I have relived these encounters before but unfortunately I can’t retrieve it now so I’ll take the pain to write again.
I saw a few things during my service year in Sokoto that showed me clearly that Nigeria will ultimately be fragmented no matter how long we laboriously string it together.
I attended a symposium organized for youth corp members where a facilitator from one of the Northern ststes, a PhD holder mentioned without any reservations that the leadership of the country is the exclusive preserve of the north and that the country by destiny is not supposed to be led by an unbeliever (Kaferi).
He said it is an abomination for the southerners to rule the country because they are unbelievers.
Of course, the most pious southern muslim is viewed by the north as having no religion.
I was shocked by this revelation from an academic who should be knowledgeable about the secularity of the Nigerian nation.
On another occasion, I took a bike from one point to another and paid the bike man the fare while expecting him to give me change.
It is like giving a N200 note and expecting to be given a N100 change. This young Hausa man flung the money back at me and asked that I should go and look for change to pay him the exact date.
I tried to talk him into asking for change from his colleagues but he was adamant that I must go and find change.
I was going to stand my ground when I saw some southerners selling their wares around that area quickly closing in on me and winking that I should not argue with him.
By this time the other people were already milling around in anger. In fact, an Ibo lady had to pay the bike man on my behalf and thereafter scolded me for daring to argue with an Hausa man on his land.
You know as an ebullient youth corper I’d inadvertently thought everywhere was home. The woman apparently saved the day and worked out my escape.
Teaching was my primary assignment at Giginya college during the service year. I discovered most of the SS2/SS3 students could hardly make a sentence in English.
There was a particular one called Shugaba. This boy would write his English composition in undiluted Hausa language and submit to me. I was dazed by this absurdity.
One day as the promotion exam was to commence, my Head of Department, an Indian summoned me to his office and doled out an unmistaken instruction to me that no student was permitted to repeat a class, so I must make sure I passed every student in my class and get them to the next grade.
I asked if Shugaba that could not write a sentence in English was inclusive. He arrogantly answered that I heard him well and that the instruction was from the ministry of Education. He said if I was in doubt I should see the principal.
Of course, I was very angry in my spirit for that strange instruction so I went to see to the principal hoping he would have a different opinion.
That one outrightly told me I should simply go and carry out the instruction from the ministry of Education. I compromised when I saw the body language of the principal.
Fast forward, during the exam as I was invigilating one of the classes, an Hausa guy strolled into the classroom about one hour into a one hour, thirty minutes paper.
I asked him why he was coming so late for his exam. His reply jolted me, he said he’s been in the hospital where his wife was just delivered of a baby.
Immediately the whole class broke into an ecstatic jubilation. Me I was transfixed, wife of an SS2 student delivered of a baby?
As we were discussing, the HOD entered and vetoed I should allow him sit for the exam and add the lost time. I was to learn later that a few of my students were actually married and were housed free of charge in the school premises.
There were these two brothers in my class. They were the only southerners in that class and they were the only two paying school fees despite their father being a teacher in that school for an upwards of 20 years.
The principal came to chase the two out of the examination hall for defaulting in the payment of school fees.
Other students, sons of the soil came to school in free school uniforms, free tuition, free books and free meals except these two.
The other day, one of the NGOs came to distribute condom on camp. These people refused to either accept or touch one. They said it was Haram.
On another occasion, a corper who shared accomodations with another Hausa corper was to celebrate his birthday in their shared apartment.
He made the mistake of his life by bringing in women and alcohol when the party was about starting. The Hausa guy brought out a big cutlass and went on rampage threatening to butcher everyone for committing an Haram.
Everybody scampered for safety and the party was cancelled. The rampaging guy had his master’s in International Relations.
It took the intervention of the cosmopolitan local government chairman to provide an alternative venue for the celebrant so danger was averted.
While at Sokoto I was housed in the Sokoto Teacher’s College quarters. There was this nice Hausa guy that had a kiosk at the estate gate, so we corpers used to relax in his shop in the evenings to gist over some drink.
On this particular day, the discussion centered on politics and the oneness of Nigeria. I tried to convince him about how a president of southern extraction was necessary.
The guy spoke in tandem with the opinion of the lecturer that I mentioned earlier. He felt Kafris were never going to be qualified to govern Nigeria.
I had a counter opinion, so the argument became heated. I noticed he was already losing his cool so I was made to leave and in the spirit of friendship I offered a handshake which he turned it down. Till I left Sokoto that guy became hostile to me.
There was a time the whole of the southern part of the country was engulfed in protests against the military regime on the issue of a retrogressive economic policy.
I noticed that as the students led the protests in the south and the whole place was on fire, Sokoto was unusually calm.
There was no protest, so I asked some of the students at Uthman Danfodio university why they didn’t join their colleagues in the south for the protest, he said it was a southern affairs.
I was surprised some days later when I saw people brandishing some leaves on campus in a protest. I thought at last these people have joined the protests initiated by the south only to be told that the protests had nothing to do with the south one.
Out of curiosity, I asked them what they were protesting about. They said they didn’t like male youth corpers having access to the girls hostel, that it was ba shiga (no entry).
That was the crux of the violent protest when the south was burning over a national issue. Of course, peace was restored when an embargo was placed on male corpers visiting their female counterparts in the hostels.
I can continue on and on about the glaring disparities between the north and the south and except there’s an alignment which I think is impossible we can’t possibly make progress as a nation.