Friday 25 May 2007

Rayfield, Jos - Memories of a child

Maps of places once seen

I wrote about my mobile phone a few days ago and alluded to Microsoft Virtual Earth which I could access from my smartphone device.

So, I panned the maps down to Nigeria and began to zoom in on Jos which when I lived there as a kid was in the old Benue-Plateau State - gone are the days when we just had 12 states in Nigeria as opposed to the situation now where every homestead is almost a national entity, a state would not suffice.

I would not be surprised if Nigerians found a way of creating 200 states just to be about to cater for the quest for power and the opportunity to waste oil money on personal enrichment rather that the socio-economic development of the governmental areas.

Rayfield green fields

As I zoomed in on Jos, I saw all the name places of towns that brought memories of childhood flooding back. I did not see the suburb of Rayfield which was just beyond the old airport; most of the residential area there was taken up by chieftains of the Amalgamated Tin Mines of Nigeria (ATMN) where my father worked as Deputy Chief Accountant.

Jos and environs

The fields around Rayfield were quite idyllic; a golf course with the tee-off point in front of the club house on a hill, strangely, about 20 metres down from the tee-off point was a steep descent that ran into a main road which cut the fairway and greens off from clubhouse.

Now, I wonder how sometimes we rode the paths through the golf course without the fear of getting hit by wayward golf balls. My father however, never played golf, the bag and balls simply rotten away in the garage; he was more a tennis player, the game of people in their late twenties.

Riding into the barren clay (kaolin ) outback was always a pleasure, we rode our bikes until we got to some functioning mine plant where the miners give us some souvenir tin ore to take back home, once we came across a menacing group of men who must have been up to no good as they snarled and gnarled at 2 little boys who were just exploring the world around them - that was quite scary.

Even little Rayfield had its scandals, we, the kids, all hear of these things, a sudden pregnancy and the poor girl suddenly disappears, but I also remember getting stung by bees twice, my right ear lobe still has the strange indent created as a result of the sting.

Corona School, Bukuru

Beyond Rayfield, there was Bukuru where the company clubhouse was as well as my school, a land-rover ride each morning from the front of the office - two things I remember were a fierce and feared teacher, Mrs. Obole and the school menace, who lived not too far from us, the nursery school even had a nursery rhyme to his honour which went.

Simon Cox, is a fox, put him in a leather box.

Many a time, some kids would have loved to have him put in a leather box and the lid sealed like Davy Jones' locker; once he tied a boy with a leather belt to a post and had others pelt the poor lad with water bombs made to some Origami design.

At that time Yakubu Gowon was the Head of State and he frequently had President Eyadema visit from Togo, and since he was from a village near Langtang, each time we knew he was in town we were taken to the railway crossing just before entering Bukuru where we waved patriotically; flags of Nigeria, the children - black, white and coloured, the same enthusiasm; I probably was one of the very few kids not born in Nigeria in my class.

We were always acknowledged, sometimes with a slow down and an appreciative wave from the host and his guest.

When the bloody coup of the 13th of February 1976 took place, I was preparing for secondary school in the South of Nigeria, one of the chief instigators was Lt. Colonel Buka Suka Dimka ; I was in school with his son.

Other towns of interest

Vom was the home of the veterinary centre (National Veterinary Research Institute), I remember I had to write a rambling essay about our visit to the centre, I never liked writing essays or letters, I hope I have improved with age.

Move on to Barakin-Ladi and another club house where our parents might not have been aware of the emerging studies on parental guidance for children's entertainment.

I saw my first horror film in that club house, some nice parent had arranged this cinema event for all the kids of senior ATMN staff and we were made to watch this blood and gore film - a millstone and lake awaits that kind parent, we were definitely marked for life after that.

Other names of places though my memory fails me of important army schools, the home town of our gardener and the seething but quiet animosity between the Birom and the Angas - Gindiri, Pankshin, Shendam, Damshin and Lafia extending into the Tiv lands were once quite familiar.

One local musician did not endear himself with these words in the more generally spoken Hausa language.

Birom de Angas, ku deina sha giya mus.

Translating to the Biroms and Angas should desist from getting drunk on alcohol. Oh! what days of yore. The local tipple was called Burukutu - brewed from millet which was abundant in that area, other recipes use sorghum.

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