In late January 2013, I was invited to give a short lecture and acoustic performance at Federal Polytechnic Offa to mark the school’s 20th anniversary. I drove there early in the morning with two members of my crew. After about 4hours on the road, and with only a few minutes to our destination, we encountered a make-shift road-block at the Erinle-Offa “border”. It was manned by a large number of mean-looking individuals holding pistols, rifles, swords, machetes and hunting knifes. They descended upon us violently and ordered us out of the car. I informed them that we were on our way to Offa. Immediately, we heard voices saying, “They are from Offa, hit them, maul them, kill them!” My 2 assistants were dragged out of the car, roughened up, slapped and punched. They were made to go on their knees. The tip of a sword was thrust near my face and I was pulled out of my seat. Several rifles were trained upon me as I stood by the side of the car quietly. It seemed as if we would be shot, cut to pieces and burned to ashes in a matter of seconds by these drugged up vigilantes. Suddenly, one of their handlers who was sitting under a tree some distance off recognised me and shouted “Don’t you know who it is, that’s Beautiful Nubia, the man who sang ‘Owuro L’ojo”. Slowly the ‘warriors’ relaxed and lowered their weapons.
One said, “Why didn’t you just tell us who you were when you were stopped?” They explained that a border “war” was on between Erinle and Offa and we had driven right into the thick of it. Several people had been killed and property destroyed, both towns were on total lock-down and the school we were going to had been ordered shut as well. We would not be allowed to pass through Erinle to get to Offa and were told that it would be too risky to even try taking an alternate road. We should just go back to Lagos. I chose to take the risk and goon to my destination through an alternative route.
What struck me most strongly about this encounter were the sense of insecurity and the lack of government presence. Those Erinle warriors barricaded a highway and assaulted people as they wished, and there was not one security agent anywhere near. Of course this is child’s play compared to what obtains in several other parts of this “country”. There is no organized government here, just organized thievery and corruption. Perhaps it is time to take this land back from all these poorly bred, wicked and twisted elements that populate the halls of power? Perhaps the people of this time can decide to make that change and create a society that thrives on excellence and creativity? Nigeria is a giant problem (those who profit from it as it is would argue otherwise) but we can fix it – either by giving all its federating units a chance to reconfigure it as a workable behemoth or peacefully break it up so that the people of this place have a chance to breathe true freedom and progress for once. We owe it to the innocents just being born and the young whose dreams are yet untainted.