Monday, February 26, 2007

A trip to the North

I take the IRS flight to Maidugiri, capital of Borno State in the far north-east of the country. There are only three planes a week. The Monday noon flight I enter is full; demand may soon push the journey to daily flights. A man in an agbada sits down next to me with his female companion. They fall into an easy, relaxed exchange. The way she laughs indicates intimacy between them, but on another frequency, I can tell she is not his wife. As the stewardess goes through the safety ritual, I pick up the information sheet in the pouch in front of me. The alhaji glances at it. “I knew it was a Fokker” he declares with relish.

Seventy minutes later, the plane touches down. Along with a clutch of others, I am directed to the right of the arrivals hall, while everyone else continues straight ahead. I follow the directions, not sure what and why. I walk through a door into an empty and dusty hall. A few people are hanging around outside a room, with Immigration written above the door. I wheedle my way in. A woman and a man in uniform are interviewing a middle-aged middle-eastern man, while a young white guy waits nearby, his passport at the ready. I ask the audience why we have to see anyone in immigration, it being a local flight. Someone to my right tells me that we have to be interviewed. I am the last in line. A couple of men are going to a medical conference, another man is on business.

After fifteen minutes, I sit down in front of the female official. With a hint of irritation, I ask her why there has to be an interview. She tells me it is because Borno has borders with other countries. I reply that the same is the case with Lagos and Cross River States, but there is no interview process there. She looks at me with a mixture of mild disdain, her eyebrows arching upwards with authority. I decide that politeness may be the better approach for the rest of our encounter. She says that some people land at the airport and then get in a car and race to the Cameroon border. She then asks if I would like to go to Cameroon. Discombobulated by her question for a few seconds, I say that I have no intention of going there. She asks me why not. I wonder: is she just making conversation, or testing my responses? Is this boredom at work, or an analytical response process? I say that I am not interested at the moment in getting lost in mountains and forests, or seeing gorillas, so Cameroon is not part of my plan. Her male colleague, who has been studying me, asks me if that is my only impression of Cameroon. I say, of course, it is similar, at least on the western edge, to the Nigerian state that shares the longest border with the country, Cross River. I wonder if he is upset that I am characterising Cameroon in this way. And so I add that I would like of course to go one day to Cameroon, to see the mountains. He retorts that one doesn’t need to go to Cameroon to see mountains, that there are mountains in Nigeria. I consider this for a while – I have never heard of there being a mountain in Nigeria. I ask him where there is a mountain in Nigeria, and suggest that Nigeria only has hills. He doesn’t answer. I think I have annoyed him. Meanwhile, time is passing and my car will be waiting. The man takes my passport, and writes down details in long hand in a ledger book. I change my tack and smile and effuse to the woman. A few minutes later, my passport is back in my pocket and I can go.

The road from the airport takes us on the outskirts of the town. I see a familiar face on a billboard near a t-junction. Then I realise it is the face of our downstairs neighbour. He is running for governor in the upcoming elections. The driver tells me he is well known in the state, and as he is backed by the PDP, has a good chance of winning. I wonder what will become of our compound if he wins. Already, senior politicians come to visit, with cars and armed police regularly filling the yard. To my disappointment, we do not drive through the town, but quickly find ourselves on a straight and increasingly empty road through the Sahel scrub. Every mile or so, we pass a traditional village, with thatch fences, pot-shaped mud buildings and architectural stacks of elephant grass drying nearby. The driver tells me the villages are a mixture of Hausa, Kanuri and Fulani, the three main ethnic groups in the North-East. I ask him where the baobabs are. He tells me that there are many. But we have yet to see one. Instead, we pass endless acacias and tamarind trees. And then, a little way off the road, I see my first baobab in years. And then I see another, and another, until the landscape is dotted with the trees, creating a delightfully strange and spiky landscape.

