“Teach us to number our days” (Psalm 90:12)
I spent my early childhood in the Northern Nigerian city of Kano (sadly, I didn’t learn more than a few Hausa words and phrases!). It was an interesting place. Memories of walking in the neighbourhood, with the dry breeze blowing in my face, still pop up in my head. I would play football with my elder brothers (I have 3 of them), then we would go upstairs to watch TV. In those days, programming started at 4 pm, and there were just two stations, both of which were state owned: NTA (owned by the Federal Government) and the Kano State-owned CTV. There was much music, games, and movies. There were educational shows like debates and quizzes, too, but I preferred cartoons. Voltron, Tom & Jerry, Mickey Mouse, etc. Then there were the Indian movies, with their enchanting songs. I learnt to sing or hum so many of them; they were quite popular among the Hausas.
School was nearby, so we normally walked there. I can’t recall whether we had a school bus. Anyway, I never needed one. We took breakfast at home then strolled to school. Mummy would give us a little sum of money (around 50 kobo, which was a lot for a small boy then) to buy something at break time. I was blessed with a caring mother who was so eager to see we were well taken care of. One hilarious breakfast incident often comes back to my mind. Tea was a regular in my home. Daddy would take Lipton tea (he hardly missed it), and we would be given Bournvita, Pronto, or Ovaltine (I started taking Milo much later). On this fateful morning, we were all seated for breakfast at the table, ready to consume our meal and head for school. As usual, our tea had been prepared by Mummy and we began to gulp it. There was a sudden jolt in me as my taste buds communicated with my brain that my tea was tasting different. I had the same reaction from my brothers. Instead of the sweet, exciting taste of sugar which every schoolboy is familiar with, we sensed the sharp, unwelcome flavour of table salt. Then we realized that a mistake had been made: our tea had been seasoned with salt rather than sugar! We left for school, as it were, without our customary cup of tea.
I thank God for my childhood. I believe I am blessed to have grown up among such parents and siblings. The experience of growing up in such an environment is also priceless. Kano had this feel of calm and quiet contentment. The pace of life was relaxed and unhurried. It was generally hot during the day, but nights were cooler. And the harmattan season was always a delight for me. Yes, it was dry, and yes, you had to apply Vaseline on every part of your body (the lips included), but I loved the cold. For me, it was a welcome contrast to the regular daytime heat and sweatiness.
I still have pleasant memories of going out with Daddy in the evening, when he returned from work. Sometimes it was to get a haircut, and at other times just to get some things for the home. Night time in Kano was beautiful. The lights dotting the neighbourhood, the cool evening breeze, the smooth and uncongested highways, and the delicious taste of Suya which we sometimes bought either at the Kano Club or from a roadside vendor.
Those years are gone, never to return. But the memories remain; a blessing for which to always thank God. I didn’t know Christ then, but now I know He had his plans for me.