Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 3,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."
jos-naijametro

An area in Jos. Photo credit: Naija Metro via Google.

THERE are two ways to see Jos: from air and from land. 2011, we relocate to Jos and take an Arik flight that we’ve pleaded the blood on Jesus upon so that our own blood would not be shed instead. No drinks served. It’s just like taking a BRT; only, this time, by air. I think some planes should be categorized as maruas. Others as BRTs. Most as definite molues. Only that they fly. An hour later, this is my first flight within Nigeria after coming from Kenya in 2007. The pilot circles the airport awaiting clearance to land and for once I gasp: Jos the beautiful. Beneath us is a lush greenness that comes from agricultural produce. The land looks tilled and the rows of soil and green vegetables are like the plaited hair of ladies. The fog is a deceptive cloud and, as we land, the coldness of Jos welcomes us.

Jos, from land, is approaching a battle field. Soldiers and helmets and sirens. Check points with warnings emblazoned on metal containers painted in military colour. Bags of sand strategically placed left and right and right and left, so that when the bus moves it’s like the slither of a snake, bodies inside bumping against each other, heads bobbing as if to music. Army. Navy. Air Force. MoPol. Almost twenty checkpoints and, still, a bomb just went off yesterday. This isn’t Jos the beautiful. Still, bombs don’t stop humans from moving to Jos even if they blow up human bodies. Bombs don’t stop us from jogging. Bombs don’t stop Jos from being Jos.

 

JOS in the harmattan is like being enclosed in a freezer with the sound of a revving engine. The wind whistles, then fans itself up and roars and beats the iron roofing sheet like it’s a witch that’s practicing her voodoo on top of the house. It sweeps the compound clean of every paper and clears the sand. Sometimes the wind is so strong you’d think you’d wake up and see your car gone from where it’s parked. The air is so dry it cracks your lips open and takes a painful bite, that’s why my younger brother smears Vaseline on his lips like it’s a warm coat. The sun doesn’t come out and suddenly Jos becomes Nairobi. Outside, people walk with jackets and gloves and socks and hoodies and scarfs and trousers and tie wrappers and you see nothing but wool wool wool. The cold has started a war and we are prepared. Beside her fire, the woman selling akara is covered too. Head to toe. The customers wait in tow. Their hands folded at their armpits.

“Ina kwana.”

“Ina gejia.”

And the streets are deserted not because of bombs but because of cold as bombastic as bombs.

 

THE city of Jos wakes up to the claps of early morning joggers. Close to the governor’s lodge there is a multitude of joggers. Boys. Girls. Men. Women. They fill the streets like it’s a crusade. My coach and I jog from Sparkling Junction, close to NASCO, all the way to the stadium at Ahmadu Bello Way, past Terminus. The city is slow to wake up. It is like a body that’s recovering from taking sleeping pills. And that’s how Jos is. After the bombs and killings have hit the city in successive years, there’s a languor to its movement. Some buildings are partially burnt. Some partially built. The city is partially divided; Muslims here, Christians there. And you wonder if this city will ever be whole again. Jos will never be the bird with multi-coloured plumes. The sun is up and blazing and you wonder if this is the same Jos that was cold at a different time in the year.

 

ON Saturday, a bomb exploded around Terminus. On Sunday, the church was nearly empty. Soldiers were everywhere. Okadas were banned. Then the chorister sang a hymn: In the hollow of his hands, I am safe…. The mood is sombre. The church prays for safety. Prays for the governor. Prays for the bombs not to kill Christians. Ramadan has just ended and the road to the Air Force base is filled with young boys and men and women carrying their prayer mats. This is a city of prayers too. When the bombs go quiet, when the killings go down, when the villages are not attacked, Jos becomes a free bird but only for some time, hoping the hunter won’t shoot it down with its catapult.

 

 

**************

About the Author:

Socrates Mbamalu was born in Nigeria and grew up in Kenya. His works have appeared in Waza Africa, Saraba Magazine, Deyu African, Kalahari Review, African Writer, Sankofa Mag, Jalada and adda. He is a 2016 Saraba Nonfiction Manuscript prize awardee. His Saraba nonfiction manuscript The Kenyan Boy is due for publication as an e-book next year. His nonfiction piece, “Lives of Trailer Drivers,” was recently published by adda stories. His essay, “In Defence of Provincialism,” appears in Bakwa Magazine. Twitter: @linsoc

*****

Socrates Mbamalu’s “Jos” first appeared in Enter Naija: The Book of Places, a 2016 anthology of writing, photography and digital art designed to mark Nigeria’s 56th Independence anniversary. Published by Brittle Paper, the anthology was edited by Otosirieze Obi-Young and has an Introduction by Ikhide Ikheloa.

Tags: , ,

Otosirieze is deputy editor of Brittle Paper. He is a judge for the 2018/19 Gerald Kraak Prize. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He combined English and History at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is completing a postgraduate degree in African Studies, and taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

3 Responses to “Jos | By Socrates Mbamalu | Nonfiction” Subscribe

  1. AdaUgo 2017/04/19 at 16:42 #

    Beautiful work, Soc. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Ifunanya 2017/04/21 at 08:05 #

    Jos is indeed very beautiful.

  3. ezicat 2017/05/21 at 20:51 #

    Lovely piece. I wish the Christians you spoke of do more than pray

Leave a Reply

Welcome to Brittle Paper, your go-to site for African writing and literary culture. We bring you all the latest news and juicy updates on publications, authors, events, prizes, and lifestyle. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@brittlepaper) and sign up for our "I love African Literature" newsletter.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."

Archives

Rapper-Turned-Novelist Gael Faye’s Small Country Stirringly Captures a Dark Moment in Burundi’s History

gael faye - the cross

France-based Burundian artist Gael Faye has met success since stepping into literature from hip hop. His novel Small Country, first published […]

Erotic Africa: The Sex Anthology | Read e-Book Exploring Millennial Sex Culture and Romance in African Cities

erotic-africa

Much has been said about the state of sex in African literature: whether African novelists are keen on sex, why […]

Zimbabwean Mapping Project Documents the Movements of Dambudzo Marechera in Harare

dambudzo marechera - graph

An unusual mapping project has documented the movements of Dambudzo Marechera in Harare. “Home Means Nothing to Me,” published in […]

Cyprian Ekwensi’s The Passport of Mallam Ilia Gets Animation Movie | Watch Teaser

The Passport of Mallam Ilia - animation

Cyprian Ekwensi’s popular novel The Passport of Mallam Ilia is being made into an animated movie. Premium Times reports that the 2D […]

Yrsa Daley-Ward’s The Terrible Makes Vogue’s Must-Read Books of 2018

yrsa daley-ward - image by Laurel Grolio for Girls At Library

Nigerian-Jamaican model-turned-Instapoet Yrsa Daley-Ward’s memoir The Terrible: A Storyteller’s Memoir has been named among Vogue magazine’s Must-Read Books of 2018. The follow […]

Film Adaptation of Soyinka’s Ake: The Years of Childhood, by Dapo Adeniyi, Tells the Story of the Legend as a Child in the 1940s | Watch Trailer 

Egba women wait on Mrs Kuti at the outset of the women’s riot3

The film adaptation of Wole Soyinka’s 1981 memoir Ake: The Years of Childhood is now available on Amazon. Set during the World […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.