Nigeria: The comprehensive History of How Dr. M.I. Okpara built the Obudu Mountain Tourism Resort in 1962 and the Cattle in 1951

23
Jan

Records are emerging on how Obudu Mountain Resort came to be. Since the Rebuilding of the Ranch By Dr. Donald Duke who was the Executive Governor of Cross River State from 1999 -2007 into a World Class Resort questions have arisen about the origins of the Ranch. Dr. Duke Rebuilt the Old Resort and installed a Cable Car a Helicopter landing pad, a Waterpark and 20 new Mountain Villas. Today Obudu Mountain Resort is the best known tourism destination in Nigeria.

A report published in Birmingham Daily Post on the 3rd of December 1962 was recently released by Ed Keazor who has released a documentary on Dr. M.I Okpara who was the Premier of Eastern Nigeria until the Military Coup of 1966. According to him “The ENDC headed by Dr. Okpara and Dr Mbanugo invested £230,000 in the 1950s to build the road to Obudu up the mountain. This was even before he became Premier.”

The Daily Post has the Article titled “Nigerian Forest Becomes a Ranch”
“A tired group of brown-skinned herdsmen sat patiently at the foot of a towering mountain with kettles of water at their feet. They had a rendervous with an English cattle buyer. They washed their feet carefully before kneeling to pray to Allah. Villagers of Abamlika, close to the Cameroons frontier in Eastern Nigeria, are used to the sight of these Northern Nigerian tribesmen and their long-horned cattle, Reuter writes. Twice a year, in November and March, the Fulani tribesmen trek down the mountain of the north and travel on foot for hundreds of miles through tropical heat with their humpbacked Zebu cattle. It is well worth the effort. The Eastern Region Development Corporation pays well for delivery of the cattle to its mile-high ranch on the Obudu plateau.

The ranch is a bold enterprise sponsored by Dr. Michael Okapara, Prime Minister of the Eastern Region of Nigeria. He hopes that it will serve the two fold purpose of increasing Nigeria’s meat supplies and of providing an international tourist attraction, complete with chalets, golf course and swimming pool.” According to well known Nigerian researcher and Archivist Dr. Raphael James, the history of Obudu started with the British. He states thus in his book, “Blue Book for Southern Nigeria published in 1909 J.J. Thoburn, the Acting Governor of Southern Nigeria wrote that the Provincial Commissioner of the Eastern Province in his report states “During the early months of the year under review the pacification and development of the country lying between the Cross River and Northern Nigeria boundary was continued by the military force under the command of Colonel Trenehard, D.S.O., resulting in the wide extension of Government jurisdiction and control in the districts of Abakaliki, Ogoja, and Ikom, and necessitating the formation of a new district with headquarters at Obudu about 80 miles north-east of Ikom and 30 miles east of Ogoja, practically leaving only the Munshi country to be brought under civilized government. In this direction everything that could be done by the exercise of patience and friendly overtures has been done by the Officer in charge at Obudu, first by Captain Fox, and since by his successor Mr. Weld, but without effect.”

Obudu is not just man made, though it became man-developed by Chief Michael Okpara when he was the Premier of Eastern Nigeria, as stated in his biography ‘Dr. M. I. Okpara A Biography by Chris Offodile in page 43 his government also build Obudu Cattle Ranch and hotel complex and in fact launched eastern Nigeria to what would have become thriving tourist industry had the war not intervened.” So the first Nigerian to develop the Obudu cattle Ranch is Dr. Michael Okpara and Later Dr. Donald Duke
Also Edward Keazor said “Obudu was developed by Dr. Okpara in two phases: 1. A ranch which was invested in by the ENDC in the 1950s and 2. The Tourist Resort which was completed by 1962. The ENDC invested heavily in the ranch in the late 1950s when Okpara was Minister for Agriculture and the Resort which he continued when he became Premier in 1959. Let’s not forget the NCNC had been in power in Eastern Nigeria since 1951.”

Further Research by Biographer for Dr. M.I Okpara Mr. Edward Keazor revealed more information from different publications especially the Nigerian Magazine No. 60 of 1959. The transcript from the Magazine had this to say “Promote an appreciation of better quality beef, an understanding of the importance of protein in the proper growth of their families and a realisation of the high and adequate protein content of beef from the ranch. The ranch is developing valuable sidelines. Two of these – butter production and pig raising for pork – are showing signs of great expansion. Already a good percentage of the beef, pork and butter from the ranch are sold in shops at Enugu. The Eastern Region Development Corporation is surveying the possibilities of a tourist trade up there. The hillside provide good climbing for budding hill-walkers. The grass allows good riding. The wooded lowlands and valleys on the top and sides of the plateau attract a large number of small and big game which provide plenty of shooting. The rivers which meander through the wooded valleys provide light fishing and the beautiful landscape makes anyone wish to be a painter.

Every year many thousands of head of cattle enter the Easter Region. They come from the north and the east from Bamenda, Adamawa and eastern Bornu. They walk hundreds of miles by way of the Benue bridge at Makurdi, along old slave routes that have now become established cattle tracks. By the time these bests reach the slaughter slabs they are lean, weary and, if care has not been taken, all but inedible. Anyway, they are greatly deficient in protein quality – which is the main dietetic need of the eight million people who inhabit the Region. The obudu cattle ranch, on the Sonkwala ridge in Ogoja Province is one of the efforts being made to improve matters. At the best, it will provide well-fed ranch cattle for the eastern markets. At the worst, it will prove to be a gigantic lair in which cattle from the north may recover its health and meat-yield before moving further south.

More than ten square miles in area, the ranch is sited on a cloud-enveloped, grass-topped plateau which rises some 5,000 feet above sea level. The thirty-four miles of approach road from Obudu cost more than £230,000. Its last eight miles, an extraordinary engineering feat, winds itself like a huge boa constrictor up to 3,000 feet, avoiding deep gorges and high cliffs.”

A Brief Historical Background of the Resort
The Obudu Mountain Resort was first sighted by a group of European Veterinary doctors in 1949. The leading Veterinary Surgeon and rancher, Dr. M. McCaughley, was working with Veterinary Department of Eastern Region at the time. On a helicopter flight from Enugu to Calabar, McCaughley sighted a virgin land where all the cattle grazing therein looked very healthy. Subsequently, he explored the undulating plains of the plateau, which extend into the Republic of Cameroon. He climbed into the Ranch from Cameroon and was convinced that if properly developed, the area could emerge as an important grazing land for cattle in Nigeria.

Based on this conviction, McCaughley made a proposal for animal husbandry. The government favourably considered the proposal and this culminated in the signing of an agreement between the Eastern Region government and the landlords of the Obudu Plateau (represented by Ikpe Temaka Akwo Nda and Momo Uganda on 28 September 1950.
Cattle ranching actually took off in January 1951 with Mr. Hugh Jones as the pioneer manager. Jones came from Cameroon with 500 herds of long-horned cattle. The breeds bought from the Fulani based at Bamenda Highlands.