The ghost of Lugard: Harold Benson's scary day trip to Ikot Abasi
What should you expect on a visit to late Lord Lugard's residence in Akwa Ibom state?
Harold Benson, a lawyer and author, chose an auspicious day to visit Ikot Abasi Local Government in Akwa Ibom state, to explore the old residence of Lord Lugard, the first Governor-General of Nigeria.
According to him, he got into a private car with a couple of other people from Uyo, driving through 3 local governments — Abak, Oruk Anam and Mkpat Enin — to get to Lugard's residence in Ikot Abasi.
Because of how influential the colonial master was, the network of structures Lugard built has now become a network of tourist attractions and on a visit there you'll be opportuned to see his residence, his administrative office, the native authority building and his kitchen and the Beach Garden. Within close proximity are also Opobo district office, Bridge of No Return at the bank of Imo River and a mock grave in memory of the Women’s War of 1929.
Without further ado, here is Harold's recount of his full experience which he documented on Twitter:
On 1st January, 2019, I had an encounter with the ghost of Lord Lugard when I visited his abandoned & apparently, haunted residence at the coastal village of Ikpa Ibekwe, located in Ikot Abasi LGA of Akwa Ibom State. I have chilling footages that prove I’m not being paranoid.
For purposes of clarity, the Lugard I am referring to is Frederick John Dealtry Lugard, the last Governor of Southern Nigeria Protectorate, the last Governor of Northern Nigeria Protectorate and the first Governor-General of Nigeria. Yes, that Lord Lugard. Flora Shaw’s husband.
It is a tradition in my family that, no one steps out of the house on 2 specific days - Christmas day & January 1st – unless you’re going to church. My parents believe that, those days are specially targeted by men of the underworld to strike when mortals are merrymaking. But on 1st January, 2019, I went against my parent’s advice and headed for Lord Lugard’s residence in the company of my friend and my brother. As we embarked on the trip, I was excited and scared at the same time. I had a sense of foreboding, but I didn’t know why.
The 1st manifestation of the foreboding I had when leaving the house was when we got to Mkpat Enin (another local government). Here, we encountered a crowd of juju worshippers who barricaded the road and chanted eerie cult songs. They were dressed in different colourful, but ragged attires, and brandished cutlasses at us. I wanted to take a photo of them, but my friend asked me to put my phone away, saying it could infuriate the group. I did as told. About 15 hard-faced boys with cutlasses surrounded our car. The boys started dancing while chanting noisily & striking their cutlasses against each other. I looked at my friend, then mouthed silently, “what do we do?”
One of the boys dashed his head into the car through the window on my side, then withdrew it. Another boy looked at us with red, bloodshot eyes. Then a third boy dropped his cutlass on the bonnet of our car & started pouring libation! A passerby who spotted us, quickly signalled us to drop some money, screaming: appease the gods! We did as directed by throwing a naira note through the car window. It appeared the gods were appeased by our act as the boys immediately made way for us to drive through.
We heaved a deep sigh of relief as we sped off. But our relief was short-lived when our car came to an abrupt stop. The car was overheating. We quickly came out of the car & opened the bonnet. We discovered that, the water in the radiator had dried up & the alternator belt had slacked! But how was this possible? The car was fine when we left home. We looked around and noticed we were on a lonely road with thick bushes on both sides. The ground we were on had splatters of thick red. Blood? Some boys dressed in colourful, ragged clothes rode an okada past us. When they saw us, one placed a phone against his ear as if to make a call. We knew we were not on safe ground & we had to get out of there. Fast!
Luckily for us, we were able to drive the car to a neighbouring village where we spotted a mechanic shop by the roadside. We engaged the mechanic to fix the car. As he did, we patronized a roadside coconut seller.
After our car was fixed, the rest of our journey to Ikpa Ibekwe, Ikot Abasi was relatively smooth. We only encountered a few more secret societies on processions. We had learnt our lessons the first time so we knew what to do on each occasion.
When we arrived at Lugard’s residence which is situate along Marina road in Ikpa Ibekwe village, we observed how deserted the whole place was. There was no sign of life. Lord Lugard’s 107-years old brick house sits in an open compound surrounded by trees and bushes. We stood from afar and took shots of the building. We looked around to see if we could ask anyone for permission to approach the building, but there was no one in sight. After about 20 minutes of indecisiveness, we decided to take our chance; we decided to approach the building.
“Don’t go in!” a voice yelled from behind us. We turned around to see a woman in a black and red shirt and skirt. She had her hands behind her back like an examination invigilator would. “Don’t go in,” she repeated sternly.
“How did you get behind us?” I asked, given that we were the only people in that vicinity a few seconds ago. She ignored me, turned around & started walking away. We hurried after her. “Please we want to take closeup pictures of the building,” I said. “Why shouldn’t we go in?”
“The people don’t like pictures,” the woman answered. “What people?” I asked. The woman stopped to look at us. Then she turned to face Lugard’s building. She pointed towards the building. We followed her finger but didn’t see anyone. “The people who live there don’t like pictures,” she said. At this point, we were confused. We were sure we hadn’t seen anyone in that compound in the 20 minutes we had been around. “There is no one there,” I said.
The woman smiled wryly. “Come, let me show you Amalgamation House,” she said. We followed her as she crossed Marina road to a compound opposite Lugard’s residence. I assumed the Amalgamation House formed part of Lugard’s apartment but later learnt it was Lugard’s office.
The Amalgamation House is made of wooden floors and a zinc roof which had all deteriorated. Here, we saw the transistor radio, speaker, antique telephone and typewriter used by Lugard. They were old, dirty and of course, not working.
We also took pictures inside the dilapidated Amalgamation House. Take particular note of [this picture]. I’ll come back to it later.
The woman in red and black said the amalgamation of Southern and Northern Nigeria in 1914 was concocted here at the Amalgamation House.
From my research, there are different accounts of where the Amalgamation Treaty/Order (AT/O) was actually signed. One account states it was signed here; another account states it was signed in Zungeru, Niger State; while another states, Britain. Whatever the true position, it can’t be denied that amalgamation plans were also orchestrated here. I wish this place was maintained & a copy of the AT/O preserved here. This place also played another important part in our history. It is reported that, it was here that General Obasanjo (acting for the Nigerian Army) & General Philip Effiong of the Biafran Army signed the declaration of cease-fire that brought to an end the civil war in 1970.
While lost in thoughts, I heard my friend say “let’s get out”. I asked him why. I mean, we had only just arrived. He looked at me & muttered: what? I repeated my question, “why did you say we should get out?” My friend, still looking confused, said “I didn’t say anything."
I turned to my brother & asked if he had said anything. He shook his head. I turned to the woman in red. There was a blank expression on her face. It was obvious she did not utter those words.
“Let’s go to the District Office,” the woman said curtly, disregarding me. We followed her as she exited the Amalgamation House. We walked down Marina road to a brick-walled bungalow by the side of the road. Here is a video of the District Office.
Here is a picture of me at the Opobo District Office. A signpost with the inscription “Ministry of Lands and Town Planning” has been erected in front of the District Office.
...Not far away from the Bridge of No Return is a mock grave in memory of the Women’s War of 1929 (also known as the Aba Women’s Riot). It is said that, part of that war was fought in Ikot Abasi. Some Ikot Abasi women, who were led by Madam Udo Udoma, the mother of Sir Udo Udoma, were protesting the imposition of taxes on women, at the District Office. The British Police opened fire on these unarmed women. Here is the mock grave just by the District Office.
When we were done at the mock grave site, the woman in red and black took her leave. We thanked her for her service & showed appreciation. Before leaving Ikpa Ibekwe, we decided to take one more look at Lugard’s residence. This time, we stepped into the compound. To our shock, we saw a number of people who hadn’t been there the 1st time we came - an elderly woman & two men. There was something scary about their seemingly sudden emergence, so we trod with caution. We told them of our mission & sort permission to take pictures. To our surprise, they agreed without any fuss. I remembered the woman in red & black & wondered why she said the people here don’t like pictures. Anyway, I quickly took pictures beside the building.
When we were about leaving, we thanked the people who allowed us take pictures & videos of the building. I also quickly took another video of the building’s surrounding which had a courtyard, kitchen, beach garden, amongst others. It was quite the luxurious residence.
I left Ikpa Ibekwe in a lot of pain, angst & with unanswered questions. I wondered why the government would neglect such a place with powerful stories of our history. I also thought about the people at the Lugard residence. I would like to know their individual stories.
When I got home, I went through the pictures I took at Ikpa Ibekwe. That was when I discovered something very chilling at the Amalgamation House. Remember the picture I asked you to take note of? When converted to white & black, & exposed, this was what I saw!
I don't want to say what I think this is. But when I remember that someone said "let's get out" & that person was none of us within that building...
For a more detailed account of the trip, follow and read his thread on Twitter (@haroldwrites).
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