Thursday, January 29, 2009


Headlines: C.Sweet Will Be “Removing Head-Dress” For Good in Two Weeks’ Time! (never mind that her fine cap flew out of a bus without her knowledge one fateful day. Sulks). The CD days, as well as Head Count days have come to an end. This here is a brief interview with her, about the ins and outs of serving in Zamfara State. (Loud applause pls)

{Coughs} Good day.
Like you know, most of us posted here wondered, along with our loved ones, about how we would cope in a State shrouded in so much (bad) mystery. A lot of shock, horror and disappointment was translated into fits of rage, victim complexes, disinterest in any news lacking ‘Shari’a’, ‘North-West’ or ‘Redeployment’ themes, occasional “zoning out”, excessive nail-biting, and so on.
But the story is different now.
We’ve tasted eleven months of the State’s tranquility, relatively friendly people, inexpensive living, grains n’ sugarcane fala-fala (good); the heat, mosquitoes and flies(ah! bad); and evil principals that want to deal with you ever so severely for five months(definitely ugly).
The past eleven months have been an experience, wallahi (15 seconds of silence).

Now let’s have a quick look at some of the things They told C.Sweet & Co. about ZM:
They told us: “That place is extremely hot and dry! You go black, you go suffer… in fact you go redeploy if you like yourself!”

And we’re telling you: Yes, it’s hot and it’s dry, and you need to see the dust storms! Ikon Allah! The heat from March to May is truly… and actually, you guys forgot to mention the flies that rule by day and mosquitoes by night. Gaskiya, I’m darker, BUT
I certainly did not suffer. Accomodation was free and spacious, food wasn’t expensive, the place was nice and quiet (the people serving in Gusau have a slightly different story sha).
While it is challenging for very active, hustling people to adapt to a place as laidback as Zamfara, it is unfair to label it ‘The Ultimate Punishment’.
They told us: Ladies to the left; Gents to the right.

And we’re telling you: Well… somewhat.
Shari’a is not strict here, probably because the present Gov. is not that interested in it. Or probably because truly enforcing it would be an expensive venture. Whatever the case, this is what we’ve seen:
-Men and women share the same taxis and buses, though women stay on one side and men stay on the other (ie. collection of like-terms). For example, if you have three women and three men, the three women must sit at the backseat (and oh! the poor man unfortunate enough to be the one seated next to the women!) while the other two sit in front.
-The men are the ones you’d find selling oranges, tomatoes, beans, etc in the market. It is rare to find female traders, and when you do, they’re either old or divorcees (so I’m told). Women come to the market to buy the goods though.
-Men are also responsible for fetching water, farming, etc while their wives are usually indoors with the children.

They told us: “Shaa, Corpers get kudi/allowi barkatai.”

And we’re telling you: No, we don’t.
Corpers were getting a fantastic N10,000 State allowance in the regime of the ’99 – ’03 Governor, His Ex. Ahmed Sani Yerima, but in the regime of the present Gov., His Excellency Mahmud Aliyu Shinkafi (MAS), we’re getting seven thousand less.

Eyah, ‘The Difference Is Clear’.

The 07/08 Batch were paid N2,000 till he raised it to N3,000 in our time. Maybe he’ll raise it by another one thousand this year… and maybe it’ll be N5,000 by 2010; N6,000 by 2011… and MORE if he gets re-elected, so let corpers join the Zamfara PR people in raising two fingers up and screaming “MAS Two Terms!” Madalla! (Note: Insider pun. MAS started campaigning for 2011 a year ago. No comment).

They told us: Mosques? Yes. Churches? Um...

And we’re telling you: In Gusau, the State Capital, you can attend First Baptist Church, Living Faith, Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, Anglican Church, The Kingdom Hall/Family House (Jehovah Witness), and others. Some LGAs also have churches. (In Kotorkoshi, there are two churches- St. Mary’s Anglican Church and a new ECWA church).

They told us: “Girl, get your Ninja gear ready… haha, just joking. But seriously…Be. Very. Careful.”

And we’re telling you: Thank you very much for this advice.
We female corpers have learnt to be very careful around
They are young boys, sent away from home to other States in order to learn how to fend for themselves, and they are usually full of hunger, mischief and an insatiable desire to grope the female body. Our Local Govt. Officers have often advised us to walk with guys because of this.

We have also discovered that tank tops and three-quarter trousers are allowed, but these are likely to attract lewd stares from the men and scalding ones from the women. Conservative clothes are better.

