By Jimoh Sulyman
The month of October has been one spent in transit, as I have had the opportunities and pleasure of enjoying the thrills that comes with travelling through the terrain of this country.
From the bad roads that leads through the South and North, to the damning traffic gridlocks, from the greens of vegetations in the South to the highlands of and mountains in the North, just name it, I have seen it all.
When another trip beckon on me, I still felt the all too familiar feeling of anxiety in anticipation for the kilometers of uncertainty that lies ahead, Abuja, the Federal capital territory of our Nation, is the direction the wind of life and opportunities is blowing me this time around.
Abuja by bus
I woke up very early in the morning, a beautiful Friday morning, when the light is starting to have a foothold in the sky, around 4:30am, started the preparation for the journey ahead and the normal religious itinerary before heading to the mosque for the Morning Prayer.
After all the preparations, I got to the car park by 6:30am and by 6:40am our bus took off, that was quick, you might think, but I was the only one the fellow passengers were waiting for.
I was excited that the bus driver decided to take the Jebba- Mokwa route after a round of debate in the bus which is the shortest routes between the Jebba-Mokwa route or the Ekiti-Kogi route, that was my first time of taking that route, in fact that was my first time of visiting Abuja.
After couple of hours, our bus docked at Mokwa, the border town between Kwara and Niger States, where we had a brief stoppage and get have our breakfasts because most of us couldn’t have it before the journey started.
Whilst having our meal, I noticed some little boys of school age, not well dressed, if I’m to be mild, having plastic plates with ropes hung around their necks, loitering inside and outside of the canteen.
As a matter of fact I have seen them from the moment our bus stopped, but they started becoming obvious when I saw them inside the canteen loitering around, waiting for who will flip the dime in their tiny bowls.
Someone said they’re building their character, to make them fearless and rid every fibre of timidity from their being, but that doesn’t sound plausible to me, there are more than a thousand ways to build a character of child that doesn’t entail begging on the street and being denied a chance to a brighter future.
Because while their peers are in class learning, they’re out on the streets, exposed to lives they shouldn’t have known, at least not at such tender ages, made to fend for themselves, looking to the sky and faces of stranger for where their next meal will come from.
With a deep stare at those kids, I was lost in thought, thinking about the future of not just those innocent children, perhaps if they still have that, but I’m thinking about the future of our country.
I’m thinking of what the future has to offer those children whose destinies and future have been snatched away from their tiny fingers, I was thinking of what consequences will this systemic abandonment have for our country, especially now that we are still battling severe case of insurgency in the country.
Almajiri, a system that began in Kanem-Borno in the 11th century, has since become a culture or norm of the Northern part of Nigeria, whereby children as little as the age of three, often from poor and rural background are given away by their parents to an Islamic teacher called ‘Mallam’ in a faraway town for learning.
With no provision from the parents for the sustenance of such children nor remuneration for the Mallam for his service, the Mallam who is also a product of similar system, will often put the children on streets to beg for alms to feed himself and his young students.
After having my meal, both for my belly and my thought, along with my fellow travellers, I entered the vehicle to continue with our journey, still conscious of the long distance left to travel.
We traveled through some of beautiful suburb towns of Niger State, places like Takuma, Kutigi (a town I can still remember for it beautiful Hills and school children heedlessly running across the road), Enagi and Bida among others.
Bida is a very big town and a relatively popular one, known mostly for its peculiar Groundnut snacks (kulikuli) and I sure had a taste of it another landmark on that route that led to Minna the state capital, is the enormous Maizube farms, said to be owned by the former Nigerian head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar.
Abuja at last
After spending almost ten hours on the road, we finally got to Abuja, we arrived at the Federal Capital Territory some few minutes after 4pm and it was a feeling of relief coupled with excitement.
Being a first time visitor to Abuja, I took my time to marvel at everything that is worth looking at, from the Zuma rock, that I have seen a lot of, mostly TV, to an estate with enormous housing units, I had to use my Google Map to see the true extent of that particular estate.
And I saw many more, beautiful buildings and roads, a beautiful scenery all around, at that moment I had a reminiscence of my home state of harmony, Kwara, I was thinking maybe we can’t really measure up to the FCT being the seat of power of the country, but I thought we could do better than the status quo.
After a brief journey through the city of Abuja, we finally arrived at our destination, whereby we were lodged at a hotel at an area called Area 10, our hotel is just across the street to the Headquarters of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
On getting to the hotel, I was very tired, I just went straight to the bathroom to take a shower and freshen up a little bit after such a long journey, not more than what I deserve anyways, after that I was too tired to even take my lunch, so I went to the bed to rest a little bit.
