Nigeria > Benue > Gboko
Gboko is my paradise and home – the town were I grew up! It may not be ranked among the great cities of the world, yet it’s a place so natural and enchanting that it holds the thrills of the ultimate African-haven!
This town is unique in its own way with a nickname ‘Gboko-yua’ which means ‘heavy town’. Situated in Benue State, middle belt of Nigeria, it’s the ‘food-basket’ of the nation. There is so much food so that on both sides of the streets, you’ll see fruit-trees of different kinds like mangoes, cashews, oranges, paw-paws and bananas. Humorously speaking, the specie of mango called ‘peter’ is so big that you’ve to hold it with both hands in other to eat it. While the other specie called ‘julie’ mango is revered for its sweetness.
Any compound you visit, there is always likely to be an ‘ate’ (open thatched-hut) for you to relax and shy away from the tropical sun and breath in fresh air, scenting with fruity smell. You’ll see the natives gather in public ‘ate,’ were the local beer ‘burukutu’ alias B.K.T. is brewed on giants black pots by women, and beat ‘gbandi’ drums. Others sing and dance, clutching calabashes of B.K.T. in frenzy stupor.
Perhaps the most colourful event any man could ever witness is the ‘Kwahi Festival’. Being the cultural center of the Tivs, a tribe reputed to be descendants of the Bantu race, and the place where Tor-Tiv (chief of Tiv) resides, Gboko fails not to get a baptism-of-fire, yearly, from kwahi cultural troupes.
Kwahi is an open field show were the people gather to watch various dances, acrobatic shows and colourful display of folklore tradition. The famous of them all is the ‘Ayamkor’ – lion catcher, were the hunter takes steps in unison with the drumming of ‘gbandi’ and the prey, a mean-looking lion masquerade, threatens anybody that dares it.
In Gboko, there are many rivers were we go to swim and catch fishes. These are joyful moments! As we catch fun digging for crabs, we had to be extra-careful, for the large crabs could crack your fingers with its claws. And the electric fishes, even after being dead for some hours, could give you a nasty shock!
You cannot stay in Gboko for long without attending a picnic along the long beaches of river Katsina-ala or on the famous mountain. O what a shocking surprise when you get to see the gorilla-like head of mountain Mkar for the first time!
Across is a big ‘malina’ forest that teems with wildlife. As a kid, I was more fascinated with birds, which are numerous in this forest. So I‘d go and watch for ‘bavi-akpua’ – the bird that makes loud noise banging its wings. I won’t forget the day I saw ‘tor-kwasi’ (queen) bird. She is indeed the most prettiest and colourful bird.
In the forest, the natives keep pots of clay, turned upside down and opened sideways to attract honeybees to live in it – that’s how they get honey at night.
There are hamlets were horses are kept. If you just pay some money, a horse is yours to ride around at will.
I don’t know whether you’d call it paradise, fun-fare or just heavy town….
Submitted: Thursday 11th March 2004, 1:13 PM