They told us: “Sha, God has a reason for sending you to ZM, so don’t grumble”

It would have been nicer to serve in That-Tek-Company-That-Pays-Well, or That-Secondary-School-With-Parents-You-Can-Get-A-Referral-From, rather than Frustration-Began-Here-Primary-School or No-English-Secondary-School. Yet… we learnt to handle self-pity like exposed 3-day old Viju Milk because:

- We value the power of friendship; ZM has people you can network with too. Seek and you shall find.

- We value the power of correct positive thinking:

“… you can think positively all you like, yet negative things will still happen to you. You will get caught in traffic, you will spill coffee on your new outfit, you will lose a sale, and you will get cheated or be disappointed from time to time…
Being positive is not about creating a positive expectancy through willpower. Rather it’s about taking personal power and raising self-esteem through controlling, not the outcome of an event, but the way you respond to that outcome… it’s about understanding that sometimes you’ll be given a lemon, and positive thinking begins and ends with your initiative in turning that lemon into lemonade.”
- Brian Sher, What Rich People Know & Desperately Want To Keep Secret

And so, in conclusion…

I’ve only had a glance at ZM, and though I will not miss Zamfara State, I will miss the people I met here. Those who offered their friendship from the first instant we met, as well as those who initially didn’t; those who taught me to say no to excessive Golden Morn and Nice biscuit :- ); those who gave me tomatoes, yams, dubino (dates) at giveaway prices just because I could speak Hausa; my fiery Ex-Princi who was dedicated to threatening my fellow bro. Matti and I (I will not miss you, but I stand my ground a lot more because of you. Thank you); my friendly, animated students; those who reminded me of the good sides of making mistakes (onstage and in life generally); the ones who taught me Yoruba, better Hausa, Ibo, a little Kwale; those who persistently blasted me about my shyness; those who made me laugh with a comical stare or silly comment… so many of them who have added value to my life this past year. Most of their reward is in heaven.

The days are numbered for phrases like
“Ajuwaya Babe”
“Banga banga!”
“Gym gym the body”
“Baggas! God punish your Local Govt. Chairman!”
“Eeevil Spirit!”
And of course:

And for our NCCF Ajuwaya Song:
Baba we thank You
For all you have done
We remove head-dress O
Ajuwaya, praise the Lord!

Youth, obey the clarion’s call
Let us lift our nation high
Under the sun or in the rain
With dedication and selflessness
Nigeria’s ours; Nigeria we serve

This reminds me: I learnt one song here. Zamfarans love this song so much; their students sing it most Sundays. It has a pleasant, catchy tune. The chorus:

Rayuwa tana faruwa
Wucewa take
Kamar ba’a yi ba

Life is happening/proceeding
Passing by
(like a river)
As though It never was

(A kind of depressing message but it’s a nice song, really).

Life continues indeed, and it is my time to say fare well to Kotorkoshi/Kwatarkwashi, Bungudu LGA, Zamfara State.

It’s been a good experience.

P.S: In Thousands of Words I’ll be posting some of my ZM pics. Thanks for reading.

NCCF Style!

My ZM tales would never be complete if I didn’t include the wonderful experience of Rural Rugged.

NCCF, Nigerian Christian Corpers’ Fellowship, is a wonderful body of Christ.
I never thought I’d have anything to do with NCCF, because my pre-NYSC vibes about it were… unflattering.

Those vibes were incorrect, and made me miss out on one year of high-quality service to God, but I’ve been forgiven, and most importantly, I’ve learnt my lesson. (In fact, it is January’s Lesson for me).

What I have to say about NCCF is incapable of doing them justice, but I’ll still speak/write:
In the 40s, a man of God, Sir Elton, foretold a time when Nigerian youth would be paid to preach the Gospel of Christ in all parts of the country. In 1973, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was established, and in their different locations, Christian Corpers began to meet. Corpers serving in Lagos thought, ‘Ya kamata mu dinga saduwa don mu yabi Yesu, ko ba haka ba?’ and began to meet together as a fellowship. So did Corpers in Abia, Gongola, Bendel, Sokoto… but each chapter was unaware of the other until they began to swap NYSC tales with each other.
“Mm! Those people make us farm for them on CD days oh!”
“Oga oh! It’s not only you guys. And the weather there is so strange! See their scary forests!”
“Mm! But sha, our fellowship activities made us feel better about everything. We did a lot of community evangelism.”
“Wait! You mean you guys had a fellowship that did that too?! Amazing!”

