MY LOVE STORY WITH THE NORTH
Must Never End On His Political Sacrifice for Another
Lagos to Kano…All for AishaIt was pilgrimage again for us- our annuals as writers. Just that ours isn’t the pilgrimage to regular sites and spots. Ours has always been a tour around the far flung parts of Nigeria; depending on who wins the bid. A number of times, Kano bided but lost. Partly because they hadn’t shown the coordination of a really thriving chapter, but largely because our own far north wasn’t and had never been ready to brook the kind of freedom, if not license, that writers always hunger for and hanker after. Sharia had also reared up its head up north and Kano the hotbed of the north was thought more dreadful than Zamfara its birthplace. Kano was therefore not to be considered in Rivers and Delta states. But in 2004 at our annual convention in Kogi State, Kano was permitted to host.
For me Kano held a different fascination – a multiple beckoning calls. There would have been the general northern attraction but I had been to most parts of it; but not Kano. But Kano was first made attractive in Jos by Aisha Zakari in 2001. Aisha, a very pretty northerner of the Fulani stock had help shatter my contrived notion of the northern woman. At the festival of life of the Jos convention, she had pulled a chair close to me where I sat seeing through the play on performance. Garbed in the well-branded northern way, I cast a side-glance at this beauty I thought would only be a well-clad effigy without the slightest social sense. Then she volunteered a chatty greeting and then initiated a self – assured conversation. Like Michael Jackson, I was left speechless. Nothing had prepared me for this. Though I had schooled in Jos, I had also roamed Ahmadu Bello University Zaria as a student researcher. I had infact chosen the University of Jos primarily in chase of the Fulani woman whom I had adored on painters’ canvasses as our own version of Mona Lisa, but who had remained eternally and elusively scanty and scarce. And then Aisha spoke the English language with the melody of the northern vocal chord coupled with the occasional intrusion of the Kano accent that intermittently mangled the English alphabets and pronunciations. But I liked it! Afterall the Queen’s language is one of the many dialects of English language with the only advantage of being the first – the mother tongue with splinters of others.
When Aisha had most unusually relaxed me in the manner in which the wildest of any southern Nigerian woman wouldn’t, when I finally found my tongue, I trumped up the Lagos boy bravado, prepared to let her know that confidence had its birthplace in Lagos. I then flaunted women’s way after me, and she gave me that memorable line: “you look the type.” The following day, the lady who would not shake hands with me flesh to flesh, was beside me posing for a snapshot.
That beautiful photograph we both left the Jos convention with sustained and shrunk the wide and wild distance between my Lagos and her Kano. But the photograph meant more to her. It had more lingering effect on her; the type that comes from eating a satisfying meal – it tempers hunger, longer. Somehow she sought me out when I got lost in transit .She had first made the e-mail a novelty like most of them from Kano. At the time, I had no email box, but I couldn’t bear to seem backward before these northerners I had been taught to be better than. Honestly, the north through Aisha compelled me to own an email. And since I left her as I had none at the time, I was elated to see her re-emerge through another medium – the GSM, unsigned: “ God is so wise that he does not create friends with price-tags, because if he did, I could not afford a friend as precious and priceless as u!!!”
Whilst trying to make out who my larvisher of affection was, there was another jailbreak into my phone: “She sings melodious songs into your ears every morning, caresses your body with affectionate touch always leaving unmistakable evidences. She could leave anywhere in the world, but she chose just your home. Face it, this mosquito is crazy about you.”
I was totally knee knocked down in humility by Aisha’ s naked sincerity; the type I have been too starved of. I understood it for what it really was – a sincere expression of affection, and I received it with thankful appreciation. To do otherwise is not to recognise the visitation of an angel. I had finally met my kind and I was mindful to accord it a proper place. We were same kind at heart from different religion, tribe and orientation. These were the whirlwinds against our love. For me, she had come to represent a long lost artifact found at the moment of surrender. Her Islam meant the world to her, yet she meant the world to me without it. I was only content to have the peace from it if we could avoid its pieces. But a moment of ecstasy could not so easily unhinge years of congealed formations. I was willing to be patient though I also wrestled with the demands of my Christianity. My holy writ had written off any attempt to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. Her own too had counseled against infidels. But our hearts were listening – in on holier statements written on the tables of our heart.Our exchanges by phone, text messages, emails, conversations but far more by affection, had allowed me new windows into lslam by this its true faithful. The poet in me began to seek alternative merger point for acquisition. If Jesus and Mohammed will not provide a melting pot, perhaps any other convergent ground similar to their Friday and my Sunday worship might? Being herself a poetess she had earlier muted that marriage was only possible if she and I had met abroad with no hope of returning to Nigeria. I was waoohed by this rebellious insight that redefined elopement. But we were at home not abroad; besides, the beauty of marriage is its capacity to create an extended community. It seeks to increase not decrease or eliminate.
