I am at the bus terminal.
Finally, I’ve received my posting for NYSC- the retrogressive and utterly stupid program for the service of the fatherland.
I was posted to Sokoto.
I have been running helter skelter to see what I can do to ensure that I am redeployed as soon as is feasible after the 3 week orientation camp.
I will travel by road to Abuja- the capital and fly the rest of the way.
To understand my situation, here’s an illustration. I live in the South East of Nigeria. I didn’t want to serve my fatherland here, as I have been to virtually every nook and cranny of the southeastern rainforest. I was born and raised, for a significant part of my childhood, here. Sokoto, for it’s part, is in the extreme North West corner of Nigeria. It is a two-day journey by road. And I don’t mean a road trip, with bathroom breaks every few hours and scenic views for the soul. It is two gruelling days of battling dilapidated roads and bad weather. It is two days of risking ambush by armed robbers on the roads. Two days stuck in crampy buses with no wiggle room and no air-conditioning, blasting afro pop and highlife music at volumes that obliterate the voice of your conscience.
Thank God for the Wilbur brothers though.
Sokoto was the capital of the Islamic Caliphate that was established in the late 1700s to early 1800s, following the jihad led by Oothman Dan Fodio. The Caliph- a descendant of his, was deposed by the British Empire, and the title was stepped down to Sultan.
- Interestingly, the British forces were defeated in a mock battle between the Imperial forces and the Sultan’s army, a few days before Nigeria was granted Independence. The symbolism and the implications are a story for another day.
But all the political leaders in the North are related to the Sultan and an elaborate network of Emirs- the Fulani royal family. Economic power here, is also tied to political power and privilege.
This is a region that has some of the highest rates of poverty, malnutrition, disease, children out of school, maternal mortality- name it, in the whole world. When you see Nigeria on the list of countries that still have polio, this region accounts for 100% of those numbers. This is despite the huge amounts of capital that their monopoly on political power has attracted to the region.
Don’t ask me why.
Again, I am Igbo. The Northern Youth Forum, backed by the Northern Elders Forum issued an ultimatum to all people of Igbo extraction living in the North to vacate the North or lose their lives and property. They should leave before Independence day, 1st October, this year.
I mean where in the world does something like this happen?
And I am arriving to the very epicenter of the North, around 2 months before it all goes down. This is perhaps a demonstration that the Nigerian State does not recognize this fallacy. Try harder to convince me though. Not one of the people who made this statement on video- they actually called a press conference, will you believe it?– has been apprehended or is in police custody. Their names are public, their faces on video.
My heart really goes out to them- the masses of men, women and children held fast in the clutches of poverty, ignorance and disease. But I cannot help it when my mind tracks back to the numerous corpers sent to the North, who returned as charred and mutilated corpses, unrecognizable to kin and folk, who buried them anyway, never really knowing for sure, whose remains they were committing to mother Earth.
And that was before the days of public ultimatums.
I will redeploy. That is sure. If not, then perhaps, my life is in danger. Because somehow, I made the mistake of requesting Igbo parents, when I was a spirit-child, (or whatever we are before we are born, in the other realm) about to put on my human form.
The orientation camp is quite nice I heard, and safe.
So, it’s fingers crossed then.
See you on the other side.