Large statues of Lugard and his wife on Mount Patti
Mount Patti in Lokoja is a major tourist attraction today. It was also the place from which Ms. Flora Shaw looked down and coined the name Nigeria. Our correspondent reports on the untapped tourist potential and the history it carries on its back.
Kogi state as a whole and Lokoja in particular, is unarguably endowed with many fascinating historical, cultural and tourists’ sites having once served as the administrative headquarters during the British Colonial era.
Lokoja is home to a couple of historical and tourist sites such as the World War Cenotaph, the European Cemetery, the Cemetery of deposed northern emirs, the Iron of Liberty and Lord Lugard’s administrative office, amongst others.
Unfortunately, the tourist potential of most of these tourists site are yet to be fully harnessed and maximized by successive governments in the state.
Mount Patti happens to be one of the finest and perhaps, the most interesting tourists’ sites which any first-timer to Lokoja, the Kogi State capital would like to savour.
An adventurous climb to the top of Mount Patti which is about 1,500 feet or 458.3 meters above sea level would be a worthwhile experience for a visitor to the ancient town of Lokoja.
One interesting thing about this tourist site is its serene ambience and clement weather that both welcome you as you journey to the top.
Normally, the prevailing weather condition within Lokoja town is hot but a visit to Mount Patti offers a sharp contrast as the thick lush vegetation along with the rocky hills, give off cool breeze all year round.
The snaky road and many sharp turns that lead to the top of Mount Patti are such a grandeur to behold as you walk uphill.
As one begins the journey to Mount Patti from the entrance gate, a boulevard of gigantic and flourishing Gmelina trees on both sides welcome the visitor with an aura of serenity and calmness.
However, an expedition on Mount Patti can be fun but definitely not a tea party.
Those that have phobia for height dare not contemplate an expedition on Mount Patti.
The journey from the foot of the mountain to the peak is averagely about five kilometres but it takes those who are healthy and fit to dare.
Only strong motorbikes and healthy cars with experienced riders/drivers can make it safely to the top.
After an arduous upward journey, you walk into the embrace of an amazing plain and refreshingly cool weather at the mountain top.
From peak of the mount, Lokoja town is simply alluring as its many houses could be seen spread out like sand on the seashore.
A visitor, while trudging his way up Mount Patti is usually treated to melodious chirping of birds from the lush vegetation and plantation.
Sitting gracefully on top of Mount Patti is a structure known as ‘Lord Lugard’s Rest House,’ said to have been built around 1900.
Lord Lugard, the then Governor General of Nigeria was said to have used the ‘Rest House’ as a relaxation spot after his day’s activities.
It was also learnt that Lugard equally used the vantage position of Mount Patti as a surveillance post to observe all activities going on in Lokoja and its environs.
“The story was told that the first time he, Lugard, went up Mount Patti to see things for himself, he was convinced beyond words that it was a pretty good place. That was how he went on to build a rest house for himself on the mountain. A tourism expert, Mr Joseph Olowo said, “On arrival at Lokoja, Lord Lugard was thrilled by the spectacle now called Mount Patti. In the first place, the temperature at such height is cool. But more than that, the mountaintop offered him a good view of the great rivers Niger and Benue and their confluence. From there, he could monitor the movement of boats and trading activities on the rivers.
“That rest house is still there till today. And so, he is credited to have developed Mount Patti, a place which can still mint money for the country if we give it the due attention it deserves.”
Also at the top of Mount Patti are statues of Lord Lugard and his wife, Flora.
Inside the rest house, one could still see the framed photo of Lugard and his wife, Flora, as well as the furniture they used then.
Mount Patti is said to have once served as a place of refuge for its earliest inhabitants whom the colonial administrators sent down to the Niger valley. ‘Patti’, is a Nupe word which means hill.
Flora Shaw was said to have coined the name ‘Nigeria’ (Niger-area) from the top this mount, while working as a foreign journalist during the colonial era. She later got married to Lord Lugard.
The wooded height of the hill gives a visitor a vantage position to view the scenic plain surrounding the ancient town of Lokoja.
One fascinating thing on Mount Patti is the presence of a big baobab tree which is said to have lived for several centuries.
It was learnt that visitors and tourists that came to visit Lugard at the mountain usually inscribed their names and signatures on the baobab tree before seeing him.