I dug into myself, scouting for a worship spot big enough for Friday and Sunday. I finally found it on the slaughter slab where Abraham was to “yamutu,” I meant, killed Isaac on God’s leading before He, God, provided the ram. If this prefigured the coming of Jesus as well as the pilgrims meet at Kaba, then we have Abraham for our father even if by different mothers. And as children of Abraham, the Muslim is my other sibling – we both are descendants of Isaac and Esau. I then sat to reconcile these two nations from the same womb that are. ever at war. Then my imagination began the construction of a new theology –don’t care if you call it Chrislam so long as it recognises our common source as children of Abraham; God’s outreach to the ends of the earth. This search found on a slaughter slab of sacrifice begat a poem: “The lamb in the Ram of Ramadan.”
So when Kano 2005 drew near, I naturally drew close to Aisha. She was more the governing force for embarking on the Association of Nigeria Author’s annual convention. Though Kano held its own attractions, I had also hoped to meet other northern varieties of Aisha. I had looked to a pageant of the best of beauties in well-wrapped clothes with either peeping eyes or innocent-looking pretty oval faces; the only flesh allowed out. I had even requested Aisha to find me beauties as good if not better than her from the Christian stock. And she had promised to.
Aisha had always spoken for Kano long before they won the hosting right. She had always counseled that I left the jungle called Lagos. Severally she had sought to reason me out of my thinking that Lagos was all there was to Nigeria. But I never made it to her invitations until Kano 2005. It was my first, I also knew it was a place where I had to be in, or put on my best of behaviors; for Kano’s canons of carnage remains legendary.I had planned to go by air when I learnt of the Lagos writers’ plan to throng together to Kano by road; stopping over at Abuja. This is not the most convenient but it certainly was the best way to capture the flora and fauna and “fipple” of northern Nigeria.
At Oyingbo Motor Park we converged; writers and journalist: one going to catch some fun, the other to hunt a game. While the bus waited to be peopled, we searched for breakfast. Done with his, Uduma Kalu of the Guardian Newspaper was set to use his piss-tool. To pay for his water rate he was charged N10. He turned to me “can you imagine? I drank N5 pure water, but they want me to piss for N10.” Well he chose to bag his liquid content in his scotrum sack, well–contained in uis bladder, he laddered up for the journey up north.
As we were more in the bus as a single group, we dominated the bus atmosphere. We still would have even if we were fewer. Lagos writers are a heap of noisy weaverbirds. Expectedly I was teased and taunted for my hopes of reunions with Aisha. Kalu who knew our beginnings, having failed with her like Reuben Abati from his stable of newspaper in Jos 2001, between stammers made the entire bus know I was on a homecoming. But thanks to the quietening power of sleep his often elongated staccato speech sentences were soon silenced. But others took the baton.
Going to Kano this election year, I was not prepared to carry the begging bowl of politics. I just wanted to be home to Aisha. But sitting between the driver and Hycenth Obumseh, I lost the joy of my habit – traveling, thinking; sometimes interspaced by half-hearted reading. Hycenth who feared I might reclaim my position as national publicity secretary (South) regaled me with talks about politricks at play. Having zeroed my mind off it, Hycenth’s stories came tempting. But no! I won’t be distracted from paying full attention to Aisha. In the past, politics stole all our moments. Not again.
As I suspected, we arrived Abuja to the waiting arms of Eman Shehu one of the presidential hopefuls. I knew we weren’t just in Abuja to rest our lazy bones. My hunch, which I voiced, had told me we were under the rhyme schemes of a politician through the agency of Folu Agoi the brand new chairman of Lagos writers. Our eleven man and two ladies crew was severed into two different hotels. I was at Tonia Hotel in the bad company of Sylvester Asoya and Mr. Olalekan Adewusi who was himself severed from his wife by the dividing wings of the reception of the same hotel.
