We were six bikers on three motorcycles moving through bushes, plain lands and several hamlets on a sunny Saturday morning. The route to Anguwan Gero, a hamlet in Munbutbo Ward of Garga District, situated in Plateau’s Kanam Local Government Area, is one of the most difficult terrains I’ve ever encountered.
We moved through hard rocky surfaces on dirt roads, plied only by motorcycles and bicycles. Sometimes, we ascended through hilly terrains and other times we manoeuvred through very sandy dry lake beds that require great experience from a biker to gently meander through.
The very soft sandy terrain in certain locations would demand the motorcyclist to put down both feet for balance or risk tipping over. While he made such moves, I was left with my heart in my mouth as I held tight to the metal rear rack behind the passenger seat.
My colleague, Bashi Liman’s bike was oftentimes left behind and therefore became the recipient of the generous amount of dust our motorcycle raised. Except for the sound of the engines of the bikes, most times there was silence, our bikes were almost a kilometre apart and at some point my motorcyclist though I was overbearing because I frequently turned to check up on Bashir and often times, when I couldn’t see his headlight, I would suggest we waited for them to catch up. Though we couldn’t make out the exact reason why Bashir’s motorcycle was always lagging behind, I settled for either the motorcycle was not as sound as the other two or the cyclist was simply not familiar with the terrain.
With our guide leading the way, we passed through gigantic and stunning rock formations as we traversed through Kyamsangi, Karamin Dengi, Kulukshi, Kantana, Takwar, Dadin Kowa, Kunsagal, Mamalak, Garga Kufai and Mun before I finally stopped counting after the 10th village. My biker, Abubakar, tried to explain the terrain by matching prominent names in the state to the villages and told tales of how the people once lived in the caves within the ancient rocks, but I became exhausted and could barely listen to all that he said.
From the time we boarded the motorcycles from Dengi, the headquarters of Kanam, it took a journey of two hours 11 minutes to arrive Anguwan Gero. Our mission to Anguwan Gero was simply to verify the BBC interview that alleged that one Abdullahi Yadau assaulted his wife and pronounced divorce on her because she had insisted on voting for the presidential candidate of the APC, Muhammadu Buhari, against his preferred candidate, Atiku Abubakar, of the PDP.
We had left Jos as early as 06:30am with Bashir Liman behind the wheel and headed to Dengi to meet up with a councillorship aspirant, Junaidu, who was from Mamalak, a hamlet less than 10 kilometres from Anguwan Gero. Junaidu’s hamlet was in the same Munbutbo Ward. Therefore, he knew the terrain well, and as a councillorship aspirant, he’s had cause to move around the area most recently and mingled with the people, including Abdullahi Yadau. He had also listened to the BBC report and had informed us prior to our visit that the scenario was not quite how it played out on radio.
He also advised that we braced up for a stressful journey. Even before he volunteered that piece of advice, many people, including colleagues, had tried to discourage us from travelling to Kanam. In the cause of trying to get contacts from the area, we were besieged by reports of how difficult the terrain was and that there was no telecommunication service in the area. Someone had told me matter-of-factly that we would not be able to make the journey, but the various alarms raised only fuelled our resolve to travel and search for Abdullahi Yadau.
Someone had also suggested we paid a resident of Dengi to travel to Anguwan Gero to speak with Abdullahi and possibly the wife then move them to a service reception area to speak with us. But we had feared that someone could easily impersonate the couple and with the Daily Trust Saturday editor not taking no for an answer, we knew it was a journey that must be undertaken.
The Friday before our trip, Bashir and I discussed the possibility of him making a solo trip, I called Junaidu to inform him that he might actually travel with Bashir. I, however, had a change of heart when it suddenly occurred to me that depending on the circumstances, Abdullahi Yadau’s wife might feel more comfortable speaking to a woman. Besides, I knew by staying back, I would only end up being anxious about the assignment, especially since there was no network service to constantly check up on things.
So on a chilly Saturday morning; we set out to make the almost three-hour journey from Jos to Dengi where we met Junaidu around 10:00am. We parked our vehicle in a safe area, waved at three motorcycle riders who after an intense bargain, reluctantly agreed to take us to Anguwan Gero and back at the cost of N3,000 each.
Two hours into our journey a few minutes after noon, Abubakar, my motorcycle rider, put off the engine beside a tree, and for the first time since I boarded, alighted from the motorcycle. Except for the exhaustion, thirst and dust that had changed my cream-coloured veil into a powdered brown, all was fine and the joy of finally arriving was written on our faces. I would, however, later be attacked by a severe back pain that took me two days to manage.
Although Bashir was still his cheerful self, a look at him showed he had aged. He was covered in all shades of dust and I couldn’t resist a chuckle at the thought that he and others must think the same of me.
At Anguwan Gero, we soon discovered that the easiest way to visit the community was to travel through Alkaleri in Bauchi State or go through a much longer rocky dirt road that would require a 4-runner. The fact that the people who we had travelled all the way to see were not aware of our coming had occupied my thoughts all through the journey. What if we were to meet their absence? But luck was on our side as we met the couple in their home.
Our meeting with the couple and some elders in the community was a success and by 02:00pm, Abdullahi Yadau and members of the small village had walked us back to the tree’s shade where our motorcycles were parked. We said our goodbye, exchanged phone numbers and mounted our motorcycles. Abdullahi Yadau assured that he would later go to the foot of the baobab tree where they usually find cellular signal to enquire about our journey.
The return journey was not as hard, the hours simply shrunk. Perhaps it was because we had a brief stop at the small hamlet of Mamalak to greet Junaidu’s parents and say our prayers. We also rested briefly and chewed from the stack of sugarcane Abdullahi Yadau had generously forced on us.
It was already 04:30pm when we returned to Dengi and said goodbye to Junaidu and the motorcyclists. We had a meal and then headed back to Jos. Again Bashir was as energetic behind the wheel, propelled by his stash of Nigerian Hip-Hop, Hausa and Indian songs. Often, as we stopped by military checkpoints, the rolling mound of sugarcane sticks going back and forth constantly reminded us of what a day it had been.
It was not until a few minutes after 08:00pm, just as we were approaching Bukuru in Jos South, that Abdullahi Yadau’s call came in. He once again wanted to thank us and enquire if we arrived home safe. We did, and I spent the next two days nursing a serious back ache that got me thinking. Journalism is as exciting as it is hard. But at the end, I was glad I made that two-hour-long and winding trip to Anguwan Gero. Every dust, sweat and even the back strain had been worth it.