Nasarawa State has over time joined two other states (of origin, and of residence) in Nigeria to which I have grown emotionally and physically attached, that in the past few years, no year passes without me visiting at least twice to spend a few days on holidays or during my tours. This one simply grew on me and to say that my relationship with the state hasn’t benefited me immensely will be lying through my teeth.
Unlike in the past where I’d enter Nasarawa State after spending a few days in Nigeria’s administrative capital, Abuja, I ventured directly into the former directly via Cross Country Limited in Lagos, the only bus company in my view (and I stand to be corrected), which careers from Lagos in Nigeria’s southwest to Lafia (Nigeria’s north-central capital of Nasarawa State). It wouldn’t be the first time I would do this, unfortunately on all the occasions I had tried this route the bus company had proven their lack of capacity to transport their passengers to Lafia in good time from Lagos.
The first time, a few years back I had to sleep at the company’s terminus in Abuja, because the driver said he was tired and couldn’t continue. My nightmarish battle with mosquitoes from the pit of hell that night is etched in my memory for life. After that trip, I avoided going to Nasarawa state using that company for a while. On the second occasion, we did get to Lafia but way into the wee hours of the morning, after leaving Lagos quite early, though I’m not sure if the driver could be blamed for that, but seeing that before then, in my anger at how that first trip had gone down, I’d subsequently boarded buses to Abuja, before taking another to Lafia and made it into town just after dusk. On the second occasion with Cross Country for which I arrived in town late, I had to walk from where I alighted (the nearest to my place of destination), with my knapsack through the darkness, with lighted spots been the dim lights from the nightclubs I accosted on the way, with my heart literally in my mouth with fear of encountering armed bandits or even members of the Nigerian police force (you won’t understand this if you’re not Nigerian). The few people I met on the way back then must’ve been scared of me, as much as I was of them till I got to my destination. That walk from Bukansidi to Monday market area of Lafia, would be one of the stupidest thing I’d done in my life, but I must’ve been spurred on by the fact that at that point in time Lafia, and by extension Nasarawa state had one of the lowest crime rates in the country. Much water has since passed under the proverbial bridge.
This last time, I had family with me and decided twas best to hit Nasarawa state directly, hoping that things would have changed for the better at Cross Country Limited, alas though the vehicle looked new, speed was a challenge for it such that we arrived Abuja very late in the night, and had another Cross Country driver not decided to do an old contractor a favor to lift him to Lafia, we would’ve been left no choice than to join the other passengers who were with us earlier but were due for Bauchi and Jos (in a bus that made Abuja from Lagos by 6:30 am), to wait till dawn to continue their journey. This time around, twas a problem with the brakes according to the driver who nonchalantly was helping himself to a cup of steamy gingered “shayi” (tea). That for me was the last straw.
We were going to Keffi this time around, and I was glad we weren’t going with the driver to Lafia, considering how he was the exact opposite of the driver that brought us to Abuja in terms of reckless driving and speed. I wondered how he’d maneuver the meandering road (that’s been the end of many passengers, goods and property) on the hills as you approach Lafia, without the advantage the light of day provides. While at Keffi, with our contact on the way to come and pick us, I moved my company to a spot nearer a parked police van, to discourage the prowling night boys from having ideas about what to do with us late night travelers with bags and all. Interestingly, the policemen afterwards filed into their van, abandoning us to our fate.
I’m usually disappointed in the Nigerian Police but this definitely was the height of it. I wondered what it would’ve taken them to approach us with some help, even offer to convey us to our destination, as I see with police in Hollywood. Even if they wouldn’t do that, I guessed they should just have waited till we had gone before taking the decision to leave, especially considering that we had kids with us and it was past midnight, and I can’t recall any dispatch asking them to change their location. I blamed myself for deciding to trust Cross Country again, but stilled myself enough to consider options should we come under attack.
My wife approached a grocery seller and a man beside him selling Ram kebab known in the local parlance as “Balangu”, to buy some, while I covered my company just by the side. We used those people as cover and protection, hoping they’ll stand for us having patronized them, should push come to shove, and the loafers decide to spring one on us. In the end, we thankfully didn’t need our “protectors”, as our host and contact soon arrived, and we chowed away at our Balangu, while presenting the groceries we bought to our hostess on arrival at our destination.