Two days ago, while returning in a university bus from the institution in one of the western states of Nigeria where I teach, we ran into a PDP rally. The people danced and shouted, pounded on the bus and pushed posters of Jonathan and Sambo through the windows. I smoothed the crumples and put it in my bag–a souvenir of this time. I was relieved when we left the mob behind us.
When I got home, there was no light. There had been no light for five days. I tried to turn on my stove to cook supper, and there was no gas–a leak somewhere. I ate cornflakes, which I keep on hand for times like this, and went to bed. The next morning, waiting for someone to come fix the gas leak, I washed clothes on the front steps. There was a moment, when black smoke billowed up and then drifted across the sky, that I had that familiar clenched feeling in my stomach–gut memories of Jos, Kano. Black smoke on the horizon and the grumble of distant shouting.
They have started, I thought, (as I had thought when I heard gunshots in Benin after an election.) But the smoke drifted away and dissipated. The sky was blue again.
Since yesterday evening, there has been light, on and off. More than I have had in the two weeks I have lived in this compound. I hope it lasts through the election. I finally have enough battery time to go online and read the most recent articles about Boko Haram and the people who have escaped from them. [Al Jazeera (whose journalists in Maiduguri have most recently been confined to their hotel rooms) has a particularly horrifying series about women who have escaped forced marriages in Boko Haram camps and the huge number of orphans who have been left behind.]
I finally have enough NEPA to turn on AIT, the only station I get with my jerryrigged wire that works as an antenna, and see all the election adverts. A jovial president and bright-faced young people celebrating all that he has done while in office. The occasional beleaguered advert from the opposition.
A friend tells me over the phone that he is watching a documentary on Buhari’s VP running mate, Osinbajo, on Silverbird Dream network, when suddenly it goes blank with only a station logo on it. It stays that way for about 10 minutes before coming back on again. I think of the night in February when elections were postponed. How immediately after Jega’s announcement, PDP adverts played on the state television network NTA. The president laughing. The president running on a treadmill, the president and his wife singing with Nigerians of every tribe and people about “Mama Peace.” Shiny happy people holding hands and celebrating the anticipated return of The President.
This morning, I also have enough NEPA to finish a blog post I started several days ago.
Last month, while briefly in the U.S. to take care of getting my STR visa, so that I could make a more permanent move to Nigeria, I recorded a podcast with London-based blogger Ade Torrent, for his series of podcasts on his website GidiBusiness.
Ade had asked me months ago if we could do a podcast, but when we tried it while I was in Nigeria, Skype cut off about every 10 seconds. So, it was not until I visited the U.S. and had steady enough light and electricity to have a 30-ish minute chat without being interrupted, that we were able to record the podcast about blogging from Nigeria.
I returned to Nigeria at the beginning of March to begin a job at a lecturer in a part of the country I have never lived before. Since my arrival, I have struggled with even more severe problems than I discussed in the podcast. Today is one of the first days we have had more than a few hours of light. Thus, the delay in posting this.
I’ve never done a podcast before, but I had a lot of fun with this one. We talked about lack of light and solar options (I am still working on that), balky internet, blogs and search terms for Hausa porn (the most common search term I have gotten in my 5+ years on this blog has been “hausa films blue films” followed not far after by “kannywood sex”) that draw people to my site (to be oh so amusingly thwarted), my research on the Hausa film industry, and what I am doing these days. And the inspiration I have gained from other Nigerian bloggers like Abidemi Sanusi, Teju Cole, Nkem Ifejika, Chikodili Emelumadu, Ainehi Edoro, Nura Abubakar, and Abubakar Adam Ibrahim.
The postcast is here, and while you are at it, check out his latest podcast with voiceover artist, Sanjo Ogunseye. It’s a really great listen. Ade also has many other sites: GidiBusiness, a YouTube channel, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, a personal website and more. My personal favourites are his photoblog, A Torrent of Photos, which record his wanderings with his camera, and his YouTube channel A Torrent of Videos, where he vlogs while wandering around London and beyond, camera rolling.
The light has gone again. And I need to go reload my internet credit, so that I don’t run out over the election weekend.
Let me end with a text message I just got from a pastor in Jos:
The hour has come 4Nigerians 2decide 2morrow.Dworld waits. Let us all join hands n hearts 2PRAY 4PEACE 2Reign as we vote n that God?s will be done. Prayer works n it is not an escape route. God Rules n Reigns. Not D riggers, the merchants of death, the sycophants, the false prophets, the merchants of corruption n those who plot Nigeria?s break-up if they lose, but GOD.It is He who has the final SAY. Let us UNITE 4PEACE nDnation?s survival.Vote Wisely.
I’ve really enjoyed this blog post Carmen. I was caught up in my own issues while I was in Naija. Really wish we could have talked more or that I could have visited. Hopefully soon.
Re phone: what kind do you use? I bought myself 2 extra batteries while I was in Naija which I charged fully before I left. In the absence of light if my battery ran down I’d just switch it out. Or you could get a power bank?
Hi Chikodili, you are welcome anytime. I know exactly how it is to be preoccupied in one’s own issues.
I have an old Nokia that looks like a blackberry but isn’t one and hardly goes online. It’s battery lasts pretty well. Now, I’m all set up with an inverter and battery, with solar panels to come soon, so I’m not having the light issues as much as I was a few weeks ago.