And in 1984, NCCF, a fellowship made up of Christians of different denominations, was officially established.

What makes NCCF different from other Corps Member fellowships is Rural Rugged. And herein lies the Man of God’s prophecy:
Rural Rugged is an outreach/evangelism programme aimed at the communities in the corpers’ place of primary assignment. Every NCCF State chapter has at least two Ruggeds per Service Year.
The mode of operation differs with each State, but the aim is the same: To tell people about Jesus Christ. Last week, NCCF Zamfara had its first Rural Rugged for the year (or the last Rugged for Batch As though). The target area was Nasarawa Godel, a community in Birnin Magagi LGA. Two-and-a-half hours away from Gusau, the State capital, some say it is only N150 away from Niger Republic.

I thought that, being a Jos gal, my Otondo (NYSC khaki) jacket would suffice for the rumored cold weather there. I was extremely wrong. (Don’t take any chances next time, ‘Josite’).
Aside from the cold, it was a fantastic opportunity to SERVE.

We gave them clothes, bathed and brushed the children’s teeth (people who couldn’t stand the sight of blood vamoosed though), gave free meds to their people and livestock, did two dramas -which the children liked- and on the last night, we took the bull by the horns and showed them the Jesus film in Hausa. The Aduras (Prayer Coordinators) who had been serious at work throughout the programme were even more so during the filmshow. I think all of us prayed fervently in our hearts too. Everyone was fully aware of the fact that anything could spark a religious riot in The-Middle-Of-Nowhere, ZM. Thank God for His supervision and protection.
As ZM is a Muslim State, we didn’t do an “alter call” per se. We just asked if anyone had any “questions”. Some did, ranging from “why is Isa (Jesus) different in your own account (Bible)?” to “why do you call Isa God as well as Son of God?” But the question that had the counselors on red alert was “why did you people show us this Jesus film?” BOING BOING BOING!

Yes, Rural Rugged was great.

The community was wary of us at first, but became comfortable after a while and even gave us seven goats and a lot of sugar cane.
In our estimation, we’ve prepared the way for more Good News to the people of Nasarawa Godel, Zamfara State. And wasn’t this the best way to convey God’s message?

“Unselfish service is still acknowledged as a very powerful moral good in our societies. People in the street will listen to those whom they perceive to be unselfish, humble, genuine and caring.
Service is most effective when it comes before proclamation. Jesus served before He preached. He continued to serve after He preached. Service was the ongoing focus of His ministry and mission. All people are touched by unselfish service.”
– Adventist World, Feb. 2007

Those totally committed to NCCF will reveal to you that even NYSC’s regular Community Development Service(CDS) is their chance to let their host community know about The One True God (John 17:3).
"I slept and dreamed that life was joy.
I awoke and saw that life was service.
I acted, and behold, service was joy."
- Rabindranath Tagore

NYSC’s motto is Service and Humility.
To God. To country.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The "Late News" With C.Sweet

-“MAS 2 Terms!”
Traffic in Zamfara State was heavier than normal on Thursday, the 8th of January 2009. Vehicles from several parts of the country were driving in, but it was the convoy consisting of thirty-plus cars that interested C.Sweet the most.
It is true that they blew a good amount of dust into her eyes, but she did not mind too much, because in one of those cars sat the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, His Excellency Umaru Musa Yaradu’a. In an interview with C.Sweet, she discloses: “Not to brag, but… I’m the only corper from Kotorkoshi that came closest to President U.M.Y.! Forget the fact that I was a trekking onlooker with hands full of stuff from the Tudun Wada market and didn’t actually see him but sha I was the closest. Nmeeee!” :- )

He and thirty(?) of the Nigeria’s State Governors paid a visit to Zamfara State to in order to officially welcome the current Governor, His Excellency Mahmud Aliyu Shinkafi (MAS), to the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). He was formerly in the All Nigeria Peoples’ Party (ANPP), but switched parties due to some events C.Sweet is yet to verify.

-The Winner of the Batch ‘A’ 2008/2009 Personal Community Develpoment Project, Zamfara State

This particular news is not late; In fact it is ‘prophetic’:

The person that will take the 1st place in the Batch ‘A’ 2008/2009 Personal CD Project will be a lady, and her name is Hajiya Mariya M. Aliyu.

