It was a deep crater in the road, close to the post office on Shehu Laminu way, which brought home just what people have experienced in Maiduguri, in recent years.
The driver attached to me, Malam Ahmed, just perfunctorily told me as we entered the crater, that it formed as a result of the most recent bombing in Maiduguri. It killed many people! I spent a total of nine days in Maiduguri over the past two weeks.
I have not been back in the city for over a year, and as we drove into Maiduguri from the airport, two weeks ago, I could not stop myself from having that eerie feeling, as we passed several military checkpoints that dot the streets of this city of three million people.
That was exacerbated by the feeling I had that I might just be an easy target for an attacker as I was ferried around in a government vehicle. But after the first day, I began to learn to relax just like the residents who honestly feel safe in their city. And it was quite difficult not to feel same after a few days. There are regular traffic jams in the streets of Maiduguri and from all I could see around me, there was still a concerted effort to retain the economic life that Maiduguri used to be known for.
Before the commencement of the insurgency, Borno had been the marketplace for the neighbouring countries: Northern Cameroun, Niger Republic and Chad.
The people here just exemplify the resilience of the human spirit through how they have continued to reproduce the conditions to allow them to live as decent a life as their circumstances allowed for. I met brilliant young men who are building a career in IT and have excelled as software developers, who have expressed their skills in jobs they secured from very important institutions around our country; just as others were endeavouring to give back to society with entrepreneurial development projects.
I spent hours in the company of the ordinary person and those in the leadership of the state. My central take away was that there resides here 1, 200 years of history; such a long history could never have been just a lineal story of successes. Civilizations are about successes and failures; the moments of reverses and of despair; but in the long run, the community reproduces the conditions for its continued existence as a people and a civilization.
There is therefore the underlining thread that tragic as the present moment in Borno history is, it will also pass and this very accommodating and generous community will re-discover the path of peace and progress.
I enjoyed my stay so much that I want to get back soon as possible. And if it felt as peaceful as I found in Maiduguri, there was still no escaping the effects of the Boko Haram insurgency.
The city infrastructure is clearly straining, because more and more people escaping the scorched earth policies of the Boko Haram sect are coming to live within the relative security of Maiduguri. The traffic situation gives an indication of the fact, while each new day is greeted with reports of the senseless killings, the burning down of villages and the disruption of livelihood for the mass of poor people in those communities that have faced the rapacity of the Boko Haram sect. There are daily reports of the raising of the flag of the insurgency in various areas of the state.
This insurgency is clearly the greatest challenge that has confronted the Nigerian state since the tragic events of the 1960s, which culminated in the Nigerian Civil War. Our armed forces confront an asymmetrical challenge which can sap the morale, because it is not the type of warfare that was historically taught in military academies. But in the long run, it is a war that must be won so that all the hopes we are investing in building a society dedicated to confronting the scourges of underdevelopment can then truly be realized.
Those who rule us must find the common purpose to work together to put an end to the insurgency. Borno and Nigeria deserve this common purpose fast!.