Once in a while I go to the Mammy Market at the army barracks in Minna for pork chops. It was so last Sunday, the 19th of July 2020. After a mouthful and a belly-full of freshly-sautéed chops of ribs, hocks, rinds and all, I embarked on a gentle stroll that will take me through the officers’ quarters sector of the barracks before I could hail a commercial motorcycle to transport me to the gate; at that main gate, a couple of army sentry details were patiently waiting for “big bro” to bring delicious chops to them.
Like I am wont to point out, a trip to this barracks always leave me with a sense of awe and wonder because time seems to stand still for me each time I take a stroll through the neighbourhoods of this barracks; structurally, the barracks has been frozen, in my perspective, since 1984 when I joined my parents there.
My dad was transferred out of the Warri barracks in 1983 and I had to spend a year with my paternal aunt (Mrs. Ajuma Obe) in Otukpo, Benue State, in order to ensure that my schooling was not unduly interrupted; Wesley High School accepted me for one session. The then Majors’ Quarters and the then Officers’ Quarters at the present-day Minna barracks are in terrible, horrid shape. What the hell! Weren’t these parts the most desirable in those days? What is happening to the Nigerian Army? More shock was in store for me this Sunday as I strolled through the apron roadway of the then Officers’ Quarters, heading to the main road artery that bisects this part from the then Majors’ Quarters.
Shock! At the second road junction from the “Corpers” Lodge leading to the residences of junior officers, I beheld an ugly sight of voodoo sacrificial items that had been placed at that junction and had by then been scattered about in the wind and misty rain that pummeled that area some days before; white handkerchief, a collection of four amulets (laya in Hausa), traces of red stuffs and other unidentifiable stuffs.
Was this a dream? Wasn’t this the army barracks of my Catholic upbringing, with the catechism classes telling us about the Ten Commandments especially the admonition not to venerate graven images and everything idolatrous and voodoo? What has this barracks turned to? Don’t people go to Catholic Church anymore? See, Catholicism is the veritable evil-fighting force that mankind should embrace.
As I boarded a bike, I broached the issue of what I have sighted and the Hausa “mai achaba” had seen it too; he was the one who first mentioned those items had been there for days then. I called my pork-chop chef and he too had seen those evil stuffs at the road junction. Now, weren’t the officers concerned? Silence. I asked if a Bini officer was resident at the quarters (you know the ways and mores of the Bini). Uh, dunno. But those layas looked like Arewa tsafi stuffs. Were there officers of Hausa stock resident at the quarters who indulge in bori? Silence. In this 21st century when everything can be explained by science, this is not what we need to see in our army barracks.
––Sunday Adole Jonah,
Department of Physics, Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State