The journey to Kano was largely uneventful from Lagos, he wasn’t interested in the in-house entertainment which was one of the Nollywood movies, that he felt dulled the brains of Nigerians, however when at about 2am the driver’s assistant didn’t replace the just ended Part 2 of the movie that had gotten most passengers glued to the TV with another, but played HIGHLIFE music (popular amongst the Igbo speaking and South Eastern and South-Southern part of Nigeria) instead, he was pleased with the fact that the driver ignored the widely popular crooners in that genre like OLIVER DE COQUE and OSITA OSADEBE, to settle for ALI CHUKWUMA. His father once had casette tapes of Ali’s music and he used to enjoy it, but hadn’t heard any of his music for years before this driver dealt him this one good hand. Had he his way, he’d have gone to his compartment to give him one fly-catching salute for all it was worth.
The luxury bus stopped at Lokoja in Kogi State at some minutes before three in the morning, to allow passengers stretch their legs and take a leak for just a few minutes, his seatmate was so deep in sleep that he didn’t bother to wake him as he clambered down to go ease himself. The other stop was at Kaduna at dawn to allow passengers clean up for the final stretch of the journey to Kano.
He could easily discern one of the characteristics along which Nigerians can easily be divided in two, in the very little thing such as the way the male passengers from many of the buses that had also parked, went about the business of urinating. The Muslims of which many were from the Northern part of Nigeria squatted in nearby bushes and next to the wall of petrol filling station to “take a leak”, while the Christians mainly from Nigeria’s South stood to heed this important call of nature. Most of the Muslims cleaned their penises with water packaged in a sachet or from kettles borrowed from the locales, while those who stood to do their business couldn’t be bothered with cleaning their glans, the last drop of urine was meant for their boxers or trousers where they had none on, anyways.
He wondered how it would’ve been easy to separate one side from the other in a period of religious crisis as is usual with Nigeria for the flimsiest of excuses with the massacring of Christians by intolerant Muslims, and the violent reprisals that follow (including the cannibalistic acts meted on the body of Hausa/Fulani Muslims in Jos by the natives following an initial attack by the former) or any of the religiously or ethnically motivated crisis that leaves scores usually of the minority groups in the North dead, of which Kaduna had witnessed many of such in the past leading to the division of the state unofficially into a mainly Muslim northern part and a Christian and animist south. Many Christians would easily lose their lives in this situation, in a case of religious crisis, just by standing to pee for instance!
Peeing wasn’t only the business the passengers got up to, some left to perform ablution before praying, while others went ahead to buy some snacks and fast food at nearby restaurants to satiate their hunger. He headed to the kebab stands for some “SÚYÀ”, the only delicacy that agrees with his stomach when he is on a long journey. He munched away at the roast beef, which he washed down with a can of stout, while bopping his head to the autotuned voice of a female crooner from the MAI-SUYA’s transistor radio doing the chorus to the Hausa song- “Lafiyah”.
Thirty minutes later, the driver who had spent the time refueling and looking over his vehicle, horned to draw the attention of his passengers to the bus. They were soon on their way to Kano, though the journey was now slowed down by the presence of military checkpoints (where soldiers made business of the situation taxing commercial bus drivers of =N=50 to be allowed through each one of them, even making change for drivers who had larger Naira denominations) every hundred metres and far less in some instances, and the once a while traffic encountered by the fact that it was day and more vehicles were now on the way. It is easy to think of Kaduna as that state where Nigeria is divided in half into its predominantly Muslim North and predominantly Christian and animist South. It is rare to find a mosque in the South of Kaduna with the predominant churches there being the orthodox Catholic and Anglican churches, followed by the Evangelical Church of West Africa, ECWA, and a sprinkling of some Pentecostal churches, but even rarer it is to find a church in Northern Kaduna, this unofficial division across religious lines followed ethno-religious crisis a few years back during the military era in which the Christians and animists rose to challenge the Hausa-Fulani/Muslim hegemony for the first time, after years of living under the yoke of the latter.
Though that crisis wasn’t resolved in favour of the Southerners, the statement of their resolve was resounding, for which the present status quo was arrived at and maintained, even with the clamour by Southerners for more visibility in politics and governance. He wondered why Southern Kaduna wasn’t made a state of it’s own, where they can have a Christian or animist governor, than where during elections the more united Muslim North are sure to always have their candidates win, over that of a largely ethnically divided South due to the different ethnic groups failing to forge a common front, and end up enduring the position of deputy governor, which only favored them only once years later when President Jonathan selected former Governor Sambo as his vice, following the death of President Yar’Adua, and consequent elevation of deputy governor Patrick Yakowa, whose death in a helicopter crash prompted wild jubilation in Northern Kaduna as power returned again to the Muslim North!