Hycenth had hatched out some querilla marketing. Belonging to the Wale Okediran camp, he had called on him – Okediran, to say hello to the Lagos writers on the bill of Eman Shehu orchestrated through Folu Agoi, the new ANA Lagos Chairman.That dubious act was to earn us our breakfast! Such that where Shehu was kind to our tired backs, Okediran was kind to our trumpeting tummies. And like Mobutu Seseseko of Zaire republic, we ate from both sides of our mouth in the emerging cold war between these presidential hopefuls.
On the morning of that breakfast which Hycenth carried out in an eatery that left him with more leftover monies in his pocket was November 10, my birthday! ANA conventions had always stolen my birthdays. But this, I looked forward to spending with Aisha. That morning I had given praise to Jah Jehovah for journey mercies and for another brand new birthday. Very early, I had let my self lose into the early morning dews of Abuja. I took in so much of it through the crescent where Tonia Hotels was resident that I began to feel myself drunk on it. I felt and enjoyed the tipsy state I got into.
Hours later, we were Kano bound. At the Abuja Park we had some slowdowns. We wanted buses that will convey us straight to Abuja. We had a good number of people on our side and were willing to put it to advantage. But motor park politics set in. But we wouldn’t allow it. I particularly took up the fight. We had two things going for us. We were writers and journalists, but more importantly, we were from Lagos. The language of the garage, touts and area boys were well known to us. I told the gang clearly: “we won’t leave Lagos and come and fall ‘mugun’ in Abuja that was born only yesterday”. We fought the good fight and won it for our gentle and nerveless driver on whose bus we had insisted on traveling! And not by any other!
As we journeyed, I came to understand the driver better. He was educated and well spoken. Besides looking somewhat timid, he seemed bent on never forgetting who he was. He might be feeding off the park, but he was not going to descend to its touting levels. He also shared something similar with the driver who conveyed us from the Abuja Park to Tonia Hotel. He too had been forced by the trying time in Nigeria to doing a job he was too educated for. Each time I spoke in Yoruba, he the Abuja to Kano driver answered in English. It was his own way of conveying his education and thus demanding his share of respect. So I took him on in his language of choice. Unlike the other driver from Lagos who was too hot tempered and touchy to be engaged in any meaningful conversation, this other Yoruba driver was a better co-traveller.
I long learnt from traveling by road that the best way to avoid accidents and even survival is not by securing safety in seat belts or on seats within the middle roles of the buses as many have deviced by avoiding the front seats for the driver. I long learnt that accidents are best avoided by sharing the front seats with the driver and also sharing their world with them as they drive in the language they are most competent in. This way, they keep awake, alive and important. But don’t get them too excited as to want to add eye contact to the conversation if you don’t want to end up where you didn’t set out for.
Knowledgeable drivers help you know adjoining towns, their peculiarities, landmarks and dangerous spots. This Abuja to Kano driver told me about the different lines of vehicles at the park heading in different directions and the mix of tribes that head each. And even the difference in their leadership and followership. “The northerners are more loyal to their leaders in the way southerners are not”, he had told me earlier. But his most tested statement was when in praise of the northerners and their capacity for sharing, he said, “that is why the northerner will hardly have hypertension.” I found this confirmatory of my naked notice of a certain sense of contentment and satisfying peace of mind the northerners carry with them even in poverty that is absent among southerners. Though it is also the same brand of contentment that stops them from aspiring higher and becoming better.
On the stretch to Kano from Abuja, you couldn’t help notice the eternally endless expanse of land that was Kaduna State. Similarly, you couldn’t but notice the sharia governor, Ahmed Yerimas unmistakable ambition to be that president of Nigeria. The communication of that intention is strategically made known on huts along the highways to the adjoining states that were virtually all painted pictures of him on mud houses and even some cemented hhouses. As a brand communicator, that struck me as the birth of a new outdoor medium for political communication. It was such a powerful information and reminder medium for all travelers.
