Travelogue ~ My Journey into Kongi’s forest by Adamu Usman Garko

The night before the trip I didn't sleep a wink, perhaps I found a stranger in me and he wasn't feminine. I couldn't close my eyes, not because I didn't want to, but thoughts of morning's arrival kept my eyes bereft of sleep. I prayed and when I get tired of praying, I would gingerly go outside peeping through the window, my mind in awe of how I made it among the eighty four finalists from all over Nigeria who would breath for four days in Lagos and in the Abeokuta home of Nigeria's only Noble Laureate as participants of the 2018 Wole Soyinka’s International Cultural Exchange programme held annually to marks his birthday.

As the night steadily opened into morning, I saw how owls made night a solace for their songs and how everything died for a new birth. Although I'm used to staying late at night before going to bed, this was the first time I vainly stayed awake for the whole night, waiting for morning, because when it was morning, dream would come alive in a bliss.

It was 10:30 am when I bade farewell to my teachers and headed, with our school manager and English teachers, to the Gombe airport. As we passed the green grass beside the curbs, I kept staring at my watch; it will soon be 11:00 am, the takeoff time of the Lagos-bound plane. Boarding a plane itself was a far fetched dream brought home to me now by destiny.

At the airport, my bag was checked-in and I bade farewell to our school manager and English teacher. The bright smile I saw on their faces was the best semblance of a glossy orchard. I felt strange, I felt I was in dream; the plane was now vividly before my eyes like a balloon. As I walked into the plane, every step was accompanied with a prayer.

I located my seat, rested on it and fastened the seat belt. I thought a lot about the takeoff time, how would it feel? I had a selfie then switched off the phone. It was normal for a Hausa man to keep record of all strange things he encounters for history's sake and challenges. Nevertheless, I am an Art student, I have been taught about history, the study of the past, present and seeking solution for the future. The plane soon took off with a loud sound and a prolonged quivering. It was something I never experienced. And we landed in Lagos, a big city. Lagos is a state of numerous and distinct people. I loved the serenity of the environment, no interference, everyone bothered with his own, I think that's why, in Lagos, you're free to smoke till dusk. It's full of people with different struggles, names--- survival.

Already, there was a guide waiting to take me to the hotel. At the hotel, I at once felt drowsy with fatigue, but he instigated I should eat before going to bed. I ate and slept like a baby. I woke up around 5 am when the cock was about to crow. I prayed and had a bath. The guide came and took me in a car to Abeokuta where all the finalists were to converge on. Luckily, I arrived early, so I got the chance to quench my curiosity before heading into the Cultural Center, venue of the day’s event.

I'd eventually love Abeokuta more than Lagos, because, in Lagos I could only breathe the sweat of men all over the sky due to their love for work under the sun but in Abeokuta, the mixed smell of dawn and green grasses assailed my nostrils. I thought how beautiful it would be to dwell therein.

When we entered the Cultural center, my guide handed me over to the producer, a woman with a marvelous heart. She asked about my flight and expressed her excitement at seeing me arrive safely. I signed-in a paper to show my arrival and was given a tag and a paper; the paper contains a poem of the great sage which I was told to go and study against tomorrow when we would discuss its hidden meanings. A direction to a floor up shown to me and I walked up the stairs stepping  and watching other  young participants with luminous smile all over their dimples. That was when I thought home could be in the segregation of distinct people coming to blend. The Last step opened me into a big hall lighted by white-yellow bulbs. 

We were seated, everyone holding his phone when a woman headed to us, calling for our attention. She would be with us all the time, she said and asked us to call her Lynda, her first name. She made us sit on some arranged chairs and wait for food. After eating, we turned to her. She asked us to all introduce ourselves. About thirty students did then the next person was girls whose introduction was followed by a loud clapping and applauds because she said she could sing, and dance. Lynda beseeched her to dance, and she did. It was awesome. It was my turn and everyone was curious because I spoke with a distinct Hausa accent. A man hurriedly walked to Lynda and whispered to her that I am a published writer. She said it out and that added to the strangeness about me. Everyone was curious; their curiosity was hearing that I am published, while mine was how it became known to them that I am a published writer. They never knew that among us all only my name could be found on the internet, newspapers, sites and magazines. That was the beginning of my earnest friendship with most of them.

Lynda pronounced we would do some exercises: debates, spelling bee, and cultural exchange. She grouped us and we started with the debate,to share and exchange ideas, culture and traditions. By 9pm we were all wearied and ended the day. Back at the hotel, everyone bathe and slept. I woke up around 2 am and prayed, perused the poem and beseeched Allah for a successful day ahead of us. In the morning, we were told we would be visiting Professor Wole Soyinka's house. What did you expect but a grin over my excited face.

