Today, we are featuring Unravelling Nigeria; one of our favourite sites for everything tourism related in Nigeria. Lola, the founder of Unravelling Nigeria, organises unique tours and basically unravels everything touristy in Nigeria. Sincerely, sometimes a lot of us give up on tourism in Nigeria but Lola's unwavering passion brings us so much hope. She recently visited an untapped tourist destination in Nigeria, specifically Kogi State, and we caught up with her to part with some of her cherished moments with us, whilst educating us on why Kogi should be on our travel list.
Kogi state is one of the 36 states in Nigeria soaked in history, nature and more. Unfortunately, it isn’t one of the places that’s promoted as a major tourist attraction in the country.
Unravelling Nigeria is always trying to push the envelope and do more than the norm, so we decided to organise a tour to Kogi. Kogi state was very important in playing a role in what Nigeria is today and you’ll see that as you continue reading.
The plan was simple, take a long weekend as it’s one hell of a journey. This way, people wouldn’t be too tired from the journey and everyone would have ample time to explore each of the tourist attraction.
We set out over the democracy day weekend from Lagos, by road. Now this journey was meant to take about 6 hours but due to unforeseen circumstances aka a rally that was going on, we ended up spending 10 hours on the road. YES GUYS, 10 SOLID HOURS!. Welcome to Nigeria...
We slept, played games, ate, slept some more, got harassed by a drunk soldier but we made it to Lokoja, finally. We lodged at Saatof which was a sight for sore eyes after a very long trip. We tried to have drinks at the hotel bar but we were all too tired so after one drink, we all retired to our rooms. However, some us decided to go check out the Lokoja clubs. It was an amusing experience.
Saatof hotel and suites Lokoja
The next day we woke up bright and early and started our sightseeing.
First stop was Mount Patti. We arrived at 6:50am ready to conquer this famous historical landmark. Why is Mount Patti famous? Well....Lord Lugard’s wife, Flora Shaw, who was standing on the mountain and gazing at the river Niger & Benue coined the name ‘Nigeria’ loosely translated into ‘Niger Area’. So, Mount Patti was the location where our country was named. Trippy right?
We had been told that apart from being a tourist attraction/a hiker’s paradise, people who subscribe to the team fit-fam way of life also go there. Well this information was correct as we saw people jogging up the sharp hairpin trail. We couldn’t believe it. There we were trying to carry ourselves up this steep mountain and people were casually jogging. Those people were the real MVPs.
As we trudged on to the top, we realized the views along the way were second to none. Unlike other mountains in Nigeria where you have to get to the top to enjoy views, Mount Patti gives you a panoramic view of the town from every corner.
We noticed a church as we climbed the hill and before long we were at the top. We were so happy when we made it. We took customary pictures in front of the statues of Lord Luggard and his side chick wife, tried to climb into his office as it was locked and just enjoyed the views.
It was breathtaking as we could see most of Lokoja from the top with River Niger and Benue reflecting perfectly against the sun.
On reaching the top of the mountain, we saw Lord Lugard’s office and rest house. Again, these are prime reasons why Mount Patti is a must visit when you visit Lokoja.
Unravelling Nigeria | Lord Lugard’s office and rest house
There was also an NTA office on the hill and some other random buildings. After our mini photo shoot and taking in the views, we headed back down.
I would just like to state here that some people opt to drive up Mount Patti but where’s the fun in that?
We got to the bottom and continued our tour of Lokoja. We visited the Lokoja club which was established in 1901 but there wasn’t much to see there or do as it was still early in the morning.
Our next stop was the cemetery. You might be wondering, why visit a cemetery? Well, this one is special because it’s the largest cemetery in Nigeria for European soldiers/African missionaries. That makes it a pretty important cemetery if you ask me.
