Special Feature: Kaiama: A bumpy ride to a food basket by Anas Galadima

Kaiama, an ancient town in the northern part of Kwara, is known for being the food basket of the state. Traders come in from far away places like Lagos, Ibadan, Ogbomosho, Kebbi and other parts of the country to buy food stuff, especially yam and yam powder (Amala).

Fresh yam and Yam powder are not the only products that visiting traders buy in Kaiama. They also buy maize, guinea corn, cassava, millet, other grains and shea butter. These wholesalers then transport their goods to various markets.

Kaiama has been known as a food basket from way back in the days of the old Borgu Empire which spanned areas that now form part of Nigeria and Benin republic. Ancient farmers in Kaiama used to produce crops that were sold to most parts of the Empire and beyond, a feat that earned the town fame for being a food basket.

Today, over a hundred years after Borgu Empire was partitioned in 1898 and shared between the British and French colonial masters, Kaiama is still perceived in this light.

Kaiama enjoys the fame of being a food basket largely due to the fact that apart from its people being hardworking farmers, the land is by nature very fertile. This gift of nature has been exploited by the highly industrial people of Kaiama to carve a niche for themselves in the North Central Nigeria.

People in far away lands like Sokoto, Kebbi Zamfara, Maiduguri, Bauchi, Delta, Benue, Taraba, Kogi, Lagos Oyo and Onitsha often hear legendary stories about the quality of yam produced in Kaiama. They hear tales of how Kaiama yam is both good for Amala and ponded yam. Some enterprising farmers from Benue, Delta, Taraba and Kogi have travelled all the way to Kaiama to collect its Yam seedlings that are considered high-yielding.

Kaiama may be a food basket, a ride to the town is always a very bumpy one as all the roads leading into the town are in very bad shape. Some analysts have said that the roads to Kaiama are among the worst in the country, if not the very worst. From a collapsed bridge to pot holes the size of cars, a trip to Kaiama is not for the faint hearted. Neither is it for pregnant women.

The bad roads have caused many accidents leading to loss of many lives, limbs and property. The crashes have also left carcasses of mangled vehicles dotting the landscape.

Many pregnant women lost their lives and some lucky ones have given birth on the road, as the bumpy ride expedites their journey to motherhood. A lot of them set out on a harmless journey, yet the bumpy ride puts them in labour and gets them delivering their baby half way into a journey that is not more than 85km from Kaiama to New Bussa in Niger State.

If you travel from New Bussa to Kaiama for the first time, then you will probably be going through the most bumpy road you have ever seen. You will go through a road that was tarred in the 1960s, and never revisited afterwards.

For the most part of your journey, you will bounce up and down as the vehicle gallops through a bad bumpy, semi-sandy, semi-tarred, dangerous, life threatening, abandoned federal government road. You will wish you never went on that journey in the first place. And if Kaiama is your home town, you will wish you had a private jet, nay helicopter, so that you can fly in to visit kith and kin without bouncing a million times.

A journey that should last less than an hour takes you over five hours. You go through rocks, sand, bushes and down, under a broken bridge. An entire local government with a population of over 500,000 residents have been forgotten by the nation.

There is another town called Kaiama in Bayelsa State. Recently, there was a news report that a bridge in that town was about to collapse. The federal ministry of works and Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) have turned a dumb ear. This is a disaster waiting to happen.

But the people in Kaiama (of Bayelsa) are a bit lucky because their doomsday is yet to come. Those who live in Kaiama (of Kwara) have seen it all. With the look of things, they don’t seem to see any light at the end of the tunnel.

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