It is the frequency of the clashes between the many groups and interests in Kaduna that led to the multiple roadblocks and checkpoints manned by heavily armed military personnel on the federal roads within the State, whose presence unfortunately have done little to curb the killings tending even to genocide of the inhabitants of Southern Kaduna many times by marauding Fulani Herdsmen (who have added AK47’s to their arsenal of daggers, knives, bows and arrows), who walk through bush parts to go to perpetrate their crimes on hapless indigenes, while the soldiers commissioned to keep raiders at bay are busy “ROGERRING” motorists plying the highways.
As they passed villages and towns from the Southern part of the state to its north, he watched and noticed the changes in the way the villages were structured, the environment, physical and social. Children with plastic plates begging were now a frequent sight. These children called AL-MAJIRAI in the local parlance were handed over by their parents to Islamic Teachers at very tender ages even from far flung areas of the North.
Most times, the parents of these children aren’t aware of their location as they may be transferred from one teacher to another, and pushed from one end of the North to the other, then even down South where they engage in several menial jobs to maintain a subsistence way of life as young adults. In their formative years, they also find use at the hands of politicians as thugs during preparation for elections, and willing death squads during crisis. Those kids live a very harsh life and he couldn’t help but pity them. He’d once asked a Hausa friend why such a practice should be condoned in Nigeria and some other West African countries with sizeable Muslim populations when such (atleast in the austere manner it’s practiced here) isn’t obtainable in Saudi Arabia, but he angrily intoned that they are disciples of their Imams in much the same way as the disciples in the bible were of Christ. To the question as to why the wealthy, and elites of the North didn’t enrol their children into the program, the protagonist had no answer.
Finally, he saw the first signboard indicating that they were now in Kano. They traveled thereafter for another one hour through arid areas, with spatial settlements, small towns, vegetable farming settlements with irrigation systems in place, though crude but functional till they got to UNGWAR UKU, where some of the passengers alighted and the bus continued till it got to the park in SABON GARI.
He called his uncle for direction once he alighted, then took a moped taxi to his uncles’ office on SARKIN YAKI road, off IBO road. His uncle who was very glad to see him, rounded up all he was doing, left messages with his secretary and left with him to his car, for the next leg of his journey to his uncles’ house.
He hadn’t seen his uncle since his grandfather’s burial five years back, and a lot had happened during that hiatus. He’d been at his uncle’s traditional wedding at ABAGANA in ANAMBRA STATE, in Eastern Nigeria two years before that. So, as his uncle drove him to his house, they did some bit of catching up, while he surveyed the area. The buildings in Sabon Gari wasn’t much different from those you’d find in mid-class Lagos surroundings, though infrastructure like roads where in bad shape due to neglect, which isn’t quite surprising since it was located outside the city gates and populated by non-indigenes mainly from the South, as well as non-muslims where consumption of alcohol and other select activities weren’t considered HARAM (forbidden) as one would find within the Kano City gates, under SHARI’A rule.
They were soon at his uncles’, his wife gleefully welcomed him. He remembered her, and though she’d added some weight, she was still as beautiful as he remembered her to be. He was shown to his room, where he dropped his bag, called his parent and girlfriend to intimate them of his safe arrival in Kano, before going on to have a much needed bath and freshening up. After a light brunch, he left with his uncle for sight seeing, even as the latter had busines meeting by the side with a Lebanese businessman, inside the city of KANO.
Kano city is different from Sabon Gari, the roads are paved with evidence of government intervention via infrastructure quite visible, especially in the highbrow areas. The KOFAR (Gate) into the city had an ancient look to it that may belly the splendour that lay within. The Emirs palace, though not overtly extravagant exuded some sense of power beyond its walls, befitting the occupant Alhaji ADO BAYERO (at the time, though now late), the second most powerful Muslim leader in Nigeria, after the SULTAN OF SOKOTO.
He was so tired by the time they arrived home later that evening, and only managed to eat supper just so as not to annoy his uncles’ wife, before heading straight to bed to satisfy the slumber that had now made it impossible for him to keep his eyes open. His journey to JIGAWA the next day for beginning of NYSC camp occupied his worn mind, before he let sleep take him over.
Al-Majirai Picture- http//:www.beegeagle.wordpress.com
MAISUYA: A kebab (Suya) Griller.