MUSEUMS, WHERE TO ENJOY THIS YULETIDE
A dog-faced baboon at the Zoo, National Museum Jos
Whether inside Nigeria or in some foreign land, there are countless places to enjoy Christmas; but, there is no guarantee that the tourist will necessarily have a swell time everywhere on 25 December or 1 January simply because a nation is predominantly Christian.
One of the reasons is because of differences in Calendar, which means that in some countries; like Ethiopia, for example; Christmas is celebrated on January 7. In other words, two weeks after Christmas had come and gone in nations, where the Gregorian calendar is in use; the people of the 'Land with burnt face', as Ethiopia is fondly known, would be enjoying the birthday of Christ the King.
The situation is similar in Russia and other Orthodox Christian nations, where Christmas sometimes falls in October or some other month of the year. Interestingly, although Christmas falls on 25 December in neighbouring Ghana, this is not to say that the every Nigerian is likely to enjoy Christ's birthday there. For the Nigerian used to seeing masquerades and enjoying parades in the street, the Ghanaian capital, Accra, could come across as dull during Christmas; for, the average Ghanaian spends the day at home with other members of the family.
Such were our experiences in Accra, where we spent Christmas in 1997 and 1998. In other words, if you want a quiet Yuletide, irrespective of the ubiquitous blasts of firecrackers, which remind you of Nigeria; then look to the Ghanaian capital, where; with the right connection to a typical Ghanaian family, you could savour the delectations of 'Apapransa', a delicacy that is to the Ghanaian what 'Edikang-ikong' is to the Nigerian.
In many ways, Christmas is a lively, even an almost boisterous affair among nationals of ancient Dahomey (Benin Republic). Christmas in Cotonou, the economic capital of Benin Republic tends to remind of Calabar. Although this Beninoise city does not boast anything like Carnival Calabar, the tourist is likely to be sucked in by the infectious atmosphere of felicitations.
For several days before, and well after, Christmas; an almost endless explosion of what some Nigerians call 'knockout' (firecrackers) could be heard across Cotonou. Also, the visitor would notice that throughout the season, countless people, including complete strangers, greet you with 'Bon Noelle'; and, that even in this comparatively poor nation, the hardworking indigenes go the extra mile to live it up by eating and drinking more than usual.
But whatever you do, and wherever you chose to enjoy Christmas; make the most of the season by visiting a museum.
Although a few states; like Bauchi, Ekiti, Gombe and Jigawa do not have any museum at all; not all of the other 32 of Nigeria's 36 states have a National Museum. However, prospective tourists have some National Museum or National Monument nearby, irrespective of wherever they are in Nigeria. For example, residents or visitors in Ekiti have National Museum Owo in Ondo State; Jigawa boasts ancient rock paintings in Birnin Kudu and Bauchi State is home to the first Mining Beacon in Nigeria around Toro.
Welcome to select National Museums, where one can enjoy education and entertainment all at once, in Nigeria. In making our choice, priority was given to National Museums that are open every day of the week as well as their collections or holdings. Also, consideration was given to the vibrancy and popularity of each of the repositories chosen.
Although the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) runs at least 30 offices in the country, not all of its outposts have a gallery in the real sense of the word. Painfully, the Ondo State capital, Akure, does not have a gallery inside the local National Museum; also, National Museums in Minna, Niger State as well as Sokoto operate inside the Federal Secretariat complex, which do not open on Saturdays and Sundays.
It is also worth noting that while the Benue State capital, Makurdi, is one of Nigeria's most vivacious settlements at Christmas; the local National Museum was not open, when we went to enjoy Christmas 2008 there. Nonetheless, Makurdi Museum throws up its own attraction by way of a mini-zoo and some archaeological objects found in the Benue River areas, and is therefore worth exploring on some working week day. A right turn into Ahmadu Bello
Way at the junction, where Shittu Alao Avenue meets Kuanum Acka's Street, should take the tourist to Makurdi Museum, which is practically part of the local Government House.
Esie Museum, Ilorin Museum.
On a more cheery note, however, the Kwara State towns of Esie and Ilorin, the state capital, boast two important museums. In fact, Esie Museum, fondly called House of Images; which is home of the world-famous Esie soap stone statuettes, is the oldest museum in Nigeria. Esie Museum was opened in 1945, whereas Jos Museum, the first National Museum in the country, was launched in 1952.
Interestingly, National Museum Jos, inarguably Nigeria's largest museum complex, has since morphed into one of the most visited repositories in these climes. One of Jos Museum's biggest crowd pullers is the National Zoo located near the Transport Gallery, one of the many bays of this compound museum complex. Other galleries of Jos Museum complex include the Tin Mining Gallery, the Museum of Traditional Nigerian Architecture (MOTNA) and Pottery Gallery.
National Museum Benin is also a must-visit destination because it offers displays of hundreds of historically and anthropologically relevant artefacts on three floors. Opened in the early 1970s during the leadership of the then Governor Samuel Ogbemudia, National Museum Benin is one of the most important repositories in Nigeria.
Talking about savouring the sights of a Museum as well as a National Monument in one go, a visit to National Museum Calabar inside the Old Residency offers the same kick. National Museum Calabar is for countless tourists that have been there one of the best repositories in Nigeria. The National Museum in Nigeria's Canaan City is located near the Calabar Marina, and the visitor should also look in at the Slave Trade Museum inside the Marina Resort Complex, which stands a walking distance away.
National Museum Ife
Although National Museum Ife was eventually opened in 1954, the museum was actually established in 1948. But despite being one of the oldest such institutions in the country, this outpost was virtually moribund for years. Ile-Ife, or simply Ife, is an archaeologist's heaven, given the countless pieces of antiquity that have literally floated to the surface there. Aside relics of the exquisite state of art and craft in ancient Ile-Ife, the settlement also boasts numerous monuments and sites.
Seven of these monuments/sites; namely, Lafogido Grove, Olokun Grove, Olu Orogbo, Ooni Ilare, Opa Oranmiyan, Saint David Potsherd (SDP) Pavement and Yemoo Grove are under the care of National Museum, Ife. The staff (opa) of Oranmiyan stands inside Oranmiyan Shrine in Moopa in the Aribidi end of town. Opa Oranmiyan stands roughly 16 feet in height and oral tradition has it that Oranmiyan, widely held as grandson of Oduduwa was a very powerful warrior, and that he founded the empires of Benin and Oyo.
The tourist, where possible, is also advised to see the National Museum in the Delta State port settlement of Koko. National Museum Koko, officially called Nanna Living History Museum, is located in the port settlement of Koko in Warri North Local Government Area (LGA) of Delta State.
The repository is a specialized museum, dedicated to the memory of Nanna, the Itsekiri King, who was dethroned by British colonial authorities and subsequently sent into exile in Ghana. Nanna's grandparents hailed from Jakpa, where Chief Nanna Olomu was born in 1840. Nanna Olomu subsequently founded a new town, Ebrohimi, where Nanna, the Itsekiri King, was born. National Museum Koko is housed inside the Palace of the late Nanna, King of the Itsekiri. In fact, the palace is also a National Monument, which means the visitor to Nanna Living History Museum can literally kill two birds with one stone.
Lagos, Nigeria's Centre of Excellence boasts a National Museum at Onikan in Lagos Island. Opened in 1957, National Museum Lagos is another must-see destination because of its collection and proximity to other places of interest. Lagos Museum is adjacent to City Mall and stands almost opposite to Muson (Musical Society of Nigeria) complex.
National War Museum
The National War Museum in Umuahia, capital of Abia State; is Nigeria's oldest War Museum. Popularly known by the acronym NAWAM, National War Museum is located in Ebite Amafor Isingwu, off Uzuakoli Road, in the Abia State capital. Although NAWAM was commissioned on 15 January, 1985 by the then Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, Major-General Babatunde Idiagbon; however, Lieutenant-General Domkat Bali, then Minister of Defence and Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, eventually launched the Museum four years later, on 14 September, 1989.
