LAST Sunday, I did the closest thing to playing Russian roulette: travelled by road from Ilorin to Kaduna, using the old road, via Mokwa. It was a nightmare. In fact, every road leading to Ilorin is so bad that people seemed to have given up hope of ever finding succour.
The approach from Lokoja through Kabba is impassable so people now go to Okene and then through Ekiti State. But since most traffic diverted to that route, the road is increasingly becoming difficult too.
In the meantime time, if one values his vehicle you would not attempt Abuja to Ilorin through Agaie-Lapai through Takuma to Mokwa or the other one through Minna to Bida which also bursts out at Mokwa.
Every travel is literally with heart in mouth; one wonders what will suffer most: the body or the machine, if delivered in one piece to destination! I almost died on the Mokwa stretch during a head-on collision with a trailer in 2000; it left me with a cracked skull and a multi-fractured femur which I continue to suffer from till today!
Well, I abandoned my flight ticket to Abuja, to travel with my family, using the old road. We left Ilorin at dawn and so bad was the road that it took us three and a half hours to reach Mokwa, which normally should be done in about one and a half hours. Eventually, we got to Kaduna, after ten and a half hours of driving. I recall that in 1990, using the Peugeot 504 GL, I left Kaduna at seven in the morning and we entered Kwara Polytechnic in Ilorin, at exactly 12noon! Twenty-one years down the line, we have regressed so badly in the quality of transportation infrastructure in our country.
The trip rekindled memories of when it was still relatively safe to travel, with towns that were constants of the landscape but have become difficult to reach: Tegina, Makera, Pandogari, Kagara, Birnin Gwari and Buruku; and breath-taking physical features that add up to the beauty that Nigeria potentially is. There are two national parks: the Kainji Lake National Park, a few kilometres off the Mokwa Road and the Kamuku National Park, close to Birnin Gwari.
They are not known to most Nigerians and would therefore not be patronized by our people. I know there is a campaign for tourism, with Olusegun Runsewe, ever so effusive. But I think the Nigerian philosophy of tourism is faulty from the onset, because there seems to be so much emphasis on foreign arrivals, with an eye on foreign currency.
But whoever has had the privilege of travelling around Nigeria (and I have been travelling alone since the age of 8), and has beholden the beauty and variety of flora, fauna and incredible sites, knows that tourism should have the patriotic philosophy of humanizing our country for our people to know and enjoy; not about foreigners and dollars, and often by extension, sex tourism, pedophilia and other negatives.
A patriotic platform of tourism should be part of an overall programme of national development: developed touristic sites all over the country, as much as we put resources into roads, railways, air and inland waterways infrastructure. It also assumes that Nigerians will be working hard to develop the national economy and improving national productive forces. When people work hard, they must also relax well and go on holidays. That is how national touristic sites will become productive all year round.
For example, those who live in upland areas of the North can get to enjoy the beauty of the sea and other fabulous sites in the South. While those who live by and see the waters of the sea each day, can come up North to enjoy the fabulous sites at Mambilla Plateau or Southern Borno. They will travel en-mass in trains which traverse diverse geographical zones, helping to teach practical lessons about the rich variety which our country possesses, while keeping economic activities around tourism alive!
Citizens, who get the opportunity to travel in efficient modes of transportation around their country, will learn about different cultures and people, breathing life into lessons taught in schools about history, geography and cultures of Nigeria. Such citizens are likely to love their country and would be willing to sacrifice for its continued greatness.
But today, check the internet and read how many individuals see the breakup of their country as solution to its problems, just as much as there are political and intellectual elites who do everything to delegitimize the country. Seventy percent of our entire population is under the age of 30, while 45 per cent is under 15!
Most of them have never travelled outside of their states. Nigeria, in their lived experience, has meant disappointments; infrastructure that do not function and an uncaring state ruled by a thieving ruling class. These young people often get the opportunity to travel only when called up for national service and recent killings during service have only deepened anti-patriotic feelings.
As we went through the tortuous trip between Ilorin and Kaduna, these were some of the thoughts that I wrestled with, visualizing, again, the incredible interconnectedness in the phenomena of social existence.
The Nigerian state appropriates huge sums for roads that have collapsed around the country; but in consequence, they limit the opportunities for people to travel to other parts of the country to deepen knowledge about their own country.
The anger which builds up against an uncaring state and its irresponsible ruling elite strengthens forces whose politics is about the division of Nigeria! For me, I came closest this weekend, to a grudging acceptance of the private sector (preferably national, but realistically, even foreign) to take up concessions to build and operate infrastructural services in Nigeria. The state which produced men of honour and ability like the late Chief Sunday Awoniyi; patriotic individuals who thought and worked in the best interest of their country, is long dead!
What we are saddled with today is an illegitimate state structure, rolled over by incompetence and rotten to the core through graft and corruption. That state cannot provide a meaningful ambience to regulate not to talk of lead development. But this is the classical scenario which faces our country today. A ten- hour trip of tremendous difficulties can do wonders to the human brain!
Britain, homosexuals and development aid
BRITISH imperialism in real terms, is akin to a dying horse; it can frantically kick about, but everyone around knows that its days are long gone!
The sun has set a long time ago over the British Empire, but its putative inheritors do not want to be seen as undertakers for one of the most lucrative, exploitative and ruthless killing machines in history. So once in a while, they pop up, like the parasitic head on a mal-formed Siamese twin, to threaten blood and iron.
In recent years, British imperialist ambitions are projected through acting as the lap dog of Yankee imperialism, especially with wretched figures like Tony B-Liar, around, to smooth-talk people with lies, while putting up the “God-fearing” straight face.
Well, not to be outdone in flexing puny imperial muscles, British Prime Minister David Cameron, recently threatened to reduce foreign aid to Commonwealth countries that do not support homosexual rights. Well! Well!!
What are we to make of that threat, at a time that the Nigerian parliament is also debating an anti-same sex marriage Bill and all Nigerian religious groups are pouring opprobrium on any mention of gay marriage? I read Simon Kolawole’s piece on the subject the other day, and really do appreciate his position.
We do not have to work ourselves into frenzy about the issue. No. In Northern Nigeria, for example, we have historically lived with Yan Daudu (are they really transvestites, homosexuals or plain queers?). One was even allegedly elected into the Kano State House of Assembly in 1979! But our societies have tolerated ‘queers’ for eons, and for as long as they remained marginal, not overly ruffling societal feathers, everybody went about their businesses.