Convoys of death and terror

TRAVELLING our roads are usually not very pleasant experiences. One of diverse evils could occur — frustrating gridlocks, temporal body paralysis accompanied by nausea from being thrown in and out the potholes, sprawling on the high ways, robbery, fuel tanker explosions or ultimately, death. In the wake of these petrifying realities, our roads gained the epithet “death traps.”

Sadly, however, an average Nigerian has no other choice but to tread the valley of the shadow of death from dawn to dusk. As appalling as these realities may be, the tragedy of the commoner branches off into another lane like the traditional boulevard. This lane I would like to christen thus: “heart in your mouth lane.”

Without telling quaint tales, allow me to elucidate with a quick narrative. It is an account of my experience last weekend on the Ife-Ibadan expressway. The screeching sound of tyres, made by the car I listlessly sat in, caused my heart to skip a beat. Impulsively, my right hand flew up my left rib cage, as though the motion could prevent a cardiac arrest. Hilarious isn’t it? I glanced back, perturbed.

The initial gridlock had dissipated and had been replaced with pandemonium. Cars on the speed lane of the exit area of the highway were swerving with exigency onto the right like a demented herd suffering from the mad cow disease. A clear area began to emerge on the initially gridded expressway and like the shrill of newborn, it filled the entropic atmosphere. The sound of the siren was unnerving but the conduct of the drivers and front seat passengers was particularly inexplicably irksome.

hit-and-runClad in camouflage, a young soldier, private perhaps, with his head stuck out of the window, rained obscenities on other road users. All he cared about was being a Moses for the convoy of seven government’s black beasts. The common man could perish at the bottom of the Red Sea like pharaoh’s chariots!

Heart wrenching was the sight of civilians scampering away from the express like diseased sewer rats, not minding, if they were turning the wheels of their vehicles into Hades!  Like a patient with an onset of Parkinson’s, my hands began to shake. Not out of trepidation, but due to disgust. My stomach churned, out of anger. A great infuriation took me over as I venomously spat out “arrant nonsense, tyrants!”

Unfortunately, this sort of gross intimidation and menacing terrorism has leeched its way into the blood stream of the nation. Total disregard for humanity, crushing the commoner under national feet is a norm no one contends with in today’s Nigeria. Do we flee into fiery furnaces each time the people we elected use our national roads? Are our lives as citizens so inconsequential that they could be so trifled with?

Festus Iyayi, the former ASUU president was wasted in the most brutal way about three years ago on the Abuja-Lokoja expressway. The FRSC’s five page finding indicted the convoy of former Kogi State governor, Idris Wada.

According to the corps legal adviser, Wole Olaniran, an assistant corps marshal, the driver of the Toyota Hilux pickup, Danladi Baba, travelling on a high but determined speed, southbound of the road, deliberately stuck to his lane of travel!

The convoys of Gombe State governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo and former Deputy Governor of Niger state, Ahmed Musa Ibeto, were separately involved in road crashes on January 18 and 20, 2013 for the same practices of reckless driving on highways causing the death of one person and leaving six others with severe injuries.

Pilot Newspapers lost Mr James Umoh in September 2012. He was knocked down at NNPC junction, Maitama Abuja while returning home from work by the convoy of the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke. Devastating, isn’t it?

I hope you remember the convoy of Adams Oshiomole of Edo State which, on April 28, 2012, was involved in a ghastly auto accident. This resulted in the death of three journalists, leaving four others severely injured.  Can we forget the convoy accidents of Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State; Abdul Aziz Yari of Zamfara State and indeed the late Patrick Yakowa of Kaduna State, all of which had claimed lives in the process?

Most pathetic was the one in which a whole family save one perished. Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NTA Chapter, Ondo State, his wife, daughter and one other family member, were brutally cleared off the face of the earth by the convoy of Alhaji Ali Olanusi, the deputy governor of Ondo State that was later impeached. This happened two years ago in the month of love.

Perhaps, these government officials and political office appointees are in league with the extinct Greek fiends called “Sirens”. Sirens were winged women whose songs forced ships into rocky shores or led mesmerised men to fall from high cliffs and mountains. Tossing gruesome death at men, either by drowning them or eating them was their forte.

Harrowingly, it seems like some of their descendants occupy our government houses, only they have morphed into wingless monsters and drive sophisticated cars with blaring sirens!