How do I know?
  • She has been one busy lady corper indeed, commissioning one project after the other, and her most impressive has been HAMMASEI, an education-focused project aimed at the less privileged males and females, “complementing the good intents and efforts of the State Government to uplift the educational standard in Zamfara.” (Zamfara Cofa, Nov. 2008).

    And here’s something that makes her stand out even more:

  • She is the wife of the current Governor of Zamfara State, His Excellency, Mahmud Aliyu Shinkafi. Mm-hm. (Imagine! I’m just discovering that she’s in my batch and stream (A2). The Late News, readers).

    A graduate of Accounting from the University of Abuja, Hajiya Mariya M.A.S. is serving in the Government House, Gusau (naturally) and will be passing out this February.
    HAMMASEI stands for Hajiya Mariya Mahmud Aliyu Shikafi Education Initiative, and its inspirational motto reads:

    “Education is leading out the inborn potentialities of the individuals. It is reforming the uninformed mind by informing it. Reforming the human mind is reforming the society. Informing the human society is transforming the society.”

    For more information on HAMMASEI please visit

    I think you now agree with me that this lady is our winner.

    This has been The Late News with C.Sweet.
    PS: In two weeks’ time I’ll be rounding up my ZM jist in “Zamfara Unveiled… a little

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Progress Is Inevitable

I'm going to Zamfara for the last time tomorrow. It's official now: I'm counting down to P.O.P.

One month to go.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


I’m not advertising toothpaste; I want to pray for you {clears throat}:

My prayer for you is that you appreciate that what didn’t kill you in 2008 has only made you stronger for 2009. It is easier to remember what you have lost, but from today, you will have strength enough be thankful for what you still have (and are still to have). You will achieve so much this year, (so keep moving).

I said no to New Year resolutions in 2001. There was no point making a ‘top 10’ list only to break them after a few hours. I wasn't the better for this decision, so this new year is about making sure I learn the lessons life has for me. To show you (and Life) how serious I am about this, lemme kick things off with the first lesson I learnt a few days to 2009:

Tot-ful Observations
Meet Baby, my 4-year old niece.
She’s very cute, calm, smart, and generally pleasant to be around (though her mother calls her Winnie because she can whine sometimes… I think she likes Winnie the Pooh, too).

The following is a conversation she had with one of her father’s friends:
[Characters: Baby, Uncle Henry and I.
Uncle Henry is pouring petrol into the generator, while I hold the funnel for him. Baby is giving us moral support. Alors soudain…]

Baby: [With her characteristic calm, sweet voice] “Uncle Henry.”

Uncle Henry: “Yes?”

Baby: “Is it true that you turn into a spirit in the night?”

Uncle Henry: [Still pouring fuel] “Hm?”

Baby: “Daddy said that you used to turn into a spirit in the night”

Uncle Henry: “M-m!” [He’s now probably thinking, is that so?]

Me: [Thinking to self] M-m, is that so?

We lapse into silence as I wonder what he’s thinking. And it’s probably the Nollywood movies and co. I’ve been paying attention to, because I’m fast becoming suspicious of him: No wonder I didn’t really like him the first time I saw him… It is very possible he does iska runs… but how did her Dad know? Hmm. Unsolved mysteries. My mind begins to wander to other topics, then Baby pipes up again.

Baby: “Uncle Henry, do you know what Achi said?”
[Achi is her 9-year old sis, and I’m thinking, I know that I should butt in and distract her before she says something embarrassing, but I’m just… too… curious]

Uncle Henry: “What did she say?”

[Too late for distractions now]
Baby: “She said your teeth look like a vampire’s”

Me: [Foolishly bursting into laughter but still attempting to do damage control] “Ha!! Ba-by! You eh! Why don’t you just go back into the house?”

[But of course, Baby doesn’t budge]

Uncle Henry: [Still pouring fuel and not looking up, he calmly replies] “Tell her I will beat her”

Baby: “Noo, don’t beat her. Just turn into a spirit and bite her.”

Chei! Baby has done it again!

The question is, did her Daddy really say that? And did Achi really say that his teeth looked like a vampire’s? (And besides, do his teeth really look like a vampire's? I was too shy to see for myself).
The answer to both questions, is yes.
So why did her Daddy say so?
Because a few nights ago, Achi had told him that Uncle H’s teeth looked like a vampire’s. Her Dad, (who loves to tease her), was so amused he decided to scare her by saying he’d turn into a spirit in the night in order to catch her. Obviously, Baby took this to heart and decided to find out from the ‘spirit’ himself.
Lesson: I’m going to watch what I say around kids from now on.