Friday, 21 April 2017

Gimme a 'lil bit of Jos

How does it feel to love a city and yet somehow, for good reasons, be separated from her for an extended period of time and be unable to enjoy more quality time with her? Nostalgia?  Yes! Longing? Definitely! This city-love I must say, rooted in deep bonds and rich memories from the past, evokes not only warm feelings and a sense of goodwill for her well-being and progress, but also a measure of uncertainty on how a reunion would turn out to be when next you visit to reconnect.

So it felt 3 months ago in early January when I embarked on a road trip from Abuja to this once-renowned-for-her-tin-but-still-famous-for-her-rocks city of Jos. With four route options to choose from, I decided to travel the Abuja-Keffi-Akwanga-Kaduna-Riyom route.  My last visit to Jos was 5 years ago and in the last 17 years, I have visited Jos only a handful of times, all together spending less than 2 weeks there. So there was a lot of catching up for me to do.

Driving through Akwanga brought back memories of when we use to stay there as one of my dad's tour-of-duty places of posting in the Nigerian police. Images of our neighbours at the GRA, a family of Chinese doctors, and my primary school, which was a walking distance behind our house, flashed through my mind.

I also remembered, rather sadly, our fun-loving, athletic and smart pet dog "Boogie":
We were relocating from Jos to Akwanga and Boogie was seated at the back of the haulage truck with my late cousin Velnoe. We had journeyed past Wamba town and were headed for Akwanga when Velno suddenly, like in a movie stunt, appeared beside the right door of the truck shouting "stop, stop!", catching us off guard and bringing us to a hasty halt.

News flash: "Boogie had jumped out of the moving truck!"

Wow! Unbelievable it sounded. Tried as we could, our search efforts only revealed blood trails.  That was to be the last we saw of Boogie.

I am usually fascinated by the great outdoors and so even though I was behind the wheels, my eyes were on the look-out for any interesting landmark, vegetation or activity.  The mostly rocky and vegetated terrain around soon gave way to sun-scorched stretches of flat land as the road drive moved into the territory of Kaduna State from Nasarawa.  The surrounding temperature also seemed to go up.  A quick glance at my phone's google app indicated temperatures in the upper thirties. By now my car's air conditioning was just circulating hot air about. Repeatedly adorning the landscape were the charred remains of burnt trees, a sight that got me really concerned. Bush burning, to hunt for game meat and harness wood for domestic use, were obviously common practices around I concluded. I was still absorbed in my thoughts when the hugely diminished scope of the forest reserve area at the Plateau/Kaduna boundary caught my attention, signifying we were entering into the territory of Plateau State. Trailers and trucks, passenger buses and cars could be seen parked on all sides of the roads converging at this popular rest spot that the reserve had become, their occupants buying fruits from the roadside vendors or food from the makeshift wooden and rain-beaten, corroded zinc restaurants.  I couldn’t but stop by to take some photos before driving on.

Navigating through the twists and turns, ups and downs of the rock formations famously called Hawan Kibo (the Ascent of Kibo) required cautious driving and by the time you get through, framing the horizon before you are even more imposing rocks and you begin to get a feel and taste of the cool weather  this part of the Plateau is noted for. Cactus plants as fencing for houses and farmlands dot the neighbourhood of Riyom town. At the security checkpoints, your car gets surrounded by sellers of vegetables - fresh carrots, cabbage, lettuce, green peas - olive fruit, and surprise, surprise the big one, strawberry grown on the plateau! I was seeing it for the first time. Of course Plateau is known as the place of choice for irish potatoes so the road side is serviced by several potato kiosks.

After 5 hours on the road, I finally arrived at our family house at the Apata area of Jos city, a bit exhausted but feeling good about this city reunion. It was a Thursday so I had 2 more full days to move around and see things.


Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Letter to God

Dear God,

1. Writing to You is not what I do often. I usually speak to You in prayer even though I know I should be speaking with You a lot more ("blushing", have mercy on me!). Guess what, Lord? Today is my birthday! Yeeeeeeeeeeees! I am feeling special. Laughing Out Loud! I know You did not forget, Lord! :-) You don't ever.
2. Usually on a day like this the spotlight is on the celebrant but I have been thinking Lord it really should be about You and deservedly so. Reason - You are why I exist. First, I had no say, input or contribution whatsoever to make when You were at work forming me. Secondly, you "tailor-chose" my parents, physical attributes, natural endowments and core giftings. Those decisions were too complex even for my parents to have made any meaningful input. They were simply God decisions. So what started out as an intimate private moment between tall, fair-skinned and handsome Matthew (my Dad) and his curly haired nubian beauty Jummai (my Mom) on that cold Yola night was actually Your top secret project codenamed Richard.

