Last week, a train plying the Warri-Itakpe route derailed somewhere around Ajaokuta in Kogi State.
About 178 passengers were stranded although the Nigerian Railway Corporation has since evacuated the passengers. At the time of writing, there has been no official report on why the train derailed.
However, from videos making rounds on social media, one can attribute the issue to either willful vandalism of the tracks by metal thieves or mechanical failures. Either way, the derailment does not portend well for the country by any reasonable measure.
The Warri-Itakpe route started operation in October 2020, a mere 15 months ago. The facilities are supposed to be still too new to experience such mishaps. The railway is the banner the Buhari regime waves in everyone’s faces as proof of their efficacy in the past eight years. It is celebrated, and Buhari given credit for building “infrastructure”, even though the Warri-Itakpe line was a project embarked on in 1987.
The Sunday derailment is the latest in the series of disruptions to the railway system since its inauguration recently. The most infamous of the unfortunate events that have plagued the tracks so far, remains the Abuja-Kaduna train attack in March 2022 when some gunmen ambushed the train. There is no official figure on the casualties, but about eight people were reportedly killed and another 63 were abducted. The train services were also shut immediately. For months afterward, the families of the victims engaged in a drawn-out negotiation process with the abductors.
In a country where police investigators spend up to six months lying in wait to arrest a random netizen who tweeted something silly about the first lady, one would expect that the same surveillance system would help the hapless families.
What are our national priorities?
After the Abuja-Kaduna incident, it was only a matter of time before another set of abductors copied the same method. The Abuja-Kaduna abductors walked away with an alleged $6 billion naira in ransom, and it did not take a soothsayer to conclude that kidnapping train passengers is now a lucrative business.
It was therefore unsurprising that just two weeks ago, another set of gunmen struck again and made off with 30 people from a NRC sub-station in Igueben, Edo State.
This time though, some of the alleged perpetrators of the recent incident have been arrested. However, every future passenger is potentially vulnerable to copycat attacks.
Under ordinary circumstances, the railway project is supposed to be the proud legacy of the Buhari regime. Unfortunately for them—and for everyone as well—that legacy is seriously imperiled by his regime’s other legacies of multidimensional poverty, insecurity, and corruption.
Similarly, the legacy of insecurity through the activities of bandits, herdsmen, and professional abductors will also contribute their own share of damage to the country’s sense of security.
Which is the inevitable result of an economy that survives on consumption, rather than production.
As the 2023 elections approach, there are many Nigerians who believe the country needs a Messiah. And there are also many who believe that the political savior they are searching for has been found.
Some say it is one candidate, others say it is another. Those who think they have found one believe that their candidate of choice will come in and reverse the many damages that have already been done to a rudderless democracy.
The reality, of course, couldn’t be further away.
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