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Nigerians 'Trek' Celebrating Historic Election

FILE - A woman walks across a river bed in Jalingo, Nigeria.
FILE - A woman walks across a river bed in Jalingo, Nigeria.

In the wake of Nigeria’s historic presidential election, people across the country are celebrating by going for very long walks.

It’s called trekking, and it’s the latest way to commemorate the outcome of this year's unprecedented elections in Nigeria, which saw the president fail to win re-election for the first time since the country returned to democracy in 1999.

People are walking from all over, for all kinds of reasons. There’s a man trekking from the middle belt state of Taraba to outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan’s home state of Bayelsa to present him with an award for stepping down peacefully.

Numerous trekkers

Another man is taking an 800-kilometer walk from the northeastern city of Maiduguri to the capital Abuja to congratulate Muhammadu Buhari, the former military ruler who defeated Jonathan and will take office at the end of the month.

And there’s a woman walking from the southeastern city of Enugu to Abuja, a distance of about 440 kilometers, as a show of national unity.

Sulaiman Hashimu hoofed it 750 kilometers from Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos to Abuja. Hashimu said the decision was sparked by a debate among friends over who loved Buhari more.

“So when we were arguing over election and love of Buhari, this one would say, 'I love Buhari more than you,' I will say, 'I love Buhari more than you,'" said Hashimu. "And so that lead us to be promising, everybody is promising his own that if Buhari should win the election, 'I’m gonna sell my things, give it out to people,' some people will say. 'I’m going to give my cars out to some people free of charge.' So then, I don’t say anything, I don’t have much with me, I don’t know what to promise.”

So, Hashimu said he’d walk to Abuja if Buhari won. Two years later, he did, and met the president-elect when he arrived in the capital last month.

Few of the trekkers arrived empty handed. Abubakar Dudu Wali walked about 750 kilometers from the northeastern city of Yola to Abuja. He said he became something of a messenger service for the people he passed along the road.

Many messages

He said on his way from Adamawa, the state that Yola is in, he received several messages from people. He received about 400 letters that people asked him to give to Buhari.

Dudu’s in the capital now, waiting to see the president-elect.

But why walk? Sani Ibrahim Maimasara has an answer. He’s on the road from the northern city of Zaria to Gombe in the northeast to congratulate the governor there, the only one loyal to Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party to keep his job among Nigeria’s northern states.

The governor’s a busy man, but surely he’ll take time to meet a supporter of Jonathan’s party who walked more than 480 kilometers to see him, said Maimasara.

“But I decide to do that just to call his attention to me, so that he know," he said. "Say he have many people in this country, not only Gombe State. So if I do that, it’s very easy for me to see him to know me.”

When he spoke to VOA, Maimasara was on the outskirts of the city of Bauchi, 192 kilometers from his goal.

Ubale Musa contributed reporting from Abuja, Nigeria.