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Exploring Kaduna at Night: First Impressions of the City

Kaduna at night is an unusual city, especially if, like me, it is your first time in the city.

I arrived in the capital city of Kaduna State, Nigeria at a time when dusk was descending. It was to me a different encounter to view its abundant shrubs, and short dry trees. It was the dry season and it came with a bunch of surprise: the sun coming low, exfoliating the leaves on trees and everything beautiful degrading, not withering to death, but shrinking and losing its lushness.

Nightfall in Kaduna

I watched as the night crept in with its dreary face, and starry sparkling darkness. It was different at the Creativity Court when I went visiting this afternoon. It seems immune to the wear of Summer. Its building stood fresh like a small graded heaven, with beautiful grass carpet and a stage, for art. Every corner of Creativity Court is a small paradise, reserved for art, smelling of newness, of sheen glowing home for words to feast on, for art to speak of, for loudness.

Sitting here in my hotel room alone and finding solace in my solitude, in the alluring cold trajectory of the room. The room smelt of silence, sprawled with sweet scent, beauty grinning and emitting crisps of crevices for inspiration to surge in. I longed to write of silence, of loneliness, or of night; how it plunged a stranger into thinking, into giggling and craving night.

I slid the window pane and peeped at the flecks of light from moving vehicles descending on tall buildings and pedestrians, casting faint silhouettes on the ground. I ransacked the busy street looking for an inspiration to entice my muse to saunter in. I looked at the sky and the stars were blurry, birds chirped in the distance and darkness enveloped the sky except where crevices paved ways for stars to shine through.

Entertainment in Kaduna

I sat down. On the TV. I had  forgotten since when last I stood agape before a TV watching a film, be it Hausa or English movies. My search with the remote ended at a News Channel and I chanced upon an interview, and luckily with one of the idols, Khaled Hussain. But I was weary and drowsiness was gently caressing me, and hunger was singing an intimate song of protest in my growling stomach. I thought of listening  to a bit of the interview, and then of switching off the TV, but later I decided to just leave it and satiate the hunger  in me and sleep.

Because I could not hear the reverberating adhan of the muezzin looping in, and because the hotel was bereft of a mosque, I prayed inside.

There was a paper hung on a wall with a list of foods and their prices. I took a telephone inside the hotel to order from the hotel restaurant, but changed my mind as soon as I remembered sighting some Mai Shayis and indomie seller along the hotel street.

Walking the Streets of Kaduna at Night

That would be a long journey, even though it won’t be accompanied with stress and weariness. I chose trekking to the place over taking a bike, taxi, or keke napep because we see a lot only when the legs trek. That was why our ancestors knew places more than we know, more than we would know even if each one of us would live a manifold of their ages.

On the way, I was with my phone, in my palm. I chatted, looked at people, stared at buildings, stars and the good looking roads.

Reflecting on Where I Come From

In my state, life is over at night, and people would even hardly exchange pleasantries because of stories of dreadful encounters. It is a small world and we are just growing to take night for day, day for night. The only time we can compare Kaduna with my city is when the sun is about to set, when the weather becomes turquoise, ethereal; it is the time when the sweet smell of the weather flickers in, and people wave each other, without fear to offer handshakes.

And here, as I  trekked on road pavements, unknown faces waved greetings. I was learning Kaduna. I was an emptied inlet, thirsting for knowledge, digging deeper, becoming a book of lights.

Ordering Food in Kaduna

I arrived an indomie restaurant, and the tents of Mai Shayis. I sat on a good looking log made seat. I told them  that I needed one indomie and two eggs in English, but they couldn’t fully grasp what I said. I thought it was like Lagos. Because last year I was in Lagos, and when I confronted an indomie cook, “because when I was heading there with a friend he told me that almost all those operating indomie restaurants in Lagos were from the North, specifically -Kano.

So I thought I should speak to him in pure Hausa, and considering his dress and two long plastered tribal marks that sprawled like a sand drawn line on each side of his cheeks. When I spoke to him in Hausa he acted like he only understood English, I knew he was lying. So I didn’t want to embarrass myself anymore, even though it was North and Kaduna, I spoke to them in English. Unfortunately I had to repeat what I had said in Hausa.

