Secrets in the Garden City | Enuma Chigbo Phillips

Today's excerpt is from Enuma Chigbo Phillips. Enuma's love for nature got her travelling around the globe and has resulted in two travelogues - The Gambia Diaries and Cries from the Hills of Obanliku. She has also published a children's story book - Children of Destiny, based on the real life stories of street children in Calabar, her home state.

Currently, she is a media consultant with Nigeria's Cross River State government and one of the creative directors of the Carnival Calabar Queen Pageant.

Enuma holds a Bachelor of Arts honors degree in English Language from the University of Port Harcourt and a certificate in Media Enterprise from the Pan African University, Lagos. She's worked in various capacities in THISDAY Nigeria and South Africa as reporter on health and diplomatic issues, as a special projects coordinator and an advertising administrator. S
he’s seen her writing evolve into script writing for stage plays and movies and shift from writing to movie productions. Her first short film “The Deadwood” a docu drama on the plight of the elderly just won the Cross River State Merit Award. 

Enuma is passionate about God, the media and young people. The third passion is born out of a desire to pass on the right message to the younger generation. Since 1994, she has served as a volunteer in church-based welfare services across Nigeria. 

I set out to Port Harcourt the capital of Rivers State. Little wonder that state is called the Treasure Base of the Nation. I think whoever attached those different slogans to the different states of Nigeria was very profound and prophetic. [I]t was Obii Pax-Harry’s matter that took me and many others there. Her father in law had passed and that land was the convergence centre for the burial rites. Actually the main event took place in Buguma, Kalabari Kingdom about an hour away from Port Harcourt, but we needed to get to the capital city first.

I set out from my humble abode in Calabar with Pastors Gloria and her husband Julius Gbayange – my friends, prayer partners and travel companions on many a journey as it were.

To get to Port Harcourt, you go through the Calabar City Gate, travel for a while make a left at the Odukpani Junction. In Odukpani Local Government Area, one of the 18 Local Government Areas in Cross River State, you get to see the houses of the Legendary Mary Slessor known for the stopping of the killing of twins in that region, the house of Eyo Ema Ekon II said to have been the Chief Priest of the highest Efik deity back in the 19th century, and the bells of King Eyo Honesty, a distinguished King, who was said to have laid the foundation upon which Mary Slessor built.

After that left turn it’s a straight road, all the way to Akwa Ibom State.

I always like the crossover going and coming. By crossover, I simply mean the bridge that stretches over the beautiful Cross River, which is the natural boundary between Cross River State and Akwa Ibom. On getting to Akwa Ibom you drive on for a few more kilometers, bypass Uyo the capital on the left, and drive on a straight road through the Akwa Ibom villages until you get to Rivers State. Again you cross another bridge that goes over Imo River. This is the boundary between Akwa Ibom and Rivers State.

I had been down this road several times so to me it was nothing new. But I was drawn to some very interesting billboards from my Christian brothers and sisters.

The titles are: 1. The warrant to arrest witches is ready. 2. January to please God. 3. I must marry by fire. 4. City of favor ministries aka champion ground for all nations. 5. Taproot of God’s power ministry.

Chai…there is God o…for some of these strange words, my travel companion Julius Gbayange had much to say.

“January to please God…so I can I assume that God is displeased for the rest of the year?”

Yes he did have quite a bit to say but for the warrant to arrest witches signboard, he was speechless. Come to think of it we all were and I guess still are to this day.

Anyway, the trip was a smooth one all the way to Port Harcourt where we saw different faces competing for space in the shape of billboards. Up till now, I thought Akwa Ibom was the King of billboards but I think they may have been dethroned by Rivers State.

We settled in much later at a new hotel called the Edge in the New GRA. The rooms are nice but small and I wish they could do better by way of towels but it was all good.

However, perhaps like the Prophet Jeremiah, it is with great lamentation that I write about the Garden City. It was a Garden City in the good old days. Yes I would know having obtained my first degree in that land but today I am unable to make sense of the madness – from the hordes of people milling around quite aggressively, to vendors who seem to be competing with pedestrians and motorists causing heavy and senseless traffic jams, and then to the different faces on billboards competing for attention and maybe even the pedestrians who knows?

In fact the politicians are not alone on this one. Through this bold yet highly disorganized means of advertising, you will also find churches displaying their various ‘products.’

What happened to the beauty in this land that once was I wondered, it was a clear contradiction of the Word I heard prior to this trip. Indeed it was.

With a heavy heart and a mind almost as confused as the chaos in the Garden City, I set out with the rest of the group to Buguma.

Buguma is part of the famous Kalabari Kingdom (story for another day) and five main villages – Buguma, Abonema, Tombia, Degema and Bakana make up this kingdom. These people are said to be as troublesome as they come and when it comes to burials it’s a completely different story – story for another day maybe.

It was a fairly smooth ride. That area and some others dotted across the State is said to be home to quite a few militants who were major strongholds back then. The two things I found fascinating are the bridges that take you into Buguma. It’s a very scenic ride, one bridge longer than the other. The longer one is about 3km and could best be described as a journey on its own. The bridges run over the Sombrero River. I wonder what my fascination is with bridges on this trip and I still do.

“There’s no life in this place,” said Gbayange.

He referred to the oil spillage which caused major pollution in some parts of the waters as we travelled along. “Fish cannot thrive here and you cannot farm.”

Again this seemed like a contradiction to God’s word but I really do wonder. The Lord does talk about hidden riches and treasures in secret places. On hindsight we are not talking about riches that are glaring and gaping. The riches are hidden so one would have to look beyond the obvious chaos and deep into the seemingly polluted waters to find them.

It was going to be a tough one I thought, until I saw the people come out dressed resplendently to honor their own. I saw priceless cloths and jewels of what many may describe as inestimable value. I saw men dressed like princes, many of whom I imagined were ignorant of their royal status. Indeed I saw it all. The Almighty God did not lie. The truth is there, hidden but waiting to be discovered. How all of this will happen is entirely up to Him, but indeed I write the vision down and make it plain on tablets that he may run who reads.


The Gambia Diaries tells the story of the Gambia through the eye of a traveler, Enuma Chigbo, a visitor to the capital city Banjul for the very first time. Through this singular visit, we see history unfold during a visit to St James' Island, experience the rich cuisine of The Gambia, not to mention the fact that sex tourism thrives there. However, the main message underneath all of that adventure is love.

Joggling in Jamaica, the author's third travelogue shows her excitement at natural beauty and history learned in just seven days. Enuma is amazed at what the country Jamaica and the small city of Calabar where she resides have so much in common. In this travelogue, she tries to capture it all in seven days hoping that this little gesture will reap huge dividends...

Cries from the Hills of Obanliku is a profound narrative that tells the story of the Obudu Mountain Resort, Cross River State, through the eyes of Enuma Chigbo. Her narrative gives the reader a vivid picture of the interesting features of the resort, from its idyllic natural beauty, to stories told by one of the oldest men in that vicinity, down to the unique crops grown there. There is a strong moral message underneath all of that though - a message that will be brought to the fore through tears.

To find out more, please visit Enuma Chigbo on Amazon


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