Nigeria’s centenary celebration is next year 2014. And as usual the streets of Abuja will be lined up with masquerades, girls in skimpy skirts, school children lining the routes … But, where does Lokoja, the cradle of great Nigerian story come in?
Given the historic place of Lokoja in Nigeria’s history, the question is now asked: what is the place of this historic city in the planned 2014 centenary celebration by the Federal government?
It is our thinking that the whole idea behind this celebration is to wake up those places that the county’s rich and dynamic history took places. Come 2014, Abuja will become part of this history. But viewed carefully, one can argue that the city of Abuja is too young now to be the centrifugal force for such a celebration.
Does this sound controversial? Yes, I love controversy. It makes the world go round.
Viewed from all angles, Lokoja is, if not one of the fit places , the most appropriate place to host this national party. First, its geographical location is very excellent and provides the needed conjugal environment for this kind of show.
Staged atop’this historic mount Patti, spectators like people sitting on a theatre stage will eternally savour from the arresting beauty of Benue and Niger confluence as different carnival floats regale the audience with unmatched displays.
Given also the importance of Lokoja, telecommunication giants like MTN and Glo can come in to make hosting of centenary in Lokoja a dream come through. With their partnership with State government, it will be possible for an exhibition of the nation’s rich arts and culture to be hosted and in this way help open up Mount Patti and the entire state as another significant tourist destination point.
This is also the time that parastatals of culture like National Institute of Hospitality and Tourism should make the states to feel the impact of budget allocations to their sectors and stop behaving as if the budgets are only meant to run for Abuja activities.
Beyond configuring Lokoja into the Centenary routes, there is also nothing wrong with the President making Lokoja a kind of Camp Davies, Nigerian version of American President’s retreat home. After all, Abuja is home for the Ministries and parastatals and also the chaos that accompanies such environs.
Receiving important dignitaries atop Mount Patti and having dinner with them there with a view of the confluence, the very heart of Nigeria will leave a lasting memory and impression in their minds.