European soldiers/African missionaries cemetary
We met a couple of people who tried to give us the run around and told us we would have to get permission from the tourism board, however one other man simply told us ‘walk to the side, the fence is broken and you’ll get in’. That was it, we followed his instructions and we were in. :)
European soldiers/African missionaries cemetery
It was so amazing to see the graves of all these foreign soldiers on our soil but it was a damn shame to see how unkept it was. Broken headstones, over grown weeds, goats roaming around and more made it such a tragedy. I imagined that in other countries, it would be well kept and family members would come lay wreaths from time to time. Maybe memorials could also be held periodically but alas, this is Nigeria.
After being disappointed with no ghosts popping up, we headed to the Museum of colonial history. Due to the importance of Lokoja in Nigeria’s history, this museum houses all the timelines and original pictures of the colonial times. Upon arrival we were duly informed that because it was Sunday, the museum was closed but after a bit of back and forth we were given a tour.
Museum of colonial history Lokoja
The museum had no light so we had to use the torches on our phones to see what was on display. This again saddened our hearts as we couldn’t understand why this place wasn’t being properly maintained. I mean, so much information but it was being managed poorly. To think it’s referred to as a national museum is sad!.
Museum of colonial history Lokoja
Lunch was the next on our agenda and we dug into some yummy pounded yam at a beach. After lunch we were ready for the main attraction of our visit to Lokoja; River Niger and Benue.
We had promised a boat ride on it with navy officers and it was time to make good on that promise. We got to the docks wore our seat belts and we got on the boats. This for me was the highlight. If you’re familiar with the Nigerian map you’ve seen the ‘y’ that goes across it and we got to see the spot. Being on this famous river was so exciting and an experience we will forever cherish. It was everything and more.
The naval officer told us that this river could take us to other states and showed us the difference between river Niger and Benue. One was dirtier than the other, saltier, more ‘vicious’ etc. He then decided to give us a treat by taking us to Gbobe village which is on the other side of both rivers. We walked round this small village and we were shown the first Anglican Church in Northern Nigeria. (Guys do you need any more convincing on how awesome Lokoja is?).
The first Anglican Church in Northern Nigeria
We entered the church and had a mini praise and worship session. It was only right as it was a Sunday and now we can all lay claim to having worshipped in the first church on that side of the country.
We walked around some more, met villagers and then it was time to head back. We were tired but so happy with all we had done.
We made a quick stop at the Lokoja Cenotaph to take pictures. This is in memory of Nigerians and Africans who fought in World War 1. It was so neat and well taken care of. I’m guessing this is because the soldiers see it as their own and make sure it’s always neat. They also don’t take kindly to seeing people there so you literally have to be in and out.
Unravelling Nigeria | Lokoja Cenotaph
Memorabilia such as three heavy artillery guns can be found there with the names of all the soldiers inscribed onto a plaque on one of the guns and on Remembrance Day every year, a march past is held there.
The world war Cenotaph, Lokoja
Our day finally ended with us back at the hotel and having dinner. A couple of us headed to the pool and just hung out there till it got very late and headed to bed.
The next morning, we woke up had breakfast and hopped on the bus back to Lagos. On the way we decided to stop at the Federal University of Technology Akure to see the zoo and also give us a chance to stretch our legs. A couple of hours later, we were back in Lagos, said our good byes and left with our memories and pictures!.
Final thoughts on touring Lokoja
Lokoja deserves its day in the sun beside the must visited states in Nigeria. Ofcourse a lot of maintenance and revamping is needed but My God if done properly, it would be the star of the country. Heck tours should be held there every independence day to remind people of how far we’ve come.
With the tourist attractions, the possibilities are endless. Telescopes on mount patti, a guided tour in Lugard’s office, an ‘X’ marks the spot to show exactly where Flora Shaw stood when she named the country and more.
Also the logistics of getting to Lokoja need to be easier. Another way to approach it is flying to Abuja and driving down as that cuts the travel time.
We barely scratched the surface with all the places we visited and I can’t wait to go back and unravel more places. Till then, why not check out Lokoja for yourself and tell us what you think.
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