Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, the late radical politician, who as a Senate President, bestrode the Nigerian National Assembly like a colossus, painted a figurative image of what the cave in his country home, Ogbunike, Anambra State, looked like.
The mace at the Senate had disappeared at the peak of the National Assembly crisis, and he told reporters that it was inside the Ogbunike Cave. Okadigbo further warned that if anybody ventured to go there, he or she should be careful of the sacred python guarding the cave.
No doubt, Ogbunike Cave is one of Anambra state’s most unexploited treasures. It was only in the first week of this month that the state governor, Chief Willie Obiano flagged off construction of the three- kilometer road leading to the cave from the popular St. Monica’s College junction on the old Enugu-Onitsha road.
Before the flag off of the road construction, the only sign of government presence at the cave were the about 317 steps constructed by the government sometime in 1997 along the walkway that leads tourists from the hill down to the valley where the caves are located in a thick forest.
As a result of the bad condition of the road, commercial motorcyclists make brisk business conveying tourists to the cave from St. Monica’s College junction along the old Onitsha-Awka road. One of the commercial motorcyclists, Tony Ahanonu, who operates on the route, told Friday magazine that they charge N300 to convey a tourist to the cave. He said that if two tourists accept to be conveyed in a bike, two of them might be charged between N450 and N500.
Located in a valley blanketed by tropical rain forest, the cave which is made up of a collection of caves had been in use over centuries by tourists from both within and outside the shores of the country. Ahanonu stated that people from the various parts of the country and even foreigners visit the cave. He said that the cave hosts higher number of tourists especially during festive periods, like Christmas and New Year as well as during public holidays and when students are on vacation.
Ogbunike Cave is indeed a destination for tourists. Okorie Ben, a final year student of Economics at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, UNIZIK, Awka and Stephanie Nnaji, a political science student of the institution were happy they were at the cave. They came along with many of their friends to behold the wonders of nature at Ogbunike. Ben, an indigene of nearby Imo state said he decided to visit the cave before passing out from the university so that he would not regret not visiting to view the cave now that it is closer to him.
For Nnaji: “I have heard the story of how scary the cave is, so I decided to come and have the scary feeling and all about the cave and the waterfall”.
The main cave consists of a massive structure with a big open chamber of about 5m high, 10m wide and 30m long at the entrance. There are ten tunnels at the main chamber leading to different directions. Within the tunnels are big chambers and other tunnels of varying lengths, some of which are interconnected.
The caves are occupied by a large colony of bats of various sizes. There are streams and body of water at various places. A stream flows out from one of the tunnels into a rapid flowing river known as River Nkissa. At the meeting point of the river and the stream one can feel the warm water from the caves and the cold river water. Beside this portion of the river is a table land of about 5 X 5 square meters used as a relaxation spot by visitors to the caves.
The immediate environment of the caves up to about 200 meters radius is a thick tropical rainforest type of vegetation. The site has sufficient boundaries (20 hectares) to protect its values from direct effects of human encroachment.
It was gathered that Ogbunike Cave is located on the land owned by Ifite clan of the ancient Igbunike town, the ancestral home of the late Nigeria colorful politician and one time President of the Senate, Rt. Hon. Dr. Chuba Okadigbo. The cave according to historical record was discovered by a hunter called Ukwa.
Visitors are not allowed to wear shoe into the cave while women experiencing their menstrual period are forbidden from entering the cave. Visitors are required to remove their shoes at the relaxation spot close to the main cave before entering into the chambers. Among the fauna of the site are deer, antelope, grass cutter, porcupine, rabbit, alligator, snakes and frogs. Others are fish, crabs and birds.
Ogbunike caves are associated with living traditions and are said to be used by the people for many centuries. The site still retains its historical and spiritual significance. There is an annual festival called “Ime Ogbe” celebrated in commemoration of the discovery of the caves. But sacrifices are forbidden from being performed at the cave.
The Nkisa River flows by the side of the caves into which the water that drains from the caves empties itself. The entire site is within ranges of undulating hills and valleys which stretch across other communities and farmlands. The site has sufficient boundaries (20 hectares) to protect its values from direct effects of human encroachment.
The caves are believed to have been in existence for centuries with minimal defacement and occupy a large expanse of area.
According to Igbo oral tradition, there was a god called Ogba who lived inside the cave in the middle of a large rock. Despite the opaque nature of the rock, he was an all-seeing spirit who could detect crimes, especially, theft. When someone was accused of crime, he could prove his innocence by entering the cave. The guilty ones never returned alive.
Igbunike cave is located in Oyi local government area and a mere 10km drive from Onitsha, the ever bustling commercial capital of Eastern Nigeria.
The cave is segmented into sections and there are different stories about each section. The Native Tour guides have delight in narrating the sectional stories to visiting tourists.
The naturally-carved network of chambers and tunnels has two levels. The lower level is 100m long and leads to an underground river. The upper level is twice as long and dry, and a bat colony and a waterfall site at the north-western end. Visitors to the cave are advised to go with torch light, wear trousers and prepare to do some crawling. Within the vicinity of Ogbunike cave is Mbida Ogba stream. Visitors to the cave will have the advantage of savouring the serenity of the stream.
There are numerous other rules for visitors, and these are displayed on a sign at the entrance which reads, “Ifite Youth Movement warning; no entry except by permission. Remove your shoes before entering into the cave. Ladies under period banned. Receive receipt after payment. Herbalist or spiritual ceremony in the cave is banned. Deforestation of cave will be prosecuted. Defaulters will be prosecuted”.
The entire site is within a range of undulating hills and valleys which stretch across other communities and farmlands. The site has sufficient boundaries (20 hectares) to protect its values from direct effects of human encroachment. Though not only a few believe that the attraction of the state government now was essentially because the wife of the state governor hails from the area, they however strongly believe that if properly developed, the cave will be a revenue spilling centre for the state as well job provision opportunity for the teeming unemployed youths.
Though 21-year old Dozie Ifeanyi, a National Diploma student of Federal Polytechnic, Oko, Anambra state, who works as one of the guides on part-time basis said they don’t charge tourists any specific amount to assist them go to the cave and the adjourning waterfalls, Uche, however disclosed that the managers of the cave charge as much as N18, 000 from tourists who come in a full load of 608 buses and between N8, 000 and N9, 000 from those in a mini-bus.
A waver is normally given to students and journalists as well as tourists who obtain permission from the traditional ruler of Ogbunike.
Uche and Ifeanyi however hailed the state governor, Chief Obiano for awarding the contract for the construction of the road leading to the cave. Ifeanyi would however urge the state government to go beyond constructing the road leading to the place. He wants the government to fully develop the cave by constructing a five- star hotel in the area, build Animal Park as well as sports stadium among facilities for leisure to boost revenue of the state and provide employment to the teeming unemployed youths.
According to Ifeanyi ,”Tourists who come here complain of where to buy food and even some drinks like minerals. There is no shelter for them in case it rains. So, when they come, they don’t like spending much time because there is nothing here for them to buy when they are hungry”. He said that he does not charge tourists any money to guide them to the cave because according to him, “I see it as part of pleasure. At times some would dash me something when going back but I don’t charge any amount to guide a tourist.”

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