For Naijatreks, By Nseobong Okon Ekong (Deputy Editor at THISDAY Newspapers)
Nseobong Okon-Ekong takes a long, tiring walk through one of Nigeria’s toughest terrains to reach the summit of the Mambilla Plateau, Nigeria’s highest point above sea level.
There is not much to Jalingo. There aren’t so many tarred roads in the metropolis, yet, tucked away in the southern end of Taraba State, is the enchanting Manbilla Plateau, a spell-binding haven of beauty miles away from everywhere. The Mambilla Plateau is not one of those quick-fix destinations you get to and then decide to leave on a whim. Except you have a helicopter on the ready to fly you back to point of departure, you simply arrive at the place and zero your mind to stay for a day at least; and even if you were to come through the state capital Jalingo, it takes all of seven hours (by road) to get to the peak of the plateau. Add another two hours if you have to fly into Yola (capital of Adamawa State) where the nearest airport is located.
The people of Mambilla Plateau (Sardauna LGA, with headquarters at Gembu) occupy a vantage location, living at an altitude of 1840m above sea level, the highest point in Nigeria. But they don’t even know it! The Plateau has one of the most fertile soils in Nigeria. Almost everything grows here and it is no longer a secret that some of the country’s men of influence own farms in this parts.
Some of the large billboards – mounted by the United Nations Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) – caught my eye during the drive uphill. In the main, they preach peaceful co-existence and are a constant reminder of the two bloody ethnic clashes that have so far taken place on the Plateau between the Fulani herdsmen and the farmers. Previously, the Fulanis were not considered as one of the tribes on the plateau. That was before they abandoned their known proclivity towards the nomadic and began to settle down, build houses and raise children. Today, fulfude the Fulani language is the lingua franca on the Plateau.
As waters cover the sea, so does overlapping hills drape the Mambilla. As far as your eyes can see, there is no end to the interlocking highlands. Natural formations stimulate the senses and fire the imagination. Bodies of waters – big and small – snake their way in a cool run between the hills. The Nigerian Mambillan appear more attached to Cameroon, evidenced by their preference for Cameroonian television and radio stations. Even the staple musical diet is Makossa. Incidentally, many of them can’t even speak French.
The Tambi waterfall is one of the uncountable awesome sights to behold on the plateau. A marked incomparable tourist’s delight on the hills and it forms a natural boundary between Nigeria and Cameroon. I left the waterfalls wondering how much Nollywood could achieve by making use of such great locations as this for their scene shots. “If only..” “if onlu…” I kept thinking. (Watchout next week for Part 2 of my peregrinations on the Mambilla).