Driving along Abuja Kano highway on my way to Abuja from Kaduna, I arrived Rijana, a village 40 kilometres away from Kaduna by 1:05 pm on Friday, April 12, 2019. In the North, it is normal to see hunters in villages holding weapons in readiness for hunting. This was what came to my mind when I reached Rijana. To my surprise, the motley crowd of people I saw in in the village on that fateful Friday were out to hunt and kill Hausa-Fulani, who had the misfortune to ply that road on that ominous day.
Unfortunately for me, I was the first to arrive at the scene. I had no inkling what was about to happen. I thought they were beckoning me to pass before it suddenly dawned on me that they blocked the road to kill. The crowd was intimidating. By my mental calculation, they numbered over 100. Most of them were teenagers holding axes, matchets, knives, iron rods, daggars and sticks. There was not a single female among the killers. These were the only weapons I could see under that tense moment. But I believe that there were many more that I could not see due to the fear that swallowed me. They were striking the road with the weapons and chanting phrases that I could not understand. I heard voices in Hausa saying "a gama da Shi", a "sassara shi" (finish with him, hack and stab him). A man who seemed to be in his late 20s from among the crowd, came close to me and told me to accelerate and escape.
Indeed, I was terribly disoriented and frightened at that moment. In spite of the futility of attempt to escape, another voice inside me was telling me not give up. I was resilient and hopeful against adversity of the situation. My left hand was on the steering wheel, while I used the other to pacify the mob. I was moving slowly and my tongue was seeking protection in the perfect words of Allah from the evil that he has created. At that moment, no evil deserves invocation for Allah's protection than the bloodthirsty goons who attempted to kill me in Rijana.
While praying, my mind was at the same time busy devising ways to escape. I assured myself that I would not be the only casualty in that tragedy. I had planned to accelerate and run over those that stood in front of my car in the event they attack me.
As soon as I left the life-threatening encounter at Rijana, I put a call to a friend who works with the Governor of Kaduna state, Malam Nasiru Ahmed El-rufai. I got him while he was listening to a sermon in the mosque. He told me to send him a message which I did. After about 15 minutes, my friend called and told me that the situation was under control. As soon as he received my message, he communicated with the Governor who was also in a mosque for Friday prayer. The action Kaduna state governor acted swiftly as usual. He alerted the garrison commander about the situation at stake in Rijana. Security was immediately deployed in the flashpoint to disperse the rampaging youths.
I later learned that the Adara people in Rijana blocked the road to avenge the death of their kinsmen who were allegedly killed by Fulani in another local government in Kaduna state. Whatever happened between them; there is no justification for the youths in Rijana to take laws into their hands. It is high time people whose villages are located on the high way to understand that the road is built to serve motorists, not the other way.
It is worrisome that this incident happened at a time the government is making efforts to curb the escalating crime wave characterized by kidnapping and banditry in Nigeria. Rijana as we all know it, has notoriety for kidnapping. It has been reported that a large chunk of kidnappers who had been arrested along Abuja-Kaduna highway was from Rijana. If the government's clampdown on kidnappers is anything to go by, it is obvious that the "lucrative trade" in abduction for ransom will soon come to a blissful end.
There is, therefore, the likelihood that those who trade in kidnapping will device other ways of committing crimes to survive. The security arrangements on the highway should, therefore, give particular attention to villages on the road. There are a lot of boys who lack self-regulation and moral values residing in some villages on the highway. Because they are jobless and uneducated, they can easily be galvanized and recruited into criminal gangs by their evil-minded paymasters.
At this juncture, I will appeal to the Federal and state governments to sustain the tempo in crime control and prevention, to ensure that Nigerians do no longer live as prisoners in their own country. I hope that government will not be complacent with the palliative measures it put in place and the recent victory it recorded, and go back to sleep again. Security of life of the citizenry is paramount and should, therefore, receive the urgency and special attention it deserves.
Saleh Ibrahim Bature has worked with Inland Bank Nigeria Plc, Citizen and Sentinel weekly magazines as a Corporate Affairs officer, Reporter and Correspondent respectively. He is the North East Zonal Coordinator of National Gallery of Art.
Bature can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]
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