Undulating landscapes, untarred roads, imposing mountains, rustic terrain, and churches signpost Nok Community in Jaba Local Government Area of Kaduna State, where civilisation is believed to have commenced over 3,000 years ago.
The journey to Nok is as intriguing as the tourism potentials that dot its landscape, which if given due attention can become a source of economic fortunes for the people, state and Nigeria, analysts argue.
Nok community is reputed for its highly revered Terra Cotta head, which was discovered during a mining activity at Kochinchar, a Nok community, in 1943 by Bernhard Faggs, then administrative officer overseeing Tin mining activities in Jos. Though other historical accounts have it that Nok civilisation was discovered in 1928 during a tin-mining activity led by then Lt-Colonel John Dent-Young, an Englishman, where miners found a small terracotta monkey head, the discovery of Terra cotta head in 1943 appears a more profound account.
To access Nok from the Kaduna metropolis is not a difficult task. Television Garage in the southern part of Kaduna town holds a viable option, as there are many cars in the garage that ply Nok directly.
The transport fare to Nok hovers around N600 and most of the drivers are friendly as they are always willing to help out with direction.
On arrival at Kwoi Town, the many motorcycle operators fondly called Okada riders come handy at a fee of not more than N100 and are always willing to drop any passenger at Nok.The car drops you off at Kwoi, the headquarters of Jaba Local government Area.
On entering the narrow, undulating rusty road leading to Nok, the first thing that comes to the mind of a visitor is that of confusion, if actually he is on the right path, considering the international reputation Nok has garnered as the source of Terracotta head, dating over 3,000 years ago.
The only thing that reminds a visitor that it is actually Nok, is the many menacing mountains wounding to a convergence and confronting him with an imposing confidence.
On arrival at Nok, the first port of call is the Museum believed to house many of the famed artifacts but alas, the museum is a mere building, yet to be completed with no visible artifact for attraction. Kaduna State under the immediate past governor, Ahmed Makarfi, administration was said to have constructed the building but it is yet to be equipped with materials that will qualify it for a museum.
At the museum Daily Independent reporter met Fatima Namiji, a member of staff of the museum in company with six expatriates who were on the trail of Nok civilisation and when asked about the latest developments with the museum she replied that the building was the only thing available for now.
"For now this is the only development; there is nothing yet. What you are seeing is done by the state government. The Federal Government has done nothing," Namiji said.
On how to trail Nok civilisation, Namiji told our reporter that it is not a day’s assignment, stating that the various locations were scattered in various caves and mountains around the town.
However, in a bid to get first hand knowledge of Nok civilisation Daily Independent sought Namiji’s assistance on how to access the many caves, which she obliged and directed us to the palace of the district head, Alhaji Ibrahim Nock.
Though Nok has civilisation dating over 3,000 years ago, the town is an opposite of civilisation as it does not have a befitting health centre. The only one, a one-room apartment, with no pharmacy funded by Pathfinder International, makes a mockery of its famed civilisation. Even the National Museum and Monuments Commission (NMMC), a government agency that is supposed to protect and celebrate the treasures of Nok does not a have a befitting presence in the locality. NMMC office in Nok is a disappointment to its touted commitment to developing monuments and artifacts in the country.
However, the district head is an example of a leader who wants the best for his subjects and craves for the development of the town.
When our correspondent sought his view on the lack of development in the town, irrespective of its reputation as the centre of civilisation in Africa, he responded that most of the infrastructures on ground were done through communal efforts. He also used the occasion to call on government to develop the community. "The history of Nok civilisation is very important through out the world and highly educative. I am calling on the government of Nigeria to redesign this village and make it a special area in Kaduna State. There is no place in Kaduna State or in Nigeria that has ancient age of this village called Nok. Archaelogists put the age of our people living here at over 500 years before Christ and now scientific investigation is proving that we are much older than that age. If archeologists now feel that Nok is about 3,000 years ago, there is no doubt that we might have lived here for well over 3,000 years," Nock said.
Even Wikipedia supports Nock’s position that Nok civilisations is well over 3,000 years and possesses an advanced form of social system: "The Nok civilisation appeared in Nigeria around 500 B.C. and mysteriously vanished around 200 A.D. The civilisation’s social system was highly advanced. The Nok civilisation was considered to be the earliest sub-Saharan producer of life-sized Terracotta. Nok culture terracottas are heralded as the prime evidence of the refinement of African civilisations, and it is suggested that the society eventually evolved into the later Jos Plateau community."
After conferring with the district head, it became expedient that for a visitor to have a feel of Nok civilisation, he has to embark on the trail in the early hours of the day, hence the decision to spend another day in Nok became a viable option .
The search for a hotel accommodation in Nok is an exercise in futility because there is none. Visitors can only get hotels in Kwoi, about twenty minutes ride on a motorcycle from Nok.
