On Nnebisi Road, Asaba, behind the Delta State High Court and the State Library Complex, sits a wooden palm one-storey building. It is old, built in 1886 by the Royal Niger Company (RNC) to remember Mungo Park, the first European explorer to reach the River Niger. Known as the Mungo Park House, the 134-year-old building was announced in 1997 as the National Museum, Asaba.
Having arrived at the River Niger in 1796, Park died 10 years later, in 1806, when his boat capsized in New Bussa, Niger State. Eighty years after his death, members of the RNC decided to enshrine his efforts by erecting the building. They chose Asaba as location.
The construction of the Mungo Park House, according to Daily Trust, is said to have been led by the British explorers Richard and John Lander, who planned it mainly for the palm kernel business. When the British government took over from the RNC, the building became the first administrative headquarters of the then Southern Protectorate.
Over the decades, it has been used by the Western and Mid-Western Nigerian governments as well as the state and local governments as a variety of things: women’s development centre, water board, and orphanage.
Presently, the building is expected to undergo renovation.
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, editor, journalist, and curator. He is Editor of Folio Nigeria, where he profiles innovators and facilitators in culture, art, photography, business, activism, and health. He has vast experience working in literature. He has sat on the judging panels of The Gerald Kraak Prize and of The Morland Writing Scholarship. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria's first queer art collective, and Curator at The Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies exploring different aspects of Nigerianness. For three years, Nov. 2016 to Apr. 2020, he led the transformation of the literary blog Brittle Paper into a continental powerhouse, ideating and administering The Brittle Paper Awards, the first by an African publication. His work in queer advocacy has been profiled in Literary Hub. In 2019, he won The Future Awards Africa Prize for Literature. In 2020, he was named among "The 100 Most Influential Young Nigerians." He completed a collection of short stories in 2016 and his novel in 2020. Find him on otosirieze.com or on Twitter & Insta: @otosirieze.