We got into Kano to the welcoming swarm of mosquitoes that asserted their presence with a similar aggression that Kano is well known whenever it showed its bloody fangs. These mosquitoes have totally taken on the character of their environment. Again, the stammering Uduma Kalu ran his commentary in a painfully elongated staccato statement: “ Th-e-se mos-qui-toes are as fat a-s a fly.” Often ending the last word with assertive affirmativeness that hides the long route and wait in arriving at the labour room of his chronic stammer.
We got to the Muritala Mohammed Library Board, the venue of the convention on literature and film. My respect for our former revolutionary head of state, General Muritala Mohammed still soars, but still can’t rationalise the misnomer of naming a library after a soldier who did not make his mark as an intellectual, but as an anti-democratic agent of positive positive change. My restless eyes soon spotted my Aisha from a distance. On their return, my eyes fell on a stern looking young man who seemed to have caught me in the act. I immediately knew that Kano must mean caution – so i took instruction.
Checked into Central Hotel, Kalu and I were given the news he most wanted from the hotel warden. “How is Sharia here?” he asked. “You can get all you want here;” which I suspect reverberated to Kalu to personally mean: wine, women and whore. ‘When people come here’ said the warden, “after going through the experience, they say Kano only has half-sharia.” Kalu jumped for joy, finding a news angle to it all. Kalu like most art journalists from Lagos who come to cover ANA events have always done so oftener from outside of the venue of event; by that I don’t in any way mean extensive investigation. From Obi Nwakanma to his followers, and now so well incarnated in Kalu, they always got lost in the wombs of midnights at bars surrounded by bottles and midnight mosquitoes in skimpy skirts. They often came back at the dead of dawn, too spent to make it to the 9-10am meetings of the convention. So they often end up churning out the finest of fictions or hand-me-down stories re-reported from half listening participants from their types. Obi was a genius at it. He had language power and a thing for the bizarre which his Vanguard art pages at the time allowed so much for. Nduka Otiono was also a crawler. He was ever too lazy to write. But he always had it done by others. So also was Maik Nwosu who crawled as though he never did.
A day after arrival, stabbed by adventure and caught in the evil company of whoremongers, we entered into the womb of kano to have a bite of or be bitten by its midnight mosquitoes at its Sabongari- strangers’ quarters where they more freely roamed to spread malaria and other viral diseases. We went under the cover of night and press I.D cards. At Central Hotel, they dignified the roaming by loitering around the hotel lobbies and pathways for those elites who would prefer to have theirs in an environment that pretends to accord them some decency. These type of mosquitoes around such venues charged more. Their invitees or payees pay VAT for the extra demands of this more expensive environment to get the more schooled and sophisticated mosquitoes. But it is at the brothels masquerading as nightclubs that you met the anopheles mosquitoes. They are wild and ready to bite. Each bearing the trademark forlorn and far away look that isn’t just from being tired and worn-out, but from being weatherbeaten; from accustomed sleeplessness as scheduled by nature. And from cumulative imprints of tyrannical habits of beer, smoke and sex. The little or lack of education of these anopheles mosquitoes often don’t compensate well for their petty trade.
There is another type of male species of mosquito – the vector in this night and midnight trade – the couriers called Achaba or what in southern Nigeria is called Okada riders. These people are the facilitators of this midnight game; for non-car owners. They often convey fellow mosquitoes to their midnight venues. They do this all through the night to midnight and into daybreak at slightly higher prices for their loss of sleep. Perhaps also for just having to smell but never having to taste of the actions. These vectors are the only noise you hear on the streets and major roads of Kano in the midnight. And of course, that of their other sibling from the insect family.
Not even Lagos can boast of such midnight commerce. I suppose that’s partly why Kano has the trophy as the “center of commerce” as stated by their State slogan on their vehicle plate numbers. This also seems an update on Kano’s strategic place in the historic Tran Saharan trade. Just that this is some kind of Saharan sex trade across evening, night and midnights. And so we night marauders moved from drinking joint to drinking joints, more from adventure and seeking stories that might end up best sellers under the false claim of fiction. The sheer sights and sounds of these places in Kano gave the lie to media reports on sharia. For boys, booze and bosoms blended beastfully. God! Kano needs fumigation!
