After leaving Maiduguri, Borno State, 12 years ago, I had the opportunity of going there on an official assignment last week and I was excited visiting a city that I once lived for about a year. At this time, my colleagues who had gone ahead on the trip had contracted a chauffeur, Ibin Umar, in order to ease their commute within town. He served various purposes- he was an available resource; a Point of Sales agent; a tour guide amongst others.
I would not forget quickly, Mr. Adamu Mtshelia of the Lake Chad Research Institute, Gamboru-Ngala Road, Maiduguri, he has always reached me since I departed from service in 2008. His call is always the remembrance that human milk of gladness does not know any culture. Even in the heat of insurgency, he kept me abreast of happenings in the city, I kept assuring him that I would see him one day and it was a dream come true for both of us.
Another person that kept me wondering if the town was really burning is Johnson Omoniyi, a Maiduguri- born Okeho indigene. In fact, Johnson is almost looking like a Kanuri man except the tribal marks. His cell phone numbers had changed over time but he was in Borno. That gave me a feel that insurgency was just like the riots in other climes, when we reach out to people resident there asking if they are safe, well, this precedes, the era of marking oneself safe on Facebook.
Back to the gist, I felt bad being told that the former Orientation camp had been turned to an IDP camp. Intending Corp Members now have their orientation in Gombe State and they are posted to the state for their primary assignment. It was really nostalgic remembering that beautiful Sunday evening in the orientation camp, when Johnson, brought Sunny Ade’s CDs to me and it was played at the OBS only for all Yoruba Corp members to come out dancing. Some tunes make one tick!
I was driven through the city to see ‘ancient’ landmarks- Kofa Shehu; the Mosque by the Shehu’s palace; First Baptist Church, Maiduguri where we were given a certificate of merit while leaving the city; opposite Post office; Ramat Square; Custom Market amongst others. For the number of days that we spent in Maiduguri, Al-Mubarak Restaurant was our biggest spot- constantly enjoyed amala, gbegiri and ewedu. One of our valued resource on the project, Hamza was also a food enthusiast and we all ate with joy.
In my first stay in Maiduguri, I saw ‘fara’, fired locusts, a local delicacy, was not part of my fancy. It was just like the day in when I went to a neighbour’s house and I was served a meal which I don’t understand. As told, the culture is that whoever is visiting and cannot feast with you is dating your wife. I ate the meal but as I was leaving, I did everything to vomit but it never came back till today. However, on this homecoming, I ate ‘fara’ with an open-mind, enjoyed it like I am eating crayfish and crab. As said by Sir Dips, it’s the prawn of the North.
Adamu, Femi and I went to Baga Road Fish Market, I remembered that Dr Olabanji, former Executive Director of Lake Chad Research Institute that I usually assisted at a cybercafe on Baga Road, we were able to get improved cotton seeds from an international agency in 2007. We bought dried fish at a very good rate.
The site of Monday market, the biggest market were various items are sold in Maiduguri, it is like the Idumota of Lagos- food stuffs; cap; imported gowns from United Arab Emirates; typical Hausa rings; Arabian gold amongst others. From the market, we went to where Kilichi is being made. I have never seen it before, I saw how they open up a pound of flesh into sheets; I never knew that aside the peppered kilichi, there is a kilichi garnished with kulikuli. Exposure is really a form of education.
I could not finalize my exploration of Maiduguri this time as the National Museum was not opened at 10am. We were told that the artefacts have been moved to Open Air Theatre, the place where we have our rehearsals of the NYSC Dance and Drama troupe. I was told by Ibn Umar that Elephants are still abundant in the zoo but I could not visit.
To cap it all, I am grateful seeing another culture for about a year, after disembarking from the airport, I wanted to use the gents, I saw a young man seated somewhere and I asked, “where is the toilet?”, he was dumbfounded, from nowhere, the word, ‘fusari’ came and he pointed me to be a place where I could ease myself. The beauty of understanding indigenous languages cannot be underestimated. Don’t be a total foreigner in your fatherland.