My fascination with baobabs began with reading Le Petit Prince as a boy. In Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s magical story, a pilot crashes his plane in the desert, yet survives the crunch. Just before he gives up hope of finding help and dying of heat and thirst, a little boy appears, and teaches him the secrets of living by describing some of the planets he has visited. He describes a baobab tree on one planet. Every child should know the story of The Little Prince, just as every child should then be able to look upon baobabs with wonderment. Just after entering Yobe State, we stop so I can take pictures of a huge old specimen. Walking up to the tree, one sees that the trunk is hollow inside, the litres of water stored under the bark forming a tube shape. They are called kuka in hausa and are held in respect and awe. Spirits are said to dwell in kuka, so no one in the North will ever deliberately chop one down. We climb back into the car, and hundreds then thousands of the trees blur by. Fulani herders steer cows across the scrub. In this part of the country, the cows are dark brown, and sometimes have huge horns. There is a beautiful melancholy in the slow tread of the beasts.

An hour and a half later, we enter Damaturu and hit a wall of traffic. The Action Congress party are holding a political rally. The symbol of the party is the African broom. Hired unemployed youth spill out of brightly coloured lorries, shouting and punching the air. The driver takes a short cut to avoid losing time. After driving down some sandy back streets, we find the office where I will be based. Nearby, some youths play football in the sand between baobabs. Some men are building a structure with lumps of mud thrown between the hard dried mud bricks. Life in Damaturu drifts on, as it has done and will do.

During the course of the day, I am taken to meet various senior ranking civil servants of the state. Inside one office (an auditor), papers and files are piled high on every available flat surface. There is an air of decay and dysfunction in the dimly lit room. It looks like electricity seldom graces the office with its favours. There framed photographs of the governor and an Emir. Next to these is an old schoolboy’s poster. I ask the civil servant about this. He tells me it was his college, in Kano. It has been there since the 1920’s and has given Nigeria Emir’s a men of high political office. He tells us he has worked in his ministry since the 1960’s, when Yobe State did not exist (the whole region was subsumed under Borno State). He has been in his current office for fifteen years. I try to imagine fifteen years surrounded by slowly decaying paper, and cannot. His office is so full of files that he works sitting on the sofa near his desk. In my travels around other state governments, I have found that auditing is yet to be taken seriously, for obvious reasons.

Later, we eat dinner at Lizzie’s – the best restaurant in town. We are led to an inner room, which is done up in Nigerian posh: luridly fake flowers, gilded chairs, and the television with Channel O on in one corner. Lizzie is summoned. She is an imposing woman dressed in expensive looking red fabric. Within two minutes my new colleagues have rice and meat, confirming that African fast food need not be an oxymoron. My rice and vegetable stew takes longer. I find out that there are no aubergines or courgettes in Yobe.

I am later taken to my hotel, the Classic Motel. I have been booked into the Executive suite, which has an ante-room with its own bathroom. Two channels are available on the small television, beneath heavy layers of snow. My colleague asks if there is water in the room. “Plenty sah!” answers the porter. “It is running well well.” NTA has a station for Damaturu on Channel 7. Earlier in the day, in various offices, the TV was tuned to the English language Al-Jazeerah channel. Here, the satellite service is not DSTV. Once the satellite is installed, there is no subscription cost. Most of the channels are from the Arab world. In my host’s house a little later, we hop through channels from almost every Arab country, before finding BBC World. There is a strong sense of allegiance to Arabia, rather than to the Nigerian south.

My companion for the night is an upended cockroach in the bathroom. I leave it wiggling its tiny legs helplessly, meaning I don’t have to face killing it before sleep, but also ensuring it cannot crawl about while hypnos descends. I call for the porter and ask him if he can procure a beer. Yobe being a Sharia state, this involves him leaving the hotel and going somewhere. He says it is possible, and leaves with two hundred naira. A few minutes later, I sup my semi-cool Star while typing up my work notes from the day. I consider statistics I’d read earlier about Yobe’s greatest asset: its livestock. There are more cows in the state than people. And unless I misread the figures, there are 880,000 camels in the state. That must be 88,000 surely? Speaking of statistics, Yobe State is the least literate in the Federation. For example, only one in five adult women in the State is literate.

Up early the next day, I pulp the still wiggling cockroach, and clear up the remains before entering the shower. I turn on the tap, only to find water streaming unenthusiastically out of the base of the shower pipe, at about hip height. Fortunately, there is a bucket nearby which I use to slowly gather enough water. So much for the water being well well.

