Obangogo hill: Protector of Kabba people
Kabba, the headquarters of the Yoruba speaking people of Kogi State in the North Central Nigeria, has a rich culture and tradition synonymous with those of their kiths and kins in the southwest part of the country, where the Yoruba can be found. Apart from this, the town has a history of wars and invasion by external forces, particularly, the Nupes, who invaded the community with the aim of taking the people into captivity.
Whenever the invasion happened, the people of the community had one place they usually ran to for protection and that was the Obangogo hill. The hill served as a safe haven for Kabba people and protected them from being attacked and taken away by the Nupes. History also has it that Obangogo was not a place of refuge for only Kabba people during such invasion, neighbouring communities like Ogidi also benefitted from the sacred protection of the hills when the community was equally invaded.
The Obangogo mountain, according to history, was formed as a result of volcanic eruption dated thousand of years ago. This igneous rock, which is geographically located on a longitude of 176638.210E, Latitude of 857813.110N, is about 4.8 kilometres flight distance from the main highway of Kabba – Okene and has an elevation (summit) of 615.50 metres above the sea level. The hill is about 200 meters taller than the famous Mount Patti (Where Lord Lugard and Flora Shaw coined the name Nigeria) in Lokoja, making it the second tallest mountain in Kogi State after the famous Oke-Esa in Idagbon of Ikowo-opa in Owe land which is the highest mountain in the present Kogi state. Standing on top of Obangogo, one can view Osara, Okene and parts of Lokoja metropolis that are several kilometres away.
Obangogo comprises uncommon and fascinating features like; cave, spring water, talking stone-drum, mystery coffin, three boulders representing three major kings in the town, that is the Obaro, Obadofin and Obajemu.
History has it that during many of the invasions by the Nupes, the people climbed up the hill after which they poured sheabutter to make it slippery and prevent the assailants from climbing and reaching them. This way, the Egunbe people were able to roll down boulders of stones on their enemies below.
“The historic facts about the hill include the story of Elegha, the Ako kereje, kereje, the coffin that turned to stone, there is a portion of the rock that is as good as a talking drum. There is a spring of water that never dries the year round. It served as the main source of water for the people then. There is also the mystical lake called ‘ako’. There are five of them and they never run dry despite their stagnation.
There are also three big rocks called the Oke Metas which symbolise the three major kings (Ololus) in Kabba,” it was gathered.
The fertility of the lands around the hill for farming activities also made it economically important to the people of the area.
“As at the time, the land of Egunbe, where the hill is located, was very fertile for the people’s farming activities, members of the community were engaged in farming even beyond the hill station to the other side which is Ogidi, another community in Ijumu Local Government Area.”
However, important as the hill is to the people and with its economic potentials as a tourist attraction that can earn both the state and local governments foreign incomes, not much has been heard about it beyond the community and the state it is located.
Although, efforts are recently being made to popularise the hill and make it a place to be visited by tourists all year round, the required involvement of government and other major stakeholders that could have given a drive to the efforts were lacking. There is no good access road to the hill, while other facilities that could attract the world to it were conspicuously absent.
Some stakeholders from the community have been organising an annual visit to the mountain since 2013 to draw attention to the potentials of Obangogo. Four editions have been held with that of 2016 being able to draw many government officials to the hills with the Kogi State’s governor’s wife, Mrs Rashida Bello, honoured as “ the face of Obangogo 2016”.
Speaking on efforts at developing the hill, the curator of Obangogo, Mr Ben Owoleke, said the Obangogo committee for each year had been striving to catch the attention of the world by creating awareness for the hill.
He said, “Each year we form a committee, we started making it open and going to the mountain in year 2013, that was the first time we visited the place enmass, we tried to draw awareness to the place, by 2014 some people came from America and South Africa, 2015 was great and 2016 was the peak, a lot of government officials came and the first lady agreed to be the face of Obangogo, we had a great time.
“We set up a committee each year to organise the event, but the way we are going we want to make it a daily affair just like the Olumo Rock in Abeokuta, Ogun State, but awareness and patronage is still very low.
Lamenting the state of facilities in the area, he said, “There are no enough facilities there, you can only visit the place during the dry season. There is no road and for now each year the committee grades the road from whatever we are able to put together.
“But now we have the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, who is from our community, we have spoken with him and he said the government would help us this time around about the road. There are some streams along the road that require small bridges to enable us pass, these are part of the things that are to be in place. Unfortunately, government pays lip service to tourism, and are making on our own to bring it to certain level, so once we do that government will come in.
“Politics is around the corner now, we will see politicians coming around because on top of that mountain, when you pray your wishes come to pass, we have so many testimonies. The previous ones we held were huge success stories, so we want to build on that to get to the top, because not everybody can get to the top of the mountain.
“Obangogo hill is a hill of outstanding value from the point of view of aesthetics, science, history and culture. The hill is characterised by enchanting metamorphic rock and granite, lofty peaks and beautiful valley”.
Also speaking, the chairman of the security sub-committee of the Obangogo tourist centre committee 2017, Mr Anthony Ola-Odana, said efforts were in top gear to host the 2017 edition of the programme with hundreds of people being expected to grace the occasion. He said various committees had been put in place to package the programme.
According to him, the committees were working to involve various stakeholders like the government, security agencies and other cultural groups that could add colour to it and make it a world class event.
The Speaker of the Kogi State House of Assembly, Matthew Kolawole, an indigene of Kabba, said he had been working with other stakeholders to develop the hill as a tourist attraction, saying he would continue to strive to ensure that the needed impetus were given to uplift it.
He said, “So far so good, as an indigene and Speaker of the Assembly, we are working with other stakeholders to bring to notice of the world, the tourism potentials in Obangogo hill resorts in Kabba. Last year the First Lady of Kogi State, Rashida Bello, was the face of Obangogo 2016, we are also working with the state Ministry of Culture and Tourism to list the site as one of the tourist attraction sites in the state.
“That we seriously working on, we are also using the social media to continue to create awareness on Obangogo project. For now, it’s a yearly programme, we hope as time goes on, it will be a regular visit by tourists across the world”.