A couple of weeks ago, I was travelling on the highway which had multiple diversions due to the ongoing road construction. At a particular diversion, where it was obviously dangerous to stop, an armed officer in a light blue uniform tried to flag down our vehicle. Parked a few meters ahead of us was a trailer and behind us another. Due to the danger, the driver tried to drive ahead to find a safer place to park. The armed officer upon noticing that the driver was not going to stop immediately, used the bottom of his gun to hit the door of the “owner’s corner” so hard, that he dented it. When I asked the driver why he didn’t stop, he said “because the officer only wants to get “something” from us and waste our time, besides, it was an unsafe place to stop.” The “vawulence” scared all of us and left me wondering. What would have happened had we stopped? It was at the time I curiously asked, which Law Enforcement Agency had the blue uniform, and I was told. I didn’t even know that they were allowed to hold guns.
Nigeria is filled with such tales of unexpected and unrestrained violence, unleased on innocent people for no justifiable reason. No matter how careful you think you are, someone or something will be triggered to commit acts of viciousness upon you. One time, I felt compelled to exit all WhatsApp groups because of the normalization of forwarding gory videos. If violence is not unleased on your person, it will be unbridled in your senses. You will hear sad news, read about confusing events and be served videos (on social media) that will deprive you of sleep. Are we even normal people?
Can you avoid the news to maintain a bit of sanity? Are you going to stop travelling because of the fear of unpredictable events that may occur? Will you become a recluse and avoid social media because of the potential assault to your senses and mental state? You can try but it is not sustainable because this is our reality. What can you do to survive and maintain a semblance of sanity? I experiment with different survival tactics but I have not found the perfect solution yet. I just know that we collectively need to do better as people.
Activities that used to be leisurely are now high-risk events that need extreme planning. Road trips used to be fun filled, especially during festive periods. Children would plan sleep-overs at their Grandparents homes, bond, eat, gist and swap stories about schools, friends and trends. Now, it is safer to leave the children in their towns of residence for fear of plying the roads. For those children who know the joy of spending festivities together in one location, one home, eating uncontrollably from Grandma’s pot, their hearts still remain at Grandma’s house, they crave it. Video calls can never measure up to the love that comes with spending the holiday, crammed together in one space, laughing to their hearts content and building bonds that will ensure that even in adulthood, they relate as one, come what may. However, the hurdle called the Nigerian highway must be crossed to quench that thirst and satiate that craving to spend the holiday together.
Maryam Shehu Mohammed