“Now I have known kano,” I boasted to Aisha at the conference venue. “Yesterday we foraged into the bellies of its midnight.” She recognized my excitement! “And what did you do there?” she inquired, wanting to know if she knew me. “I didn’t do what I shouldn’t do,” I reassured her. “I only strayed away. I didn’t go astray.”
After the convention had given birth to its theme on literature and film, delivered by those pregnant enough to do so, I longed to have Aisha by me. I had sacrificed political ambition just so we could be together. But here she was a national official and also an active member of the local organizing committee. And she’s never one for half measures. A true breed of Kano…
The convention over, I stayed back on departure day. I hadn’t had enough of Aisha. Though mid-way in the conference, we had stolen some moments for lovers’ walk along the sidewalk of that long stretch of fine road where the Library Board was situated at the Kano GRA. We tried to catch up on lost months of forced separation by distance and religion. As usual, we talked about the frustrations of our impossible togetherness owing largely to religious differences. We both always wanted to know who was taking the other’s place. We wanted only the best for each other. We always had the capacity and freedom to talk so freely on every decent subject. Though my freedom on this afternoon did not involve the use of my hand, as I would have freely used them were I in a non-sharia state. I would have interlocked my fingers in hers, wrapped a full stretched arm across her shoulders as my route to crawling them down her Fulani waist. In a sharia state, I was in my best behaviour. I just walked, talking only with my mouth and with very sparing seductive glances. I was also mindful of glances from speeding cars admiring or monitoring us two beautiful souls stopped from becoming soul mates. But she was freer. She touched me gently; shove me with her shoulders to bring home her message in manners I wasn’t used to with her. And I was worried if she was ever mindful of sharia. I very much suspected that she was nudging me out of my media motivated sharia conditionings.
Mid-day into departure day, I had vacated my room at Central Hotel and headed for the reception to the hope of the expecting arms of Aisha. But she was very slow in arriving. But her telephone calls and text messages made the waiting welcoming. The Lagos gang of writers and journalists were also at the reception on their way back. Uche Nwosu the poet-painter would not let me be with his over-stretched imagination as to what he thought I was staying back in Kano for. Sylvester Asoya, Hycenth, Adewusi, all just wondered at me. How could they possibly know that I came to Kano more for Aisha than for ANA?
Waiting at the reception long after the Lagos gang had gone, I pulled a call to John Alechenu my classmate back in the University. Where Aisha’s arrangement failed, this journalist friend of mine would have to bear the brunt of my one-day or two extra stay in Kano. He too tarried, texting to say that the Zamfara Governor was in town in the Government Office of Kano. Never one for waiting, I started growing edgy on a Sunday afternoon. Shortly after, Aisha was driven in, in the company of her friend, Hila Meshika, a delegate from Niger state.
If I had riveted in knowing Kano’s midnights, Aisha had come prepared to take me through Kano by day. First, we stopped to get a grub at a tiredly kept fast food eatery begging for arms to be rehabilitated. Yakubu Fle the driver who said I was a handsome dude, a compliment meant more for Aisha than for me, was not the typical yours dumbly obedient driver. He was excited to give me a good Kano treat. He was as ready to drive, as he also was ready to drive the direction of our conversation in his slightly inhibited English language mixed with fluent Hausa.
As we drove, I saw more Kano roads. I looked out for the celebrated posh cars legend said Kano was most unique for. I didn’t quite see much of Kano’s best of the best Hondas. I accepted the explanation that celebrations and burials were the special moments for their road shows. But I love the organic communication of Kano roads. They look every inch a story well told. It had long sentences, short sentences, and a fine mix of sentence structures in stretches that peter out in long yawn into a common centre that made you feel that it was all a long rigmarole. Kano roads are not a windy and wieldy essay like Lagos, Kano roads tell the story of its far-flung parts in a well-executed novella. Everywhere seems to end at the starting spot. So very organic!
Barely could one sight any road needing cure. They all looked well manicured. They had just enough cars, buses and motorcycles on them not to create an unsightly clutter of men and machines in an eternal competition for time and trophy. And Kano has such a disarming simplicity. You could almost count its well-populated indigenes and mixed settlers. And the sheer calm and quietness of it. Even the ease and nakedness of the souls that walk the streets made media reports and the religious Maitasine mayhem all look and seem untrue. I turned to Aisha and confessed: “I love the simplicity of the North! I wish it had a different religion.” Aisha is ever too informed to be lacking in response to such subjects. “What if the religion is what has made them so?” I had no further reply nor inquiry. I know that Islam in the north is not just a religion; it is a total lifestyle inseparable from any other thing. “You know every religion is sensitive” Aisha broke in further. “Yes, but Islam is highly temperamental. It is extremely sensitive in the way others are not,” I replied. This time, it was Aisha’s turn to be quiet.
