My Northern Nigeria: I Am A Dark Girl, But I Am Not From A Dark Region

My life began in the city of ?Peace and Tourism?, also known as ?Tin City? or just Jos, a city which is located in north-central Nigeria. This is the only place that I will ever call home, and in my opinion, the best city in Nigeria – or so it used to be. Ask anyone who is above the age of twenty-five years, who grew up in Jos, and you will be filled with the great memories of a place we all hold dear to our hearts.

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From roaming the streets of Ahmadu Bello Way, to shopping at the large yellow market or cliff jumping in Rayfield, and eating suya on Standard avenue. I mean seriously, if you are from Jos, you know where Standard is and what to buy there. Then there is the zoo, our sad, sad zoo; but we can all say we have walked through it and enjoyed the company of our friends. Hill station, ah, another suya spot, but also the hotel where I am sure everyone has been to at least once; it was one of the main drops for a taxi ride, and for us ?Josites?, the landmark by which we gave directions around the city. As with GRA, Plateau Hospital, Gada Biyu, Farin Gada, Rayfield, and Nasco — oh Nasco, the biscuits that we all learned to love, but after leaving the country I quickly realized I had settled for ok tasting cardboard (#sorrynotsorry)!

Nonetheless, it was a taste of home. My home, my Jos. I remember taking taxis late at night with friends, and never having to think twice about my safety. Oh the miles we walked. The joke used to be that during sugar cane season, you could walk across all of Jos; all you needed was sugar cane in hand to nibble on, and good conversation by your side.

In July of 2000, I boarded a plane to leave my beloved Plateau State. If I had known that I would never see that Jos again, I would have made more memories during my last summer there. Only one year later, everything would be different. I clearly remember the day I was watching the news in Dallas, Texas and heard the news anchors fumbling through familiar names of streets and places that I knew all too well. It didn?t feel normal to hear them speak of my hometown and all the atrocities that were going on so close to my house.

Is this for real?

Nigeria is not a stranger to conflict, especially religious conflict. However, for a place like Jos, a place that even voices online refer to as ?…a city inhabited by both Christians and Muslims. Christians are the majority, with Muslims constituting a significant minority.?, even the religious crisis that was characterized by bombings, deaths, death threats and riots was a true tragedy to a city that was known for peace. We would have peace no longer.

It is now 2015, and the Jos I once knew is gone. It has been replaced with a Jos that is divided, religiously charged, and where people live with the fear of something bad happening at any given moment. No more late night taxi rides, or long walks across town while nibbling on ?reke? (sugarcane) with not a clue in the world. No more yellow market. No more peace. Now the city where people from all over Nigeria would come and settle to raise their families, has become the city where people are afraid to even visit.

I am a mother of four now, and my dream has always been to take my family back to my home and show them this ?Jos? they hear so much about. That opportunity finally happened. I prepared them not to see the place I loved so dearly because that place no longer exists. However, I am proud to say that my Jos did not disappoint me. Yes, we had to do most of our sightseeing during the day and remained careful while walking the market and deciding which vendors we purchased our goods from. Sure we had to go through extra annoying security in most places we wanted to visit. However, we saw the beauty that I had remembered plus so much more. We saw a city thriving in a booming economy, buildings that were recently built, businesses that I had never seen before, restaurants at every corner and supermarkets everywhere! But best of all, after spending a sweltering week in the capital city Abuja, we got to enjoy the weather that is icing on the cake for all foreigners who come to Jos. The cool, plateau weather was such a needed break from the heat of surrounding states.

Driving back to Abuja after our time in Jos, I heard my children say ?We love Jos the best out of all the places we have been to.? You see, back in the United States, as we were planning this trip, Nigeria was unfortunately making national headlines in the news every.single.day. Girls were missing, Boko Haram was running wild and innocent lives were being torched — pretty much what the international media presents as the picture of northern Nigeria. The seed of fear was planted in my little ones minds. They could not understand how the place they were hearing all the bad things about was the very same place I was trying to convince them is my home and the best place in Nigeria. We visited several other cities before going to Jos, and when they got there, I didn?t have to do any convincing, the city itself obviously did it for them.

That?s my Jos?and?my northern Nigeria.

That is the reason I am proud to say that I am from Jos. There is still peace and tourism there. Jos may never be the way it once was, but there is too much life and goodness in that city to say it can?t be great it again. It will be, and maybe someday all of Nigeria will be able to live up to the words that conclude our anthem — peace and unity.

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Linda Asake Darjean is proudly Hausa, and graduated with a double major in marketing and communications from Dallas Baptist University. Follow the Texas transplant on Twitter and Instagram.