The word lafiya in the Hausa language means good. Say hello to any Hausa speaker, and he will blurt out lafiya! I presumed that this was the origin of the name this ancient city held. True presumption or not, I took the city as a harbinger of good, and good it turned out to be for me. This was my mindset when I bought my first bus ticket to the city. This positive attitude brought me good luck and paved the way for me to enjoy my adventures while living in the city.
The image above gives me bittersweet memories. Each time I stumble on it, I feel that I left a part of me behind. Lafia was a city where I, a stranger, became a leader. Indeed, Lafia was good, just that the sun’s heat was indifferent. I made great friends whose influence I still cherish. It is in human nature to err – memories fade, things change and dialogues are entirely forgotten. But Lafia is one memory that I hope lives with me forever.
It’s been almost half a decade, dear Lafia; I still have this desire to return to you and your welcoming people. 😔
Lafia is a simple city. It is a mix of the humble and proud – the rich and poor alike call it home. It’s a narrative of urban and rural lifestyles. I lived in Worker’s Village, in Tudun Amba, a suburb of Lafia. It wasn’t entirely a village per se, just that the encroaching hands of town pollution threatened it. This flourishing village boasts of green trees and fields, affluent flowers were scarce, and sandy soil was abundant. It is so sandy in Worker’s Village that it could cause your bike to tumble. Luckily I never did fall throughout my stay! There are many stray animals on the road – dogs, pigs, geese, chickens, goats, sheep, you name it. Most are without owners and so fend for themselves. The wind is harshly hot, especially in April. I always go out in shorts and sleeveless clothing. The cold late at night is almost unbearable. I had to kit up before bed. Despite this excruciating heat and cold, I still love the serene city feel.
I made friends, tonnes of them. The locals liked me a lot. I had marriage offers, haha! One time, a well-learned woman offered to give me a wife (probably one of her lovely daughters), if I converted to Muslim. The dads I had contact with almost had me thinking that they want me married to their daughters. Well, I wasn’t ready for that.
The market in Lafia town is one of hustle-bustle; traders from all parts of Nigeria buy and sell their wares. I made a lot of friends with locals and settlers. Some of the indigenous traders know me and supplies some of the best groceries. These friends helped me get to know and explore the land. I was never alone, safe from my quiet times.
As a food lover, Lafia was the ideal town for me. Food is abundant, and I love good food. The neighbouring states are all known to produce enough food. The foodstuff here is diverse; one could get confused choosing breakfast. Fortunately, I could afford most of the foodstuff. My kitchen was my laboratory; I spent hours experimenting and got away with new recipes. 😋
Back to our Image
The mast in the background is owned by the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Lafia, and the empty field was my quiet time getaway. Many evenings, I escape from people, so I could have time to empty my thoughts and fill myself with natural moments.
I recall watching herders and their cattle. When talking to their herd, the herders make different sounds, smacking their upper and lower lips with their teeth and sucking at their tongues. The cattle mastered the herder’s vocal signs. Watching them each time showed me how man and his environment should interact. It was such a fantastic set. I tried with much difficulty to mimic the herder’s calls, but the flock always ignored me. The grassland showed in the image is a large double football field. There is enough space for everyone. We just had to gather – the hungry herd, patient shepherds, annoying insects and the observant man to see the sunset together.
Each time I reflect in a quiet and open field, this nostalgic feeling return to me; the young calves close at the cows’ heels, the ever-busy grass chewing herd, the smiling shepherds carrying sticks on their shoulders, the distant smoke gathering up the horizon and the eventual acrid smell of burning grass. The dry soothing wind will bring such memories.
Each time I stumble upon this image, it reminds me that home is whatever I chose to call it, and I have decided to define it as a state of mind. It’s good to remember places that treat and recognise one as a member. Lafia and her people meant good to me.
Good night. 😴