The road to hell is paved with good intentions and for years now, one of Nigeria`s most notorious roads, the Abuja-Kaduna expressway, has continued to capture the terrified imagination of Nigerians.
When travelers ply the road, eager to arrive at their destinations for business, social engagements, visits with loved ones or whatever, devious criminals jump out of the bush and spatter blood on one of Nigeria`s most iconic highways.
Abuja, Nigeria`s capital, is also its `Centre of Unity’. It hosts Aso Rock, the seat of the presidency as well as the National Assembly, Nigeria`s highest law- making authority. The Supreme Court, Nigeria`s highest court, also sits in Abuja.
Kaduna State is Nigeria`s ‘Centre of Learning’. The State disproportionately hosts many of Nigeria`s premier citadels of learning. Some of the schools include the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Air Force Institute of Technology, Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology, Nigerian Army School of Military Police, Nigerian Military School, Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Nigerian Army School of Legal Services, Nigerian Navy School of Armament, Nigerian School of Artillery, Nigerian Defence Academy to mention but a few.
Is it then not brutally ironic that a road between two of Nigeria`s most iconic cities has become a highway of blood, a veritable axis of evil?
Nigeria`s topsy-turvy journey to become a country with its own soul has now taken sixty-one years and still counting. In these sixty-one years, there have been a civil war, military coups, massacres of communities and protesters, and all manner of upheavals. Somehow, the country has survived, albeit with varying degrees of injury.
Since 2009, Nigeria`s porous security edifice has been coming apart stone by stone. In 2009, Boko Haram decided to go full throttle at the Nigerian state after years of playing hide and seek.
What has happened in the country in the face of the sect`s relentless onslaught is a sobering tale of the relentless evil that terrorism is and the incalculable damage it can wrought to men and minds. If Boko Haram`s terrorism was the precursor of Nigeria`s nightmarish insecurity, banditry has proven its destructively capable contemporary.
Kaduna State may not have been the cradle of banditry in Nigeria – that honour must go to Zamfara State. However, if Zamfara State was its cradle, Kaduna State, Nigeria`s ‘centre of learning’, has since become its kiln – a place where the bandits learn just how weak the Nigerian state is and are hardened to assault it.
It is in Kaduna State that the bandits have refined their tactics, reinventing in perversely innovative ways the chilling mechanics of banditry.
Again, it is savagely ironic that the bandits have targeted schools of all levels in Nigeria`s ‘center of learning’. They have struck higher institutions, secondary schools and primary schools, marching away students for ransom, and holding them for many, manydays.
On August 24, 2021, bandits plucked their courage and fell upon the Nigerian Defence Academy in Kaduna. In their wake, two Nigerian soldiers lay dead while one was abducted. He was later rescued but the attack tolled alarm bells across the country forcing many to fear for what could happen to the shell of the soft shell turtle if the shell of the iron snail could be so easily cracked.
Their raids have continued in Kaduna State as well as in Niger State where the bandits have taken over entire communities, abducting people and advising their relations to sell their farm produce to pay ransom.
Yet, it would appear that the killers have some adamantine apologists among Nigerians. While many Nigerians including speakers of the thirty-six State Houses of Assembly and the Kaduna State Governor, cried out for the bandits to be declared terrorists so that the tactics deployed against them could be altered dramatically, crafty but ultimately empty arguments were proffered to delay the inevitable. It is a step in the right direction that the Federal Government has finally come to its senses on that.
Banditry has become a real thorn in Nigeria`s side, one that draws blood every other day. Nigerians can no longer travel safely or even live freely in their own country without having to perpetually fear the blood thirsty criminals.
The Abuja-Kaduna expressway has become a favourite spot for their attacks and Nigerians must now rally. It is not just corruption or economic insecurity that threatens the unity of the country. Insecurity is a far more serious threat albeit one accentuated by the twin ills of corruption and economic hardship.
What is happening on the Abuja- Kaduna expressway forebodes what may yet engulf the entire country unless banditry and its sponsors are checked.
Mr. Muhammadu Buhari became Nigeria`s President in 2015.He did not bring insecurity to the country.In fact, as at the time he assumed office, insecurity was already a goliath staring down the country, and defying the Nigerian army across battle lines boldly etched in the North-east. But while campaigning before the 2015 and 2019 elections, Mr. Buhari made Nigerians believe he had a sling full of stony surprises for insecurity. Coming from someone like him, a former military president, Nigerians took his words with more than a pinch of salt.
Now, half a dozen years down the line, and well into his second term in office, Nigeria`s security situation has dramatically changed – for the worse. What is eminently frustrating for Nigerians is the sense that Mr. Buhari`s government prefers to chase mice while its house burns. While the government treats banditry with kid gloves, other groups whose railings against the Nigerian state are nothing more than the rantings of ants attract the severity of a sledgehammer. It is beyond scandalous that a road that leads to a nearby state from Nigeria`s capital has become the lair of killers.
As Minister of the Federal Capital Territory under Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria`s President from 1999 to 2007, Mr. Nasir El-Rufai gripped public imagination with his all-action, no-nonsense style of administration which ultimately transformed Abuja by implementing the Abuja Master Plan and in the process sweeping away the many illegal eye sores that dotted the city.
Today, Mr. El-Rufai as Governor of Kaduna State divides opinion like hot knife through butter. A state known for its harsh religious, ethnic and political sensibilities- having been the theatre of many bloody clashes -was always going to prove an acid test for the leadership credentials of the former FCT Minister. On multiple occasions, his words and actions have abandoned many of his people while ramping up the tension in one of Nigeria`s most volatile states. Today, the road leading to the country`s capital from his state has become a trap for killers.
Urgent action must be taken for unless the hyenas who prowl the Abuja-Kaduna road to kill and abduct travelers are tamed, they will take over the entire country.