The journey started like a daydream, but we held onto the belief that if Wole Soyinka was a robot we were going to see him today, if his hair was truly not cotton to our knowing ,we were going to see them. It was a time for us to jubilate and forget the nightmares of dream, and see the bushy comely haired African poet. It was scary when we heeded to an opened way into a gloomy forest.

I never thought a Nobel Laureate would live in this forest. Whatever it was, nature loves him and he loves nature. He lives in nature and nature augments inspiration. We walked into a space at the heart of the forest. We were given a poem to eat, digest and birth something out of it. When we did, we submitted. Most of us were better at writing and not at analyzing poems.

We had performances. And we eyed the sun on our way to Olumo Rock. We first walked into a gallery, into the world of sculptures, into the cave of designs and many adorned drawings and paintings. We lighted the little darkness in us and woke the lightness in us to sway and dig new things in the softness of our thirstiness. Then we climbed steps. We climbed Olumo Rock and were shown a cave and told so many things about it.  I was dumbfounded and astonished at the stories this Rock carries, perhaps that is why sometimes history lies. Then I sighted the first school, then the first television, then we walked down to home.

We showered, ate and discussed, then night came.

Early in the morning we were taken to Wole Soyinka's home; forest. We walked to his tent,. We stood and waited for him to come out. Whilst chanting ‘Kongi’, a name he loved being called, he came out like some alien. We gingerly entered his living room with amusing chants as he walked past and stopped for warm handshakes. One after the other, we shook hands with him, passing out through his library. As my turn came, the sky chuckled in my hand, his warm, soft sensual palm touched mine. As I passed through his library, the smell of book fill my nostrils. How I'd loved living there, to open many doors through books. Kongi followed us as we squatted. It was time for prize giving and questions.  I presented an Art Work to him. I was so lucky that I was the only one that gifted him such. I was the only one that took a personal picture with him and I was so delighted I am the only one from the prestigious Gombe High School that Wole Soyinka, would forever be remembering once he entered his living room as it was kept therein.

We went back to the literary forest and had a lot of mentorships sessions and workshops in writing after which we left for the hotel for rest and prepare ahead of our last night in Abeokuta. We used the opportunity to discuss and exchange phone numbers. We ate, bathe and dressed up. We all wore our traditional attires and journeyed to the venue, last night in Kongo's home.

It was the sounds of drums and the bright lights from hanging bulbs that drove away the sleep creeping in on us. We came down from the vehicle  and matched into the centre and eyed the enchanting session. Young talented dancers displayed their awesome styles then a young boy came on stage. He danced like the poetry that died in the mouth of the forest. We were also given the stage to give our presentations. We were thrilled with comely performances. Fire burnt and smeared over us its pieces ashes, we marveled at its style of burning and chanted 'happy birthday, Kongi' perpetually.

We knew it was the first day in our lives we were being thrilled and having a one-on-one encounter with the eye of Nigeria. If history doesn't write us, we'll write ourselves into history and be the history for tomorrow. The stars shone the more that time, our hearts were touched earnestly by the love of the organizers. We came to the stage and mustered our identities, and throbbed the heart of the flutes. Then the burning fire burnt to ashes and we by then engulfed our body with the coverlet of home like happiness. We forever remember each moment that still plays in our head like hallelujah songs.

Adamu Usman Garko


  1. This is truly lovely. Not only were you blessed to meet and spend time with a much loved and respected man, but you were able to travel and visit the wonderful forest. This adventure is now your history. You will tell this story to your children and your grandchildren, and who knows, perhaps you will someday step into his shoes as Nigeria's next poet laureate.

    1. Thank you very much. I'm very grateful, may God answer your prayer!

  2. Great One My Garko, you'll be reminiscing memories, may you clinch higher Sir.

  3. Allah has blessed you with it.We are very proud to have icon like you Adamu.Wish you more achievements in quick succession.

  4. Great narration, superb power of description and imageries. And good diction to boot. Truly gifted, Garko. It was pleasure to have shared most of those moments with you in Kongi's Forest. Keep writing, Broda.

    1. Thank you very much Sir, I'm very grateful. The joyous moments I spent with you people changed my view of life and happily it was the muse behind this stuff. Hopefully to join you next year's, if God answers my prayer! Stay blessed.

    2. Thank you very much Sir, I'm very grateful. The joyous moments I spent with you people changed my view of life and happily it was the muse behind this stuff. Hopefully to join you next year's, if God answers my prayer! Stay blessed.

  5. Wow! Wow!!
    It's really amazing. May Allah's blessing be with you always.

  6. This is superb! Always wish you the best.

  7. fantastic. You will age with your pen. May you live longer than your ancestors

  8. this is hillarious! i love the imageries used in driving out your message! Kongi`s birth day had been blessed with your presence.

  9. You know I recently embarked on the journey to the woods "Ijegba". Its an amazing, gay, fantastic and awesome fantasy come through i will never forget. I really wish I met you .


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