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40 years of Niger state: A humourous ride

It is 40 years today since General Murtala Rammat Mohammed was killed on Friday February 13, 1976 in a bloody, failed military coup. Ten days…

It is 40 years today since General Murtala Rammat Mohammed was killed on Friday February 13, 1976 in a bloody, failed military coup. Ten days earlier, he announced the creation of seven new states, including Niger. For the 40 years that Niger state existed, its story is more of lamentation than celebration. To pacify one another, a Nupe native would say, “Laugh over a matter when it evokes emotions that are orse than crying.” The Hausa would say, “idan fada yafi karfin ka, ka maida shi wasa,” meaning, “when a fight is greater  than your strength, turn it into play.” This piece literally derives from the semantics of these proverbs; if also to borrow a leaf from Malam Adamu Adamu.
‘Nigerlites’ along with Sakkwatawa, Kabawa and Zamfarawa were passengers in a Bedford truck with a number plate     marked Northwestern State. For the period that the journey on that vehicle lasted, so much noise filled the air as other    passengers grumbled that almost everything going on inside the truck was dominated by the Nupawa from Niger province.
On February 3, 1976; Murtala provided a brand new 911 Mercedes Benz lorry for ‘Nigerlites.’ The first driver appointed to man the vehicle was 33-year-old Commodore Murtala Nyako. Because he cared for the passengers and the lorry    which safely arrived Minna on April 1, 1976; Nyako immediately began the dualisation of the Minna main township road. He had little time to drive the lorry around as he spent most part of his 20 months tenure looking for office and residential accommodations for the passengers he brought from Sokoto.
Nyako’s successor, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe and his own successor Colonel Joseph Oni remained committed to the     welfare of the passengers; keeping the lorry in good order.   Ukiwe wanted an experienced and honest person to look       after the lorry and welfare of the passengers. He thus              appointed Alhaji Suleiman Liman Agaie (d. 1998) as the head of cabin crew. In compliance with manufacturer’s guide,       Liman told Ukiwe that the lorry must be parked by 3:30pm,  the then official closing time from work.
Malam Muhammadu Awwal Ibrahim’s tenure was relatively better than that of all the civilian drivers that came after him.However, the pressure of frequent requests for stop-overs     from Ndaduma and Pamkuku passengers who nearly turned the lorry into a theatre of tribal meetings somehow slowed  down Awwal’s speed. Each time he wanted to stop to check  the engine oil or hydraulic gauge of the lorry, the passengers shouted that he was wasting their time.
To prevent engine-knock, Colonel David Mark arrived and seized the key of the lorry. He immediately changed the vehicle number plate to ‘Total War Against Indiscipline’ and put a horse whip on the dash board to sanction noisy passengers. To get money to repair the vehicle, he arrested commercial sex workers around Paida area of Minna and asked them to liberate themselves with N10, 000 each. Cabin crew members who reported late were asked to do frog-jump. Passengers must know how to recite the national anthem before they could purchase      boarding tickets. Commuters who stained the body of the lorry were surcharged in lieu of paint. David Mark who drove at 180kms/hr did not know bend, slope, tarred or rough way whenever he was on the road. Passengers took Panadol-Extra   tablets each time they travelled in the lorry.
Mark was replaced by Colonel Garba Ali Muhammad, a man of God in uniform, who said no passenger would ride in the lorry except he swore with the Qur’an or Bible that his ticket money was from legitimate earnings. His one year tenure yet remains the most remarkable in terms of prudence. Crew members got paid before the 25th of every month. He invited crew members to a monthly town hall meeting (Jama’a Forum) to answer        questions from the public concerning ticketing, loading, etc.
Because of complaints that Ali was a stingy driver, God broughtColonel Lawan Gwadabe who let loose all the naira and kobo    ‘caged’ by the former. Although he was a spendthrift, Gwadabe regularly serviced the lorry and listened to passengers’             complaints. Dr. Musa Inuwa, Gwadabe’s successor, came with   ‘Nupawa must go’ agenda and sacked all crew members who  were Nupe, including conductors, cargo attendants, loading      supervisors, ticket retailers, itinerary clerks and cleaners.
After 22 months, the military removed Inuwa and sent three   military drivers one after the other. Colonel Cletus Emein,         Commissioner of Police Simeon Oduoye and Colonel Habibu     Shuaibu respectively, drove the lorry between November 1993and May 29, 1999 when Engr. Abdulkadir Kure took over. Aftersix kms, the lorry was hijacked from Kure by some passengers   who were conniving with crew members to feed fat from ticket sales; leaving nothing for vehicle maintenance. Because Kure appointed more crew members than required, the lorry soon   became overloaded with more staff than passengers.
The gear system of the lorry soon developed fault. Besides,       Kure sold the spare tyre and wheel spanner to the hijackers as he dashed out the jack to a passenger. When gear one which    was the only one working stopped functioning, Kure engaged   the lorry in reverse gear until Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu           arrived and halted it with a giant wooden wage.
‘Nigerlites,’ especially elites jubilated at the coming of Talban Minna. Being a PhD holder, he was the most educated of all his predecessors. Because he was 54 years of age, he was older      and more mature than previous drivers. He shortly refurbished the lorry, operated it flawlessly and chose to be called ‘Chief    Servant.’ The honey-moon ride suddenly terminated when he was three kms beyond the point Kure engaged reverse gear.    Because of the way he drove, the gear lever was broken, the     brake pads were worn out; the horn was dead, the windscreen shattered; and only one headlamp was working. He was a vocal driver that he had no need playing the CD in the lorry.
It is nine months since a North-west storm from Daura hurled  the vehicle key unto Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello who seems to  be a travel-maniac with a phobia for the lorry. When he sat to  on the ignition, some political agberos started issuing                  conflicting directives as to how he should start the engine.         Nigerlites are wondering if he’s actually a licensed driver. He    disembarked and prepared a list of crew members which for    seven months he kept altering.
May Allah (SWT) guide Abulolo to move the lorry out of the      parking lot, amin.

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