After another day of meetings, I return to the Classic Motel to find there is no space at the inn. They had forgotten I had booked for two nights. I am directed to the Oasis hotel a short walk down a nearby street. When I arrive in the compound, there are men loitering around in the yard. They look like drivers. The receptionist is among them. He shows me to a dimly lit room with a dirty red carpet and a dirty looking bed. How much? I ask him. One thousand naira he replies. Having no other option, I take it. I silently praise my wife for insisting I take a duvet cover with me. It will ensure some level of protection against bed lice and skin infection. I unpack my wash bag and go to the bathroom. There is a strong smell of urine in the bathroom. I turn on the sink tap but nothing happens. Fantastic: no water for the night. Returning to the bedroom, the smell of urine has infused the room. I had anticipated a moment like this and so took out a joss stick from my suitcase and lit it. A few moments later, the electricity went, and stayed off for the rest of the night.

At six fifteen the next morning, the driver picks me to begin my journey to Jigawa. My mind feels fresh and alive with possibility. I decide to think about the relationship between chance and necessity. I arrive at the thesis that although contradictory, any metaphysical account of the world must somehow accommodate both chance and necessity. Chance refers to the initial conditions: oxygenation occurs on a planet’s ecosystem. Carbon-based life-forms cede to oxygen-based organisms. Humans and societies emerge. It is within the terms set by these initial conditions that necessity dictates the way. One has a certain character, therefore one will respond to the world through the ways of the character. As Sartre said, man is condemned to be free. I smile as the theory emerges, and select pathways into the metaphysical jungle to clear for the journey ahead.

A few minutes after passing through the gates to the city, we come across a tree trunk blocking the road. A few meters ahead of it, an orange broken-down lorry sits motionless, both cabin doors wide open, creating metal ears. Through the fug of early morning fatigue, a quiet bell of alarm softly chimes. Seconds later, about twenty men race in from the bush to the right of the road. They have bottles with yellowish liquid in their hands. The driver quickly reverses at speed, the Land Rover’s engine screaming in pain. Ahead of us in the direction we are now travelling, more men are emerging from the bush, aiming bottles at us. I expected the windows to crack at any moment. Seconds later, and we’ve cleared enough ground for the driver to turn and put the car into a forward gear, leaving the marauders behind. We park about half a mile down the road. A few minutes later, a car appears, coming from Damaturu. My driver flags it down and explains the situation ahead. The passenger is a Yoruba guy with a pot belly. Minutes later, more cars arrive and a lorry, each one parking behind, with men clambering out and listening to explanations. Everyone speaks in excited hausa, pointing ahead at the orange lorry in the middle of the road in the distance. Villagers appear from the settlement just off the road and join in the discussion. Then a lorry appears from the direction of Damaturu, and slows down while passing us. The driver ignores various pleas to stop, and carries on in the direction of the ambush. A few minutes later, we can see his lorry had stopped, just before the orange lorry. Ant like figures drag him from the cabin. He puts up strong resistance; I can see more and more ants joining in to drag him away. I ask an elegant looking man in sunglasses whether incidents like this were common. They are not uncommon on these roads, he replies, a little ominously. I worry for the poor guy in the truck ahead of us. Why had he ignored our advice?

About twenty minutes later, a man on a motorbike approaches from the direction of the ambush. He drives at speed through the crowd on the road. Everyone had expected him to stop. Someone says that he must be one of the robbers, going to see if the police are coming, phoning ahead if he sees them. I am momentarily overcome by panic: what if he has brought reinforcements from Damaturu, and we will be trapped on both sides? Seconds later, a BMW 4x4 with blackened windows appears from Damaturu, with Peugeot escorts in front and back. The convoy slows slightly while passing us, and then speeds up. Someone says it must be a local politician. My driver gestures for me to get in the car. All the parked vehicles roar into life, as we follow the BMW back to the scene of the ambush. I conclude that either the BMW or the escorts have weapons. A lorry drives ahead of us, while to our left, a car overtakes us at speed. I feel nervous about whether the marauders are still ahead, and whether there would be some kind of skirmish. I try to ask the driver whether everything is now okay, but he has no English. He understands the intent of the question however and responds with a soothing gesture with his hands. He then tries to overtake the lorry. There are about ten cars and lorries in our convoy, charging towards the scene. I took a deep breath, and swallow as much hope as I can find.

