Memories Of Jos By Collins Uma
I had started writing about Chibok and #BringBackOurGirls. I wanted to write about a certain Mohammed Ali Ndume who was arrested in 2011 as a result of his relationship and interactions with members of the dreaded Boko Haram and allegations of his sponsorship of terrorist activities in Borno State. Ndume was charged to court in 2011, but the case is as good as dead. You see, Mohammed Ali Ndume had represented Chibok/Damboa/Gwoza federal constituency in the House of Representatives and he is presently the senator representing Borno South, of which Chibok, from where over 200 girls were kidnapped over a month ago, is a part.
While we are all growing grey hairs worrying over who the Boko Haram sponsors are, Mr Ndume sits pretty in the Senate chambers collecting jumbo salaries and allowancies, making laws for the rest of us and even taking part in the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. Irony has no other definition. But then, it is not strange in these parts to hear the thief too shouting ‘Ole!’ while being chased down the street. Also, little wonder our parliamentarians see homosexuality prohibition debates as more urgent than Child Rights Acts and anti-terrorism laws.
I was also going to write about how the terrorists can strike anywhere in Nigeria while our troops, God bless them, spend their entire energy combing Sambisa forest, as long as the financiers of these terrorist acts still walk our streets as free men.
And then they struck in Jos.
The news of that bomb blast got me more demoralised than anything else has in a long time. I got talking via BBM with my friend, Hemenseter Butu (@Hembuts) who has spent years living and schooling in Jos. Hemen shared with me the following about his memories of the area affected by the blast.
“I remember my first time in Jos, I arrived in the evening and the weather was so inviting, so welcoming as though it was trying to soothe my days spent in the ovens of the Benue basin. The city was exactly how they’d described it, strangers greeted you when you walked by, the breeze was cool and calming, the people truly hospitable. Years later, I was offered admission at the University of Jos to study Zoology.
I would stroll in the evenings to get suya from Abdullahi, the best suya guy in the world, play snooker with neighbours and return home late without any fear of being harmed. Ignorance, they say, is bliss and I felt no sense of danger as I hadn’t witnessed a crisis before.
“It was in 2008 that I would get a taste of my first “Jos crisis” as it was known afterwards. November 28 2008, a day after the Jos North elections, we woke up to scenes of smoke and empty streets. We had no idea the elections had led to a crisis that brewed at night while we slept. We still didn’t feel the need to run but I wasn’t taking any chances. I slipped my documents into my laptop bag and went out to get a bag of ‘pure’ water. On my way back I heard a mob moving towards us, shouting and shooting in the air. I ran as fast as I could, got my laptop and ran to the mountains with my cousin and friend and then into the University staff quarters where we were safe until buses came to convey us back to Benue.
“From then everything changed. Soldiers were deployed. Countless people killed, including Abdullahi the suya guy’s brother. Property worth millions of Naira were destroyed and I am yet to see one person in court to answer for these crimes against me and my compatriots.
“Fanatics, some say Islamists, have made it a point of duty to destabilize the city. I don’t know why they are called Islamists when everything they do is against Islam. They kill Muslims, rape, destroy hospitals and schools. How is that Islamist?
“I spent a lot of time where the May 20 bomb was reported to have exploded. My best friend, Chukwuemeka Ibeneme, and I would often go to buy clothing from the stores less than 500m from the bomb site. We’d order a plate of “abacha” before even entering the clothing store. An Intercontinental bank (now Access Bank) ATM was just up the road opposite JUTH and we’d frequent it because it was one of the few ATMs that dispensed N500 notes.
I clearly remember walking on that very tarmac where one of the bombs went off on my way to get vegetables along with my long time friend Aremu. In fact Aremu made it a ritual to get vegetables everyday from Terminus.
“Even when the crisis and bombs came, Jos still gave me good memories. I remember the sweet onions and carrots. I remember the weekend shows every other weekend. I remember my friends and colleagues. I remember the freedom. I remember the cold. I remember the suya.
Jos was to me a place to find solace. The city that gave me a Degree. Now that city is facing ruin and political will to fight this battle is almost zero. Morale of the soldiers is at an all time low. My memories are all I have”
I feel Hemenseter’s pain; the pain of watching your city being blown to bits by some scoundrels while those who can help look the other way.
The question now isn’t ‘Will another bomb go off?’
The question now is ‘Where will the next bomb go off?’
Please follow me on Twitter @CollinsUma
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