Heritage Sites in Nigeria Where You Might Rediscover Your Clan
Nigeria has a lengthy list of structures held in high esteem by locals aware of their significance in the annals of history, their cultural heritage, or their famed architecture. Others are a memorial to the great ancestors of the land or created to commemorate events that shaped history.
Two of the country’s monuments have attained worldwide recognition following their nominations to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites; others on a tentative list are being preserved as effective tools for cultural integration and also a means of telling our stories to the outside world.
So irredeemable are their marks on civilisation that our society has learnt to grow from their remains. We present to you a list of Nigerian heritage sites where you might rediscover your clan.
Sukur Cultural Landscape
This is an uncommon landscape depicting a rich cultural heritage, revered glamour and industrial prowess of inhabitants of the Mandara Mountains from the Stone Age. In case you are visiting northeastern Nigeria, I suggest you visit Madagali town in Adamawa State on the Eastern border of Cameroon. Feel the iconic scenery of the jewel of all monuments in the country, adore the simple round huts built from granite with thatched roof encircled by thick stone walls on the lower and upper part of the Sukur community; the latter housing the palace of the local chief. The terrace field guides your glide down the hilltop on to the plateau downhill. In 1999, this site became Nigeria’s first cultural landscape to be inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove
Talk about the awe-inspiring sculptures and artworks in honour of the river goddess Osun and other Yoruba deities, the thick forest, the sanctuaries and shrines and the meandering river, this place is a befitting identity among the Yoruba culture. A masterpiece of cultural heritage finely blended with purpose and the last, surviving symbol of primary high forest in Southern Nigeria. Located on the outskirt of Osogbo, the capital city of Osun State, the grove is regarded as the home of the goddess of fertility and welcomes thousands of spectators, tourists and Osun worshipers from within and around the world on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis. The site was nominated to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2005.
A few minutes’ drive from Onitsha lays this massive structure made up of multi-channeled tunnels concealed in a valley within the overspread of a tropical rain forest in Ogbunike town, Anambra State (eastern Nigeria). The locals have great reverence for this site and they quickly impress it on visitors (not women on their monthly circle) as they approach the open space at the entrance of the cave upon descending a lengthy walkway of about 317 steps. Discovered by a hunter called Ukwa; till date, the “Ime Ogbe” festival is held every year to commemorate his finding. There is an attractive waterfall at the North West part of the cave. It was listed on a tentative log of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2007.
Oke Idanre (Idanre Hill)
The scenery alone will captivate you. ‘Oke Idanre’, as locals prefer to call it, is over 3000fts above sea level. Through the forest trail and over 600+ steps winding from the foot, the routineness of your long tedious hike will eventually succumb to the vibrancy of the view of the old Idanre Township. Other attributes include: Owa’s Palace, shrines, old court, belfry, Agbooogun footprint, omi apaara (thunder water), and burial mounds and grounds. Part of the Ogun festival takes place atop the hilltop. The site is on its way to attaining a possible UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
Ancient Kano City Walls
Originally erected to shield the growing population of ancient Kano city, the 14km-radius clay monument and related sites now holds a historical, cultural and spiritual significance to the natives. Bound on its stretch by the Dala Hill, Kurmi Market and Emir’s Palace, till date, several renovation works have been carried out to keep these properties in shape. Dala Hill and Kurmi Market date from antiquity as the root of the once emerging Housa Kingdom and the hub of commercial activities across Sahara Africa respectively; the3-gate Emir Palace is the stable of the throne of the Housa Kingdom. In 2007, the Ancient Kano City Walls and Associate Sites were among a tentative list of monuments submitted to the UNESCO for nomination.
Benin Iya (Sungbo’s Eredo)
Sungbo’s Eredo is another iconic fortifications made up of a system of walls and ditches forming a complex but asymmetrical ring around the ancient town of Ijebu Ode in Ogun State (Southwest Nigeria). Erected as a tribute to the noblewoman, Oloye Bilikisu Sungbo, and made out of laterite; the ditch, in some part steadied on a swampy floor and in other parts, bears some conical idols. Sungbo’s legend has been connected with that of the Queen of Sheba and the eredo now serves as a holy site to some African traditionalists, Christians and Muslims alike. The site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage tentative list in 1999, along with the Iya of Benin.
Larger than the eredo were the Walls of Benin (Iya) – lauded as the largest man-made earthwork in the world – containing a ditch and dike structure with an earthwork which runs for about 16,000km in a rainforest in Benin, Edo State. At the central part of the iya lies a jam-packed settlement with a guarded outlet called (no man’s land). On the bank of the earthwork is a large mass primary enclosure – including Benin – which dates up to about the C15th A.D.
Alok Ikom Stone Monoliths
These are over 300 carved stones found in circular, erect and mostly opposite placements around Alok in the Ikom area of Cross River State. They are gracefully molded in the shape of the male external genital (3 – 5.5ft tall) with carvings of human features and geometrical inscriptions which are only legible to the designers. Few contain basaltic rock; others were made out of sandstone and shelly limestone. The Ikom was first considered for inclusion onto UNESCO’s World Heritage Site in November 2007.
Gashaka-Gumpti National Park
Located within the Chappal Wadi (Mountain of Death) and Chappal Hendu (Mountain of Wind) is this Nigerian heritage site which offers a fascinating insight into the beauty of the dark ages. To add to its manifold list of fauna and flora, the Gashaka Gumpti – covering a total area of about 6,402 km² – is the largest national park in the country. The diverse topography and vegetation, which includes a montane forest, creates a diverse array of habitat for animals. It is one of just two places you can find the red faced lovebird. The park, which was listed on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1995, is located in the eastern provinces of Taraba and Adamawa.
Arochkwu Long Juju Slave Route (Cave Temple Complex)
Heritage Sites in Nigeria Where You Might Rediscover Your Clan: Arochkwu Long Juju Slave Route. Image Credit: Abia State Website
Tourists looking to familiarise with relics of the slave trade era frequently visit this site in Abia State (Southeast Nigeria). Kamalu “the warrior god” stands as the main feature of the ancient Cave Temple, home of the mystic Ibini Ukpabi (Long – Juju) shrine which served as an arbitration ground for people in dispute in the whole of Igboland. Those found guilty became property of the gods and were eventually sold as slaves or retained as subjects of the priest. There is an altar, a water fall, the throne of judgment and the Iyi-Eke – an outlet from where the blind-folded victim walks to the “Onu Asu Bekee” (the European beach now the government beach) to be transported to Calabar for onward transmission to ‘Alaa Bekee’ (Europe). Other features include the hill of rags and the tunnel of disappearance. The property was included on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Surame Cultural Landscape
Surame is an ancient city in Sokoto State (Northwestern Nigeria). Covering a surface of 9km are traces of human settlements, walls, wells and potsherds. It also has a defensive walling and gates made of rocks. Ditches were dug round the circumference of the great walls and thorns were planted to stop invading armies from gaining entrance into the fortress. Other features include grates, baobab tree, trench and ditches. In 2007, it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List in the Mixed (Cultural + Natural) category.