For a boy who grew in the streets of Ikotun Egbe, the urge to be different has always been inherent. This among other motives prompted me to agree to work with Engineer Olaleye, a strict Christian from Ijebu who paid me N10,000 monthly but ensured I worked my groins off for every penny I earned.
One such measure was sending me to supervise all the company’s projects in 9 Nigerian states because he hated traveling and it was cheaper for the company if I went alone. I agreed and took up the challenge of supervising all projects in all the states (including 5 in the North including Kano). but I never got to see Kano because I was sacked just a few days before the proposed trip.
*** *** ***
10 Years Later
Wumi is easily one of my favourite travel buddies because she doesn’t chicken out whenever we reach an agreement on anything. This made things a bit easier while planning because I was sure she’s got my back.
“Everyone needs a friend who will call, and say, ‘Get dressed, we’re going on an adventure.”
The moment we decided on Kano, the planning kicked off by discussing Transportation, accommodation, feeding and every other aspect of the trip. Wumi was in charge of booking our flight so she proposed that we traveled in January to avoid paying exorbitant fares, to which I agreed. Airbnb was also chosen instead of a hotel due to the freedom to do more than just sleep and watch annoying channels on the cable TV.
With everything sorted, we returned back to our daily lives to await our departure date.
7th January 2020
The morning was cold and windy. Wumi had agreed to pick me up at my office by 5 am (since I crashed there overnight), so we could make it early to the airport before 6:15 am- our departure time. But to her disappointment, I have been locked inside the office by Ernest, our security guy who was fast asleep. I suspected what he was sipping from his customized waterbottle was neither water nor soft drink. I challenged him but he denied blatantly, with a smile larger than usual, so I left him to sleep. Mr. James (the deputy security) had to open after several minutes of banging the gate.
The entire exercise got Wumi furious but I did nothing aside keeping mute beside the driver who was also mad at me until we got to the airport. I couldn’t even sing along to my favourite songs being dished via the car’s stereo.
“Take us to MM2,” Wumi directed the driver in a confident tone, breaking the silence. I knew she could be wrong but lacked the courage to get her mad at me for the second time within 2 hours, so I bottled my opinion as we alighted.
“Negroo!!!” I heard a soft female voice call me from behind, so I brightened up my moody expression. The owner of the voice was Tolu, my classmate at the University whom I only got closer to in our 4th year. We had a brief chat before I followed Wumi to the boarding queue belonging to Air Peace.
“Are you sure this queue is for Kano?” Tolu asked me as she joined the queue next to ours. She was traveling to Kaduna. That was when we figured we’ve been queuing in the wrong place. Our flight was departing from MM1 by 6:15 and there we were, in MM2 at 6:01 am.
“Now the scoreline is settled (1-1)” I laughed in my head as I grabbed one of her bags to allow us more speed since I was faster. If we are to get to Kano without missing our flight, we need to put our differences aside.
“May I have your ID sir?” Said the fairly plum lady behind the check-in desk, but the look I gave portrayed that of defeat. I had forgotten my ID card on my table at the office. This gave Wumi the lead again as she gave me the ‘you see your life’ look. And like a snail whose shell has just been tapped, I coiled back into my gloomy state until we joined the last bus conveying passengers to where our plane was waiting.
The plane was a small hopper that had single seats on the right and doubles on the left. A young lady was already on my seat on the right when we got in so she begged me to sit beside Wumi on the other side of the aisle. I didn’t protest.
The plane took off and as usual, it was a boring 2 hrs trip, except the intermittent chats I had with Wumi, who had already forgiven me.
Welcome to Kano (8:50 am)
Descending from the plane was crazy. I for once thought the angel in charge of cooking in heaven that morning forgot to shut the deep freezers. The wind which accompanied the cold was so fierce that I feared we’ve committed an offense by simply leaving Lagos. I could have grabbed Wumi if she were my babe but I grabbed the hood of my sweater instead, as we made our way to the arrival hall to await our languages.