We come to the tree trunk. An estate car is passing the trunk in the opposite direction, full of passengers. I look left and right rapidly. There is only bushes and scrub. It doen’t seem possible that everyone who tried to attack us could have disappeared, the landscape is surely too sparse of flora. Our car slows to a few miles an hour as we pass the tree trunk. A few metres later, we drive to the right of the orange lorry. Inside the cabin, the driver’s seat has been ripped apart with signs of what must have been a vicious struggle. Then I realise that we have still not passed the lorry that had been stopped, that was before the orange lorry a few minutes earlier. Meanwhile, the driver has speeded up, and we are now on our way Westwards at one hundred and forty kph. Baobab after baobab whizz by, and a sense of alarm and panic slowly lifts. I try to work out what had happened earlier. The following hypotheses come to me:

1. The ambush, the driver on the motorbike and the blackened out BMW are disconnected events. The ambushers must have escaped in the second hijacked lorry.

2. The motorbike rider was part of the gang. He phoned ahead as soon as he saw the politician.

3. The politician was in on the ambush. The motorbike rider’s appearance was the cue for the ambushers to leave the scene and for the politician to begin his journey.

I also wonder about the motives of the ambushers. Why did they not have guns? Were they just poor villagers? Had they wandered into the state from Niger? Or from Chad? Or from Sudan? I thought for a moment about Darfur, not so far from where we were. I thought about the landscape there, which must resemble that of Yobe. I imagine the extreme fear of being raided by the Janjaweed. I think about the complicit helplessness of the West in Darfur, and the extractive evil behind the benign Chinese mask in the region. Then another question occurs to me: what did they want? Did they want the lorry? But why did they leave the orange lorry abandoned? Did they want the goods from the lorry? But how would they carry them away? Then, a final black thought occurred: perhaps they are bori cultists, who need skulls and body parts…

My mind grows heavy with these thoughts that do not resolve themselves, and I fall asleep.

When I awake, we are in Bauchi State. I see a sign with Yankari on it – we must be near the reserve. We pass beautiful mud buildings, long smooth dark brown walls emanating cool. We drive over emerald rivers, with cows and goats lapping up the water. We cross a metal bridge, with boys swimming near its piers. And every so often, we pass a quarry, with men deep inside crafting mud bricks from the raw earth.

After three or fours hours on the road, we come to a rocky escarpment, with kuka seeming to puncture through boulders. We have finally arrived at Dutse, the State capital of Jigawa. Dutse means stone in hausa, and Jigawa means sand dune. I learn later that there are several large dunes in the north of the state. I imagine a tourist industry springing up around the dunes as in Dubai. Australians and Brits coming to dune-surf. Perhaps in fifty years, perhaps never.

Jigawa is a pleasant surprise. There is a general air of efficiency and purpose in the state government, in contrast to Yobe. I meet permanent secretaries who are knee-deep in detailed knowledge about their IT requirements and fully focused on reform. Jigawa has five emirates, four of which report to the Dutse Emirate. The state government is decentralised in accordance with the emirate structure. We take a trip to a Local Government Area. I had wanted to visit Hadeja where the wetlands are (one of the main stop-offs for migratory birds in Europe on their way to southern Africa), but it was a little too far to do in a day. We pass by the band of river and water that becomes the wetlands a little further to the East. Apparently, the wetlands are receding, thanks to a transplanted crop that is wreaking havoc with the local ecosystem. Again, there are emerald rivers and quarry pits and animals drinking. We pass by a caravan of camels with Tuareg looking men standing around. The government official I am with explains that they are probably from deep inside Niger, or even from Algeria. He tells me that they will be taking dates and sugar and other commodities to eastern Nigeria. I ask him if they will have passports. They will not even know what a passport is, he chuckles. How fascinating that camel caravans are still in existence in Nigeria, centuries if not millennia after they began. As we move further north, the trees become increasingly scarce, sometimes hundreds of metres apart. We pass by dried up river beds. My fellow passenger explains that this is a sure sign of desertification. The process is not helped by the fact that villagers continue to cut trees down for firewood. I wonder where all the money from carbon-offsetting schemes is being spent. Certainly, it is not spent planting trees against the encroaching Sahara in Northern Nigeria.

