Agyaragu, Nasarawa, NIGERIA – Twenty kilometers away from the hustle and bustle of the state capital of Lafia is Agyaragu, a sedate village along Lafia-Makurdi Road.
After passing by many roadside kiosks, traveling through an expressway flanked by bushes and tall cashew, mango and gmelina trees, all you’d see upon entry are a handful of people moving to and fro, taxis parked by the roadside and drivers gesturing to people who are strolling up and down the road to get into their cars.
Hawkers are there, too, always haggling prices with buyers. Some sell oranges, sachet water and cold drinks.
Welcome to the village where good roads are a rarity, a village where the young, the old and even few children toil to make ends meet.
This is Agyaragu, a place for virtually everything: football, business, laughter, quarrels and fights.
Motorcycles, popularly known as okada, do better than taxis here.
Given the condition of roads, people tend to trust motorcycles to meet daily expectations.
With expectant eyes, a number of youth seated on their motorcycles wait for passengers – people they’d shuttle to places within the vicinity for paltry sums.
Agyaragu might not have the splendor of big cities and metropolitan areas; it just has a handful of beautiful houses, no gorgeous restaurants, no imposing skyscrapers, no exquisite buildings, but people go about their means of livelihood with happy faces.
Derelict buildings, local homes – some made of mud and others of cement, some built by the owners and others constructed by hired builders – are commonplace.
There are rarely morning rush hours like you see in bustling cities.
People wake and amble to their respective workplaces: stores, kiosks, farms, offices, schools.
This was where I grew up, where I learned many things I know today, where I was groomed to appreciate life and hope for a fulfilling future.
This is a village with a vast rural landscape, with few health care centers and hospitals. It’s a pastoral place with few trappings of modernity: no airports, no industries, an unhealthy environment and grubby streets.
It has only one asphalt-coated expressway and many bad roads brimming with dust.
Agriculture is a very important source of livelihood and the predominant occupation is farming.
A railway station which has suffered from many years of neglect rests near the central market. People rarely travel by rail nowadays.
Much as the village maintains a tranquil atmosphere, the old, the youth and teens are crazed with football. The English Premier League, or EPL, offers an uplifting diversion from the drudgery of everyday life.
They throng into viewing centers to watch the EPL. After all the fighting, bickering and bantering in the viewing centers, enemies still get to become friends again. We all smile and learn to bounce back even after our favorite clubs lose.
It’s also a village with a mixed religion: Islam and Christianity. It’s really amazing to see the inhabitants coexist peacefully. Religious affiliations are no barries to integration and association.
Fridays are local market days. The sprawling market is home to commodities like rice, yam and melon. People from different villages and towns come to buy and sell.
The people’s craving for a better society for the upcoming generation is overwhelming. But lately, Nasarawa State has been plagued by crises, and so has Agyaragu. People left this village and went to other places because they couldn’t stand the heightened state of violence.
The tranquility we relished is eroding: Stories of deaths and sorrow, tears and pains are everywhere.
Aygaragu is not popular and big like Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja, Ibadan, Enugu, Onitsha and the like, but its tranquility remains its charm.
It used to be a cloistered community with little trouble to keep us awake at night. But today, it’s really unpredictable.
For me, the long list of great friends I’ve made over the course of growing up in this village holds the charm. I get happy and super excited whenever I visit Agyaragu because my lifelong friends make my visits special.
Together we reminisce about our past: a time when we led a cloistered life, when we knew of no war, no crises. But now, all we hear are ramblings about reprisal attacks.
Getting to meet with my friends makes much sense, though the possibility of getting hurt from crisis or communal clashes makes many people want to run and never look back again.
Very soon, I might not get to see this village again, maybe for a decade, maybe for few years, maybe for scores of years, but I can’t forget the tranquilty it used to offer and all the caring and wonderful friends I made there.
Linus Okechukwu Unah is an Associate Editor with Youth Journalism International.