‘So how was the wedding?’ Asabe asked, taking a bite of the Samosa in her hand.
‘It was fine. A very nice wedding with none of the excesses we decry in today’s marriage ceremonies.’ I replied, picking my own Samosa from the plate Maryam had served us in.
‘Ma shaa Allah, I always like it when people conduct their weddings in such a way that their guests are happy rather than intimidated.’ Maryam joined in, serving us tiger nut juice from a glass jug.
‘You are right, but it wasn’t the wedding alone that I was impressed with, it’s the town itself. I couldn’t believe what I saw.’ I answered.
‘Katsina? What is there in Katsina that can possibly impress you?’ Asabe asked.
‘The big, wide roads and the clean city.’ I replied simply.
‘But that’s not news, when last were you in Katsina?’ Maryam queried.
‘About twelve years ago. In fact, even I didn’t realise it was that long ago until I noticed the transformation and tried to remember. You see I had my eyes down in the newspaper when the driver suddenly said to me. “Here we are Hajiya, Katsina city.” I looked up while we drove through the gate and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The wide road was so welcoming but even more impressive was it’s cleanliness. I looked to the left and right and said to myself “Don’t celebrate too soon Bint, like any other Nigerian city, you will soon be disappointed, you will soon meet an eyesore.” But we never did. We drove through the GRA roads trying to locate our destination but up to the time we reached it, I never saw any rubbish heap or open gutter. That pessimistic voice still said to me “this is only so because you are in the GRA” but I had to quickly reply that voice by saying at least Katsina still has a GRA. Last time I looked, the GRAs in Kano and Kaduna and even some parts of Abuja are no better than the local settlements. They are dirty, have refuse dumps in front of houses and no longer have covered drainages. So the Katsina GRA was a refreshing sight.’ I concluded.
‘Yes you are right about the loss of our GRAs in Kano and other cities. I remember when we were growing up, we used to take late afternoon strolls in the GRA opposite our local quarters in Kano. It was mostly on Thursday and Friday afternoons because their was no Islamiyya school to attend. My siblings and I would cross the street into Lamido Crescent and feel transferred into another world. The lovely pavements and covered drainages, the flower-beds and beautiful hedges bordering the clean fences in those lovely gated houses, were a delight to behold. We would pass them, imagining what life was like inside but never feeling envious or deprived. And it’s like that right down to Suleiman Crescent at the tail end. You could walk down that long road and never see an eyesore. But those were the good old days. Today it’s like you said Bint, Kano has no GRA.’ Asabe concurred.
‘Nor does Kaduna.’ Maryam chipped in. ‘Unlike you who had to cross the street to enter the GRA, I was a GRA born and bred. Our area was as lovely as the Lamido Crescent and Co. that Bint described. But today I don’t recognise it as such. Some of the roads are dilapidated, the pavements and covered drainages are mostly gone and so are the hedges and flowers. It’s really sad that we have such a poor maintenance culture and even more sad that we don’t care about environmental sanitation. I wonder how they did it in Katsina. If the town is like you said, it is something worth copying by neighbouring states.’ Maryam observed.
‘Well, you know me, I went out of my way to ask a resident of the town, if the whole of it was as clean as the city gateway and the GRA because I knew I wouldn’t be able to go round and see for myself, due to the wedding festivities, and he answered “yes”. I also asked how they managed it, was it that they observe environmental cleaning every week or do they punish for litter? And he told me that the honest truth was they have street cleaners who do their jobs every morning. He said that the trend started during the last administration but that time it was done every few days. The current government however decided that the street cleaning must be done daily and that is how it is now.’ I explained.
‘Then the other states must take a cue and embark on immediate street cleaning and decoration. I mean, if Katsina can do it why not Kano and Kaduna? Granted that these two are bigger and more populous but where there is will, there will always be a way. If their governments can prioritise environmental hygiene by employing street cleaners and enlightening the people against littering and indiscriminate refuse disposal, it can be achieved.’ Asabe suggested.
‘That’s very true, and the good thing about street cleaning is that it will provide jobs for a large number of unemployed youths who otherwise idle about and engage in trouble making. And of course the annual epidemics we always have will be reduced to the barest minimum, if we take the matter of environmental sanitation seriously. In addition to all this is the fact that our cities will look good and pleasing to both residents and visitors alike.’ I said in agreement.
‘Yes, we must certainly campaign and get Kano and Kaduna to become as clean as Katsina city. But Zaria must feature prominently not only be cause it is the gateway to Kaduna state from other states but because an important ancient city like it, a first class emirate deserves to look better. So it must feature prominently in the campaign.’ Maryam suggested.
‘You know Zaria’s situation is really sad. It houses a world-class university and it’s still home to numerous research institutes and other citadels of learning yet the filth in Zaria is phenomenal. It is as if all those educated and refined academics don’t even look around them. From the moment you reach the bridge going into Zaria from Kano you are welcomed by the greatest filth. One can’t look under the bridge, behind those people selling carrots and stuff if you are the queasy type. Yes, Zaria should really feature prominently, it deserves to be saved from from it’s own dirt.’ I said.