Hey everyone! This was written by a friend. His name is Victor. Enjoy.
Some say home is wherever the heart lies; others believe home is where family is. I say home is that place that has become a fundamental part of you, a place you know you will always return to, regardless of wherever you go, whatever you become or the heights you attain. Such places have an almost talismanic effect that makes you identify with the most minute and mundane things that associate you with it.
For eighteen years, that place beckoned and finally, I answered. Leaving the big city and all its enchantments behind, and promising myself not to rant for home coming’s sake (ranting comes easily to me these days); I journeyed back to a place that seemed to have been relegated to my past. However, it came alive with each mile that brought me closer; closer to my early socialisation, closer to those childhood experiences, closer to my roots, indeed, closer home.
The state of the airport, despite ongoing renovations was enough to set me off on my usual rant… especially when I remembered that it was supposed to be an international airport but never achieved that status due to our unfortunate history of nepotism. But strangely, my objective side seemed to have vanished in transit. I felt the urge to hug everyone as a brother or sister in a spirit of amity that rarely comes upon me in the big city, but which I now wore like a cloak of life. Must be the spirit of warmth that is never lacking in this lovely town I call home.
As the dry scenery flashed by on my way from the airport in a taxi, I leaned back in my seat and flipped out my camera. I was momentarily transformed into that little boy growing up in a small town, being wrapped up warmly to go to school, situated close to the hills, which are a common feature in the landscape. Huddling with friends before assembly to discuss our lunch boxes; or to see whose teeth could chatter the most or who could produce more steam from the mouth. While analysing lunch boxes, mine was always rated tops, thanks to mummy’s award winning vegetable sandwiches (never mind that I nominated and awarded her myself). Going to school then was exciting, not because we relished the educational experience, but because the thirty minutes long break was the highlight of any normal boy’s day. There were amazing games and the pranks you played by tying overgrown grass and luring friends to run and get their legs caught, clay craft during the raining season, dry corn stalk craft during the dry season, rock climbing after exams, tree climbing and bike riding during the holidays. We had fun growing up.
Needless to say, as every plain brought back its own memory, I had expectations, eager to go back to all those places that had been the centre of my world, hoping that somehow, time would have left everything untouched. As I began to move around I found it hard to shake the feelings of despair that were beclouding me. There seemed to be that subtle reminder of a new dispensation, far removed from what I had known. That small and peaceful town where everybody knew everybody had been replacedwith a new dispensation of segregation, distrust and fear; of silent killings and road blocks. All this in a town that once came highly recommended by the American government to its citizens coming to Nigeria!
It is amazing how things can change so significantly and still remain the same; how the harsh realities of ethnic and religious conspiracies may have complicated the lives of so many but still the people remain simple and jovial albeit cautious. I struggled hard not to notice the shadows that are left after a prolonged rape that started from an ethno-politically motivated religious riot in 2001 which has now mingled with the bigotry of the North-Eastern terrorists; but the signs are there. Burnt markets and rebuilt churches, soldiers everywhere, buildings converted to command posts for the STF (Special Task Force), an unwritten curfew; need I say more?
I wasn’t supposed to rant. This realisation snapped me out of my melancholy reverie and that was when I began to notice. The air is still cool and the weather chilly, the hills still majestically dot the landscape, the houses are still beautifully merged with the rocky terrain and the people are still as communal and friendly as circumstances will permit. The zoo, wildlife park, Onigbinde stores, polo field, ECWA Goodnews Church, Lafia court, Hill Station Hotel, Jenta Adamu and Wrang Pam streets (among several others), Modern Bookshop, the museum, National library, NASCO, and so many other landmarks that as far as my coming of age matters have been there forever and still stand tall and proud as an attestation to the futility of every evil event that had taken place. Yes even more things are springing up; flyovers and at last buildings that are taller than J.D Gomwalk house, newer roads and recreational centres. But more importantly, hope and determination. Hope that the future will be better and a determination to curtail further occurrences and to rebuild all that was lost.
Finally, the taxi honked at the gate and all worrisome thoughts were immediately dispensed. In no time, I had settled down and performed my usual ritual of going through all the rooms in the house.
Away from all the mixed feelings of depression and hope, I sat in my mother’s living room all cosy and warm and nothing seemed to matter anymore. I was home. I don’t know if she ever noticed the silly smile on my face any time I closed my eyes to breathe in the scent of the air. If she did, she never commented. I think she understood. Who wouldn’t? It was good to be home!