Continued from Nok, Jos to the Tafawa Belewa’s Tomb IV.
We left the Bauchi motor park around 7.30 a.m.
The driver was about four feet and some inches tall, dark in complexion and average in size. He wore a brown winter coat over brown trousers and a pair of leather slippers.
The NURTW members collected the fare from us and removed seven hundred naira. The driver complained in Hausa at the huge commission collected by the NURTW members.
At the car’s back deck, also called the ‘rear dashboard’, was a Muslim praying mat folded and neatly kept.
We stopped at the Alpmohap filling station. The driver bought two thousand naira (about twelve dollars) in fuel for his car, leaving him with a paltry one hundred naira (about half a dollar or less).
The filling station overlooked the Zinaria neighbourhood in the New Angoro area, which sits on a high hill.
Near the filling station was a mosque. By the side of the filling station was a mini motor park and taking passengers to Bauchi State. I told the driver that I made a mistake and that I would have come here to go to Bauchi State.
The driver warned me against the park, because according to him, criminals control the park and vehicles there. He said that when one enters any vehicle in the station; at some point during the journey, the driver will divert the car from the road into an unknown place and the passenger(s) are robbed. He said in spite of the high commission the NURTW members took from him at the School of Forestry/University of Jos Park, it is still safer than there.
We passed by one of the campuses of the University of Jos (‘UNIJOS’) and headed northwards, approaching a sign on an elevated platform built of cement, “Farewell from Jos Plateau”.
We bade farewell to Plateau State around 7:40 am.
At the border between Plateau and Bauchi States was a military checkpoint with several metal drums painted with red, blue, and green colours positioned at several corners.
On both sides of the road were lengthy hills with some grasses and a few houses roofed with corrugated iron sheets along the road. We entered Toro LGA in Bauchi, which shares a border with Jos North LGA in Plateau State.
Bauchi Road is single carriage. We entered the Sabon-Gari Bridge along the road. On both sides of the road were children working in their farms. Behind them were endless rocks overgrown with grasses too.
We passed a massive filling station painted in white colours with a huge name, “World Democrat Nigeria Limited” at my right hand side. Some five metres away we were in the Tileden Fulani settlement and some metres away again was another, “World Democrat Nigeria Limited”filling station.
We later drove past the Government Day Secondary School around the Miyadajate village and later the General Hospital.
The car’s speed, which was around 100mph suddenly dropped to 80 and later 60, because of the houses along the road and residents walking slowly across the road.
We got to Ringin Gani where both sides of the road had mould houses and huts. Some were roofed with grasses, some roofed with corroded corrugated iron sheets, and some of the houses’ roofs were broken-down and not repaired.
We passed the Magama Gumo market where women displayed several weaved baskets of ripe tomatoes, onions; sweet potato, watermelon, and other food-stuff for potential buyers.
The road ahead was a large stretch of land with grasses and a few trees in some places.
Around the Magama Geri village was another military checkpoint, with a military van parked on the left-hand side.
The road was not a straight one; it curved in and spread out in between tall rocks on both sides of the road. The driver increased the speed to 140mph. I warned him to reduce his speed, because we couldn’t see ahead clearly because the weather was a bit cloudy. He reduced it as we approached a sign: “Slow down, bumps ahead.”
The pastor said I should not fear, that nothing will happen and that I should not see the man as the driver, but God instead driving us.
“Whether is God is driving or not. We need to take precautions,” I kindly advised the pastor. The driver supported me, saying I was right, and that he lost his car to a fatal accident some years ago on this same Bauchi Road.
We got to Kwagga town, one of the highest producers of onions in the country. We passed the onion village heading towards the Rimin-Zayan settlement.
A vast sloppy landscape spreads there like an endless sea.
We approaching the Sabon Geri Nabordo, a farm settlement where two little boys, around 7 and 8 years old, ran across the road. Our car nearly hit them.
I advised the driver to slow down when he gets to settlements. On both sides of this settlement and ahead were massive maize and groundnut farms.
There was a Government Junior Secondary School signpost along the road. Some metres away were houses with children playing in front. I also saw lots of goats in groups tied to a big tree near a roofless mud house. It was around this area I saw posters of Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed, announcing his governorship ambition for Bauchi State come 2015.
There were also some posters of the Kano State Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso indicating his 2015 presidential ambition.
Moving eastwards, we passed the Takatan Giwa and Zaranda settlements. Ahead were massive farmlands and some few farm huts until the Rijaya Mallam hamlet.