After a good night rest, the next morning became a viable time to embark on the trail of Nok civilisation.
At the palace of the district head, four young men namely, Isah Ibrahim Nock, Solomon Yohana, Aliyu Ibrahim Nock and Ezra Yohana, bursting with energy and zeal served as tour guides. And they proved to know their onions all through the trail.
The boys, whose ages range from 14 to 16 years could have been making a living from serving as tour guides if the federal and state governments can muster enough courage to develop Nok into a tourism destination of note, one of the expatriates volunteered.
However, the first port of call was at the spot where Terracotta head was discovered in 1943 at Kochinchar by Faggs through mining activities at 25 feet of alluvial deposit.
The site only boasts of a platform with inscriptions and data of the discovery.
As it appeared, Kochinchar was a tip off the iceberg as it turned out an expose of rich cultural heritage waiting to be explored for the economic benefit of the people.
After Kochinchar, the remaining part of the trail was an exercise in physical strength and endurance as a visitor has to maneuver through mountains, caves and rocks to catch a glimpse of the treasures scattered across various locations in the town.
The mountains stand at over fifty feet, with numerous vestiges of Nok civilisation tucked inside caves and undulating rock platform.
After much maneuvering across the mountains, a visitor comes face to face with a collection of stones covering an expansive area, called the first wall of defence, used by the early inhabitants as shield during wars at a place known as Bangwom.
Proceeding deep into the mountains, a visitor comes across another set of stones, covering an enlarged area of land, called the second wall of defence. According to the tour guides, the early inhabitants used the location as a shield against the bullets of the enemy. According to Nok history, the powerful soldiers stayed at the first gate, while the fragile ones stayed at the second gate. As one moves further into the caves, moving to mountain top after meandering through many narrow pavements, one comes across a cave where hospital was located in those early days of Nok civilisation .
Here a rock pavement with spotty inscriptions of red, white and black was used as a notice board. According to historical accounts, the red spots signify number of injured persons on admission; black, the number of dead person and white, signifying no injured person.
Beside the clinic, is a maternity ward, tucked inside a narrow cave, where women were delivered of their babies.
Nok is not only known for its civilisation dating over 3,000 years but it is also endowed with precious stones as the presence of men digging hard at the soil to unearth precious stones also adds colour to the trail .
After savouring the many treasures on the mountains, it was time to move over to the other side of the town, where the Tree of Life is located. The journey from one side of the mountain to the other is not without some vestiges of Nok civilisation as one comes across a place named side of Ngwam. Here, the nine clans that originally made up the early Nok community are found in circles. The stones are laid out in seniority, fromHarisham, Harindem, Haribiam, Harife, Harisharu, Harirap, Harlakaiya to Harigwondo.
On leaving the clan, the next port of call is the Tree of Life said to possess both healing and spiritual powers. The myth surrounding the tree has it that it used to behave like human being until 2006, with ability to shed tears and spill blood when scratched.
If the trail across the mountains had been an exercise in strength, accessing the Tree of Life was an arduous task in its entirety. The tree is tucked inside interlocking mountains, with the roots not visible from outside unless a visitor meanders through a pillage of rock pavements and caves.
Meandering through the mountains to access the Tree of Life has its own peculiarities as the path is dotted with various kind of NOK vestiges that make the trail an intriguing experience on its own.
Through the direction of the four tour guides, one was able to climb through many mountain pavements and caves, and in the process came across a barn tucked inside the caves. The early inhabitants used the barn to preserve foods, but some of them are still intact. The barns are made of mud and standing at about three feet. Meandering further through the caves and narrow rock pavements, a visitor comes to an expansive palace, called the palace of the chief priest during the early civilisation. In the palace is a large flat stone said to have served as bed for the chief priest and other vestiges of Nok civilisation.
However, to get to the Tree of Life, the meandering through caves and undulating rock pavements continues before a visitor gets to the top of the mountain, from where a clear view of the tree of life is possible. The tree with a slippery stem stands on its own in the middle of mountains, with no living thing around it. It confirms the superiority of nature over scientific advancement.
When one was about to rejoice that the trail of Nok civilisation had been conquered, the tour guides reminded you rather casually: "sir, we are not through yet, you have to go and see the supreme court of the early inhabitants."
Though dizzy, the desire to catch a glimpse of what Nok had on offer would not inhibit the trail. The crew had to make a detour from the top of the mountain and proceed to the Supreme Court, after about another twenty minutes walk across undulating rock platforms. The Supreme Court is tucked away under a cave with an expansive area, that can comfortably accommodate over twenty people, replete with small stones that served as seats for spectators and judges.
At the end of the trail, it became imperative that Nigerians spend their hard monies to travel to Egypt on trail of modern civilisation, when Nok is rotting away because of laxity of government; hence robbing them of both leisure and economic benefits.