Wumi had been trying to reach our Airbnb host but his number had been switched off. This got us f*cked up because we were going to be stuck at the airport for as long as we continued to try dialing him- a move that would defeat our purpose of arriving Kano early.
While she tried, we deliberated on alternatives, and the best of them was booking a hotel if our host’s phone remained unreachable till 9:30 am.
We settled for Ocean Palace guest inn after we spoke to a cab driver who drove us from the Airport. I didn’t understand any word in Hausa, so I left the conversation and Negotiation for my travel buddy who had earlier confessed about spending quite a number years of her life in the North.
Alhaji parted with N2,500 after a heated argument because he insisted on collecting N4,000 after Wumi had told him from the airport that N2,000 was all we had.
My First Encounter With Sabon Garri
On a lighter note, Sabon Garri can loosely represent the ‘sin city’ of Kano. It is that place where all religious sins (such as drinking, dressing immorally, and even patronizing sex peddlers) can be overlooked. Traditionally, this place was created to accommodate residents who are not indigenous to Hausa lands, and this was probably why the very first resident we ran into on the street was a Yoruba businesswoman greeting her friend across the street. Like a typical Yoruba woman, she was loud and filled with life despite being 978km away from home.
We Checked into Our Room
If you could close your eyes to imagine what a coffin with a fridge and bathroom looks like, you most likely will get a mental picture of how tiny our room at Ocean Palace was. It was clear that sleeping and bathing will be the only interesting things to do, and since these weren’t the most pressing things on our minds at that time, we dropped our bags in front of the small fridge (which sat right under the 21’’ TV) then dashed out of the room like it was haunted.
Life on the Streets
Kano has six districts: Sabon Gari, the Old City, Bompai, Fagge, Syrian Quarter, and Nassarawa.
The streets of Kano when we stepped into it wore a confused look as the cold and breeze were as fierce as the hotness of the sun. This collaboration gave a ‘harshly soothing’ weather. Everyone seemed to be buying or selling something at every corner I saw.
Read about: 8 Interesting Facts about Kano Nobody Told You
We knew beforehand that Maruwa was the major means of moving around Kano, so it wasn’t a surprise that we got one as soon as we got to the junction.
I took a step back to allow Wumi to do the talking and she didn’t disappoint. The only thing I could pick from their negotiation was ‘Zoo road’. They discussed money in Hausa too, but since I can’t make any sense of their conversation, I kept smiling as I glanced at both of them until the driver agreed on N300 for the trip.
As we traveled farther into the district, I stared blankly at the people on the streets and how they went about their lives. Wumi was saying some things but I was absent-minded. My mind raced back to SS2 in Ikotun high school when Mr. Arisonyin thought us about how Kano city served as the southernmost point of the famous trans-Sahara trade routes, exporting products like textile leather and grains via the railway lines to Lagos through Kaduna. It took a loud honk from a nearby car to bring me back to Wumi.
You see, a large fraction of the people in Kano are traders and it was evident that they enjoy the kind of lives they’ve chosen. A slow one. You could tell it came with peace of mind and contentment.
Although the roads were really smooth, our driver remained considerably slow. I wanted to ginger him to speed up but refrained from that temptation because:
- I can’t speak Hausa
- Other drivers were almost running at the same pace.
He stopped us right in front of the Historical Zoo whose first impression wasn’t at all impressive. I’ve always hated Nigerian Zoos and Museums because everyone I’ve visited always succeeded in making me hate our tourism regulatory bodies, but something was different about this particular Zoo the moment we got in.
The story continues here.
This post is dedicated to Tolulope Ogunsola who once gifted me some money (in 2018) to support the blog because she said she believed in what I was doing. I remembered her gesture the moment we bumped into one another at the airport and my heart said a few prayers.
Do you have anything to say about this post? Please use the comment box below. I am eager to know what you think!