Hassan Ladan and Adam Kamla
In the late hours of February 17, we decided to visit one of the university’s Special Force Guard, Manato Dastu.
Our lecturer had challenged us to go out in search of heart-touching stories and situations that demand immediate intervention.
That’s what took us into the fringes of the campus.
While Mr. Dastu’s name may not ring a bell in the AUN community, the old man plays a strategic role in keeping the university safe.
As soon as we drove close to his post at the womb of the forest; tucked away from the bustling and glitzy campus life, we were suddenly warned to keep off by the “woof-woof,” “arf-arf,” “ruff-ruff, and "bow-wow,” barks of the many dogs that live with the elderly man.
The snarling noises made by the dogs almost stopped the flow of blood on our delicate veins but we were not ready to flee.
We were determined to see how the elderly security man survives in the bush with his many canines’ friends.
Apparently, curious and disturbed, Mr. Datsu, came out and surveyed the environment just as we drove into the open space close to his duty post.
On seeing us, he smiled dryly, made a hissing sound and instantly, some of the dogs kept quiet and he asked us to come close.
But a few of the dogs disobeyed their boss and kept barking, though feebly.
We were shocked the old man lives in such a forlorn location with so many dogs and perhaps dangerous snakes and wild animals.
Carefully and with discretion, Mr. Datsu approached our vehicle and immediately recognised us as students of the university.
At that point all the dogs were quiet. Possibly because their boss’ body language was welcoming.
He walked us into his little work post, where he was roasting a bush meat on a fireplace.
It looked like a cane rat popularly called “Grasscutter,” a major delicacy in many parts of Nigeria.
He didn’t have seats to offer us and so when he ushered us in, we politely asked him to take the only white plastic chair available at the security post.
As we talked with him, we noticed how frail he is. Apparently, he is not feeding well and that’s why he resorted to hunting rodents to eat.
Curious, we asked why he would rather go for the bush meat when there are varieties to pick from the cafeteria and the coffee shop.
He stared blankly at the meat blistering from the fireplace and looked straight at us before replying in a very sad voice.
“You know AUN doesn’t give us food. This is what we eat to stay alive here,” Mr. Datsu replied, pointing to the meat on the fire.
“The dogs are given fair treatment compared to us, ask the dogs,” he said with a straight face.
Although it wasn’t funny, we laughed all the same and asked him to be serious and tell us why he preferred hunting bush meat for food instead of coming out to eat good food served at the expansive cafeteria on campus.
But Mr. Datsu insisted he wouldn’t go looking for wild animals to eat if he had a choice.
From his countenance, we knew he wasn’t a happy man but there was nothing we could do to help him.
As we bid him farewell, we were overcome with pity and wondering why the university’s special force was left to fend for themselves when there is just so much food and even leftovers to be throwaway or fed to dogs.
Possibly, it could be due to the remote location where they work to ensure the university community is safe and where they tend to the several guard dogs deployed for the security of life and property on campus.
Looking through the rearview mirror as we drove away, we saw the elderly man wave goodbye and bend to take a piece of meat from the fire.
We felt his pain, his loneliness and frustration.
“I am no superhero or dog whisperer,” Hassan said.
“The thought of living amongst individuals, who can’t afford a decent square meal in a day bothers me a lot.”
As we left that security post, we knew all is not well with some members of our beloved community.
While it was interesting watching Mr. Datsu prepare a mouthwatering grass cutter, we realised the animal doesn’t just come surrendering itself to him to be killed and prepared for food every day.
Sadly, he had mentioned one of his colleagues known to most students and faculty as “Papa” or “Pape.”
Pape lost the battle for his life after a failed procedure at fixing his busted appendicitis.
Although it might not be entirely true, Mr. Datsu had blamed Pape’s condition to the sand, pebbles, and other objects he ingested in the poor food he was eating.
According to the elderly man, the impurities got lodged in Pape’s vital organ causing it to burst internally and killed him before a failed attempt at surgery.
Since we couldn’t do anything for Pape, we could at least do something to ensure our special forces are treated well and they enjoy a minimum level of comfort while discharging their duties.
This is exactly why we went all the way to visit Mr. Datsu. We believe he and his colleagues are great members of our community and they deserve better treatment than they currently have.