KADUNA-ABUJA RAILWAY BOMBING: A NATION ON ITS KNEELS

Dr Samson R. Osagie

On Monday,  28th March 2022, news filtered into the media space of how a train heading to Abuja from Kaduna was bombed and passengers shot by terrorists.

This is not the first time such an incident is happening. In times past, commuters on the Abuja - Kaduna train have experienced similar attacks, although none has been of this magnitude.

The following day, Tuesday 29th, terrorists also attacked another train station still along the Kaduna - Abuja rail line. In the recent attack, among the casualties is a young, promising Dentist, Dr Chinelo Megafu, who is said to have concluded arrangements to emigrate from the country a few days before her untimely death. She was caught down in her prime alongside many others.

With these incidents, the concomitant impact on people's lives and the nation's political economy in tatters, I am tempted to say that even though Nigeria is not Ukraine, we have a "Russia" of problems shelling at us as a nation.

Samson Osagie
Samson Osagie

The objective conditions of the Nigerian State just now are beyond the ascription of blame to one political party, any particular political party or the President.  After all, cases of insecurity, biting economic conditions, corruption, indiscipline, and other vices have been our lot since independence, up to when we managed to democratize in 1999, and even to date.

The nation is on its knees, rudderless and almost shipwrecked.

Anyone pandering to partisanship at this moment while commenting on the current Nigerian situation must either be naive or is part of the problem. We must remember that we were individually born as Nigerians before those who chose partisan politics took the decision.

So, the question is: as a Nigerian do I cherish the gruesome killing of my countrymen, women, boys,  girls and children?  The answer is NO. Do I enjoy good living conditions amid millions of jobless family members, friends and youths? NO! Can we ignore the fact of the rising inflation and abject poverty in the land? NO!

In all honesty, the solutions to our national crisis don't lie in party affiliation or individuals in the political parties. According to Duro Fasakin, Nigeria's problems cannot be solved by personnel change in government houses or legislative assemblies but in the systemic overhaul of our political structure, criminalizing even the minutest malfeasance in government and in mobilizing the people for a new radical and comprehensive reform that will promote collective national interests above those of the privileged few.

The late Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kwuan Yew, while describing how Singapore emerged from an underdeveloped island nation out of Malaysia to become a success story, once noted that a few men came together to commit themselves to build a developed nation - which mission was to be the cause for which they were ready to die for. Today, Singapore is one of the go-to places for gluttonous African leaders for holidays rather than tutelage.  Where are the Lee Kuan Yews of Nigeria?

Sad enough, I have been part of the legislative governance of the country at the national and subnational levels of government from 1999 until 2015, both as a member of the opposition and the ruling party. Looking from outside the government arena now, I can see that there appears to be no change or hope on the horizon. If Nigeria was a patient years ago on general care, its ailment has since landed in the Intensive Care Unit.

Can anyone tell me what is working? The government's effort in infrastructural development pales into insignificance given the enormity of the challenges. In the last few years, the railway sector received a boost in terms of attention and investment by this government, although previous governments started the process. This has been at a significant cost to the country. Despite the enormous cost, recent developments in the sector have now made travelling by rail the most dangerous in Nigeria. Where did we get it wrong?

Could there have been forward-looking mechanisms to prevent this State of affairs? Yes, of course; the warning signals have been loud and audible for a long time, but we have played possum.

Amid grave insecurity, food prices have skyrocketed, electric power supply has remained elusive, thus seriously hurting small and medium scale businesses and making living conditions even more unbearable. Yet, the political class appears oblivious to this unfortunate and avoidable State of anomy.

Despair, disorder, unending conflicts and insecurity are now like the new normal. News of deaths, kidnapping, and banditry rent the air with each passing day. As if that is insufficient trauma for the populace, we have continued to witness irresponsible conduct among those occupying the top echelon of government, leaving one to wonder about their sense of patriotism and empathy.

A learned Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Dr Ehiogie West-Idahosa, captured the mood of a vast majority when he queried the response of the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi who tried to excuse the recent train bombing, citing non-procurement of digital security technology for the trains as the reason for the incessant attacks. In the view of the Learned Silk, which I fully agree with, "Procurement process has not stopped them from plundering the nation's resources in a manner never before seen. Where in the world would a serving Governor of the Central Bank have his face printed on posters and billboards with the insignia of a political party campaigning for the office of President without him vigorously denouncing such rubbish if (he is not part of the offensive campaign)? How can he be doling out funds for such unpatriotic & opportunistic fancy while pretending to be managing a dying economy? It's time to stop this irresponsible behaviour."

All over the entire spectrum of our governance architecture, what we see daily ranges from the bizarre to the absurd, and this has been so for decades. Yet, no one is held truly accountable. We cannot and should not continue like this!

What do we do? Can't we all pause and ask ourselves these questions: what has politics brought to our nation. Can we not seek to change the course of borrowing systems of government from Europe, America and Asia by looking inwards like China did and devise systems and processes that can best yield quicker outcomes that will take into account our local circumstances, abilities and potentials?

In Nigeria, we have abundant natural resources, particularly gas, which is the fundamental ingredient for industrial development.  We have huge arable land that, if well cultivated, can feed the entire continent of Africa.  Indeed, we have everything, including human resources, to drive development; but we lack patriotism, organization, integrity, justice, fairness, commitment to the rule of law, and love for the common good.  That explains why there are agitations for Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, Benin, Ibibio, Tiv, etc., President as if our nation's challenges understand any Nigerian dialect or language.

We cannot continue to lose lives and struggle in the most gruesome economic conditions and pretend that all is well on the altar of political correctness. In Nigeria, all is not well!

Entrepreneurs, professionals and competent members of the political class with strong patriotic dispositions must rise up to redirect the ship of the Nigerian State from avoidable catastrophe. They must stand up to be counted NOW before it's too late.

Dr Samson R. Osagie (ACIArb (UK) ) is a Legal Practitioner; Chairman, Africa Bar Association (Nigerian Forum) and Lecturer, National Institute of Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), Abuja.

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