“How long with this suffering continue?” The Fulani woman across the street walked to me to ask. I was talking to her daughter who went to Bayero University Kano some couple of weeks back for some sort of interview which is now part of the admission process into our universities. “How long?” She continued. The price of food keeps going up that even to feed now is a problem. Being a journalist in the neighbourhood a lot of people just see you pass and stop you by to ask a thing or two about government and the country and want some form of answers. She was looking at me hopelessly.
A lot of people are really going through hard times. Maybe you are not but a lot of Nigerians are. I have seen proud people stop me on the road to ask for money, people that I know and sometimes don’t really know, proud people. They do that with shame in the eyes and pain, and you just know they have no option.
Well, I told the Fulani woman what government have been saying. I told her Baba promised that soon, next year, and when she looked into my eyes and her eyes were asking ‘when?’ I told her perhaps before next year runs out. She looked at me helplessly.
“So what are we going to eat before next year ending?”
I remember the day Baba Buhari won election and how the whole house came out jubilating and later celebrated. It was their victory. Their Baba Buhari had won. Soon the streets were full with wild bike riding Gwoza boys screaming and they screamed it at you when they see you look like a Southerner. A lot of my Southern friends voted for Buhari but immediately Goodluck Jonathan called Buhari and it was announced, it became their victory.
I remember the Igala Muslims in my neighborhood and their Yoruba counterparts who stood by watching happily but didn’t join the celebration. It was an Islamic victory. Even the Igbos and others who voted Buhari and argued that Buhari was better than Goodluck suddenly sensed that this whole thing had turned to something else. They stayed far away watching.
I went round Abuja that day watching the celebration and it was simply Hausa/Fulani and Northern Muslim celebration. It was a wild celebration and I simply sensed that if Baba had lost this election all the energy celebrating wildly would have turned to mayhem. There is a thin line between such wildness and violence. If the result were different. In fact a lot of people who supported either Goodluck or Buhari were relieved. “At least no one would be killed this time,” I heard a lot of them say. In 2011 when General Buhari lost in CPC, it was complete mayhem and massacre in areas where he had overwhelming support. So this time a lot of people were relieved and even those not celebrating who were preparing to run from Abuja in case Baba loses and it turned bloody were relieved.
For a whole week I watched the celebration. Some wanted to provoke and people just ignored them. This is the nature of Nigeria’s election. My tribe man has won, my brother has won, a Muslim or Christian has won.
I remember during the 50th anniversary of Nigeria’s independence I ran into some pastor at Garki shopping complex who engaged me in conversation on the politics of that moment. He told me that God, Jehovah, cannot allow a Muslim be the head of Nigeria on our 50th anniversary. He quoted some verses and mentioned some numbers in the Bible. The man was quite educated. But when you mix religion with somethings that are not really related with superstition, no matter how intelligent you are, you start to get everything wrong and even look stupid.
In this situation now nobody is laughing. Once the Christian neighbours who supported Goodluck Jonathan laughed at the others who they see as those who voted for Buhari when the recession started biting them. Now both of them have united in their complains. They no longer taunt each other but complain together at the skyrocketing prices of commodities. Both of them now ask me, “Sir when will all this end?”
As Eugene Lunesco once wrote, “Ideology separates us, dreams and anguish brings us together.” I am seeing a neighbourhood uniting under the same anguish everyone is now facing. Hunger doesn’t know religion, tribe or region.