I have not fully recovered from last week Monday’s terror attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train. This is because I was on that same train on September 23, last year. I had boarded the train at Idu in Abuja at 7am in the company of the CEO of Africa Resource Centre For Excellence in Supply Chain Management, ARC_ESM, Azuka Okeke and a pharmacist, Linus Odoemene, a former National Coordinator of the National Product Supply Chain Management Programme, NPSCMP. We went for the signing ceremony of a partnership agreement between Kaduna State Government and local pharmaceutical companies in Nigeria for the supply of essential commodities to Health facilities at the last mile facilitated by ARC_ESM.
Prior to that day, the last time I boarded a train was in the early 1990s on the Agbado-Iddo, Lagos mass transit train and those experiences are better forgotten than being recounted here. But I was pleasantly surprised with my experience on the Abuja-Kaduna train. Sitting comfortably in the fully air-conditioned first-class coach with only a handful of other travelers was a delight. Few minutes after leaving Abuja, I became hungry and I ordered Sharwama with a cup of coffee. It was the same experience two days later for the return journey back to Abuja.
But the same train since last week Monday has become a source of sorrow to many families in the country- no thanks to terrorists that have vowed to cripple movement in and out of Kaduna State. The first-class coach that I used for the return trip was the same coach where the terrorists targeted and many of the occupants were either killed or abducted and have not been found till today. The comfortable coach where I had breakfast was turned to a theatre of blood and sorrow. The victims could have been me, or anyone.
The Abuja-Kaduna train service became popular of recent when terrorists took complete control of the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway. Traveling on that road at any time is like passing through a death valley. Terrorists there are the lord of the manor and could strike at any time. Traveling by air is also not advisable as the road from the Kaduna Airport to the Kaduna metropolis is very dangerous, with several black spots along the route. Kidnappers pick innocent travelers there daily. Tired of waiting to pick the now evasive travelers on their way out of the airport, the Kaduna Airport itself was targeted two days before the Kaduna-Abuja train was bombed out of its tracks. Though there was an exchange of gunfire during which a security agent was killed, the terrorists succeeded in passing a message to the traveling public- you are not safe travelers as we can strike at any time.
The railway that appeared to be safer and the preferred mode of transportation to Kaduna State has now been crippled by these terrorists, said to be between the ages of 16 and 18 years. Nigeria has become a sad tale of death and sorrow. Yet we elected a retired general to lead us and save the country from the descent to the abyss in 2015. With what seems to be an overwhelmed security force, who will save Nigeria from these terrorists?
Nigerians have never had it so bad. In the last 15 years, the security situation in the country has been on a downward slope. It began with the emergence of the Boko Haram sect in Maiduguri, Borno State, under the late Yusuf Mohammed who came with the idea of having a group of ‘pious’ Muslims that would follow the Qur’an and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammed and live a just and beautiful life devoid of sin and far away from the practices of the ‘unbelievers’, especially the acquisition of their western education. With his fierce peaching, he was able to attract many idle hands into his fold while a section of the elite who are convinced that his call was noble funded the group. A commissioner in Borno State actually resigned to join the group. According to Yusuf, they are not after the material things of this world but the promised benefits that would accrue to them in the ‘hereafter’. However, Yusuf soon ran into trouble with the authorities and rather than handle the issue dispassionately, he was extra-judicially executed by the Police. His supporters went underground and the crisis in Libya soon gave the group easy access to weapons from North Africa.
The deteriorating security situation in the country was one of the campaign issues during the 2015 presidential election that swayed victory in favour of President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired General, who promised to end their nefarious activities and whom many believed had the capability to turn things around in the country, security-wise. Buhari, however, in the last seven years, has turned out to be a big disappointment to many. Under his watch, a sizable part of the country has become a no-go area for many citizens.
The United State of America, just last week, advised its citizens not to visit seven states in Nigeria. States such as Yobe, Adamawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Niger, Zamfara, Sokoto and Borno which are reportedly under the control of bandits that now kidnapped people at will for ransom or kill them at the drop of a hat has forced many farmers to abandon their farmlands. There is no single day in the country now that there are no sad tales of abduction and kidnapping for ransom. It is now a multi-billion naira business. In the South-West, kidnapping for ransom and for money-making rituals are the order of the day. To kill a human being is like killing a fowl in the country now. We have gradually sunk to the Orwellian era where life is short, brutish, and nasty.
When you live home in the morning, there is no guarantee that you will return safely at night. Yet, we have a retired General in control in Nigeria. After any sad occurrence, our Commander-in-Chief would call his service chiefs to a meeting and at the end of the meeting, his spokesperson would come up with a statement that the C-in-C has given marching orders to his security chiefs to deal ruthlessly with the terrorists. They would condole the families of those that have lost their loved ones and the whole nation awaits the next incident with apprehension.
Indeed, with the high recurrence of these sad events, Nigerians are no longer shocked by the spate of killings. The abnormal has now become normal. It was no surprise then, when many lawmakers in the House of Representatives called on the government to allow Nigerians to carry guns to defend themselves. Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai has threatened to hire mercenaries from foreign countries to take on the terrorists. The military who are allocated several billions of naira every year to defend the country cannot even defend themselves. Several military formations and security spots have been attacked and many of our soldiers killed. In a saner clime, the president should have resigned long ago, but not in Nigeria.
His spokesperson, Femi Adesina reminded us last week that Nigeria is at war as if many of us don’t know that already. It would have been better if he told us what his principals have done in the last seven years to win the war and those things that have prevented our C-in-C from dealing a deadly blow to the terrorists that are bent on taking over the reign of government from his principal. If the C-in-C is not getting the desired results from his service chiefs, why hasn’t he diagnosed what could be responsible? How many of the service chiefs have been sacked for lack of competence? Nigerians are now praying fervently for May 2023 to come quickly so that perhaps we would get a new set of people that would be able to deal with the mess we created for ourselves before it is too late.
Unfortunately, we know what we should do to tackle the problem of banditry and terrorism in the North but the pecuniary gains getting to our leaders and their selfish interests won’t allow them to think straight. What is the big deal in ensuring that we send all our children to school and make education at the primary and secondary school levels free and compulsory in Nigeria? What is the big deal in providing jobs for idle hands in the North and all over the country once we succeed in providing constant electricity? Is it rocket science that we needed to cut off the supply of weapons from North Africa and other places to these marauding terrorists? Our leaders should be proactive and not delude themselves that they are safe inside the Aso Rock or at their various government houses. If we fail to do the right things by tackling the rot in our educational sector in the country, we are already on our road to Afghanistan. Tertiary education has been crippled by ASUU and the education minister is having a sound sleep at night. A president that still believes and is ready to spend billions of naira in identifying and remapping cattle routes across the country and would allow his children to herd cattle from morning till night through those routes; who has shown disdain for farming as those cattle would find their way to people’s farms instead of the modern-day practice of cattle ranching is not a government meant for the 21st century. Obviously, we failed with our choice of leadership in 2015 – we should all cover our heads in shame. That we must get it right next year if we intend to get our country back from these terrorists goes without saying. May the souls of those killed in the unfortunate Kaduna train attack rest in peace while we pray to God for the safe release of those still in the captivity of the terrorists. Amen.
See you next week.