June 1982 – April 1983
We used to send a huge truck to a place called Kaduna for beer. Now the trick was that you had to have empty cases of beer bottles or you couldn’t buy any beer. We had to buy the empty bottles and cases from people leaving Kano in order to be able to trade these empty bottles and pay for filled bottles of beer. We were several expatriates in Kano who joined together and sent a driver and large truck to fetch the beer. I can’t remember where we got the truck or driver, but I think it might have been through the company for which my husband worked at the time.
I got the driver, Obandimah, and the company car once a week, so together with the wife of one of the other employees, we did our grocery shopping. Obandimah would go into the market with us as protection from thieves, beggars and mobs. One time a voodoo man painted in blue jumped out at me and started chanting and dancing around me. The blue apparition shook his rattles, hopped from one leg to the other, advanced towards me, retreated, circled and caused quite a commotion. I was immobile. I couldn’t hide, I couldn’t run, I couldn’t ask for help. Suddenly one of the market vendors grabbed me and together with Obandimah, they brought me to safety. I never understood what the whole episode was all about. It was the only time I was frightened. There were many beggars in the markets, and I always felt so devastated by the sheer numbers of these helpless people. I was, however, prevented from giving any of them money, because Obandimah could not protect me if they decided to attack me. If you gave money to one, a multitude of beggars could suddenly appear and become very aggressive and hurtful each trying to get money.
On one occasion while we were out in the bush having a picnic under a banyan tree, two Nigerian hunters came through the bush with homemade rifles. We decided to buy one of these relics and began negotiations. While we were in the process of negotiating the price, another Nigerian came tearing across the land to our little group. He wanted his share of “Kobo”, because the negotiations were taking place on his land! After negotiation and reaching a price, the hunter got his Kobo, the land owner got his Kobo, and then the hunters wanted bus fare so they could go back into town and buy new guns. We still have one of the guns which is made of a pipe, hand carved wooden parts, held together with wire and, of course, a little bag with gun powder. David Crocket or Michael Boone would have been impressed.
As a precaution, we acquired a dog which was part bush and part Labrador. We named the dog Tigga, which impressed the Nigerians, as Tigga was a rather large dam and our dog was rather large. We often looked after our friends’ German Shepherd, called Abiquee, which was trained as a guard dog. Our dog, Tigga, was quite an intelligent dog, and soon learned all the skills of being a guard dog. Nigerians were very afraid of dogs. Although they did not know what the disease a dog bite produced, they did know that the repercussions of a dog bite could be lethal. They had a healthy respect for dogs, particularly our two dogs. We kept our dog indoors at night, as we were afraid he might be killed in case of a burglary and, consequently, might then not be able to warn us of the attack. Alternatively, he could make a very good stew!