Once you decide to travel by road to Kaduna from Abuja, it is much more of a suicide mission – you either drive yourself into the waiting hands of kidnappers or you end up in one of those craters that have taken over the once smooth road. “God forbid” either of the two eventualities is the thought that runs through your mind.
In the past, such a ride from Abuja to Kaduna would last an hour or at most an hour and a half- then the road was good and safe.
So, the moment it was decided we’d be going to Kaduna so many questions in a second flashed through my mind.
But is the journey necessary? Is it worth the risk? And without definite answers to all of these, I knew we had to make the trip because a close friend just passed away and we had to go and pay condolences.
Despite those unanswered questions, I made up my mind, hardened by the saying, “no shortcut to anywhere worth going.”
After observing Fajr (Muslim morning prayer) and a little preparation for the journey, we left Abuja at about 7a.m.
The fuel tank of the vehicle was filled to avoid having to stop on the road, and a full tank would be enough for a round trip to Kaduna.
Many road users are wary of stopping on the express road to top up their fuel as kidnappers have been said to be taking advantage of such moments. So, we did not want to take chances.
I realised that I hadn’t travelled to Kaduna by road in years, perhaps since 2016. The train had become my safest alternative as a link to the north, not to mention the comfort it affords.
And in recent times, nothing scares me more than a thought of travelling through Abuja-Kaduna road since kidnappings and increased road accidents began on the route. It came to the point that I would decline travelling if the only option left for me to travel was by road.
My fear would not let me, after all, nothing triumphs safety in my book. And since those in charge of ensuring I was safe couldn’t why should I subject myself to a situation of danger?
As we hit the road, the plan was for us to arrive in Kaduna early so that we would have enough time to pay our condolences and head back to Abuja before sunset, when the fear of the unknown becomes heightened.
We stuck to the plan, and the car started rolling, leaving the ambience of Abuja for a dreadful road.
The road is laced with many hurdles- the ongoing reconstruction that slows down your speed, the armed robbers who take advantage of the poor state of the road and ever-present kidnappers who almost have taken over everywhere on Abuja- Kaduna road.
Again, every checkpoint you come across is itself a source of worry- you can’t tell who is who? Kidnappers and armed robbers often disguise themselves as security operatives mounting roadblocks.
We reached Zuba in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) shortly after 8a.m. after which we began to encounter the ongoing road work, and had to keep switching lanes after a few kilometres, making the journey even slower.
The only upside is once the work is completed, the trip to Kaduna and other states in Nigeria’s Northwest region will probably become much smoother and bump-free, hopefully making it harder for criminals to carry out their nefarious acts. We are just hoping that the work is not abandoned soon.
The anxiety and fear of the known and unknown on the road were high. We dared not risk stopping to buy stuff as we used to in the years of yore when the road was safe. No one was coming for you; you would have time to buy fresh farm produce on your way.
Needless to say that the insecurity has crippled all aspects of our life- economic and social activities are the worst hit. Roadside market men and women are recording a decline in sales, and they too often, have become victims of kidnapping. What more?
And so we continued weaving in and out of the highway lanes, until we reached halfway, somewhere around Jere. We got there at about 9:15a.m. At this point, the road began to seem emptier and the potholes more, this perhaps, explains, why incidents of kidnapping are more rampant around Jere.
Because of this, we couldn’t go beyond 90km per hour and had to continually slow down as soon as we approached a patch of bad road (posing a more significant risk as anyone hidden in the bushes could take advantage at this point). To say it was a bumpy ride would be gross understatement. But as we had already committed ourselves to this journey, we had to see it through.
I would be lying to say regret hadn’t crossed my mind at this moment on deciding to go in the first place. Perhaps, I could have just waited until I had the chance to follow the train.
We were some 50km away to Kaduna when we saw a car which had flipped off the road, luckily all its occupants escaped unscathed and gathered around the vehicle, alongside a few bystanders.
They had been very fortunate. Coming across car accidents along this road was almost normal, as bad as that sounds. The road has been claiming lives over the years at an alarming rate.
At last, we arrived in Kaduna at about 10:30 a.m. – the arrival time could have been 9a.m. if the road was reasonably good and safe.
But my feelings quickly changed from shock to gratitude. At least we had arrived safe and sound, which ultimately was all that mattered.
We made our way to the house in Unguwan Rimi. We had already agreed that we would stay no longer than 2p.m. before heading back to Abuja. We couldn’t take chances of finding ourselves after dark on that highway, which during these times, is close to suicide.
The house of the bereaved had people coming and going to pay their condolences and had a very solemn mood, familiar with a place visited by the cold hands of death. But of course, there were still clusters of people making chit chat.
That was when I heard a woman narrating how kidnappings were now rampant even within the capital city of the state. “Nowhere is safe, we just have to keep praying,” the woman said.
This did no favours for how scared I was already.
After spending time with the bereaved and paying our respects, we decided it was time to head back home. So we plied the death trap of a road once more, with an increased sense of fear engulfing me again.
We stuck to the time we planned on leaving, and by 2p.m. we were on the road. This time, we considered taking an alternative route, through Jere instead since it was faster, but the argument was raised of Jere being much more unsafe compared to the Zuba route we initially followed. So we stuck with it.
The journey back was as bumpy and slow as the journey going. By 3:45p.m., we were at Jere, and we met the road works once more, winding in and out of the lanes, all while trying to get to Abuja nice and early.
We got to Abuja sometime around 5p.m. and a sigh of relief followed as soon as we got to the FCT.
We were back in our well-protected sanctuary of the capital and considered ourselves lucky to have made it home. At once, I vowed never to put myself through such turmoil again. If it’s not the train, then count me out of the trip.
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