When The Trekking Bug Hit Nigeria – By Taiwo Adediran
Nigeria is a country hardly short of amusing malady. It is a nation carved in parody with inhabitants suffering from an overflow of unanticipated comedy. In its latest episode of this humour personified, is the gale of trekking. After what seemed a momentary lull in the trend, news filtered across the social media that a man named Stanley, a University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) student decided to trek from Nsukka to the Enugu State government house in honour of Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, as he is the first man from Nsukka to be elected governor of the state.
Enthusiastically, our friend got to the government house only to be rebuffed by security agents at the entrance who told him the Governor and even his deputy were not on ground to receive him. Yes, we learnt he was congratulated by well-wishers, but to say that was all he wanted will be wide of the mark. The story elicited more laughter than pity. Trust the social media buffs; on the supposed young man’s close shot on the internet, were super-imposed inscriptions like, “That awkward moment when you have trekked for 10 hours to honour your favorite governor and you get turned back!”
Many thought that was it. In fact some easily amused people were just recovering from the laughter-hangover evoked by the Stanley episode when news travelled round that three men, who trekked to Yola in honour of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, are now stranded in Yola. Salihu Jibrin, Aliyu Adamu and Abubakar Suleiman, said since their separate arrival, they’ve been unable to see their mentor, Atiku.
Jibrin who said he trekked for 38 days all the way from Lagos to Yola to see Atiku, said he is now stranded with no money to go back; at times, having to sleep in motor park or squat with good Samaritans. Adamu’s system of transportation was different; he rode a bicycle from Kaduna to Yola, for his eight-day voyage, singling out the Secretary, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Adamawa Council, Baba Zare, for words of praise for his assistance since his arrival. On his part, Suleiman, who trekked from Shelleng town, Adamawa, to Yola said he had been squatting with many relations while waiting for an opportunity to see Atiku before going back home.
Theirs was a newer version of the trekking parody because the man Atiku, – a businessman of note and an influential factor in Nigerian politics – did not contest for any political office in the new dispensation. Yet, our stranded friends out of ingenuity said the walkathon was in view of his role over APC victory in the general election. What an exploit! Far-fetched if Atiku himself thinks his deeds in any way merits the tribute.
This gale of trekking was till this moment, alien to Nigeria until Suleiman Hashim bragged to a group of disbelieving friends that he will walk from Lagos to Abuja if Muhammadu Buhari wins the 2015 Presidential election. Buhari did win and Hashim did live up to his words, to the admiration and commendation of Nigerians who celebrated the feat. What he however didn’t know was that he has unleashed an infectious exploit that was to see abuse. Without further ado, many soon caught the bug, trekking from one place to the other like unrepentant wanderers.
The trend became famously on the rise but suspiciously with a sincere motivation. Many others almost immediately began to walk for the same Buhari who Hashim had already walked for. When boredom seemed to set in, a man decided to switch side; he chose to trek to Otu-Oke in honour of former President Goodluck Jonathan instead.
When some others again joined that bandwagon, a minor indignation was again observed. At that juncture, the opportunity diggers saw the need to be creative by spicing up the walk with a unique tip. Some chose to do it in group; others felt embarking on a three-month walkathon to the holy city of Mecca will bring that distinct mark. A group jogged from Owerri to Orlu, winning themselves a lunch with Governor Rochas Okorocha. Hajiya Talatu on her own decided to bell the cat for the female folks while another took her 40-day old baby on the unsolicited onerous journey.
It must have become worrisome to the government of the day who however needed to be cautious in reproach for political reasons. It was in line with this that Mohammed Shehu, an aide to the President, advised youths to instead channel their energies towards praying than embarking on, sometimes dangerous journeys.
With the excitement to be part of the trekking revolution, only a few if not one, can be understandably adjudged noble in the mission. Theoretically speaking, the task could be to attain fame, set a record or drive a cause. Chad Sigmon had in 2013 commenced a five-month task to run across the US. The motive was to step up Mental Health Awareness in a bid to help end mental health stigma. Polly Letofski, who claimed to have walked around the world, said it was in fulfilment of a childhood dream as well as an advocacy campaign for breast cancer. Interestingly, the funds raised in each country stayed in the country.
Except for Ibrahim Musa, a Physically Challenged man whose objective was to intimate the President on the need for adequate infrastructure to support physically challenged Nigerians, no other voyager had any public-spirited objective but only sprang into action to celebrate winners of political offices. It leaves one to submit that this is more of an act to curry favor and slanted recognition. Such ingratiating motives and dubious disorder need be weighed in nobility and frowned at if observed not to be golden in substance. Else, the servile self-seeking sycophants will undercut genuine intents and cause the world to junk gallantry. It’s that time to beware of Greeks bearing gifts.
Follow Taiwo Adediran on twitter; @adedirantai