By Rommy Mom esq
After the hearing of my case in the Makurdi High Court on the 9th of May 2013, I was billed to leave for Abuja on the 10th of May, 2013.
There were reports the previous day of tension on the Makurdi – Abuja route owing to the killings of about 44 Police Officers by militias 2days earlier in Nassarawa State. Vehicular movement was difficult owing to blockages on the road by their angry widows assisted by youths. As is the practice, the widows assisted by youths (read thugs) were ever ready to cause mayhem.
Given the deaths suffered by the police, and the fact that the resulting action, whether legal or illegal, was in sympathy with the police, the police were expectedly not interested. They were after all, mourning their reportedly 44 killed colleagues. Never mind that in good times the police are equally helpless.
On this Friday, 10th May 2013, I made the necessary calls, reasonably ascertained the route to Abuja from Makurdi was safe, packed my bags, and started the four hour drive to my home in Abuja.
The drive was smooth except for the rather heavy traffic I was driving against. Wondered aloud why the opposite traffic was heavy, but put it down to the weekend and folks leaving Abuja for deserved rest in their home states.
An hour and half into my journey on the outskirts of Akwanga, a town two hours to Abuja, I ran into motorists all parked and obviously anxious. I pulled to the shoulder of the road, and my worst fears were confirmed. The road was blocked.
The widows were back on the road and this time heavily fortified by armed thugs I was told. And so we waited hoping that by some miracle, we would continue our trip. I understood some other motorists were parked far ahead of us and we were in a very safe zone.
An hour into the wait, pandemonium broke, cars screeching and reversing as the hoodlums commenced violent acts of breaking vehicle wind screens and setting some ablaze. Yours truly of course did a deft U turn and headed back to Makurdi, stopping only after about 20 kilometers when I saw other vehicles parked at obviously a safe distance from Akwanga. About 100 vehicles were parked in the area. We commenced another wait.
This turned out to be a bad decision, very bad decision. Approximately 30 minutes into the wait, two truckloads of hoodlums arrived at break neck speed. Humans, thirsty for blood, militias, jumped out wielding axes, sticks, stones and a few locally made pistols and guns. One of those trucks parked right BESIDE my vehicle and about 30 yards from I was standing, hell broke loose.
People began running into the bush, while the hoodlums lashed at them; the sound of glass breaking as they smashed windscreens, screams of women and children; it was, in one word, terrifying.
It, for me, was the first time I was coming directly into such violence and seeing same, first hand.
I was rooted to the spot, could not move but stood watching everything, and noting everything. Only one thought crossed my mind. Dying a violent death is one thing I had always feared given living in Nigeria in recent times. For us who travel within the country so often, this has always been a fear I nursed. Now it seemed tp be coming true and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.
In the madness that was playing out, there was a sudden chill, when almost everyone ran into the bush except for a few of us including me. A dark spectacled Hoodlum approached me, ‘what are you still doing here?’ he barked. ‘I don’t know what’s going on,’ I heard myself answer. Suddenly there were three of them asking questions at the same time. I answered none. ‘Where is your car,’ they asked? I pointed to the Dark Honda, yards away, which was miraculously yet to be vandalized.
‘What do you think of the dead policemen?’ I was quizzed. ‘They should have been provided bullet proof vests and more importantly the authorities should have had a better plan,’ I said. One slammed his hand on my car and asked why I didn’t tell that to the government. The Chief amongst them (it seemed) yelled that I take my car and drive off. Mumbling words of appreciation, I got in the car, hoping they would not change their minds, turned the ignition and drove off shaken and sick to my stomach.
The point was made to me finally.
In the last 12 years of our democracy almost 800,000 Nigerians have died in such gruesome barbaric displays of violence for absolutely no fault of theirs, innocent people.
Government has been totally unable to provide its most basic obligation: security. It has progressively gotten worse in the last 3 years. This is the plight of Nigerians today. Harsh reality used to be, once you set out on a trip, you were anxious about bad roads, robbers and unscrupulous security agents. Now there is a new addition: Militias and hoodlums.
MEND, Boko Haram and OPC alongside a motley of violent groups, from Fulani herdsmen, to tribal warlords, have taken over the country. We live and breathe at their mercy while paying taxes to a non-functional government.
Of what relevance is Government in Nigeria one is tempted to ask? We dig our boreholes for water, buy Generators for power, employ Guardsmen for our homes for security, attend private hospitals when ill and send our kids to private schools for quality education.
Where then is the place of Government? Of what relevance is Government in Nigeria? The situation and challenge calls for a Leader who truly is passionate and has a vision for effecting positive change and not enriching himself, kinsmen and friends in situations where corruption is King, and the Rule of Law, nonexistent.
Until Nigeria is blessed with such a leader, the downward spiral continues.