I opened my WhatsApp, Sada was online. We chatted. We talked about Kaduna. For just a few hours I had fallen in love with the city. I told him I would always love to be back, love to be back in Kaduna.

Observing the Kaduna Streets from my Chosen Restaurant

By the west side of the road, some women in tight jeans, short hand bags, red painted lips like roses, ambled along. And in truth they were sprawled tomatoes on the roadside, waiting for erring living men to pick them.

In my state, their types shut themselves up in brothels, but here in the night in Kaduna, prostitutes lined themselves on the roadsides, giggling and swaying. Chewing and chewing and chewing.  If it were in my state, they would be stoned. And if the encounter was with bad boys, those lined girls would be stampeded into dark corners, raped on some occasions and  threatened to learn manners, to never exhibit their lewdness on the roadsides again. Sin upon sin.

Tasting my Indomie

My indomie arrived. Aromatic. Smelling good, carving me. I checked time, it was past 10pm, but anywhere had to stay, I had to eat it there. I was learning and relearning. I was a stranger in an old land, on a black day, seeing the reflection of the hidden and the unseen. Good and bad.

I ravished the aroma of the indomie; it tasted sweet, like the Miyan Kuka which my mother cooks for me. I was in a transformed world, a world between, that swaying between the sweet fragrance of the night weather and of satiation of my hunger with a delicious plate of indomie noodles.

More Observations on the Streets of Kaduna

I turned to the left. I loved the roundabout; it exuded wafts of fluorescence lights. In the night, it was a galaxy of lights, emitting such a brightness that  could rival daylight, circumnavigating the tucked stature of a sword. It was beautiful.

Two old looking men, sat on a log, legs crisscrossed, they both held cigarettes in their thin ebony hands, the smoke coiling into the withering light. They were talking politics, chatting their hearts out. I could hear them; the one in the right, with dark lips, brownish lips, and staring eyes was praising the country’s president.

He was defending the president. I had this intense craving to interfere, but the fear of being scorned pushed me back. This was Kaduna, and in the night, and I was just a rookie here, learning the state. The other man, the dark brown eyed man, with dark palms (I could see this whenever he surged backward and forward in rapid gestures to emphasize his points when talking), shrunken handsomeness sprawled his face. He talked heatedly; he didn’t hate the president but wept for him, for condoning gluttonous, old selfish and corrupt people around him.

Finishing my Meal

I learned. In Kaduna, at night. I saw, people didn’t talk mad of the prevailing politics despite the penury blaze skiing over many. They praised where to, with no bitterness attached, and where to criticize, they did it with love, with no fake color blended. Not rebuking. Not selective. And not Mad.

I finished eating and stood up; the night was far gone but I had satiated my growling stomach to the fullest, I felt like I could not trek like an overfed glutton.

Finding my Way Back

I was a stranger on a pavement, waving hand for vehicles to stop. A rattling bus passed, multicolored; half blend of green, blue, red, chocolate, and half black, white, and withering amber. There were many black men inside, they were singing, they were clapping their hands, obviously enjoying themselves. Through the window, a black, dark handed man leaned out, clutching his fist at people trekking in salutation. I was far away from him; he didn’t extend his wave to me. He couldn’t see me;  I was but a silhouette in the night.

A vehicle stopped. I climbed and wedged myself into a space. We drove down to my destination. As I entered the hotel, I felt this was not the end, there would always be a chance to witness night revelling in Kaduna, to come prepared with camera, to catch its variegated beauties and those hidden offerings as a sociologist perusing the development, structure, and functioning of human society.

Adamu Usman Garko

Adamu Usman Garko is a short story writer, an essayist and poet. He is the author of When Day Breaks, a collection of poetry, which was listed among the 15 Best Published Books in 2018 by DailyTrust newspaper; also, the book is a recommended text for 400l English students of Gombe State University in 2019. He is the 2020 winner of the Nigeria Prize for Teen Authors He is the convener of Gombe Book and Arts Festival, an in-coming literary festival in Nigeria to kickstart in 2020. You can connect with Adamu Usman Garko on Twitter.