Harmattan on the Plateau: Why Jos housewives love the season
Even before the coming of harmattan, the city of Jos is relatively colder that most parts of the country given its location on a plateau. ISAAC SHOBAYO writes that the season brings with it interesting issues that change the residents’ lifestyles.
HARMATTAN is a season many love to hate in the northern part of the country. The degree of its intensity varies from one state to another but it is more pronounced in Plateau State. The coldness of the weather at times could be likened to winter; this gives credence to why the state capital, Jos, right from the colonial times has been a delight for tourists, expatriates and missionaries. This season of the year, spanning late November to March of every year has it advantage and disadvantages. However, many residents of Jos believe that the negative effects far outweigh its benefits on human life.
Interestingly, the degree of coldness in Plateau State varies from one local government area to another. It is often more felt in Jos North, Jos South, Jos East, Riyom, Barakin-Ladi and Pankshin than any other council areas in the state.
From all indications, harmattan affects people’s lifestyles – their modes of dressing, social lives, health and business. It has become a norm during this season that many don’t observe conventional dressing codes. People dress in different, funny ways just to protect themselves from cold. Traders, tricycle operators, hawkers, including civil servants among others often dress in outlandish ways bordering on the comic.
Some put on about three to four dresses to protect themselves; some people could even be mistaken for masquerades.
In addition, residents now go out with ointments and petroleum jelly which they apply on their lips and hands to tackle the dryness that comes with the season. While quite a lot of people detest the weather, other categories of people like businessmen and women and traders who deal in clothing materials, such as second- hand clothes, jackets and sweaters, hand gloves, blankets, winter jackets, panty hose, turtleneck clothes.
Those selling tea and bread by the roadsides and other open places like motor parks are also not left out of the brisk business. They enjoy more patronage at this period than any other time.
Ibrahim Danladi who has a tea shop along old Bukuru Park in Jos North Local Government Area of the state while speaking with Sunday Tribune said customers often throng his shop more during this season because of harmattan, adding that many the customers simply want to get warm, hence they settle for hot tea and bread at any time of the day.
Another beverage seller, often referred to as ‘Maishayi,’ Hamisu Babale declared that “business is good and booming. Since this harmattan started more than a month ago, my stand has witnessed more customers than before. Though the harmattan is quite disturbing, yet I am satisfied, I make money more now than before.”
When Sunday Tribune visited both Terminus and Katako markets where second hand clothings are sold, most of the traders have changed to the sale of jackets and sweaters and other materials that could ward off the cold weather. Buyers in their number had on this day thronged the markets to pick their choice.
One of the traders told Sunday Tribune that the markets are always beehives in the morning when people are going to their places of work and in the evening while returning adding that quite a number of the traders had switched to the sale of winter jackets and others thick clothing during this period because they are in high demand.
One of the traders who simply called himself Salisu, when asked of the class of people who patronise him said: “You can see for yourselves, different categories of people patronise us. Most of those cars parked outside (pointing to a row of cars) belong to our customers. Moreover, how many people can afford the clothes displayed in boutiques? In a day, I open two bails of winter jackets and sell most of them.”
According to him, “most of those you see here did not just come to buy for themselves alone, they are as well buying for their children in schools to protect and keep them warm from cold,” adding that “it is better to prevent the cold than to fall prey of pneumonia.”
Nightlife has also reduced drastically, as most of the open joints where civil servants, artisans and others cluster to socialize at the end of work every day are not fully patronised while the few who still come around don’t stay beyond 9:00 pm. West of Mines, Polo Roundabout and other rendezvous within the state capital are presently deserted.
A prominent socialite who has a joint in West of Mines junction who did not want her name in print told Sunday Tribune that her outlet which normally closes for business around 1:30 am now close by 10:00 pm due to low patronage.
“We are used to it, this is how it has always been during harmattan, but some still come around to take pepper soup and one or two bottles of beer and return to their houses as early as possible,” she said.
The harsh weather has also forced residents to regulate their movement. Night crawling has reduced drastically, as residents round up their daily activities fast enough to return home by 6pm. Sunday Tribune findings revealed that most of the major roads within Jos metropolis are often disserted, the moment it is 7:00 pm.
Families have also resorted to the use of electric room warmer in order to sleep comfortably. Those who cannot afford electric room warmer go for charcoal which they light and place in the centre of the room. Those who take alcohols at night now go for exotic gin, whisky, rum, vodka and the like. Sale of beer in contrast is witnessing its lowest patronage.
A group of housewives who spoke with Sunday Tribune, especially those whose husbands keep late night or hardly get their attention said they preferred and would have wanted the cold weather to continue unabated if possible. According to the women, during this season their spouses stay at home more.
One of them who would not like to be identified said jokingly: “most of these men that keep late night are forced to come home on time due to the severe harmattan. So one wouldn’t mind if the weather can continue but this could result in unwanted pregnancies.”
Sunday Tribune investigations also revealed that the weather is affecting both the Christian and Muslim faithful. Some Muslim worshippers said the cold weather is affecting them as they often find it difficult to go to attend the early morning prayers. Churches have also adjusted their time of service to enable more members attend services especially on Sunday mornings.
Flight in and out of Jos is often disrupted during this season as they record changes and cancellations from time to time. A passenger who spoke on condition of anonymity at Yakubu Gowon Airport said “my flight was rescheduled about four times in a row and at the end of the day I had to fly from Abuja instead of Kaduna because of so much delay and uncertainty of the weather.”
According to health experts, there is often an increase in the emergence of some chest and respiratory infections at this time.
Gideon Danlami, a physician said Harmattan usually comes with dryness and dust because there is little amount of water in the atmosphere (low humidity) adding that this increases the spread of infections or cases of dry skin, cold, cough, catarrh, asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia.
According to him, asthmatic patients should take a lot of care to protect themselves by wearing nose masks during this period because of the harmattan dust.
“The weather can be very cold during harmattan, so it is very important to wear insulating clothing to keep warm. Remedies include lots of fruits and vegetables with Viatmin C to help boost immunity and protect from other infections. Steaming and warm drinks such as tea can also help.
“Another is dry skin, this is when the skin appears and feels dry and rough due to the absence of moisture. It is a condition that is common during harmattan. To prevent these very uncomfortable feelings, avoid using very harsh soaps, apply moisturisers frequently on the skin that can protect the skin from dryness and drink lots of water,” he said.
Unfortunately, no condition is permanent and the only constant thing is life is change. A couple of weeks down the line, the weather will change again giving rise to a different lifestyle and for residents of Jos. Just like humans in other climes, life must go on, even on the plateau.