By Furera Bagel, PhD
It is another Independence Day anniversary and I know that many will see no reason to celebrate amidst raging insecurity, rise in the cost of living, or when they just learned that they are each owing 163,000 naira to some foreigners they’ve never seen.
Maybe that is why we should use today to reflect and think of something great and unique about us; something that makes one proud to be a Nigerian. As for me, the thing that came to my mind is how majority of Nigerians are good people with good hearts and that is not restricted to a certain geo-political zone, ethic group or religion.
In the year 2004 when the memories of Kaduna and Jos religious crises was still fresh and both Muslims and Christians were still living with mutual mistrusts of each other, my husband and I had an encounter with some Christian youths on our way to Kaduna from Bauchi. We started our journey around 6:pm, due to car troubles which made my husband to spend the whole day at the mechanic, and also gave me the hope of a possibility of spending another day with my family, but because he had to go to the office the following day, my husband insisted that we leave that late.
By the time we arrived Jos it was almost 7:pm and I was hoping he would relent and let us sleep in the Tin city but he just kept on driving, and I didn’t beg because I was still sulking, So we continued the journey in silence with darkness all around us.
Between Jengre and Saminaka we lost two tyres to some rocks scattered on the road and a pothole so we used our spare and an extra one from a fellow traveller who was also on his way to Kaduna but was on a hurry to stop and see his wife who was schooling in what he said was a nursing school at Pambeguwa. We were also lucky to get some fellow travellers who seeing us stranded in the dark, stopped and helped us change the tyres within few minutes and just like that we were back on the road with Mr Bala on the wheel.
As we continued our journey pass Saminaka and just one or two villages before Pambeguwa we burst another tyre. By then it was almost 10 pm and we were without a spare, so we decided to park by the roadside and wait for help. The whole village must have gone to sleep for it rained that night and we saw only about four youths who kept passing back and forth close to our car. I asked my husband what the plan was and he responded that we should just lock our car doors, recline our seats and sleep till morning then he would look for a place to fix the tyre so we can get moving, but I wasn’t comfortable with the idea.I knew he wasn’t either but the man in him wont let him show or admit that.
I asked him if we should ask the ‘sentries’ for help and he thought it was dangerous to ask help from total strangers.; “What if they decide to kill us?” he asked, and I responded that I had rather trust them with my life and if they break that trust then it is between them and God, rather than take a chance by the road side. But he warned me not to try anything stupid, so I followed his instruction and reclined my seat but my eyes were wide open as I watch the boys continue their patrol by our car.
I can’t remember exactly when I made the decision but just as they came close to the car for what looked like the 50th time I quickly opened my door and said “Sannunku!” while my husband tried to pull me back into the car. They stopped and answered the greeting and went further to ask what was wrong with our car and when they heard about the damaged tyre they said the only place we can get it fixed was Panbeguwa and it is already late. Then they asked what we were planning to do and when I told them they were quite shocked and warned us that just the previous day a bus carrying some passengers met the same fate as ours and decided on our plan, unfortunately late in the night they were robbed by some sinister people who also came in a bus and carted away everything including all the bus tyre which they removed. So they suggested that they would help us park our car in their church premises and will also find us a place to sleep.
As they were telling me this, my husband kept on tugging my hand and whispering ‘suna so mu yarda dasu, su kaimu can su kashe mu ne!’ meaning, “they want us to trust them, so they can take us there and kill us!” Believe you me that thought had also crossed my own mind because it wasn’t a good time in our history so I understood how he felt. I also knew it was part of the trauma he still had from barely escaping alive during the 2002 Miss World riots in Kaduna, but one also needed to have faith because our options were limited. So I replied “okay we will go with you”. I got out of the car with my bag and he had no option but to follow suit. They then led us to a house which was also nearby. We were ushered into a very neat room with a bed and two chairs, which clearly belonged to one of them, for we saw him pick a few things to go sleep elsewhere. Then they went out with him to help him take the car to the churchyard which was by the roadside close to where we parked.
He returned to find me already bathed with the hot water they provided and was already sleeping peacefully in my pyjamas; he woke me up and whispered, “ Get dressed in your normal clothes! What if they come late in the night and we have to run?” So I got up and got dressed and went back to sleep. That night he did not sleep for every time I open my eyes I see him seated at the edge of the bed, facing the door.
In the morning we woke up to hot water for our baths and a breakfast of hot kosai and koko. Afterwards, one of them brought a bike and went with my husband to Pambeguwa where the tyre got patched and after they helped him fix the tyre one of them came and escorted me to the church where he was waiting for me, and we thanked them profusely and resumed our journey to Kaduna, inspired and changed forever.
Those boys became more than friends to us for since then we always made a stop at their village whenever we pass through until my husband’s death unfortunately I haven’t frequented that route a lot since he died and the only few times were in a commercial vehicle, I reflected that they also might have wondered what happened to us after that incidence.
In retrospect. I’ve often thought on why the boys decided to help us despite the bitterness and hate rampant at that time? I concluded that they just happened to be well brought up, God fearing kind boys. They were indeed good people.
I am sure every other Nigerian can recount at least one instance where they were assisted by a fellow Nigerian who happened to belong to a different religious or ethnic group, or geo-political zone, which did not come at any price.
Indeed Nigerians are good peple!
By Furera Bagel, PhD