display | more...

The dynamics of Nigeria mean I have 2 hometowns. The first – Jos, Plateau State; is where I was born. It is in the middle of Nigeria. The other – Katsina, Katsina State; is where my family is from. It is in the north of Nigeria, close to the edge of the Sahara Desert.

Jos is one of the coolest parts of Nigeria. When I was a kid, it was always cool. Nobody ever used an aircon or fan. Now, the temperature often hits the mid 30s (C). Even though the rainy season is not long – 5 months compared to year round in the south, it is always green. There are always flowers and the town always smells fresh. It was a lovely place to be a kid. There are tree shaded drives where I rode bikes, a stream where I nearly drowned and a public library that in the 1980s was well stocked. There are lots of fruit trees, avocadoes, guavas, mangoes and papaya. There were also crabapples, some berries and others whose English names I do not know. We had a veritable orchard at home. Unfortunately, the town has been shattered by continual ethnoreligious strife beginning in 2001. I had to move to Kaduna in June 2011 because I was almost killed in March of that year. I do not consider Kaduna a hometown even though I live there now.

Katsina is about 500km to the northwest. Unlike Jos, which was founded during colonial times, Katsina is an old city, probably up to a thousand years old. It is one of the original Hausa city states. My family has lived there since the late 1600s. The variability of Katsina's climate is more noticeable than that of Jos. Where Jos is always verdant and green, Katsina swings between a dryness so brittle that skin cracks and a lushness that makes stones look soft. It would be nice to describe how the land has molded the people, but I can only do that for Katsina. From February to June, Katsina is insanely hot and dry. It is the sort of heat that feels as if the sky is pressing down on you. During that time, you don’t smell anything except a sort of burnt muskiness off people. It is as if the heat burns away even the sweat before it can turn rancid. From July to September, it rains, preceded by violent dusty winds and tremendous claps of thunder and lightning. The air is full of the smell of rock oil. And behind it, the sweet scent of the neem tree. A tree that is ubiquitous in northern Nigeria but noticeable only in a few of its towns; the sleepy ones like Bauchi, Sokoto and Katsina.

In Nigeria, political office and access to some government services is tied to indigeneship. An indigene is someone whose ancestors have been in a place from time immemorial, and is from the tribe that is dominant in the area. This means that in Jos, I am not an indigene. However, since I was born and grew up there, I have a fondness for the place that I do not have for Katsina. However, I am more proud to say that I am from Katsina because it has a more illustrious history and is one of the most politically powerful states in the country.