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Baba Hassan: A story of fun memories – by Peter Obidike

A story of fun memories I have of Baba Hassan who has come to represent for me, the most lovely vacation spots in Nigeria I may likely not take advantage…

A story of the fun memories I have of Baba Hassan who has come to represent for me, the most lovely vacation spots in Nigeria I may likely not take advantage of in the next few years.

A typical experience one has of being a kid of a federal civil servant is the luxury of travelling around the “world,” sorry “country” (if you indeed travelled around my slip of tongue “world,” then please ask your civil servant parents questions, except maybe they worked in the ministry of external affairs or any other of such) with your parents, even if not for a permanent stay, at least for holidays. 

And if you are doubly lucky to be the kid of a very senior civil servant, then you get to enjoy the pecks I really enjoyed in one of those trips to Yola in Adamawa state, a state that was initially my birth place until recently when state creation put us apart and my birth state became Taraba, specifically Mubi, where at one time too, Boko Haram insurgents took over to my poor grief and anguish.

We lived behind the federal secretariat in Jimeta, in a large government estate. 

The Oga’s house was fenced with barbed wire and we had two monkeys in a cage in front of the house. 

Oga had drivers and a cook named Hassan who we fondly called Baba Hassan, a tall dark complexioned man with very large hands which looked like they were made for his profession. 

One would always admire the way he used them to move chopped vegetables from the board or hold the baking pans as he does his thing in the kitchen in his white apparel and in a very confident and happy mood. 

Baba Hassan loved us like his kids and had his own kids too whom I never got to meet. 

I loved the way Baba Hassan made his red tomato stew. He would always pour the large quantity of tomato into the pot to steam before he would fry it. 

The quantity was always large as he used it to serve everything from beans and white cooked yam, to rice, all through the week.

Holidays in the North was fun such that we all looked forward to it not minding the very long hours of driving, (though in very brand new vehicles) passing through Wukari, Jalingo, Zing and other towns I cannot remember now. 

What I remember though is that, passing through each of the towns always seemed like eternity with those long stretches of pretty good roads that would have made a lot of sense then had one used cruise control. 

We would normally set off early in the morning and get to Yola by 7pm in the evening.

We had a small poultry and we admired the eggs that were produced every day. 

We would normally wait until a couple of say, four or five days, to get enough quantity to make the economics of distribution reasonable enough so as to buy the feeds from the proceeds and continue the waiting game. 

We had other larger farms that were about 2 hours away where we had rice, corn, guinea corn and beans planted and going to those was always fun even though once we get at least to the rice farms, we were always so tired and the heat from the scorching sun would worsen the situation.

But we were always happy to repeat the cycle the next morning, if for nothing else, for the delicacies we treat ourselves to, for example, the fresh milk (fura de nunu) we get from some cattle men that cross the farms, the wild okro we pluck to use at home or the fried fish fingerlings we enjoy along the way.

The estate was big and we were free to roam around within the estate, going to neighbours houses to visit, buy stuff like groundnuts or “kwilikwili” (groundnut paste) or even do the needful for young boys our age: ‘toast’ girls or at least make passes if we did not have the guts. 

My late twin brother sure had the guts and for that he bagged “Bola Ajayi”.

I did not have the liver and would not blame myself since my dad was a civil servant and not a “butcher”, so I ended up admiring Bola’s younger sister Yetunde from afar until God knows when.

I don’t remember how it happened, but at last, I remember I had her picture and maybe one or two letters in my collections to show for the friendship we shared.

But apart from Baba Hassan, the food, friends and farms, the weather was so lovely, very cold in the night and mornings and hot in the afternoons and there was something about the feeling I cannot communicate here but it was sure a place that will beckon on you to come back once you experience it and thus we always longed for our dad’s invitation to come visit again and again.

In these days of scarcity of dollars where “Lagos” has become our new “London,” there are so many lovely vacation spots in Nigeria that Nigerians are taking advantage of to go unwind after the year’s hard work and I keep hoping that one day I would have the peace of mind to go back to Jimeta and enjoy that fresh breeze again while thanking God for giving me a wonderful dad whose birthday happens to be today!.

Obidike Peter wrote from www.peterobidike.com and p_obidike@yahoo.com.


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