By Gambo Dori
IT was a typical February afternoon on Wednesday, last week, when I set out from Abuja to attend an event holding in the Unguwar Dosa centre of Yasim El-Rufa’i Foundation, Kaduna.
A pall of white, harmattan mist was hovering when I drove towards Dutsen-Alhaji settlement to take the right turn and run on the more direct route that would link up through Bwari with Jere on the main Abuja- Kaduna expressway.
It was a warm afternoon, traffic was surprisingly light for that time of the day, and even the gridlock at Dutsen-Alhaji market seemed abated. I thought, probably this indicates that Abuja is being depleted of its citizens going away to cast their votes in the Presidential and National Assembly Elections, coming up at the weekend.
Relieved at leaving behind those twists and turns on the road, before Bwari, I swished the windows of my car down to savour the crisp breeze of the time, while darting appreciative glances at those picturesque rolling hills that hug the stretch of the road. In time I had hit Jere Junction and was on the express way to Kaduna. A glance at my car radio told me that I was running late for the event and could barely make a late appearance.
I drove on, ruminating over the countless invitations I have had over the past many months in my mail urging me to visit the Yasim El-Rufa’i Foundation. Now that there was a window in my schedule I was determined to pay a visit and hopefully observe a programme holding that day.
The programme, dubbed, From Kaduna with Love, was a creative art event, which for me, would have been a good introduction to what the Foundation was all about. I have already learnt that it is an outfit Hadiza Isma El-Rufa’i runs in that part of Kaduna town to encourage creative writing among the youth.
I have not been privileged to meet the lady yet but I had to take a closer look at her activities when a mutual friend introduced me to the novel she wrote, An Abundance of Scorpions. I read the novel and found it fascinating. It is easy to read with characters and a story line rooted in the northern traditions and cultures.
The novel tells the story of a young lady, Tambaya, who suffered the tragedy of losing her husband, Yakubu, and her only daughter, Fatima, in a motor accident. What followed were the tribulations of the widow to rebuild her life in the face of mounting difficulties. She became a widow without any support and had to move to Accra in Ghana to live with Aminu, her brother. Much as she had looked forward to starting afresh in Ghana, she couldn’t secure a job.
To worsen matters she had difficulties living with her brother’s wife, who made it clear she didn’t want to share the house with her. She moved back to Nigeria to work in an Abuja orphanage where she was involved in more adventures before finally finding her niche. It is an interesting novel written in the traditions of the Bronte Sisters whose books, readers will recall, depicted social conditions in England of the early 19th Century.
Hadiza is obviously enamoured to the more famous sister of the three, Charlotte (1816-55) who wrote Jane Eyre. I observe that in her own novel Hadiza had also the courage to take on the issue of women inheritance under Islamic Law, though she skilfully skirts around it probably to avoid offence.
Ever since reading the novel and the invitations that followed, I committed myself to visit the Unguwar Dosa creative writing centre to see what they are doing and hope to draw lessons to share with our readers. The story of the creative centre is entirely a narrative of its own. Many readers will recall that Hadiza tragically lost her grown up daughter, Yasmin, in 2011. The Foundation that now bears her name was to immortalise her, particularly the passion she had during her lifetime for creative writing. I have followed the successes of the centre in their website, which is quite active. They are involved in a number of activities that are I suppose centred around creativity and creative writing. Even the location of the centre in that densely populated part of Kaduna is an indication of what the promoters wish to achieve – a dispersal of knowledge among the less privileged.
I drove on. The road stretches on with the traffic becoming denser. Of course, on the Jere axis, the one thought that fills the mind was the fear of kidnappers, that were known to have the audacity to strike on hapless travellers even in daytime. However, the ubiquitous spread of security men that day on the road was a source of confidence. But as one neared Kaduna, after the km 60 post, another source of concern emerged. The road that was rehabilitated just two years ago is failing in many parts. Many will recall that the road was refurbished with all fanfare when Nnamdi Azikwe Airport Abuja was closed for a considerable period in 2017. Kaduna Airport was to be used to take the Abuja air traffic but the road from Abuja leading to Kaduna was in a sorry condition thus attracting the quick attention of the government to sort it out. The road was patched up in good time for the purpose.
Now, the road is getting back to that sorry state, as the pot holes have re-emerged with impunity virtually all the way to Kaduna. It is understandable when one considers the kinds of heavy duty vehicles carrying immense haulage on the road. On that day, I counted many long vehicles carrying petroleum products, some were conveying bags of cement, and many others just had bags of agricultural products but all acting individually or in concert as if they owned the road to themselves. It is a pity that our roads are so clogged but this is because our rail transport system is yet to reach the next level of carrying large haulage. Our roads will continue to suffer such quick depreciation unless the railway lines are fixed up.
That evening such long, heavy duty, vehicles were many on the road and as they were not amenable to potholes they became sluggish with a long queue of other vehicles trailing behind them, inevitably travelling at snail speed. I could see that the pace on the road would make it difficult for me to reach my destination in time. And so it was. Dusk was not far away as I neared the Kaduna toll gate. And as Unguwar Dosa is on the opposite side of my entry point, and would require considerable amount of time to reach, I concluded that, I couldn’t make it.
May be another time. God willing.