Later, I read about the animal statistics in Jigawa. There are apparently 125,000 cattle, 1,171 camels, 5,502 donkeys. This confirms my suspicion about the camel count in neighbouring Yobe. Near the border with Niger, there is a huge cattle market at Magaturi. Apparently it draws half a million people each time it holds. There are efforts by the donors to sanitise the market – there is not enough accommodation or services for the people that deluge the town.

When we arrive in the LGA, we are shown the local government secretariat. A telecoms mast lies unerected and rusting in the yard. Nearby, a generator lies housed in a corrugated shack, unconnected. I ask why the mast was not constructed, and why the generator is not used. About thirty men are standing around me in gleaming agbadas. I do not get a conclusive answer. Later, we drive to a school in the town. Here, a mast has been erected, but there is no antenna. A nearby generator has again not been wired. Just by the gen set, a classroom with thirty computers lies unused. The computers have plastic sheets over them. There is no power to use the facility, as no one has connected the generator and there is no NEPA here. What happened to the antenna? I ask an official why the easily-solvable problem has not been addressed. He considers for a minute and then answers. The computers need the internet to work, and because there is no internet, no one has thought to install the generator. Yes, he repeats, that must be the reason. I politely inform him that computers do not need an internet connection to work, and that e-learning cd-roms on maths and English could easily be bought in nearby Kano. He looks at me with surprise. Perhaps it is genuine: no one has explained to him that cd-roms work without the internet. Or perhaps it is a response he likes to cling to, like a captive deciding against the worst possible of fates.

Later that day, I complain about what I have seen to senior functionaries. They have just told stories about late middle-aged colleagues who are happy to retire early and volunteer back in their villages. I suggest that Civil Society Organisations tap into this informal volunteer passion, and solve simple problems like that at the school. They dismiss my suggestion, for no obvious reason. The gap of trust between the public and the government opens up, and occupies the silences between our words. Later that evening, I go for drinks with a British development worker. The ‘bar’ is at the edge of town along a dusty road. It is where the police go to drink and have a smoke. After three Stars, I am not fully capable of walking in a straight line (I am not a drinker). I go for a piss outside. The night sky is velvet black. I suddenly long to be in the bush five hundred metres away, to gaze at the stars unadulterated by lights from the town. My hotel has water and almost constant power, I discover with gratitude a little later on.

The drive into Kano the next day is uneventful along smooth roads, apart from the arresting sight of a pick-up van stuffed full of the largest squashes I have ever seen as we enter the city. I don’t have time to take out my camera. Later, in a series of meetings, I discover high stakes and complex institutional arrangements within the state government. It will take time to unpick an intervention solution in this case. I stay at the Tahir guest house, which is perhaps 3 stars by international standards, scoffing homous, pitta and chips as if it has been a year from civilisation. I watch Al-Jazeerah, then go an eat at Spice Foods restaurant. The food is excellent – the best ‘Indian’-style food I have eaten in Nigeria. I talk to the Pakistani owner, Siddiqi. He mentions with pride that the restaurant is in the Bradt guide and has just appeared in the new Lonely Planet West Africa. He has a real passion for slow-cooked food. He tells me Kano is slowly dying. I ask him why. He tells me the riots three years ago were the catalyst, with many people being killed, and businesses burnt to the ground. Since then, rival markets have opened up in nearby states, taking trade away from the city. The only major industry left is the leather-export industry. He is looking to move to Abuja and open up there. I suggest that this is a good idea, with Wakkis being full every night of the week with mostly ex-pats and Thai Chi persisting with an unadventurous menu and a certain lack of atmosphere, there is definitely room for lovingly prepared Asian cuisine. Back at the hotel, a party finishes, and men in elegant agbadas spill out. Handsome, colourfully dressed women with henna’d hands talk excitedly. I study the earrings of one woman – gold rings extending along the rim of her ear. The next morning, I fly Virgin Nigeria back to Abuja. My trip to the north has come to a close, but the yearning to return again opens ever wider.


