While on an excursion with fellow “A” level classmates back in the years, our school bus broke down on the way to the North. I can’t remember the precise location now but I know it was a bush at the precinct of a very small community on our way to Jos from Abuja.
We were coming from OSCAS, Ife. Should be around 8 pm. One woman passed by us on foot with what I knew then as “lantern”. We were like 17 boys and 10 girls.
The woman, in her 40s or so, greeted in the local language we couldn’t relate to, but we reckoned easily her gesture was warm even the dim-lit atmosphere. She walked away.
We were there, stranded and helpless as our bus driver, fiddled around under the bus with a poorly lit touch-light. It was harmattan and the cold was ripping through us.
About 30 minutes later, a man walked towards us with the same woman from the direction she was earlier headed. They had a torchlight this time. The man spoke sparing pidgin. Said his wife told him “some children are in the bush on the road and in danger”.
He told us to follow him and “let us all manage my little place”. We had no choice. That was the only flicker of hope for us or we’ll sleep in the bus in the bush. We all followed him to his hut as it turned out.
This man brought out two big mats, then went to his neighbours and asked for more mats which they gladly obliged. These were spread for us right in front of the door into his Hut.
Two neighbours came out, greeted us and asked where we were coming from? We said Ife. One man said “oh, Yoroba bah?” (oh you’re Yorubas?).
We said Yes. He laughed delightedly and told us to “feel free you hear?”. We laughed and said thank you, sir.
Next thing, these two people withdrew a bit from us and were having a very private conversation and then walked away together within same neighborhood. Two girls amongst us on the mat were somewhat agitated. We told them to calm down and added, “what can you really do anyway if we’re already in danger?”.
Next thing we saw. They emerged with a big goat screaming in their hands. They slaughtered the goat and our real host called his wife to do something we didn’t understand as they spoke their local dialect. But we saw the woman brought out a basket full of small yams…. almost like Irish potatoes sizes but slightly bigger.
Joined by her daughter, they started peeling. Two of our fellow female students offered to join while some of us boys wanted to help, they vehemently declined, telling us we are their “visitors”.
Food was ready after like an hour. Spiking hot goat meat pepper-soup and hot yams that shamed the cold.
Neighbours brought out various bowls and we all ate and ate. That family fed us, children of parents they didn’t know. They fed us, young lads, they’ll never obviously never see again. By 12 midnight, some of slept on the mats while some were gisting the night away.
Following morning, they were the ones that went to a neighbouring village to bring a local mechanic who fixed our bus, and told us not to pay!
We thanked them but we knew that was not enough. Our travelling team leader, a 16 year old girl there and then, got emotional and started crying. Some of us were wet-eyed too as we saw the mix of poverty around this couple and kids but laced with a contentment, joy and generosity we couldn’t fathom.
Usually, we sing when on the bus, but that day, we couldn’t sing. We were all engrossed in the conversation of such kindness towards us.
We drove off towards Jos but our minds weren’t travelling as we were stuck in thoughts with the villagers magnanimous experience.
Nigeria is truly a beautiful place and the kidnapping and violent reign of terror of today is an abhorrent rape on our beauty of diversity.