Growing Pains: Pleasures and Pressures of Living in a Developing City

"Piim! Piim piim!"
A few seconds pass and "Pim! Piim!! Piiim!" again.
I turned around to see an approaching taxi cab, the driver making gestures at me with his hand to find out if I needed a ride. Uncommitted, I continued on the sidewalk only for the cab to slow down beside me and the driver probing a little further: "Drop?" (Local slang for "do you want to charter a ride?").
I shook my head and he sped off towards the traffic light some distance away. Almost immediately, my ears were again inundated with the growing sound of "Piim piim, piim piim! Piim piim, piim piim!" as a second taxi cab drew closer, the driver dancing on his seat to the loud beat of Fuji music (a popular drums-rich Yoruba music genre) and looking in my direction for the signal to stop but receiving none.
I laughed and muttered to myself, mentally shaking my head, "What do we do with these aggressive and unrelenting Abuja taxi drivers who never give up and never keep quiet until you are seated in their car as a passenger!”

Morning delight!

I love mornings. I mean I love the morning experience. Mornings are usually my most productive and inspiring moments. They are sometimes my struggling periods too, trying to work out my bearing for the day. Very often as the "anesthesia" of sleep wears off and loses its effect on me and I lazily jostle into wakefulness, nature's jazz band is beginning to play softly in the background, serenading, reassuring and entertaining. The rooster, king of the morning, like a brass master, opens the musical score skillfully blowing his trumpet in the still-dark, insect-sound-laden, early morning silence: "cock-a-doodle-doo!" Or better still, in Nigerian pidgin: "kukurukuuuuu!" (laughing). And almost immediately, another member of this cock-ensemble positioned somewhere some distance in the neighbourhood joins in, echoing back this rooster-trumpet sound. This seemingly two-piece rendition goes on and on. And in no time, the twittering of sparrows, the whistling of swallows, the singing of wood thrushes and the cooing of doves and pigeons harmonise into this amazing birdsong and dawn chorus in the unfolding musical interlude.

What's A Year Got To Do With It?

I have a small Samsung smartphone. I don't particularly like big phones partly because they are clumsy to carry about but also because it appears I am some kind of phone monster who makes them to run for cover! Sadly, I have lost quite a number of them. Hahaha! Nevertheless, it's amazing what you can do with your phone. Outside making and receiving calls and engaging in social networking, my Samsung galaxy has become my trusted journaling companion. Often, lying on my bed, I just start journaling. Of the several note-taking apps out there, Evernote is my favorite. So a couple of days ago while journaling and thinking about how fast my year seemed to have unfolded and also wrapped up, I got to wondering about what's really in a year? I mean like what's a year really worth? What's the value of a year?

Masquerade Songs!

I stretched out my right hand, rather hesitantly, to turn the cold water tap but then let it freeze midway. The picture in my mind of shivers rocking through my body at contact with the shower water left me undecided to take the plunge into this miniature waterfall. The option of turning the hot water tap was none the better as an electricity outage earlier meant that the heater was of no use to me when I needed it the most. Mustering all the courage in me, I jumped into this controlled downpour, skipping as I did, to shake off the cold water induced shivering. A familiar yet unexpected hum suddenly seemed to well up inside of me. I ignored it at first but it grew in audibility, striking a chord in me. It resonated of an experience from my past. It aroused a sense of nostalgia. In that bathroom moment, I was literally transported back in time to Luukwo village.
The sound of pigeons cooing outside, cocks crowing in turns, a mother hen clucking, subdued by the chirping of her chicks, and the distant squealing of a pig fight indicated that it was daybreak already and everyone was up and about their business. It must be a beautiful day, I concluded. Well maybe for them but surely not for me. I tried to justify my condition as I laid there in bed, my body sore and my hands achy. The blisters on my hands had made me to detest the hard and physical aspects of the life of a village farmer. And don't even mention the early wake-ups and long bicycle rides to the farm! "Is this what they do daily?”, I questioned.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Christmas in Bakin Ciyawa

I am a village boy! Okay before I became a city boy, I was basically a village boy at heart (Laughing). I find village life very intriguing! The raw beauty of nature is so alluring and I marvel at the sense of community and solidarity that exudes around so effortlessly. There appears to be an unwritten law that everyone is their brother's keeper if not watcher. "Nobody should mind their own business" it seems to declare. And so as day breaks, as if to put this code of conduct to practice, the ritual of neighbourly salutations can be observed as people move from house to house exchanging pleasantries and getting updated on happenings. Native intelligence and practical wisdom are in no small supply as you listen to the threads of discussions among villagers.