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Column No.6: Making sense of needless senselessness

I have always been wary of the Abuja-Kaduna train service. From day one, I have always avoided it, and have always made my feelings about it…

I have always been wary of the Abuja-Kaduna train service. From day one, I have always avoided it, and have always made my feelings about it clear. I simply didn’t trust the route, with my reservations being mainly security-related. As time went on, my worries slowly began to be validated, as reports began to trickle of projectiles being hurled at a passing train, which later became reports of actual bullets fired at the coaches. It was clear, even to a daft person, that someone or some people were ‘testing waters’. 

But the trains continued to go to and fro, with little or no worries at all, until last Monday, on the evening of March 28 when gunmen attacked a Kaduna-bound one, after an explosive went off and destroyed the tracks, causing a derailment. The terrorists then surrounded the carriages and opened fire, killing many, and subsequently abducting even more of the 970 passengers.

Now, some days before the horrific train attack on the Abuja-Kaduna line, a shocking attack had occurred in Kagoro LGA, in Southern Kaduna. Social media was awash with people mourning family members or friends. Some even shared photos, and there was even a list of victims being circulated. The pain expressed was raw, and palpable. I remember making a mental note to actively seek updates regarding the incident, and if anything would be done regarding the apprehension or even neutralization of the perps. 

But before I’d hit ‘save’ on that mental note, some days after that, news broke about the invasion of the runway of the Kaduna International airport by armed, motorbike-riding terrorists just as an Azman Air flight was about to commence. One person was killed, and a scary video soon circulated, cutting a picture of how terrifying it must have been for the passengers and crew of the airplane to witness the gun-wielding terrorists, two per motorbike, swarm around them. 

Now, there simply isn’t enough space to touch even the tip of this blood-covered iceberg, so I won’t attempt to go further back in memory. There are far too many disturbing elements of senselessness we need to look at, as individuals with human feelings, and as a nation. I’ll deal first with the personal, as I have a good number of friends and acquaintances who were on that ill-fated train. A friend’s son was grazed by a bullet, and almost bled to death. I have next-door neighbours who missed the same train and were deeply upset, only to find out that they literally escaped death. A young, newlywed bride was killed, and her husband taken. 

Bright, young Nigerians were cut down by bullets, while some bled to death on the way to the hospital. The tragedy is massive, on a scale that is immeasurable, for a wide spectrum of ordinary Nigerians who just want to live their lives and pursue their dreams. 

This leads directly into the torrents of senselessness that have been pummelling our collective senses since the train attack. Governor Nasir El-Rufai – looking the most vulnerable, exasperated, and mournful than I’ve ever seen him – made shocking statements while he condemned the attack, describing it rightfully as a ‘terrorist’ incident. The statements aren’t shocking because of the revelations contained within, but because nothing has been done in response. Absolutely nothing! Apparently, calls for a cessation of evening/night trips to or from Kaduna were made by a security committee, but the management of the railway felt “that would mean the terrorists have won”. 

When I read that, I thought deeply, and I have concluded that it’s the most sanctimonious, irresponsible, indefensible – and senseless – thing I’ve heard a government official say in my entire life. That Oga needs to be flogged publicly. Even if that would be the mildest of punishments for such tomfoolery, it would at least be a start. Then don’t let me begin on reported ‘intelligence reports’ of the movement of a large number of ‘bandits’ towards Kaduna. The damning info is everywhere you look!

As it stands now, while the train service is being fixed for at least two weeks, there is no option that can put the minds of travellers at rest. The airport can be overrun by ‘bandits’, while the roads are still prone to attacks at any given time. In other words, we can’t have peace of mind going anywhere on Planes, Trains, or Automobiles (apologies to John Hughes’ who directed the famous 1987 movie). Yes, the subsequent operations by security personnel give hope and are commendable, but we need to be proactive, not reactive. 

It is high time our political leadership grows a spine and jerks up the security agencies and rallies everyone to put all hands on deck to solve this problem of needless senselessness, once and for all. To wrap this up – and I’m writing directly to President Muhammadu Buhari – the president should bring order to his cabinet, and even his entire administration: No more placid statements way after the fact; No more grammar-laden grandstanding of being on top of the situation, and definitely no more epic blame-trading or buck-passing. Too many lives are being lost, while the dark clouds of ‘banditry’ are blowing too close to the centre. We simply can’t afford to let things fall apart. We can’t derail. Not now, not ever.

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