“Lokoja-Kabba! Lokoja-Kabba! Lokoja-Kabba!”
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The “agbero” called out into the empty chill air of the dawn; with the remnant dew drops wetting what seemed like a long, long dry day ahead. “Lokoja-Kabba! Lokoja-Kabba! Lokoja-Kabba!” the coarse voice [no thanks to ‘shepe’ drink] rang, hollered and trumpeted with tingling reverberation. Sooner than later, other “agberos” began to shout out their vehicles destinations.
I turned and turned in my seat as the feeling of the unknown and unmeasured distance pricked me so intensely. I was, for a moment that seemed like eternity, lost in time and space.
“Oga, shift please”, brought me back to life – the life around me as it were. No more day-dreaming; no more wishing. After almost two hours of waiting for passengers to fill up the 504 station wagon, the driver was ready to move.
The driver known as Afa turned the ignition key. The car gave a grumbling cry. Most of the passengers murmured. Afa tried again and the engine started. Everyone sighed a relief. I said a prayer silently. Only God knew I did not know where I was heading. And vroom! Afa’s 504 station wagon zoomed off.
Destination was Kogi state; I must heed the strident call to national service: the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC. The date was March 3, in the year of our Lord Two Thousand and Three.
I sat straight looking forward through the car’s windscreen, trying to find meaning to the journey that appeared unending; the only answer the sun-scorched road could offer me was a deluge of mirage. I heaved. I sighed. Yes, life continues. I told myself. Kogi…Kogi, the name sounds like one caustic soda soap used for washing [kongi]. I hoped Kogi would not turn out to be caustic like Kongi…
The journey continued: as Afa’s 504 wagon entered Kogi terrain, I was greeted and welcomed by some scenery of greenery of hills and rocks of all ages. Whoa! The sight was breath-taking and inspiring. I paused to give praise to the Creator and Designer of these magnificent creations. And at that point, a gush of tranquility filled me. God is here too! I happily concluded. Till today, I am not a letter wrong about that conclusion.
Welcome to Kogi state. Welcome to the Confluence State where everything seems to meet; come follow me – I will take you around the state in brief [you can call me your “corper” guide.
Kogi state as it is now known was a geo-political unit called Kabba Province in the northern region of Nigeria under colonial rule. It comprised Igala, Ebira, Kogi and Kabba divisions with its headquarters in present state capital, Lokoja. In 1967 [I was not born then], the Kabba and Ilorin provinces merged to create Kwara state. As more winds of state creation blew across the nation in 1976 [I was yet to be born!], the then Igala division was married to the Benue Province and Benue state was born.
Kogi state came to be on August 27, 1991. The eventual creation of Kogi state underscored the peaceful co-existence, of a people, within a common policy for over seven decades before they were separated. The state shares boundaries with Kwara, Ondo, Ekiti, Niger, Benue, Nassarawa, Anambra, Enugu, Edo and Abuja.
It may not enjoy the best of economy [presently], the state boasts of potentials in mineral resources yet to be exploited. What about the fresh fish? The potentials for fish production is equally high with over 2,000 fishing ponds and 200 fishing villages sustained by the River Niger and Benue that form a confluence in Lokoja – the state capital. Have you seen a confluence before? If you answered in the negative, then you must visit Lokoja.
The state is a thrilling place. Is it about the expansive Mount Patti, the Egbabeja warm spring or the Koton-Karfe cave? Or you may want to check out Lord Lugard’s first residence in Nigeria; and the first primary school in northern Nigeria…
The undisputed King of Juju music, Sunny Ade once sang that “people have become my garment. People are my garment of honour in which I enwrap myself”. Yes, the inestimable beauty of Kogi state is in its people. Kogi is a microcosm of Nigeria, with heterogeneous tribes. There are the Ebira, Igala, Okun and Nupe; others include Oworo, Kakanda, Bassa, Ogori-Magongo and Egbura Koto.
And I have come to enjoy a rich association with a group that cuts across these ethnic divides: they are Jehovah’s Witnesses in Kogi state. The people of Kogi state generally have shown love, hospitality, tolerance and generosity to corps members serving in their state.
Oh, it is a year now!
After we met at the motor park – remember? And now, I have got to go. I can imagine the Lagos-bound Kogi Travelers bus driver urging me to conclude my write-up…tears welled up my eyes as I remember the sweet melody of “going” [from bike riders] as I well those I have come to love and those I would yet love.
To say goodbye, rather, bye for now: sanjima, o digba kan na, adijo and tugba-tugba.
“Corper! Are you going?” a beautiful, gentle voice called out in question. Will I stay or not? Only time will tell. We don not say goodbye. Do we?
bloom. bliss. kiss.