What spur me into writing this piece? I want to write an article that will be motivational, educative, rich in history and bedded in research. I know you must have heard about the name Mungo Park in one way or the other but ignorant of the content the name have produced. Now take a deep breath and enjoy this painstaking research.
On the 9th of June 1788, twelve (12) white men who are into business and politics, at a get together dinner formed “Association for Promoting the Discovery of the Interior Parts of Africa” which was later abbreviated to “African Association”.
The main purpose of the association was to dedicate itself to the exploration of West Africa with the mission of discovering the origin and course of the River Niger and the location of Timbuktu, the lost city of gold. Sir Joseph Banks was elected as the president of the association.
African Association began the search for interested explorers who would be willing to go to Africa, and bring back the good news concerning the prospects and commercial life of the area.
Moreover, several explorers with good names like John Ledyard, Simon Lucas, Major Daniel Houghton offered their services to the African Association in the bid to exploring Africa (West Africa).
In December 1794, a young Scottish Doctor who had travelled to the east as a surgeon in the employ of the East India Company, and who was in love with adventure, offered his service to the African Association. His offer was promptly accepted. His name was MUNGO PARK.
On the 21st of June 1795, Mungo Park reached the Gambia and on the 2nd of December 1795, together with two hired local guides started for the unknown interior.
1st of July 1796, the young Scottish doctor Park was robbed and nearly killed. He escaped only with his horse and compass with all other possessions gone. Despite this calamity that befell him, he decided not to turn back determining strongly he must get to the Niger. All these things, he communicated back home.
After excruciating pains of hunger, starvation and suffering from the want of food and water, finally on the 20th of July 1796, Dr. Mungo Park was rewarded with the sight of “the long sought for, majestic River Niger, glittering in the morning sun, as broad as the Thames of Westminster, and flowing slowly eastward”.
With this, the direction of the River Niger was now solved, and the young Scottish doctor Mungo Park was the first European to see the direction of the Niger.
On the 30th of July 1796, Park commenced his journey back home, taking another direction entirely to be able to enter the Niger area through different routes. Unfortunately for him again, he was robbed and knocked down with fever, but he struggled along. On the 10th of June 1797, he arrived the Gambia from where he started and on the 22nd of December 1797, he was back in Scotland with good news for everyone, he had seen the movement of River Niger.
In January 1798, members of the African Association met to discuss the reports of Mungo Park and decided to find out where the river emptied itself into the sea. Besides, they were keen and wanted to know desperately if the Niger could also be linked from the North. Work must not stop!
This was how the young famous Scottish doctor Mungo Park upon the failures of the previous explorers unraveled the mystery behind the direction of the Niger which in turn paved way for the Europeans to make their entry into the Niger area which we now know today as NIGERIA.
It will interest you to know that he was just 24 years old when he set out on a journey to discover the River Niger. So are you saying you are small for exploitation and greatness? It’s high time you geared up and do something! At the age of 35, he jumped and drowned in the river when black men were after his life. Feeling that he died at a young age? No, he achieved the aim before death snatched him away. That should tell you the time to start something is now because death is a thief in the night. His remains are believed to have been buried along the banks of the River Niger in Jebba, Nigeria.
Let me give you a little insight to his never-say-never spirit, this is what he once wrote to a colonial office, “I SHALL set sail for the east with the fixed resolution to discover the termination of the Niger or perish in the attempt. Though all the Europeans who are with me should die, and though I were myself half died, I would still persevere, and if I could not succeed in the object of my journey, I would at least DIE on the NIGER.”
Dr. Mungo Park will forever be remembered for this outstanding achievement in unraveling and discovering the “Direction of the Niger”.
Written by: Tobiloba Olanipekun [Tobinolegend]