IDZIA AHMAD: A METEOR, A VAGRANT ARAB
As my brother, Idzia was his brother's keeper. I will never forget how he ran to my apartment one early morning after the news broke on one of those bloody orgies for which Northern Nigeria has become infamous.
He had been sent by his oldest sister and her daughter to ensure that I was not planning to run to the East, and to inform me of the arrangements they were making to pack my books over to their home. When I assured
him that I was very actively interested in the violent developments of the day and therefore had no intention to run, Idzia brought up a Plan B in which his niece had got her parents to agree to my sharing a section
of their sprawling bungalow with Idzia.
"My niece is worried, Obiwu, that your house is so lonesome on the outskirts. Nobody will know if you are attacked here."
Idzia said that if I did not go with him to see his family, no one would believe he actually came to see me. Only those who knew Idzia can understand his insistence. I went with him to the aroma of some hot meal the whole family seemed to have had a hand in preparing. When they realized I was not going to be dissuaded from going back, Idzia accompanied me back to my apartment. He took only his diary notebook and an American songbook. He had no extra pants, yet Idzia spent the whole week with me.
Everyone in his family called him Carlos, though all his writer-friends knew him by his middle name, Idzia (often miss-spelt as "Izzia"). As a young student, he was registered at the University of Jos as Carlos Ahmad. His oldest sister, a professor and former commissioner in the Plateau State government, is married to the oldest brother of the current Vice Chancellor of the University of Jos. Idzia was actually from the dreary Savannah town of Gudi, Southern Kaduna, in the area now carved out as Nassarawa State with parts of Plateau. It is because he grew up under his oldest sister, whose husband is from Plateau, that many of Idzia's peers came to associate him with Plateau. Being the kind of floating
genie he was, Idzia never bothered to explain to anyone. The borderlessness of the chimera and the meteor was well suited to his creative temperament, just as it was to Okigbo.
Idzia was, until his transition, a special assistant to the governor of Nassarawa State. Except that the governor was his friend, I am still trying to
understand what could have led him to participatory politics. But it would not be Idzia (a name made for poetry) if he did not surprise you. In one of his early letters to me, the venerable scholar and critic, Ben Obumselu, had described his career as that of "a vagrant Arab - today on this oasis, tomorrow on that sand dune." That appellation would comfortably fit the experience of Idzia, not only because his ethnic community is constantly threatened by the fanatical alliance of the Islamic Arab and the Hausa-Fulani, but also because his literary career is every bit mimetic of the restless quivering of his nomadic neighbors, the cattle Hausa-Fulani. This is the ambiguous life of Carlos Idzia Ahmad, a Nigerian born-again Christian and an accomplished writer with an Islamic Arab last name.
Wilberforce, Ohio, USA