This is my own memory: my memory of two great Nigerian cities in a time and a country that once was. In so many ways, the Nigeria of my birth and of my youth seems like a fairy tale; as though it never existed. It is as though it never existed when one considers the Nigeria of my adult years, the Nigeria I know now.
It could be my memory. The things I choose to remember. The things I choose to forget. Or could it be my imagination? How could it so right and so wonderful then, and then so wrong and so stale and debilitating now? May be it was never the way I remember it. May be Nigeria has always been this way: rotten and self immolating.
Political upheavals aside, life was good and sweet. Somehow I cannot remember a terrible time. I cannot remember ever being afraid of living or being afraid for my life. I was born in a place not too far from Obalende, Lagos, but two of my favorite cities in Nigeria are Jos, and Ilorin. I was a boarding school student at Government Secondary School, Ilorin, where I fell in love with the city and the people. I spent some of the happiest years of my life in that great city.
Ilorin is an Emirate, presided over by an Emir; and assisted by several Baloguns including Balogun Gambari; Balogun Alanamu; Balogun Fulani; and Balogun Ajikobi. Depending on what part of the city you are in, it could feel like an old Islamic center of learning, or like a modern city. Modernity coexists with the 18th Century. This is a city known for hundreds of distinguished Islamic scholars.
And indeed, some of the most distinguished modern jurists hail from Ilorin. Ilorin is hardly in the news because it rarely boils. The people — a great gathering of the Yoruba, Gobiri, Fulani, Baruba and the Tapa and the Nupe along with the Hausa and others — are very accommodating. It is as if no one is ever in a hurry. They live life.
After high school, I moved up north to Jos, Plateau State. Jos was a city to behold: gentle, clean and fresh, open and tolerant, and was conducive to contemplation. The natural beauty of the state was something else. It was magnificent. Jos was the place you went to experience some of life’s gift and beauties. Jos was like Damascus, enchanting. It was like Jerusalem, alluring. Its early hours can be misty and perfumed. Night times can be breezy; cool and breezy. That was Jos.
You could not escape the historicity of Ilorin. It is there for you to see and to experience. Ilorin is majestic. There is a feeling of warmth and grandeur about it. Afonja Are-Onakakanfo was here, and so was Sheik Alimi. But Jos? Ha, it made you think of possibilities. It made you wish and hope. I could never forget both cities, both state, and both peoples. Along with Ilorin, Jos made me whole; both informed my worldview.
I made life-long friends in both cities. I met some of the kindest people on the face of the earth there. It was in Jos that I met my brother, B. A Adetona. In recent years however,
Jos has become the bedlam of political instability. It has become the hotbed for the unpredictable.
A city that was once home to liberalism and tolerance became known as the killing field. It is sad, so very sad with all those pent up anger, primordial sentiments, and religious and ethnic hatred. How could these be? How? In Jos? My Jos? The city’s innocence is lost; Jos may never be the same again.
Ha, I grieve for my old city. I grieve for all those who lost loved ones; and I grieve for innocence lost. It is so heartbroken to see Jos go the way of some other cities in Nigeria. Oh Nigeria; is this what you have become: brothers killing brothers, sisters killing sisters, and neighbors killing neighbors. Oh Jos…I grieve and cry for you!
Jos is gone. Will Ilorin be there for me tomorrow? And the day after?