|Mambilla Plateau Located in Adamawa State, the Plateau is a haven for cash crops like coffee, tea, and cotton.|
Sitting at 5, 600 feet above
sea level, Mambilla Plateau located in Taraba State of Nigeria surely
is a unique place as it is considered the highest point in Nigeria
and probably in Africa .
No amount of preparedness accompanied with the anxiety of reaching the mountain top could put one in a better state of mind to know or guess what exactly to expect when on the mountain top except for the fore knowledge of the very curvy nature of the road which you are forewarned.
Approaching the mountain gradually, it will never dawn on you that you are actually about climbing the huge mountain standing before you like a wedge as there seems to be no road that could lead up there.
The last check point of Customs and Immigration located at Mayo Selbe at the foot of the mountain however has a way of telling a first timer that the time has come to begin the most anxiously awaited climbing even without the officers saying so.
Shortly after inspection of all vehicles lined up for checks, the first and second turn as you made to ascend, leaves you with a question of whether to turn back or continue.
A former governor of a Northern Nigeria , Sir Kashim Ibrahim was said to have taken such a crucial decision while on his way up when he ordered his escorts to stop and make a U turn from a particular point that is known till date as "Cornern Gwomna" in Hausa meaning "the Governor’s corner.
No one will blame him for such a decision except the person has not been to the mountain top. As you climb to the top you have to hold your breath for each and every step all the way to the top and praying seriously for the vehicle not to have any fault while climbing.
Ascending through the roads however is one of the most interesting and adventurous experiences ever, though it is dangerous. From Mayo Selbe which is the first point of ascending on its own gives the impression that you are about climbing a mountain top where you are likely to see people living on small space of land.
That impression again is a wrong one as journeys on top of the mountain top to various locations itself spans about hundreds of kilometers. From the foot of the mountain on top alone takes about two hours before reaching Gembu, the headquarters of Sardauna Local Government all on the same mountain. A journey on foot takes one and half to two days.
Reaching Cameroon from Gembu through rough roads again is said to be about four hours depending on the route which you take and has to be done on four wheel drive vehicles or motorcycles only.
Nguruje, the home town of Babangida Nguruje , the immediate past Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives who resigned with his boss, Patricia Eteh in the wake of a house renovation scandal is situated along the way to Gembu and the highest point in the country. Snows area common sight in the area during rainy seasons and can be cold as can be.
Immediately on top of the mountain, the hot weather witnessed at the foot of the mountain disappears as you are welcomed to a fresh and very chilled breeze blowing across the plateau and that leaves you with mouth agape and saying within you that ooooh, this is it.
The sight of healthy looking cattle, goats and other live stocks that look well fed as well as green vegetations with tall Christmas trees also looking fresh from good weather give the impression that one is in a European land with their much talked about cold weather except for the sight of the natives and their mud houses that reminds you of still being in Nigeria.
Despite the abundance of cattle grazing across the plateau, the surprising thing is that you can hardly find a herdsman giving them direction as they all know where they are heading.
The cattle do not even wander into a neighbours portion of land as they keep strictly to their own side of the land fenced in by wood and grazing all day long. Even that all night they sleep and wake on the same land. They however wander into the nearby valleys to drink water from time to time.
Unlike the ones on plain lands outside the plateau, the cattle have access to clean water as most waters on the plateau come from the spring looking fresh and clean.
Most of Nigerian’s top military officers like General Ibrahim Babangida, Olusegun Obasanjo, Muhammadu Buharri and top most politicians are all said to own a vast land of ranches on the plateau as well as houses.
Former President Obasanjo’s house is located side by side with his former second in command, Shehu Musa Yar’Adua on a small hill in Gembu, the headquarters of Sardauna Local Government.
The irony however is that their houses as well as those of some other prominent people are surrounded by mud houses of the local people.
Some of the residents who spoke with The Nation expressed dismay over the attitude of their leaders for finding their abode wonderful enough to live but lack the interest to develop the place.
Apart from developing the plateau to a full tourist center which is capable of generating enough revenue for the country outside oil, the mountain is also said to be very rich in solid minerals.
The residents said most of the Generals and their political counterparts only come to the mountain through helicopters or light aircrafts to take a rest for a while before diving back again.
With all the resources and other tourist potentials that abound on the mountain and its vast land, making it a state on its own will not be out of place as some residents also reasoned, If that is done it will help to develop faster because the development will be concentrated only at the mountain top and opening it up for foreign tourists capable of generating enough revenue for the place and the country.
