By 5am the skies over Keffi was as bright as what you will have in Lagos by 9am, his host asked him to accompany him to see the chief of one of the villages whom he needed to append his signature to the document for a plot of land he had just acquired in one of the suburbs. Since his meeting won’t be holding till ten that morning, he decided to go along with him, especially as he wasn’t required to take his bath. He simply washed his face and got into a clean piece of clothing and they headed off to see the chief, whom they hoped to meet before he proceeds to his farm.
They met the Chief, who he estimated to be in his mid sixties but trim and agile, under a Baobab tree in front of his mud brick walled compound, listening to the “BBC HAUSA SERVICE” on his transistor radio. He had come to believe that Northern Nigerians were the most informed of all Nigerians because of the penchant of the males especially for getting updated by the hour with the transistor radio. It seems like some sort of “rite of passage” to manhood, as almost every male, well into teen age owns one, the younger ones go even to the extent of pimping their transistor radios with extra long antennas, removing the factory set ones, that are shorter and make reception a tad difficult. Interestingly, during his service year in Jigawa, Northwest Nigeria, he noticed that reception was better, than in Lagos where he’d come, attributing that to the clear skies the North is blessed with, at variance with that in Lagos, and the Southwest where seeing stars at night is a rarity, even enough to call for a celebration. He doesn’t know which came first however, in terms of either the BBC (including Radio France International, RFI, Voice of America, VOA and now even the Chinese) devoting a full service to the dissemination of the news in the predominant Hausa Language of the North of Nigeria, and some parts of West Africa, or they just simply responded to a section of the population they thought or knew, yearned for news in real time, as much as they could possibly get.
When you couple the penchant of the Hausa speaking Northerner to getting informed, with living in a hegemonic society with leaders that speak with one voice as comes most times from central authority seeking only to establish its interest, you will easily understand why the North is a strong political bloc, and how also it is easy to have bloc votes coming from the region for whichever party the political elite in conjunction with the traditional and religious leaders wish to patronize. His hosts told him how people with non-North sounding names were disenfranchised from voting at the last elections (even with the introduction of the Permanent Voter Cards and Card Reader Machines that was to ensure that rigging was knocked off the equations of the 2015 General Elections) by witholding such cards, asking them to return on a later date or go to the Local Government office of the INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION, INEC office to look for their cards, while those with Northern Nigeria/Hausa sounding names had their PVC’s easily found and given to them. His host further stated that he knew that the cards were intentionally withheld because he had to query them, threatening to cause a scene in the Hausa and Eggon languages which he spoke fluently, before his PVC as well as his wifes’ was reluctantly handed over to him. Interestingly, this scenario was played out in many of the states where the ALL PROGRESSIVES CONGRESS, APC controlled, or was quite popular enough to take over government in the North, and a few of the states in the Southwest as evidenced in a report in the media just days before the elections, about how some INEC officials were arrested in Lagos for hoarding PVCs, amidst complaints by non-indigenes that officials of the election umpire where denying them the right to their cards, citing one reason or the other. The systematic way in which the disenfranchisement of voters mostly from the South but residing in the North was carried out across the affected states in the North laid credence to what he had suspected and known not to be so far from the truth, that it was dictated from the top of the political pyramid in the North to the least voter to actualize the political agenda of the North to regain power at the centre.
Interestingly, his host like many non-indigenes from the South who lived in the North and had PVCs, elected not to vote mainly for fear of election and post-election violence, while others even went as far as relocating to their home states for the period the General Elections lasted, because of the way politics, like religion, even football is treated emotively in the North. He was already aware of most of these things even before his host related his own experience, because it didn’t come as a surprise to him when the results from most states of the North (at the time they were released weeks back) were such that then candidate General Buhari won by a landslide, at the back of massive electorate numbers including underaged voters who were registered four years earlier when they were even much younger, compared to places like the SouthEast where even the meagre numbers (compared to those in the North) couldn’t even be matched by those members of the electorate who remained in the states during the elections, as against the majority who had moved to other states, even outside of Nigeria, in search of greener pastures as is the way with the Igbo of the region, who though supported Buhari’s opponent and incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan from Nigeria’s South-South, weren’t able to put their votes where their mouth was.
It was a relief when President Goodluck conceded defeat and congratulated General Muhammadu Buhari, saving Nigeria from what was looking like imminent doom, even with the knowledge that the elections superintended by INEC’s Chairman Attahiru Jega was marred with irregularities in the North and Southwest where the clamour was heavy for a CHANGE in government (and everything legitimate and illegitimate was put into the actualization of it by the then opposition APC), and in the Southeast and South-South in a bid to match the north, number for number in a game where number of registered voters was already skewed in favour of the North.
The chief led them inside the compound, where they saw an old woman, whom he suspected to be the matriarch of the house and some middle aged women, who were in different states of nudity going about one morning chore or the other (making no attempt to cover themselves beyond the much they had done, which he considered very much unlike what you will find with women in the Hausa and Fulani households who would naturally disappear as strangers walk into the courtyard, and without the “MAI GIDA” (the head of the house) in tow is regarded as BA SHIGA (“off limits” to strangers, especially “males”), while naked children played about. He mouthed what his host greeted the ladies by and sat beside his host on a bench provided by the Chief who went on to sit on a plastic chair directly facing them. He didn’t need much convincing before acquiescing to the sale of land done by one of his subjects, and appended his signature to the document presented before him, thus approving of the sale, with the acceptance of “Kola” (a few hundred Naira* notes) by the Chief.
From the Chiefs’, his host drove him around town for another round of sightseeing. They passed by the stadium which hadn’t changed much since the last time he was there, to the well paved roads of the town bordered on both sides by a few old storey buildings that even at that are a rarity in most Northern small towns, where he’d found that for some reasons best known to the inhabitants of such places, bungalows seem to be the buildings of choice. Schooling also seemed as important there as is with the South of Nigeria, as many school children can now be seen heading to their various schools, besides Keffi is home to a prestigious Government College attended
by many of Nigeria’s political and business elite from the North, and a few from Nigeria’s South. They stopped by a Mai Chai’s (Tea Maker) roadside contraption for tea laced with lots of sugar (he had always wondered if any research has been carried out to measure the effect of sugar on Northerners who consume so much of it in different ways) and ginger, a delicacy he had missed since his serving days in Jigawa, about a decade ago.
As time flies when one is having fun, it soon was just an hour left before ten and they hurried home to wash up and change, so he could make his appointment. His hosts’ wife and kids had gone off to work and school respectively, by the time they got back. By Ten O’clock, he was at the lobby of one of the three star hotels in Keffi, and by noon he had managed to swing the prospective investors over, with the deal signed and sealed, but yet to be delivered at his base, back in Lagos. Interestingly, he hadn’t envisaged the ease with which it would sail through, and now had an extra day to burn. Thinking that he wouldn’t like to be a burden to his host for another day, and seeing that he hadn’t been to LAFIA, the capital of Nasarawa State, for over five years, and before that, where he’d moved to in search of a job after his National Youth Service Corps, NYSC program, he felt he should just go end his journey there before returning to Lagos.
Once he was assured that his host had no misgivings as to his abrupt decision to proceed to Lafia, he flagged the next cab by the roadside, a few metres from the park (where he would’ve had to wait endlessly till the bus or cab on queue filled up before the journey started had he opted for that option), that had just a space left, and the journey to Lafia began.
*NAIRA: Nigeria’official currency