Kafin Moye, the village forgotten by Nigeria

by Cheta Nwanze

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Kafin Moye, in Awe Local Government Area of Nasarawa State, sits at the junction between Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba states, with a population of less than 1000 people, almost all of whom are farmers.

This community, is one of many which this reporter visited during the week of 2 to 6 March, 2015 as part of a group of surveyors on behalf of the National Bureau of Statistics.
The first thing you noticed upon departing Lafia, the Nasarawa state capital, on the three hour drive towards Kafin Moye is how life begins to thin out just east of Lafia. This is what tells you that you are now in Obi Local Government Area, which, for long periods in 2013 and 2014, was the centre of communal violence between the Eggon and the Alago, in which a still to be ascertained number of Nigerians died.
Along the highway, from the moment you drive into Obi LGA, up until the boundary with Awe LGA, there are at least seven communities which have been abandoned. In another three communities, the people are clearly trying to rebuild their shattered lives, while Obi, the largest town, and Local Government Headquarters, is too big to have been destroyed, but was clearly decimated.
The town gives the appearance of a place that had seen better days. Even more eerie are the tracts of clearly abandoned farmland, which one can immediately see held life two or three years ago.
After that passage through the ghost LGA, we finally reached Awe, the adjacent local government. Proceeding to Awe town, we went straight to the local government secretariat. The place is dilapidated, and has clearly seen better times.
One of the things that stands out at the Awe LGA HQ is three tractors, which have been abandoned. Awe, like Obi next to it, is an agrarian area.
The Chairman is not around, but the official who received us, Musa Haroun, is courteous and offers us a seat. He apologises for the heat, and explains that they’ve not had power for some time.
“How long is some time?” I ask.
“Since 1995.”
This response puts into perspective, my complaints regarding what I used to think was the dire power situation back home in Lagos.
We explain our mission to Mr. Haroun, and he quite nicely shows us the direction to Kafin Moye, and advices us to buy some water for the road. We take his advice, and go to the only pharmacy in Awe town, an establishment owned by a man called Chinedu, who says he comes from Amawbia, in Anambra State. Armed with the water, we proceed to our destination.
Almost as soon as we leave Awe, the road ends. As do the power line, and all other signs of 20th century (yes, Awe is not in the 21st century) living. It is a long, very dusty road to Kafin Moye, and what surprises me the most when we finally arrive is the silence.
Kafin Moye is a town untouched by the pollutants of modern Nigeria. There has never been power here. The Sarkin of the village has a car, and that’s it.
All the buildings are from a bygone age, as are the people. They are all farmers, except for Judith Jonathan, who is the teacher at the local primary school, although she doubles as a farmer. At age 32, she has four younger sisters to take care of.
The people in the village are evenly split between Muslims and Christians, but were at pains to point out that they have always lived in peace with one another even with the madness happening all around them.
“That is how it has always been,” mused Jelkok Mark, a thirty-five year old, who looks fifty. “We live well with one another, and we have always managed to provide for ourselves from our land.”
The Sarkin of Kafin Moye, a tall man called Abdul Ismail, says that the only thing that reminds them that they are in the world are the motorcycles that constantly pass to carry crops, and people, to Awe to sell their farm produce.
Then the fact that at some point in 2008, the mobile phone company, Zain (I had to explain to him that it’s now Airtel) installed a mast not too far from the village, so in one of those ironies you can only find in Nigeria, Kafin Moye, which has never seen government provided electricity, had to tax itself to acquire a generator, which the people now use to charge their phones.

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