When the night came, I went for my supper at the kitchen and it was nice, thereafter I started preparing for the next day, which was the reason why I was in Abuja.
The morning came, it was the D-Day, the day of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, National Convention, to determine the party’s New Executive Council, held at the iconic Eagles Square.
At Saraki’s house
The following morning, which was on Saturday 30th of October, was a very memorable moment for many of the Kwara contingents at the recently held PDP National Convention held in Abuja.
It was memorable and special, not just for the convention itself but the fact that the Kwara PDP stakeholders and delegates were able to wine and dine with their beloved leader, Abubakar Bukola Saraki at his private residence at Maitama Area of the Federal Capital Territory.
It was a gathering of the creme de la creme of the party, as the familiar faces broke loaves with the not too known faces in spirit of oneness, both of whom are the intrinsic thread that wove up the very fabric of the Kwara State PDP.
Saraki in his usual style, soft spoken and gentlemanly, address the gathering, whereby he welcomed them all to his residence and expressed his delight to host them at his table, he however sued for peace and harmony among the party members in Kwara.
It was like a family gathering as Saraki broke bread with the guests who were all treated to a buffet of delicious meals, thereafter they were all handed a bag of souvenirs, a sign of gratitude from the former Senate President of Nigeria.
After all the merriment at the residence of Senator Saraki located at Maitama Area of Abuja, everyone left for the venue of the slated convention, the Eagles Square.
The Eagles Square was filled with crowd, mostly supporters and members of the PDP, who are singing and dancing, eulogising their favourite political actors, it was like a carnival.
I was there enjoying the dance steps of the folks from Oyo States, before moving to see the spectacular performance from the troupe from Akwa Ibom, the atmosphere felt like the entire country was there.
People from all over the 36 states of the federation plus the FCT, were there to grace the occasion and witness the direction the party is going in terms of leadership.
Majority of the positions that were up for grabs were later settled through a consensus arrangement while the voting for the few ones left was commenced around 5pm.
Late into the night, after several hours of voting and politicking, the winners and losers were announced, however, the party assured that there is no loser in the process because the victory is for all the members of the party.
All tired and hungry, I went back to my hotel around 12:30am the following day, it was quite late so I had to trek a relatively far distance to get a bread to eat, thereafter, I went to bed.
Ilorin here we come
Our time in Abuja was coming to an end and we were ready to bid our farewell to the beautiful city, our time there was a pleasant one I must say, it was good while it lasted.
My tip for whosoever wants to visit the city, I promise you it is a great place to be and full of fun, but it is a rather expensive place to live in, there aren’t many choices for transportation around the city as there is only an option of Cab which charge an average of N700 per drop.
On Sunday, at around 1pm in the afternoon, our bus left the city of Abuja and we are heading back home, this time around we took the Kogi State route.
When we got to Lokoja, I was still as fascinated by the mountains that surrounded the city as the last time that I saw them, but it was just for a while as our car swiftly left the city.
After a few minutes of driving through the landscape of Kogi State, when we got to Iyamoye, a town in the Okun country, we were stuck in a traffic Jam, we spent hours in the gridlock before we were able to escape.
The delay in the holdup took a huge chunk of our time, so we found ourselves driving late into the night.
We were contemplating whether to continue with our journey or to take a detour through the township of Oye-Ekiti in Ekiti State and find a guest house to lay our heads and seek refuge from the uncertainty of the night.
The naked woman
When the morning finally came and light beacons from the horizon, we continued our journey, which is on Monday, off we go again.
They started quite mundanely, when we finally got into Kwara State at Osi, the border between Ekiti and Kwara, then we were given properly the shock of our lives.
As our bus lurches on through the broken asphalt of the road, lo and behold, we saw a full grown woman standing right in front of us, in the middle of the road, in her full glory, stark naked!
In our awe, we were wondering what was going on, someone in the bus made us to understand that she is engaging in some clandestine religious ritual, perhaps to ward off some metaphysical forces plaguing.
Another person alluded that she might be insane, but alas all our thoughts and assumptions will have to be left to wander the futility of our imaginations.
Home sweet home
After a journey that spanned two days and the going through the rigour of the ill-fated roads across the states we passed through, we arrived at Ilorin few minutes after 10.
Journey was a story of discovery and learning, a story of politics and governance, a story of new found friendship and brotherhood, but it was all worth it and the feeling is priceless.