I served in Minna! I did my NYSC there in the years when the land was green and men fully innocent.

I recall a time so glorious, so peaceful because many of the vices of today were yet unheard of! No drug abuse, no lust for money and no disrespect for human life!

My place of abode then was Bosso town, a sleepy green and rocky suburb of the beautiful serene city of Minna.

I recall narrow roads, leafy compounds and kind and warm people. I recall a quiet one road town. I recall that food was so plentiful and cheap that I could save as much as half of our then allowance of two hundred naira!

We would go to the market once we received our NYSC stipends and WITH FIFTY naira, we could buy foodstuffs that would last an individual for one whole month. With that then huge sum, you could buy rice and beans, yams and potatoes, some garri and everything else including a month’s worth of meat.

We indeed were in paradise. We travelled freely and explored that vast Niger State without any fear or molestation. We visited the various waterfalls and the hydro power stations and dams. We were well received everywhere we chose to go.

We took excursions to the various towns and ethnic nationalities. We

explored the bead and glass makers of Bida, we walked the train lines of Zungeru, that town of Zik’s early childhood. Indeed it was such a safe time that we never entertained any fears or dread.

And then, the service year ended and the quest for success and opportunity took us into the world. Many who could, stayed back because the lure of Minna was quite strong and compelling. Indeed, a friend I served with stayed back and today, he owns a hotel chain and group in the beautiful and still serene city of Minna. I refer to Haske.

Anyway, after service I moved away and in the busyness and bustle to make my mark, I never found time to go back until now. As God would have it, an opportunity to visit Minna again arose, and I took it with both hands!

Today, Minna is far, far different. Everything is expectedly different but indeed, I didn’t expect so much improvement. Virtually all-main roads have been dualized, and pothole free! The side roads are not left out. They are all mostly tarred! And the city is clean, I mean CLEAN! Wherever I go to a town, whatever town I visit, I look for certain indicators as a window into the mind and character of the people and their leaders!

In Minna, in all the areas I drove through, I did not find huge refuse dumps! I did not find one. I did not see filth on the streets! The street cleaners and the refuse handlers of Minna must be commended.

The town is clean and orderly. Driving was orderly, people obeyed driving rules and even the cyclists were not left out.

One thing I love to watch in every town is the early morning traffic of kids going to school. Surprisingly, the pupils here troop to school in their numbers earlier than 7.30am. That is no longer a norm because in many towns, lateness to school has become a sad norm tolerated by teachers and even the school administrators.

I went about and interviewed random people about crime. The consensus is that there is very little crime. No violent robberies and no kidnapping ever. I repeat, there has been no kidnapping to their knowledge. Compare that to many other state capitals where even commissioners and medical doctors are kidnapped daily.

Minna indeed is a jewel in the Niger. The town is quiet without the usual outlandish bragaddacio of many Nigerian towns. By 11pm, you cannot find anyone on the streets. And that is the way sensible and organised people live. You work daytime and sleep nighttime!

I drove around the town and my impressions are pretty positive. I went into Bosso, the suburb where I lived as a corper, a place I had fond memories of. Surely, it was different, so different that nothing seemed familiar. The old structures had made way for prosperity and development. New roads and paths had sprung to service the ever-rising number of new residents and new homes! And that indeed, is the way it should be! The only thing in that neighborhood that is still there is the rocks and the hills at the back of the house in which we lived!

The governor here, Abubakar Sani Bello, is said to be quite different, yet young, very humble and accommodating. Not the dictator and terror that many governors have turned out to be. From the comments of residents, he is performing and well liked. Maybe, because wages in the state are paid as at when due. The people here seem quite happy with their lot.

The state has also been able to manage effectively the few reported incidents of herders/farmers clashes that have been ravaging most states of North Central Nigeria. The state has been largely spared of the atrocities that rock many other states in the region.

The people and government of Niger State must be doing things right, very right and if I were a governor, I will understudy Niger State very well. Indeed, I will make it a case study of development, ethnic harmony, people welfare and security!

The ambiance of Minna is decidedly different. There is no fear in the air. No fear of any sort, no fear of either the government backed militia or fear of the sundry insurgents that have made the lives of Nigerians a misery in most other states.

Niger is different and its people must be commended. When the Suleja to Minna road currently under construction and repairs is concluded, I will make Minna my second home. It will be a sweet befitting epitaph, retiring to Minna, because I started my adult life there as a young vibrant hopeful youth corper! And it will be fun walking the same streets jogged and sprinted on with a walking stick and a smile.

– Aluta Continua.