We got to Karofi. It was the cloth dyeing pits said to have been dug in 1948. It bore the name KANO STATE TOURISM MANAGEMENT BOARD, KAROFI. And indeed it was a tourist’s delight. We walked across many pits of different depths and sizes – all coloured or covered. The dominant colour was blue. A colour inherited from the Tuareg traders during the Trans Sahara trade days. This dyeing and laundry place again reinforced my admiration of Kano, and indeed the North as a people especially skilled in the use of their hands. It is in Kano you come a lot closer to the African possibilities before the invasions of Islam and colonialism. Our guide at the dyeibg pit, Yusuf Sanni told stories of the origin of the place and the possibilities of their undying inheritance and trade. We ceaselessly moved from section to section. The traditional ironing place of a big wood with adjoining slender ends across the big belly with which they beat or grinded the clothes to a clinical finish. The designs on the large pieces of cloths are not without their design motifs. There were the three baskets said to be money, education and power. There was another comprising encircling strokes surrounding a knot said to be the subjects around the Emir. Clearly, the northern submissive support to their leaders has again found expression in their textile designs.
The more our guide, Yusuf spoke about the northern textile and cloths, the more I hear echoes of the Yoruba story. The designs he showed us and spoke about were very much like Yoruba adire, their more strongly textured type and it’s tailoring are no different from Yoruba “aso oke” with the agbada which is their own “babariga.” Just that the north has a dominance of blue, a colour inherited from the Tuaregs which gave them the distinction of “the blue men of the desert”. Uncle Ted Mukoro, Nigeria’s advertising great once told me how in the course of trying to advertise a detergent, Blue Omo, a Unilever product across the country, only the north had a native word for blue. Its absence in the other parts of the country, posed a major communication challenge in the other parts of the country; but not through these textile ties. The meeting points between Hausa and Yoruba began to converge beyond their political hostilities. The Sardauna and Awolowo their leaders had fought each other politically in similar flowing white gowns differently called Babariga and Agbada. They were actually fighting their deep-seated similarities in more ways than one. Islam for one, has always been a common denominator between both. We were given to understand that the textile similarities were bye-products of Islamic influences as they trickled down the south-western Nigeria from the north.
Leaving the pit dye, we moved on to the Kano museum. It was here we did a tour of the entire north through Kano. We drove into what was said to be the very first building in Kano – the Emir’s palace; before it was rebuilt a few walks away to its present site. The older was then donated to the museum as Kano’s showroom of history and heritage.
From its entrance – originally supposed to be visitors’ waiting room when it was the Emir’s palace, but now the entry point into the history of Kano as a window to northern Nigeria. The entrance commences the story of its original architecture, the same that has kept the old building still looking young and ageless. “The museum [speaking about the building] here was temporarily built by Mohammed Rumfa in 1462,” Haruna Maitama our guide commenced the history of Kano pointing at a map. “Here is the Dala hill. The first settlers were iron smiters in search of Iron ore, which they found within the hill and settled there and worshipped its spirit,” Haruna enlightened. “Because it is spirit, it became easy to have the Hausa embrace Islam early because it was associated with the unseen God. There was also Coron Dutse Hill which by the 14th century saw the coming of Mali merchant preaching Islam,” Haruna a level headed and very understanding guide went back in time.
Taking us through the genius of those days, Haruna picked up item after item of the ingenious past explaining how they were used to build what became the great city of Kano. “Here are the city walls of Kano. The city walls were built in the 11th – 14th centuries with extensions after extensions. First extension 11th centrury. Second extension 12th – 13th century and the third extension in the 13th – 14th century…” After which came the incursion of Islam and Colonialism.