Around there, an old woman, carrying woven tattered baskets full of sweet potato was walking unsteadily from one side of the road to another. She wanted to cross the Bauchi Highway to the other side. Her voice was weak and visible lines of old age were all over her face and body. I asked the driver to stop, which he did, and I got out of the car and carried her basket, using my right hand to hold her trembling hands and to cross the road with her. I dipped my right hand into the right hand side pocket of my jeans to bring out my wallet.
From it, I withdrew twenty new pieces of five naira notes, amounting to ten thousand naira (about sixty-two dollars) and handed over to the old woman. She looked at me as if she wanted to cry and joyful (or somber) tears oozed out of her eyes like a small river.
As I was walking across the road to the car, I heard, “Kaka mama, Kaka mama” in Hausa (meaning “Grandmother”). A middle-aged woman watching from a nearby mango tree was shouting that.
I overheard both women saying something which sounded like prayers and they watched me until I got into the car.
When I got to the car the pastor and the driver thanked me. The pastor said “your reward shall be great and you have a place in heaven.”
I didn’t say anything, because when I render any help I don’t expect any reward. The woman just needed to be helped.
Five ethnic groups occupy the Toro LGA we travelled through. They are the Fulani, Hausa, Jarawa, Sandawa and Ribinawa.
We took off from the Mama Kaka village in the Toro LGA, and our continued eastwards movement towards the Buzaye village in Bauchi LGA. After the Toro LGA is Bauchi LGA through Bauchi Road.
The Bauchi metropolis is in Bauchi LGA. Along the Buzaye Bauchi Road was a sign for the Evangelical Church of West Africa, which later changed its name to Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA). The ECWA signs were all over the area.
There were four children dressed in white uniforms with woven hats, two on each side of the road. They had small red plastic buckets in their hands, shouting Fisabilli Allah in Arabic (meaning “assist because of God”). Muslims in Buzaye are building a new mosque like the ones in the Toro LGA, and the fund-raising committee had sent the children there to raise funds to complete the mosque. I saw an uncompleted mosque situated along the road.
Along Bauchi road there was an increase in the numbers of people along the road. In most part of Nigeria, people like to build their houses and do businesses along the major highways. The roads attract them.
After the Buzaye village a large expanse of land stretched out. Some of it was farmland, while other parts were mainly uncultivated lands with grasses and pieces of rocks on them.
I saw about six women removing weeds with the aid of their native hoes in their farms. We passed by the Bauchi Unity Estate on the left.
We were moving slowly towards the Bauchi metropolis. After the Bauchi Government billboard was a police checkpoint. On the right hand side of the road was a huge rock. By the side of the checkpoint was a van.
A tall, dark police officer stood by it, hanging an AK-74, a Russian Kalashnikov automatic rifle, on his left upper arm. He was robbing the nozzle of the gun with his right hand fingers. I watched him carefully.
We passed the “Tambari Housing Estate” on the right, and later the Zarada Hotel. Some few metres away from the hotel, was the Shadawanka 33 Barrack. This military barrack is named after the Shadawanka River which runs through the military facility. Scores of heavily armed soldiers were moving around the area like bees.
Around 8:55a.m. we were in Bauchi metropolis. The car stopped at a corner in front of a Mobil station. The sun had started descending from the womb of the skies, and peeping at the Bauchi metropolis and its inhabitants.
The Bauchi weather was different from that of Plateau State. There was a wide range of commercial motorcycles (okada) and tricycles (keke). The riders were standing by them and shouting nosily, beckoning, “Ka zo ka shiga”, meaning “come and enter”.
I followed one who was shouting in English, “Please officer, come and enter my own”. He was the only person who spoke English. I followed him, because my Hausa is very poor, and I wanted somebody I could communicate with.
I asked him to take me to any good hotel around. He asked me whether I was Muslim or Christian. I asked him why, he said that would determine where he would take me. I asked him to take me to any hotel that would be safe.
“Okay, I know where I will take you to”, the man said,” You will like the place, and is called, “Larema International Hotel”. The hotel is owned by your brother, an Ibo. He is a good man.”
We travelled through the Tafawa-Balewa way for a few minutes when a blue-coloured car drove passed us. On both sides of the car was a bold inscription: “Crime Hunters Patrol team”, and on the front bonnet cover was “Danga Security Patrol”. In front, the driver all the passengers wore dark green uniforms, and all except the driver carried single barrel guns.
It was not up to a minute after the car passed us, when we came across a young lady who wore a dark flowing garment, covering her from head to toe. The only thing I saw was her eyes, which flashed like the Bauchi sun. The driver slowed down to allow her walk slowly across the road.
To be continued.
Naagbanton lives in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria.