Running Tales

The Nomadic Urban Swara-NIGERIA

Jos - NigeriaAh Nigeria… In the five years I have been traveling to this country one thing is constant. It never disappoints with the manic chaos and melodrama. Mention Nigeria and one feels an overwhelming sense of emotional overdose. It has one of the highest literacy rates in Africa, despite this the melodrama is infused within individuals. So your average Nigerian has two Masters or Doctorates, he is very spiritual and goes to church or the mosque, will drive the latest car in the market, conscientiously follows his cultural leaders (Obas-Kings), plus will swear in the belief and existence of witchcraft! That is a lot and I ALWAYS have a stupefied look when I converse with my Nigerian colleagues! And yes there is never a dull moment in this country, it is your cinema and you will have the proverbial popcorn in hand to watch drama unfold. And you thought the Kardashians were interesting?!

I blame the temperate unpredictable humid weather, or maybe it is the high levels of pepe (Pepper) they put in their food, which turns you into a first class dragon, as you will belch fire in seconds, though to them it is mild! But despite this, I always look forward to going to this country. So this time I went to five states Lagos, Abuja, Jos, Benue and Benin. So in Lagos, I was staying in Ikeja not far from the airport, and yes, there were walk ways available for running, which made it pleasant. There is a running community in Lagos, so the occasional runner joined me. Next was Abuja, I have been to this state before and the one thing I like about it, is that it is not busy and yes it is a leafy green clean city (The perks of being an Administrative Capital). Then I went inland to Benue State. This country is big and the only way to get to Benue was fly to Jos, spend the day and drive 7 hours to Benue State. So in my usual fashion, I checked in and started running. Jos is a vibrant state and running in the market area early in the morning is a sight to behold. It reminded me of when we normally run through Kangemi during the Flora Café run.

I did my usual 10 km run and the following day began my long drive to Benue State and that’s when I got the terrible news. There was a suicide bomb attack in Jos, pretty much the street I was running in, and over 30 people died. I was numb with shock and sadness. Part of the joy of being a runner is that you can use the excuse of running and be a tourist and chart running routes in places you wanted to see in the city. The attack felt a bit personal, as I had been on those streets, admired the vibrancy and life that was snuffed out by the callous attack.

Benin - NigeriaI never had the opportunity to run in Benue State, however, I did run in Benin. Benin State has the oldest kingdom in West Africa and is home to the famous bronze statues that are synonymous with West Africa. Allow me a nerdy moment. The famed West African bronze statues are created using the Lost Wax method, a technique not used anywhere in the world. What happens is that they use wax as the cast for creating the intricate bronze statues. It is called ‘Lost Wax’, because once the bronze is put in the wax cast, it is melted away to produce the statues. Another thing is that it is done in only one street, the same one since the bronze artisans started this craft centuries ago. Benin city is dotted with bronze statues highlighting various aspects of the old kingdom, and the same street has a museum highlighting this old Kingdom. So you can imagine what route I chose to run.

You remember the unpredictable temperate humid weather I mentioned? Well, it caught up with me as I was running in Benin City. I associate a stormy, uniform grey sky with rain. But in Benin, the whole day was grey and warm and since it had not rained yet, I assumed it would be a dry run. Then the gods had a mickey moment as 5kms in my run through the historical street, it poured!   I laughed, sucked it in and finished my run. Swaras, as much as we enjoy street running, let’s be safe and my heart goes out to the families who lost their lives in Jos.

Next stop and with all my Luo pride. Adhi AMERKA! ( Ah-thi , Ah-merr-kah! Nasal pronunciation). In English- I am going to America. I must admit I have always wanted to say this. LOL.