The entry point of the Kano museum was actually where the real artifacts were. We went from room to room till we got into the rooms with adjoining rooms; each overlapping into another, and each telling the story of Kano in an eleven series episodes; each dovetailing into what seemed an endless soap opera answering and explaining the interconnected stories of this great history. Suddenly, it stopped feeling like a leisure walk across an isle of exhibitions. It soon began to feel like a ritual process into a distant past with Haruna as the carrier, and the driver and I the only survivors left in this passage, as acolytes. It was therefore delightfully amazing to find us ending the journey at the same spot where we started. It then hit me that the museum was one well crafted script!
In this masterly script, Islam was accorded a lead and domineering character in what began as an innocent tale of a convergence of inter-related parts, turning into preferred parts, and then peeling off other permanent parts in a vanishing loss of narrative innocence. I then began to wonder: if there was a pre-Islamic time, how come Islam took on this domineering presence? An event as recent as the Maitasene movement mayhem of the 1980s had a place; even if it is more of how-not to practice Islam. Yet there was no single room or even an item of reference on my Christianity. All through the voyage through the adjoining rooms it never occurred to me. I had been more enamored of the northern past, of a well-condensed story of vast distances of periods learnt in three hours. I was taken-in and had become taken-over by the admirable long capacity for craft, especially in smiting. The museum was also very loud in chivalry, in types of exhibited weapons of war which might partly explain why Kano is constantly at war with itself.
From the museum, we drove to Bayero University, Aisha’s school, situated on the outskirt of Kano, and along many of its famed city walls. I had hoped to see the beautiful Hausa-Fulani women for whom I had elected to school up north, at the University of Jos. But they were not in sight. I complained and protested, only to be laughed at by Aisha and the driver. As we drove on, Aisha showed me the University mosque. “Where is the church?” I demanded. “But this is a dominantly Muslim environment”, Aisha answered. “But this is also a federal university”, I reminded her? I mused, reminding myself of the discovery I made at the museum on the Jihad. All the 14 pre-condition for embarking on a jihad as stipulated by Usman Dan Fodio its author had been predicated on the consent of those the jihad was for. A clause which also holds true for Sharia.The polite and considerate word “consent” runs through all. And I pondered and wondered at its practiced violation.
Journeying back alone to Lagos from Kano, I could now travel, thinking. I had no need for reading, for on my mind were tomes of thoughts on the Kano expedition needing exploring. My isolated mind needing only its own company began to place things together and in order. Echoes on my mind were: “Kano has been given a character… Kano has been given a character.” I couldn’t help see the craft in the basketry, the weaving, the textile, the smiting but far more importantly is the conscious environmental design culminating in the conscious and subconscious design of the minds of its people, its inhabitants and the visitors that come in contact with it. Kano is a study in artistry, a study even in the reigning concept of branding. All around you is conscious and unconscious art, crafting their way into your innermost parts. But why haven’t they found enduring expression in their literary art; except in artisanship. Even its growing film culture is still needful of higher elevations. Could religion be the drag? The fettering demands on all faithfuls of all religions could be injurious to the flight of fancy that begets great art forms; especially where it does artistically attains to a moral imagination, which it often aspires to.
Alone by itself, my mind strayed to the assortment of weapons of war in gallantry and chivalry in one of the many rooms and their eloquent pride of place in the museum. I thought of the minds that made them and how the need for them arose. I thought of how traditional chivalry evolved into other Arabic types, and how it seems to me that traditional iron smites became weaned into acculturated chivalry armed with a temperamental religion along with the protestant talakawa political consciousness inspired by Aminu Kano. Kano’s talakawa resistance – the have-nots fight against their feudal lords. All put together seem to me a volatile mix. I then began to understand why Kano is a constant canon of carnage. This city is a tigering lion with the look of a lamb.
Then I began to learn Aisha anew. I began to comprehend the nature of her sweet simmering temper. But more importantly, I began to understand why she had been falling in love with Christians against the demands of Islam. Christianity is her people’s silenced artifact of her hidden history. It has therefore become her unconscious pursuit; an unconscious drift to uncover and be bethrothed to the denied. Christianity is the missing link she so unconsciously seeks to connect with in order to attain Chrislam with me, her true love.
Chike Ofili author of: Our Unspoken Ties, 2001, was a National Publicity Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Authors in 2001, when this piece was written 16 years ago, for excavation in 2017 valentine’s day for lovers.