Adegbusi was more than glad to be taking this trip. After several years of being an Ogbomosho boy who grew up in Ibadan, he was making his first trip to the north. He had just been posted to Kano for his compulsory one-year service with the National Youth Service Corps. The closest he had come to the north was when he followed his colleagues for a Christian Medical Students’ Conference in Ilorin back in his student days. Now as a qualified medical doctor who had recently completed his housemanship, the next thing was service and of course he was posted to the north like many people who schooled in the south-west.
Posting to the north was the last thing his parents expected having paid heavily for the NYSC official to influence his posting to Lagos. After a heated debate over the phone during which his father, a huge man who would have qualified to be a bouncer were he several years younger, used words like “corrupt”, “callous”, “tribal” while breathing heavily on the NYSC man at the other end of the line, all Ade (as he was fondly called at home) got was “Don’t worry, I make sure you’re redeployed soon. No son of mine will serve anywhere outside the south-west!”
He flew on an Arik plane to Mallam Aminu Kano (International) airport. Arriving at the airport at 5.30pm meant he was going to get to his ‘Place of Primary Assignment’ (PPA) before nightfall. The first welcome he got after disembarking from the aircraft was the heat. It was so hot even at the time that he wondered if he was still in Nigeria. Where he came from in Ibadan, the Sun at 5.30pm must have shed all its anger and become a nice warm Sun. Then he knew why the northerners were almost always so dark. After a flurry of activities at the airport where he claimed his luggage, he was welcomed by the airport cab drivers. “Aboki, zo mana” said one ”Come”. “Prom Lagos, ko?” said another in the typical Hausa accent of switching “f” for “p”. There he was, without the slightest understanding of Hausa except the general misunderstanding of most southerners that “Aboki” meant a dull illiterate Hausa fellow. After bargaining back forth with the help of another corps member who came on the same flight to Kano, he decided to take a bike to the nearest bus garage since none of the cab drivers wanted anything less than three thousand naira. How far the distance was he did not know but he just knew that a cab to Lagos from Ibadan would not cost that much.
The aboki who carried him was wearing a white tee-shirt carrying the logo of an umbrella with red, white and green colours and “POWER” boldly written underneath the umbrella. On the way to the bus garage, the biker rider tried to engage him in some pep talk in trying to display his prowess at speaking English. The most easily engaging topic in the country then was politics after all, the general elections were just a few weeks away. ”I am fee-dee-fee?” He asked Ade. Ade however thought he was talking about himself so he said: ”Ehen”. It was not until the bike rider asked again that he remembered that Hausa men referred to you in first person singular terms. So he responded, ”No, no pee-dee-pee”
His ride through the city of Kano confirmed his (and most southerners’) bias that the Hausas were a dirty bunch. Roads littered with all colours of ”leda”, the term for nylon bags, displayed foodstuffs with flies perching undisturbed, the ease with which someone would occasionally just pull down the trousers and squat by a wall to answer nature’s call.
He landed at his PPA, a place called Gezawa at 7pm. The ride, though a relatively short one (twenty minutes), was a study in economics. The blue nine-seater bus eventually conveyed fourteen adults and three toddlers – excluding the driver and conductor. The engine area just behind the driver had a plank put in place to accommodate four people and three adults had a toddler each standing within their laps. He was obviously out of place. He was sporting a sky-blue tee-shirt on a pair of denim and a moccasin. He was wearing a silver wrist bracelet and had his earphones connected to a BlackBerry Curve. The women in bus had only their faces, hands and feet visible while the men were all in cheap dashiki and pair of trousers from the same material and almost all of them gave this distinctive ‘Hausa’ smell (that’s what his cousin who served in Gombe had called it). Of course the conversations were all in Hausa.
After alighting at the final bus-stop, He was about to wave down an ‘okada’ when a little toddler carrying an unwashed bowl tapped him on his thighs. The boy fit all the description for what is known as the ‘almajiri’. A young boy is placed under the care of an Islamic scholar by a father who had probably acquired – by marriage or childbirth – more mouths than he could feed. The Islamic scholar gets several of these requests so ends up with a population of young, hungry, barely-clothed and unschooled boys. The scholar teaches these children at some point of the day and releases them into the community to fend for themselves hence the usual plastic bowls. The boys are taught to bring back portions of their ‘earning’ at the ‘close’ of the day.
He was about to shoo away the boy when he noticed that the boy was trying to hand something over to him. It was his internet modem that had fallen off from the pocket of his backpack. He was very grateful, for without the modem in this part of the country he would not be able to complete his application for a master’s degree in Public Health. He collected the modem and took one long look at the first Hausa to do him a favour.
The boy was light-complexioned and frail-looking; he was dressed in the usual dashiki made of thin cotton, torn at the shoulders and at the edges in front, his trousers was rolled up to the knee on the left revealing his unusually thin leg. His mouth was covered in sores and hair was brown and coiled with sand here and there. Ade remembered his Paediatric lecture on ”Malnutrition and Vitamin Defiencies” taken by erudite Professor Kuti and thought that the boy’s picture was all that was needed to deliver the lecture. He searched his pocket for change but only found a fifty-naira note. ”It’s your lucky day boy” he said as he gave the boy the money.
It had been two weeks since he arrived at Gezawa. His father was still pushing for his redeployment and the presidential election was just a few days away. He had the option of travelling back home for the period of the elections or staying back. Since he was certain he would redeployed he chose to stay back so that he would not have to journey back again when the redeployment was fully accomplished.
Meanwhile he had started work at the Primary Health Centre as the only doctor and he was also in charge of another PHC in another area of the local government area. If there was anything that made him reconsider redeploying it was, firstly, the respect and gratitude showed to him by the people of the community. They fetched water for him, brought him foodstuffs and made sure he never lacked fresh fruits.
The second reason, however, works down the corridor in the maternity section of the health centre. Her name was Eno. The very first day Ade saw Eno at the health centre he had been hooked. Their first interaction however had been a ‘hostile’ one.
Eno was a little taller than the average height for women and fair-complexioned. Her hair was the type that showed up in hair product commercials: long, black, glossy, very smooth. Her fingernails were cut very short but her toenails looked well cared for.
Eno was ‘off’ in the first two days Ade resumed work. When she came in the morning of the third day, she went into the changing room to dress up for work. She was still changing when Ade came out of the adjoining bathroom with only his towel that had the inscription ”I ROCK!” and there Eno was, bending down to wear her white skirt with no top on except her red bra. Her fair breasts compactly pressed together to reveal a cleavage and almost falling out from the hold of the bra. She immediately looked up thinking it was another staff nurse, on seeing Ade in towel, his muscles bulging out like a trained athlete and his abdominal muscles firm and well-arranged like six cakes on a tray, she let out a gasp followed by a scream. Ade immediately stepped back into the bathroom while trying to apologise and explaining that he was the doctor recently posted to the centre. They meticulously avoided each other for a few days after that but that couldn’t go on for long. They had been hooked.
It was just a matter of time before they started flirting with each other and of course things warmed up between both of them.
Two days to the presidential election featuring a retired General and one-time Head of State and a ‘lucky’ chap who had never contested any election by himself before, Ade got a call from his father that his redeployment had been finalised and all that remained was for him to go to the state secretariat and ‘do’ his clearance within one week after which the redeployment was to be voided. He was not sure if the news was good or bad.
Later that night, he decided to stay over in the hospital since the next day could be his last at the centre even though he wasn’t sure what he was going to do. The next set of events would prove to be ‘The Lesson’ of his life.
At eleven o’clock a child was rushed to the health centre by…
The Story continues….