On a recent trip to Ghana on the 56th Anniversary of the Aburi Accord of 1967, it is for the love of history that found me walking down the royal palm-lined avenue of the Aburi Botanical Gardens, known as the Pergola, located just outside of Accra.
On January 4 and 5, 1967, at the invite of Lt-Gen Joseph Ankrah of Ghana, Nigeria’s Military Leader Gen Yakubu Gowon and his nemesis Col Odumegwu Ojukwu met at the scenic gardens and signed the Aburi Accord to stop the discord between the government in Lagos and the federalists in Enugu.
But before getting to the actual building where the failed treaty was signed, there was a treat of nature to be savoured, as our host Seth Avusugulo of the Library of Africa and The African Diaspora revealed.
From the royal palm trees (Roystonearegia) that line the entrance to the park that is the ''Lover’s Lane'', to the spine palms (Aiphanes horrida) to the sausage trees (Kigeliaafricana) to the Brownea grandiceps, the Aburi Botanical Gardens are nature’s ‘flex’ to make the nature-lover relax and reflect on this 65 hectare site, that has been set aside (since 1890, by the British colonialists) as the home of both indigenous and exotic trees — some with medicinal value like the quinine-scented one with its anti-malarial leaves that Ghanaian witchdoctors crushed to treat the disease, even as merchants in white bondage got ground down by the disease down at the Cape Coast of Ghana.
Aburi Botanical Park has the kapok tree (tree of life) as one of its centre pieces.
Ghanaian artist, Kofi Sale has done sculptures that represent leadership, interpersonal relationships and living in harmony with nature — which can be a motif for this love week in the world.
The head of the family must show leadership, interpersonal relationships between couples should be well-managed, and encourage harmonious living within the family setting.
There are also trees known as ‘strangler trees’ in Aburi that are literally out of a vampire horror movie!
Originating in dark tropical forests where there is intense competition for light, these hemi epiphytes take root not in the ground but germinate on the crevices atop other specific species of trees.
The seedlings of the hemi epiphytes grow their roots downwards as their bodies envelop the host tree and grow upwards, seeking sunlight above the body of the tree that they will ‘cannibalise’ on.
In the process they suck up nutrients from their victims, causing these host trees to eventually die within 10, 20 or 30 years.
It was a terrifying sight, seeing the hemi epiphytes entwined around the pillar of a dead tree that it has hollowed out. The scientific name of this vampire tree is Fiscusleporieun.
The most inspiring tree at the gardens is a fallen silk cotton tree (Ceibapentrandra).
Last of its kind
The last survivor of the species covered the Aburi hills, a winding scenic drive up. This tree was the last of its kind (50 metres tall and six-metre-wide) dating back seven centuries (1320s) and became a ‘victim’ of Covid-19, as it came crashing down one stormy morning on July 8, 2020.
It was named ‘Lady Knutsford' after the wife of the secretary-of-colonies who established the gardens.
Aburi Botanical Gardens teems with birds, butterflies and the scents of all sorts of flower species.
The sweet scents floating in the air guarantee lovers that they can have picnics in the grounds amidst the trees, drink at the bars therein, rest by the rock garden, or take bicycle rides in the trails (as long as you don’t bring pets to this site) and even stay at the Lansdown Ibra Heights hotel (for $96 a night) that is near the Adom and Oboadaka Waterfalls.
Aburi Botanical Gardens is a 45-minute drive from Accra, through a cool hilly range with nice residences but mostly spectacular views to get to its tranquillity, set in just three acres with other 157 acres reserved to conserve what is left of some of the planet’s rare botanical species.
Other than the visionary Ghanaian leader Kwame Nkrumah in 1957, other world figures who have visited this park are the late Queen Elizabeth in 1961, her son King Charles in 1977 and Gen Olusegun Obasanjo upon becoming President of Nigeria in 1979.