When I just joined Twitter, or say, when I just realised how to use the very complicated micro-blogging platform, one of the phrases I came in contact with is “Everything in Nigeria will Kill You”. I think someone also had a chapter in his book titled that. It is one shocking fact that is hard to put away – one that all indices in the country support clearly. It is worrisome to say the least, it is even disturbing as one lives this reality daily. This reality pits Nigerians and all that they hold dear against an evil that seems it will never go away.
As usual, filled with enthusiasm, I packed my bags and headed to Enugu as we continue to work towards ending Female Genital Mutilation in Nigeria. I was filled with the joy of another learning opportunity – opportunity to learn lessons from others working in various states, the excitement of sharing our side of the story in Ekiti State and by extension, the south west. I also saw the opportunity to see what the south east looks like after the brouhaha that followed the Operation Python Dance.
It was not my first sojourn into the region. It would be my second after East 101. My first trip to Enugu was beautiful – new food, new tongue, new people. It was going to be my second – an opportunity to build on the first beautiful impression I had, an orgasmic feeling I wanted again.
Akure is a beautiful place in its right and one of the interesting thing about it is the easy access that you have to all other parts of the country. It gives me pleasure to travel outside Akure by road. The chance to see people, interact with them and learn one or two things about Nigeria. The journey from Akure was near perfect until we got to the Benin-Asaba road and ran into a gridlock. Everyone thought there had been an accident or that one of the many trailers on the road had broken down or that a part of the road had gone bad – these are the usual suspects for traffic lock down in our dear country.
It will amaze you to learn that the gridlock was caused by men of the Nigerian Army who narrowed all the vehicles to a single file (for whatever reason, I always believe that when security check points are mounted, they are essential unless when used as collection points for money). Just as we were been passed to move on, we heard a gun shot and people in the vehicle were enveloped by fear. A soldier, one of the men at the check point, had shot into the air for no reason. For no reason.
A man paid to protect the people sent shivers down their spines for no reason and then I imagined what if people who respond badly to shocks were on that road, a Nigerian soldier would have caused more harm for such person without provocation. Tell me again if Nigeria doesn’t want Nigerians dead.
The journey continued without any funny incident but every kilometre covered reminded me of the horrible road between Onitsha and Awka, then the Awka to Enugu road. The fear of what to encounter there frightened me after every thought of it.
In 2016, when I visited Awka for a week long social impact programme by the Editorial CDS of Awka NYSC, I saw the bridges built by Obiano and the machineries on the Onitsha-Awka road. I returned to Akure singing the praises of Gov. Willie Obiano and told my people that truly Obiano is Working. However, since I have not heard nor read the news of the commissioning of the road, my fear became stupefying.
I never knew all along that I was not alone. On ascending the Niger bridge in Onitsha, people began murmuring about the state of the road ahead in mockery of the posters that littered everywhere talking about Willie. I was not only shocked but filled with disappointment when I saw that the state of the road had gone from bad to worse in just a year. The shame of a road sandwiched between Onitsha and the bridges of Obiano in Awka. It ridicules the achievements of Mr Gov as advertised on TVs. Then I wondered, why lie about these things? An irony? A billboard of Willie’s conferment of a chieftaincy title stands at the end of one of the bridges, just after a very bad portion of the road. Then an Obiano is Working branded bus drove through the muddy road slowly to avoid skidding off its lane. The shame that governance is in Nigeria.
It didn’t get any better as the journey progressed. A part of the Awka-Enugu road is in a state where no vehicle can ply it again, at least, for the rainy season. Many trailers loaded with goods are trapped on that road.
As usual, Nigerians would always find their ways out of the death trap set for them by Nigeria but the question is always “are there better alternatives”? There are always alternatives, always, but are they in any way better? Improved service or convenience? The answer remains NO, for now.
The alternative route from Awka to Enugu is an abandoned bridge where only one vehicle can pass at a time. This route is not good enough for bicycles let alone cars or buses. This route that Nigerians have come to accept as their alternative is nothing but a disaster in waiting. This alternative route is now a commercial centre as hawkers have shifted their base here and they have been joined by a gang of young men who smoke and consume alcohol while they work as Toll fee collector and traffic officers. This sad occurrence is possible because Nigeria (Federal and State) have decided to allow her human capital base continue to degenerate.
The above scenario replayed itself in about 4 places on the Kabba-Ikare-Ado axis. Yes, when I was returning for fear of travelling that horror of a road again, we were advised to travel through Nsukka to Okene road.
It is shameful to admit that the alternate route gave me more nightmare than the first. I was dazed when I heard that the Iyamoye-Omuo road was not motor-able at the time and we detoured to the Kabba-Ikare-Owo road. This road was like a “Copy and Paste’’ version.
Nigerians were travelling through thick forests and filled with fear. No one knows what lies ahead and people coming from the other end were asking what lies ahead of them. I saw Nigerians sharing hope with one another. Drivers telling one another to proceed with caution and saying words of prayers for one another. For more than 4 hours, I couldn’t concentrate on anything, not even the silent prayers I was saying for myself and the nation. Not even on the prayer for the businesses of Nigerians that have taken big hits because trailers carrying their merchandise are either trapped in some muddy forest or the many others that have fallen on one another. It was a shame, a distasteful look. One wondered again and again, why do we have leaders and people who care less about our well being and derive joy from sending us to early graves through avoidable deaths.
It beats me how people who we elect from amongst us continue to act like these problems don’t exist and continue to live in opulence when 99% of the nation is enveloped in untold hardship.
It is beyond my comprehension how Nigeria continues to put us in impossible positions yet expect us to remain together in peace. It confounds me how Nigeria treats us as slaves in our own country yet want us to develop and compete with others favourably in the next three years.
Again, more than ever, the road trip showed me that the citizens can not afford to always stay in the background when matters that affect them are discussed. We must go beyond all the divides to raise our voice and take actions that will give us a better life.
We can not afford to leave our lives in the hands of a few group of people who have equated us to pawns in their chess game of money and politics.