It has been six years out of sight but still very much in mind. The affection that holds me and her together is deep; very deep.
Before you accuse me of relapsing back to my romantic youthful years, let me make it clear that I am not talking of an old girlfriend but Yola – my Yola – the capital of Adamawa State that I last saw in 2012. Yola means a lot to me. In 1980 Nnuora Nzekwu, author of Eze Goes to School and General Manager of NAN sent me there to start my journalism career as a cub reporter of what was then Nigeria’s lone news agency.
I soon drifted from the town and moved all over Nigeria as an itinerant reporter. Yola beckoned back and it was there I hit the peak of my career as a newspaperman and government bureaucrat. Still in my early 30s, I was appointed a Permanent Secretary and later Chief Executive of a government publishing House.
In Yola I first encountered the wonderful people of Adamawa State who have played significant roles in my life. Our relationship is not based on human wealth but human worth. An Adamawa man could be a poor man who lives in a hovel; but when you interact with him, you discover he lives in a home of spiritual splendor.
Yola remains the town that inspires my spirit and revives my physical strength. Anytime I am lost and think my end is near, to Yola I go. When at the crossroad of my life, Yola shows me the way forward. I was in Yola during the last Eid el Kabir for the above reasons.
Six years ago, I made a similar pilgrimage to Yola which ended abruptly. Shekau, leader of the Boko Haram killer squad was moving as an unstoppable force in the whole of the North East. In a panic move, President Goodluck Jonathan threw some states of the region including Adamawa into an emergency blanket. I had just reached Yola a day before the presidential declaration and it looked normal until the following day when all GSM lines were cut off.
I was marooned – cut off from the rest of my family and the outside world. In a huff I left Yola, drove to Gombe then Bauchi and straight to Jos where I reconnected with the rest of the world and spent a night.
My last pilgrimage took me beyond Yola; I moved to Gire, Song, Gombi, Hong and Michika which is part of the defunct Sardauna Province that voted to come and join Nigeria in the 1962 plebiscite. The Premier of the Northern Region Sir Ahmadu Bello the Sardauna of Sokoto worked so hard to add this throve of unexplored wealth to Nigeria that when the people responded favorably to his efforts, he named the Province after himself.
In the early 80s as I went round Sardauna Province, I could not help but bow to the superior foresight of the Sardauna. I was bewitched by the rustic beauty of the country side every time we travelled in the entourage of our big Oga and friend, Paul Vintim Wampana the Speaker of the Gongola State House of Assembly to his hometown – Vintim. Ibrahim Argungu of FRCN and Abu Tapidi of the New Nigerian were frequent members of our trips. Paul Wampana later became a Minister in Shagari’s government and was later still elected a Senator. This expansive stretch of countryside extends from Borno through Adamawa to Taraba and is abundant in tourism, minerals, livestock, and agriculture and hydro-electric potentials. I have always wondered why subsequent governments have not tapped these potentials which the Sardauna saw clearly many years ago.
This beautiful country side has unfortunately produced one of the most despicable and tragic citizens of Nigeria. Nigeria’s former Chief of Defense, Alex Badeh who hails from Vintim must have been a very junior officer in the Nigerian military in the early 80’s. When Boko Haram was waging a ferocious war against Nigeria, he had risen to be the head of Nigeria’s military juggernaut. In October 2014, he woke up one day and announced a fake truce which he claimed had been reached with Boko Haram. He ordered his troops to lay down their arms immediately in compliance with the ‘agreement’. Patriotically but as it turned out tragically – they did.
Boko Haram responded that no such agreement was reached and then moved in swiftly to kill the unarmed Nigerian troops and civilians abundantly. They also seized large territories including Hong, Gombi, Maraba Mubi and Michika that I visited last week; they proudly raised a black flag and declared that they had now established an independent Emirate.
As a student of military history, I have read extensively about brave and cowardly Generals. Nowhere in my diligent search have I encountered a General who gleefully called the media to proclaim his cowardice as Alex Badeh did in 2014.
By making a truce declaration which he knew was fake, Alex Badeh inadvertently told the world that he was a wretch, a scoundrel, a liar and treachery personified. If it were not for Badeh, these expressions in the English language would have been meaningless. If it were not for Badeh, many Nigerian soldiers and civilians would have been alive today. If Badeh were in the Chinese or North Korean military, he would have been shot summarily. If Badeh were in the American Army, he would have been jailed for life or condemned to death waiting for the hang man’s noose.
Amazingly, President Jonathan who should have fired the liar kept him there without even a query. This man was not a military man; certainly not a General. Alex Badeh was a decorated, celebrated and experienced quack.
I have lived with hundreds of thousands of people of Adamawa origin. Never have I met a man like Badeh whose character oozes like what comes out of a pit latrine.
During my trip to Michika I saw first-hand and was exposed for the first time to what life really was like in Shekau’s Emirate. I saw burnt out schools, hospitals, churches, mosques, markets and more. I saw vandalized electric cables and bombed out bridges. The damage done is beyond description. Strangely, the Presidential Initiative on the North East under General TY Danjuma with trillions of Naira in its kitty has so far made little or no impact in that part of the Emirate where I visited.
Back from Shekau’s Emirate, I spent some few days in my good old Yola. It was refreshing. Governor Umaru Jibrilla popularly known as Bindo has given my old town a wonderful face lift. I have never met him but his name is on the smiling lips of most of the Yola inhabitants I spoke to. For now, I think he needs massive assistance from the Federal Government to improve the quality of life of the people in the liberated Shekau Emirate. Life there is still cruel, brutish and short.
Read also: A Journey To Boko Haram ‘Dreamt’ Country, By Yusuf Ozi-Usman[myad]