The museum covers a sprawling land area of about 30 by 30 meters, with the Open Air Gallery taking up the frontal. Apart from the Open Air Gallery, 'Traditional Warfare Gallery,' 'Armed Forces Gallery' and the 'Civil War Gallery' make up NAWAM's remaining three bays. NAWAM boasts an auditorium with a seating capacity of about 3,000, a Library as well as a subterranean exhibit, 'Ojukwu Bunker,' which served as State House for the secessionist government. Ojukwu Bunker is located at Number 15B Okpara Avenue, which is called NAWAM Annexe.
Port Harcourt Museum
Nigeria's Garden City, Port Harcourt, throws up a National Museum; whose exhibits shed much light on Rivers State culture as well as that of the country's Niger Delta peoples generally. The exhibits, which include photographs, revolved around the theme 'Life in the Niger Delta' and focus on Andoni, Ikwere, Kalabari, Ogoni and Okirika communities, the five aboriginal ethnic groups in Rivers State.
National Museum Port Harcourt is located at 2, Harley Street in the Old GRA neighbourhood of the Rivers State capital. The main block of Port Harcourt Museum was built in 1938 by officials of the Royal Niger Company (RNC), later United African Company (UAC).
After the building's handing over to the Rivers State Government, the estate served as official residence of successive Chiefs Judge of that state until it was acquired in 1982 to house the then proposed National Museum Port Harcourt. Interestingly, by the time the museum eventually materialized, in June 2009, almost 30 years had elapsed between when the structure was acquired and formal inauguration of this outpost of the NCMM.
Port Harcourt Museum boasts a modest gallery comprising two sections; whose displays, as earlier stated, shed light on the Social and Economic life of Niger Delta peoples, especially those within today's Bayelsa and Rivers states. Although one could not ascertain the total number of this museum's collection, Mr. F. R. Fadamijo, Curator of NM Port Harcourt during our visit, said 144 objects were on display in the gallery, apart from others in the store.
Admission and Timings
The admission to a Nigerian museum is very affordable compared to what obtains at many museums in most other parts of the world. Believe it or not, it costs a paltry N10 for an adult to gain admission to National Museum Maiduguri! As we shall soon show; this is peanut, compared to the situation in Ghana, for example.
Aside Lagos Museum, which charges N100 or N300 per Nigerian adult or foreigner respectively; admission to the majority of Museums under the NCMM is N50 or N20 for adult or minor/student respectively, whereas the fee to enter the 'gallery' at NCMM headquarters on Cotonou Crescent, Abuja is N100 per adult.
Since NCMM staffers are all on federal civil service salary structure, in spite of the unique nature of their work and hours of service; NCMM offices therefore operate from 8am to 4pm from Monday to Friday. However, National Museums' galleries are open to the public from 9am till 5pm in most cases. Viewers visiting in the afternoon are advised to get there before 4pm. In some cases, however, a few National Museums; such as Calabar, Jos and Lagos; open everyday of the week, including Saturdays and Sundays.
For more on museums and other reports please go to www.mauricearchibongtravels.blogspot.com because there are many other museums and issues we would have loved to include but for want of space.
National Museum Accra
For those in Accra, a visit to the local National Museum is well advised. Opened in 1957, Ghana's National Museum is located along Barnes Street, off Osu Road and near Asylum Down. With regard to Admission Charges, each non-Ghanaian adult is required to pay $5 (over N750) or $3 (over N450) for admission to National Museum, whereas a fee of $3 applies to each foreign student.
As to timing; with the exception of Monday, the gallery of National Museum Accra is open everyday of the week; from 9am to 6pm. A visit to the museum will prove very wise; for, the visitor is sure to learn something new. Moreover, a trip to the museum could prove a welcome break from all the over-eating and excessive drinking that some folks think the Yuletide is all about. And, what is more; a visit to the museum is something every member of the family can enjoy at once, unlike sneaking to a nightclub or spending the day at a pub. Merry Christmas!