Marin 12:27 pm  

Nice write up Jeremy. You seem prepared with the duvet and joss sticks.

The farthest north I’ve been is Abuja. It seems like it would be very interesting to travel further north. I don’t know if traveling alone as a woman would be wise though....

It seems such a pity that there are computers which are not connected because of ignorance.

BK,  1:18 pm  

Beautifully written Jeremy, though I think it would have been good to place the photographs alongside the write-up. I would also have liked a good close up of a Boabab as I was (still am) also a fan of the "Little Prince".

odalo 2:53 pm  

Fantastic! Reading this brings back memories of Mr Giwa and his travels from my Elementary English text. Unfortunately, the farthest north I ever went was Sabogidan Ora in Edo State. :-)

How I long for such a trip!

Anonymous,  5:34 pm  

The North is a lovely place. Unfortunately too many southern Nigerians have never been there. I lived briefly in maiduguri and visited a lot of Northern Nigeria.The people are very nice and friendly. I guess southerners are scared of religous intolerance and riots.I haven't been there since Sharia law was passed though. How are things for women now in the North?Has Sharia increased repression of women?Just curious.

LM,  5:44 pm  

Excellent account Jeremy! You make one want to explore northern Nigeria more. Caravans carrying items for trade? How quaint! Had a brief spell in Kano (one month or so) some 5 years ago and couldn't wait to leave. I never felt safe, as a woman, there was always an ominous air of being attacked etc. especially on Fridays. The dry heat there was a shock; hitting you as soon as you alight the aeroplane. Still I can imagine, it was all quite an adventure.

I wonder what the nature of your job is that takes you to different cities up north? Does it entail some development work????

Siddhartha 5:52 pm  

Beautiful post, Jeremy. And fascinating as well. Nuff Respeck!

Fred 8:04 pm  

Odalo, thanks for reminding me of that most exquisite textbook from my elementary school English textbook! I so liked the text that I used to skip ahead to find out what the family would do next as they drove all over Nigeria!

Jeremy, what "other frequency" did you receive the information that those two weren't married, eavesdropper? 121.5Mhz? :-)

Love it: Nigerian Posh! Hahaha!

The more I read on, the more I'm utterly confirmed in my decision not to return to that godforsaken country. However can one subsist in such abject squalor and inefficiency? I can't believe I lived there the first half of my life and escaped unscathed! Well, except for my accent and various complexes.

The stream of consciousness about chance and necessity is well-trodden, hackneyed stuff old boy. Reminds me strongly of that by the pothead Jasper in the movie Children of Men. Are you a pothead, doc?

What does your Muslim wife think of Jeremy's Chance Theory of Evolution, by the way? ;-)

Thanks for the write-up! And I agree with bk, the photos would have been great in the write-up.

God's child 8:47 pm  

I love this writeup. Only time I've been up north was to Zaria and Kaduna back when I was younger. I loved it then, so beautiful, nice, neat and peaceful. This was in the later part of the 80s, b4 the days of Sharia. I would love to go up and explore more, its different as a woman I guess, maybe I can get a male relative to go up with me.

Anonymous,  2:07 am  

I absolutely enjoy reading your blog and I am introducing as many London Naija people as I can to it. Well done.

By the way do you play cricket? Or are you a couch potato?

Jeremy 8:30 am  

Marin: thanks for the compliment. You should try a trip to Kano sometime - yes perhaps take a male companion.

BK: thanks - I've taken up your suggestion and stuck some pics in to tart it up.

Odalo: you owe it to yourself - indulge that longing! (What's stopping you?)

First anonymous: I have to say, I find the North to be on the whole a friendlier place than the South. I can't say about Sharia and women's repression having not seen the North pre-Sharia. But on the whole I think it probably is more repressive. You hardly see women on the street.