The tree which stands almost adjacent Lugard’s rest house, has some inscribed names both foreign and local.
Names such as Salam, Waid, Mozus, Malcolm, Keats, Jefferson, Akpan, Labaran, Bayo, Jide and Ahmed, amongst others could be found engraved on the tree.
But away from its colonial glory, the tree has taken another significance. Over time, spiritualists and herbalists, have attached some “mythical value” to the tree and now perform some sacrifices there.
Beyond tourism and sacrifices
Apart from its tourism potentials, Mount Patti also has a large expanse of arable land which farmers are utilising for agricultural purposes.
Crops such as maize, cassava, groundnuts and vegetables are cultivated on the mountain.
Given the vantage height of the mountain, some telecommunications companies and broadcast media outfits have mounted their masts on it for better signals and wider network coverage.
As at today, three media outfits namely NTA Lokoja, Confluence Cable Television and Radio Kogi are transmitting right from top of Mount Patti.
But there are however, concerns from people over the manner this great tourists’ site has been left unharnessed by government over the years.
Although the administration of former governor Idris Wada carried out some works to restore the site, more work is however needed to make the place a real tourists’ hub.
The mount, which many believe has the capacity to generate millions in revenues for the government if properly developed as a standard tourists’ site, is currently generating no kobo.
Daily Trust reports that despite the unharnessed nature of the place, many Lokoja residents and other visitors to the ancient town have been flocking there daily.
It was observed that a large number of Lokoja residents and their families climb to the top of Mount Patti every Saturday morning mostly to exercise and keep fit.
Some visitors to the mount described the place as a ‘great tourists’ site that must be fully developed by government.
Badamasi Olalekan, a youth corps member said it was his first time of climbing the mount and that he was amazed by what he saw.
“Even though I used to hear about Mount Patti, I didn’t know it is such a wonderful place. At least I had some fun. I’m a youth corps member serving in Lokoja. With this, Nigeria’s future is bright,” he said.
“I expect government to make this place more attractive for people coming here by putting some recreational facilities in place here. Government can put some gardens in place for people to relax and savour the beauty of this serene environment. Besides, this place can generate revenue for government if properly developed,” he said.
Ikechukwu Ugwuoke, from Enugu State who also climbed Mount Patti said: “It’s been wonderful! I have met a lot of people and it’s been fun. I believe government could utilize this place to generate more funds for the state. They can collect a little token from people coming to the mountain and use it to develop the place. This place can also be used to create employment for the teeming unemployed youth if properly developed.”
Linda Kuku, who said it was her fourth time visiting thinks a lot more could have been done.
“This place is very interesting but more could have been done in this place because this is a tourist attraction and some recreational facilities need to be put in place for people to relax.
“The place is very beautiful and I would encourage other people to come here. Coupled with the fact that when you come to the top of the mount, the weather you have is quite different from the weather you experience in Lokoja town. The weather here is friendly and if government can make this place more beautiful, it would be nice,” she said.
Miss Jenifa Martins, who was climbing the mountain for the 7th time said, “I exercise here, I meet a lot of people I have not met in ages. That is one of the reasons I come to this place. This place is supposed to be a place of leisure and creativity. I think if a wild life park is built here, it would be wonderful and would contribute to the growth of the state’s economy in terms of revenues.”
Meanwhile, the Director General, Kogi State Buraeu of Information Services and Grassroots Sensitisation, Mr Abdulkarim Abdulmalik said the state government was working hard harness the potential of the site.
“We are working towards making it hub; a destination for tourist. And part of the effort is a comprehensive restructuring of Radio Kogi’s Broadcasting House, which is on Mount Patti. It has reached an advanced stage.
“The government is also working on an alternative road to Mount Patti. We are seriously working on that. The government has also decided to revoke all the land on Mount Patti which were allegedly allocated to government officials by past administrations. We intend to build a five-star hotel there.
“We are not getting a dime from the place now but after restructuring, it will generate revenues for the state.
“Beyond Mount Patti, there are other tourists’ attraction in the state which the government is working on. Kogi State is supposed to be a tourists’ destination and therefore, government is putting it on the front burner of development”, he said. (Daily Trust)
Large statues of Lugard and his wife on Mount Patti