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THE NORTH WAS BEAUTIFUL …and then the kidnappers came..  

 By Aliyu Ma’aji
One cool Saturday afternoon in 2013, we decided to go on an adventure. Four of us rode out on horseback heading from Zaria towards Kaduna.  We didn’t follow the highway. We cut through the lush countryside, far away from any known tracks – deep in the brush. Our only companions were the birds and the occasional squirrel or rabbit that hops off at the sound of approaching hooves. Often, we’d race each other to see whose horse could run fastest. We’d brake each mini race in a cloud of dust and snorting horses, laughing, breathless,  waiting for the straggler to catch up.
We crossed 3 streams and covered 20 kilometers this way. We saw a very big snake slithering in the bushes and stopped to stare. It paid no attention to us as it continued on its way. Occasionally, we stopped to pick wild berries and mangoes while our horses were tethered to the tree trunks. At one stream, we plunged into the water at full gallop amidst cowboy style yells and laughter. We reached the other bank drenched.
On the trip, i rode a light brownie Argentine/Sudanese cross breed whom I named “Bature” (Oyibo). I had bought him a year earlier on the advise of polo prodigy, Dawule Baba. He checked him out thoroughly before I acceded to the transaction. Bature was an awesome friend and a delight to ride any day. The other horses, Farin. Wata (moonlight) Marsandi (Mercedes) and Akawal (Blackie) were local idiotic and unruly horses I picked up from the local horse markets. The more they ate and fattened up, the less sensible they became.

Some Zamfara fleeing residents

When we noticed that our horses were tiring out and it was getting late, we turned back. We had only a compass to indicate the right direction we were supposed to head. We occasionally came across a farm house or two, in the middle of nowhere. The farmers would often pause, look up and wave with a smile. To and fro, we covered almost 40km, with no particular destination.
We had so much fun that day. We pledged that someday we’ll prepare well, with camp tents and all, and ride all the way to Abuja from Zaria. We estimated that it would probably take us a week to accomplish that feat- just so that we could experience how our forefathers lived before white people came. We never thought, for once, that our wish will remain forever …just a wish.
Today, with all the vermin running amok everywhere, if you give me an armoured truck, wallahi I won’t venture into that bush!
See how low we’ve descended? Such a shame!

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