Im: yes my work is in development - project management, IT consultancy, capacity building yada yada.

Siddhartha: thanks brother. That Northern trip will happen, in some form or other: keep the faith.

Fred: a reliable diatribe. Nope I'm not a pothead. My wife is not muslim either. What exactly are your thoughts on chance and necessity, or are you to busy dreaming about the next gun you're going to buy to bother?

God's Child: why not team up with Marin for your northern odyssey?

Second anonymous: thanks mate. I play cricket in my head. The last time I ventured onto the field was in 2003. I played all the time in my yoof. There's an Abuja team which nets every Sunday by the stadium. I keep promising myself I'll go..

Atala Wala Wala 12:10 pm  


The attitude of the officials you spoke to in Jigawa regarding the non-working computers is what drives me mad about Nigeria - it even drives me madder than the corruption that people make so much noise about.

It's this attitude of not knowing why things are wrong, not believing you can ever know and not caring whether about whether you know or not that is responsible for a lot of the inefficiency in Nigeria. Perhaps this is also because of generally poor leadership...

uknaija 12:54 pm  

Great post, Jeremy which brought back lots of fond memories of my time spent in rural Northern Nigeria....on the subject of Nigerian posh decor- have you been to Shagalinku in Area 11? The bright red carpets and Bambi wall hangings give kitsch an entirely new meaning

Semper,  10:51 pm  

Hi Jeremy,

Yes, the North is beautiful and the people are gentler than most Southerners and foreigners realise. I had an academic from Unimaid in my house this weekend who is Bora - a native of Southern Borno and a Christian. He is a wise, intelligent and kind man.

He tells me that Sharia has made very little difference to people's way of life because it was more of a political phase than a passion.

It is true that the culture of an efficient bureaucracy is lacking there but there is an interest in the personal side of life.

It is possible to achieve things there but not in a hurry and not "officially".

Besides, anywhere which is on Fred's (long, long) list of hates can not be too bad.

Fred 7:31 pm  

Right, I'm too busy with my guns. Why don't you help me choose my next weapon? Should I get a 20" Benelli M1 Super 90 riot shotgun--which would have helped clear the way at your ambush--or should I get the Mil-Spec .45 caliber pistol?

This should be interesting.

Oh, and Semper, go fuck yourself. :-)

Anonymous,  11:46 am  

jeremy can you not delete the likes of fred swearing at others? i think you should delete insults that is directed at other people. You may leave insults directed at you (if you wish), but i think you should delete insults to others

dominique,  10:02 am  

À propos du Petit Prince, on peut lire un récit au livre (en espagnol) Este Sol de la Infancia (écrit par Saiz de Marco). Son titre est «Ce n´est pas un mot ».


Ce matin j´ai rentré au temps, cours de franÇais, treize ans, quand Marie dit « Nous allons lire Le Petit Prince ». C´est un livre étrange, avec d´ émotions connues qu´ on ne peut pas exprimer. Chaque jour deux pages, mais maintenant c´ est impossible de s´ arrêter. J´ai besoin de le lire entier, donc je cherche au dictionnaire les mots que j´ ignore. Cependant « baobab » n´apparait pas. Je demande à Marie et elle me dit « ce n´est pas un mot franÇais, c´ est un arbre africain ».

C´ est à cause des baobabs que le Petit Prince est venu à la Terre. Il avait besoin d´ un agneau qui mangeait les burgeons de baobabs, avant qu´ ils grandissaient et faisaient éclater son petit astre.

Ce matin nous avons fait l´ essai. Ces singes s´ alertent entre eux quand ils voient un prédateur. Si celui qui attaque est un aigle, ils font un son pour que leurs compagnons se cachent aux arbustes ; si celui qui vient est un félin, ils font un son différent por leur dire qu´ ils doivent grimper à un arbre. Quelques zoologistes appelons « proto-mots » à ces sons. Et ce matin, quand le singe était près de notre poste d´ observation, je l´ ai écouté. Quand le singe a vu qu´ une lionne s´ approchait, il a ouvert ses lèvres et a dit clairement « baobab ».

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