I feel like slapping myself!
As a journalist of over two decades I allowed myself to behave like a ‘civilian.’ Last week a friend of mine who was visiting from outside the country told me he wanted to drive from Abuja to Yankari games reserve and just see the countryside; I begged him seriously to reconsider. In fact, I begged him not to make the trip.
My reason? It was not safe. There are kidnappers and armed robbers and the dreaded BH everywhere!
Chai! Now I must look for that guy and apologize! I should have encouraged him to make the trip. I should even have offered to go with him, but I discouraged him. And I did it because I truly believed it was not safe to just ‘travel like that in Nigeria these days.’
But how wrong I was!
This week, I needed to make an official trip up North and I could not refuse. I consoled myself that I would be alright but I was slightly apprehensive. But less than two hundred kilometers into the journey and I found myself singing a different song.
Nigeria is beautiful!
I had travelled extensively in the North several years ago but I had forgotten how breathtaking the landscape truly is. From rolling mountain ranges that go on and on as far as the eye can see, to the beautiful grassland Savannah that stretches into the distance; skies so blue they look like something from a postcard, trees that stand proudly as if daring the often harsh winds that blow, the countryside is amazing in its beauty!
Jos and its environs has always been famed for its beauty, and little has changed. I recall another official trip I made to Jos many years ago; on that trip I had remarked to someone that the beauty of Jos is not in what man has made but in the splendour of nature itself. Nothing has changed. Jos is just as beautiful, perhaps more so. As we drove past the undulating countryside. I stared longingly at the hills and mountains that seemed to go on forever and ever and I wished I could go hiking! E be like say make I just dey waka dey go!
The beauty does not stop at Jos. It continuous in an unbroken romance with nature, thumbing its nose at the feeble efforts of humans to defy its beauty with our towns and cities. As we drove along, we observed roadside ‘ markets’ with fresh looking produce. We saw food in all its glory; tomatoes, pepper, onions, fruits of all sorts! I saw locally grown strawberries! Yes, strawberries, the oyinbo type of strawberries, grown right here in Nigeria. I saw proud looking ‘Tolotolo’ Turkey, strutting around proudly. Then we came to a place that must be named the ‘watermelon capital of the universe.’ The place is called Bara, tucked somewhere in Bauchi state. There were heaps and heaps and more heaps of beautiful, luscious, succulent looking watermelons everywhere! And so cheap you would not believe it. My mouth was watering at the sight.
Chai and more chai! Nigeria is truly an amazingly blessed country!
I felt a sense of pride welling up inside of me, and a bit of sadness too. Yes, pride and sadness, side by side. But I shall talk about my sadness later. The beauty went on nonstop all the way to Gombe. Little brooks that looked like man made lakes were interspersed several hundred kilometers apart, maybe for irrigation or for the grazing cows to feed? I don’t know which but it sure added to the overall beauty all around. And the cows! Hmmm..
You needed to see the cows! These were the real cows. The ones we see in the South are just ‘malu’ if you want to see cow, please travel up North. I saw, well-fed cows grazing peacefully in the grassland, undisturbed. I saw sheep on little green hills and it felt like I was watching a beautiful silent documentary.
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All around me was the beauty of my country, unspoiled, untouched, unharnessed. The sadness returned at our poor information management that has given people the impression that once you drive beyond Abuja, your life would be in danger. I was sad at our inability to harness the possibilities presented by tourism. But my biggest sadness is for a country so blessed with abundance, yet so cursed with poor leadership. A leadership so blind that all we seem to do is chase after shadows while leaving the substance to rot like farm produce on a countryside road.
Anyways, let me push aside the sadness no continue enjoying this endless beauty I see all around me.
I shall be back.