Although the government of Taraba on its own is trying to encourage tourism at the mountain top by way of conducting visitors round some few facilities a lot more needs to be done to make the Mambilla an envy of all.
Some of the facilities such as the Nigeria Beverages Producing Company Limited, the makers of Highland tea regarded as the second best tea in the world after India were not established for the purpose of making it a tourist center but to generate revenue for the state government.
In the absence of tourist sites however, visitors to the plateau visit these areas on their own and the managements at the factory are more than willing to take them round and even give them the history of the plant and telling them about it from the point of plantation to the final point of consumption.
This of course is done at no cost but just the natural hospitality of the management staff which is common with most people of the Sardauna Local government who happily give direction to visitors and interact freely.
Narrating the origin of Tea plant to this reporter who went on sight seeing at Kakara where the factory is located, the Senior Estate Manager, Mr. Rubat Bachak recounted how an emperor of one of the Chinese dynasty going round on a familiarization tour in his kingdom decided to take a rest under a tree.
Not knowing that it is a tea plant, the emperor was taking a rest under it when he was handed a water by one of aides to quench his thirst when suddenly a leave from the tree he was sitting under fell into the cup of water he was about to drink.
Just as the colour of the water started turning brown immediately, he equally heard a voice telling him that "this is a drink of kings" and when he tasted it, it was just wonderful.
Following this encounter, tea since then have become part and parcel of the Chinese economy spanning over one thousand years now said to be one of the most prominent foreign exchange for the country.
Tea also became famous in countries such as Iran , India and presently Kenya and Ghana which is now said to own about 95 factories.
The tea factory in Kakara is not even up to the capacity of the smallest one in Ghana at the moment. What ever is happening to Nigeria which has the second best plant of the tree is what only God can tell.
That of India which is the number one in terms of quality is the one now being taken by the Queen of England. The product is said to be capable of keeping one free of illnesses if one can consume 7 cups daily.
The factory at Kakara has about three to four plantations of Tea being irrigated and is never in a short supply even as local farmers also supply to the company. For each of the farmers who does theirs manually, they are said to be earning nothing less than N70,000 per week with about 2000 of them spreading across 27 villages.
One good advantage of the factory is that there is a blending plant right in the factory that blends the different varieties making it retain its quality which has remained unchanged ever since.
Growing tea however is not a small business or a joke as it requires some best conditions for best growth. The altitude where it is grown must be at least 1,500 meters above sea level while rain fall must be at least 1,500 millimeters per annum while the soil must be slightly acidic and the land must be sloppy to give room for drainages.
Apart from the tea plantations, there are also earth water dams surrounded by green vegetations and cattle grazing by its banks that also offer unique sights even with an air strip on the mountain top.
Other problems that need urgent attention on the plateau if tourism is to be given a boost areas hotel accommodation, telecommunication, power and water.
In Gembu that serves as the headquarters of Sardauna Local Government, one can hardly find a good and decent hotel accommodation.
Daula Halal Hotel that serves as one of the best at the moment has no running water and electricity as they rely on generators which only works for about four hours from 6 Oclock in the evening to 10 Oclock. And this could be embarrassing indeed for visitors. National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) is presently non existent in the area.
The same problem goes for telecommunication and water supply. Only MTN network functions and even at that could not be accessible except at certain points.
However, the state government can do more, especially now that emphasis is gradually shifting to tourism as a goldmine. The Mambilla is indeed one of the most beautiful natural tourist sites in Nigeria. And if the necessary facilities are put in place by the state government, no doubt, the place will soon wear a new look, a look that will certainly make it an El-Dorado, a tourist haven for the nation.
Even now the nation has only two UNESCO recognised heritage sites. There is, in fact, no limit to the number of world heritage sites that the nation can have. It is therefore only when the government, whether state or federal gives a face-lift to the settlement that it can qualify to be accorded such a status.
The world is indeed looking up to Nigerian leaders to show the way, by upgrading and where necessary providing modern facilities for the sake of keeping the Mambilla Plateau as one of the best resorts in the world. And the time for that action is now. Even then, the Federal Ministry of Culture and Tourism has to show the way forward in this matter, for the Mambilla falls within its purview.
4, Wing 'B' Isheri- Ogba Road, Omole Bus Stop