From Accra To Kaduna And Back; A Travelogue Of Twists, Turns

My trip to Kaduna, the former headquarters of the Northern States of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and later Abuja, recently would have been uneventful but for the hiccups I encountered on my return journey.

It is always refreshing returning to one’s former place of abode after a long hiatus. Kaduna is the place where I was fully exposed to the nuances of newspaper journalism. When I returned on private business, therefore, I looked out for the many changes that have naturally occurred over the many years which have elapsed.

The Beginning

The Terminal Three edifice from which the trip originated in Accra deserves the many plaudits that have gone into describing the place when it was officially commissioned. That was my maiden visit to the location. I was there to board an Africa World Airline flight en route to Lagos to catch a connecting flight to Kaduna my final destination.

It was at first challenging getting the connecting flight as my travel agent told me that she could not get me the flights on the date I had requested.

When she finally did, it was for me to fly via a different airline, Arik Air, from Lagos to Kaduna. I was to learn that the flight would make a brief stop at Jos to drop some passengers and pick others for Lagos via Kaduna.

I was fascinated by the dots of hills, which I think gave the state its name, Plateau State. It used to be Benue Plateau until Benue had became independent of the other.

Kaduna Airport

At the airport of Kaduna, a twenty minute flight from Jos, we arrived to my relief after enduring some scary moments of turbulence. The fare for the taxi ride to town was, for me, exorbitant, five thousand Naira. When I juxtaposed it against Ghana’s fifty Ghana Cedis from Terminal Three to Accra proper, I soon discovered it is the fare charged by registered Airport taxis nowhere near what non-airport cabbies charge. On my way to the city centre, I could not take away my gaze from the new location of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), the training grounds for officer cadets. Close to the airport, the Federal Ministry of Defence had really carved out a large chunk of land for the military institution. The wall securing it looked endless as it gazed at me for many minutes as we headed for Kaduna centre.

The facade of the academy depicted a disused jet fighter, a naval vessel and an armoured car all representing the services of the Nigerian Armed Forces.

Political Billboards

The long road to the city centre was lined with billboards of the major political players. After all, the campaign season is on; the country is billed to go for an election in the next fortnight.

President Muhammadu Buhari and his strong campaign team � including his vociferous Adams Oshimole, a one-time a leading figure in Nigerian labour union politics� were in Kaduna.

Their presence in town ahead of a major campaign rally had gingered Kaduna almost putting it on edge.

Some of his achievements included, of course, West Africa’s maiden high speed train work on which is ongoing in places where it is yet to reach. The president can pat himself on the back for the feat even if nobody does so for him. I travelled by the train; the first I have ever done and oh my I am longing for the completion of Ghana’s.

Reminiscing An Earlier Abuja Visit

I did not forget our then flagbearer Nana Akufo Addo, Hon. Freddie Blay, Gabby Otchere Darku, Hon. Rashid Bawa and Saratu Atta’s visit to the then President-elect Muhammadu Buhari in his campaign office in Abuja. Nana Akufo-Addo led the team for the congratulatory visit to Baba soon after his election victory.

It was an interesting meeting, especially when I discovered that a man, Adamu Adamu, an Ahmadu Bello, Zaria graduate with whom I worked at the now comatose New Nigerian Newspapers in Kaduna, was one of the president’s aides.

I will never forget what the then president-elect told his host Nana Akufo-Addo after the former was told that his guest too suffered similar attacks from his political adversaries, especially about the age factor. President-elect Muhammadu Buhari responded, With my victory age is no longer a factor in African politics.

There were times during the campaigns of Muhammadu Buhari when reports went virile about how he had been airlifted abroad for medical treatment; cooked stories, of course. It was part of a project to present him as an indisposed person, too fragile to become a president.

His Ghanaian counterpart, too, suffered such vile lies from his political opponents using willing media outlets.

The writer at the RIGASA station at Kaduna

Political Polemics

The media in Nigeria is awash with the trading of polemics between the Presidency and former head of state, General Olusegun Obasanjo. The old General who appears to have his hand in the politics of Africa’s most populous country and outside her borders has gone overdrive in the past two weeks dishing out vitriolic on President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

According to him, the president intends succeeding himself something, he describes as improper.

An interesting reaction from Aso Rock, the Presidency, made interesting and sad reading. The old General was described by the Presidency as a lying old man. I wondered why matters degenerated to such low since after all the old General supported the president earlier.

I could not ignore the urge to conclude that Baba Iyabo as the old General is sometimes called to remain relevant to local politics. But, must he open up his underbelly for such scathing reactions from the Presidency which impugn upon his integrity as a statesman?

During one of his campaigns, President Muhammadu Buhari warned that those who have dipped their hands into the public purse would soon be brought before the courts.

Eventful Return To Accra

It was a Sunday and I checked my electronic ticket issued by my travel agent to ensure that the timing for reporting to the Kaduna Airport was right.

I hailed a ‘kekenape’, one of the many roofed yellow tricycles now the feature of intra-city transport in Kaduna, as it is in other parts of the country to convey me to the airport a long journey by itself.

When we got to the point of paying a toll which the rider or driver did, the lady in charge asked whether we were travelling, to which I answered in the affirmative. She did not hesitate to tell me about what awaited me at the airport. In Hausa, she said, You better hurry up.

I had arrived within the two hour time by which passengers are expected to be at the airport before takeoff.

Unfortunately, however, I had a jolt when the man manning the X-ray scanner told me that the aircraft had long taken off.

I was so devastated that I was momentarily stunned. How can Arik Air do this to me?I asked rhetorically. I made my way to the Arik Air desk, where a lady told me the same story. It was when she told me that all passengers had been called on phone and told about the time revision that I realised how inefficient Arik Air can be. How can you call passengers and tell them that you had changed the departure time? If others were, told I wasn’t. It was, therefore, no fault of mine that I could not go to Lagos en route to Accra last Sunday.

The implication of what had befallen me was that my evening flight to Accra on the same day for Accra could not come off because after all, I would not be able to be in Lagos that evening.

I went to the Hamdala Hotel near Kaduna centre where the main Arik Air office was. The lady there, although nice, could not help me except to tell me that my flight arrangements could only be altered by travel agent in Accra.

Besides not being able to buy a fresh ticket, which was not right anyway, since after all I had already paid GH 3350 for the return trip, so why another payment for a fresh ticket?

My travel agent told me via phone from Accra that the next arrangement would be on Wednesday, which I found unacceptable, having failed to fly on Sunday. I declared myself stranded and, therefore, requiring a bailout. What to do under the circumstances?

HE Rashid Bawa (left) and Ahmed Tijani Abubakari inspecting renovation works on one of the structure at the High Commission

Rescued By Ghana High Commission, Abuja

Although I know the role of missions in foreign countries as a representation of the Presidency, the High Commissioner, especially representing the president, the support I received from our mission in Abuja overwhelmed me.

Earlier, the High Commissioner HE Rashid Bawa, after my earlier arrangement to pass through Abuja, had told the Minister Counsellor Ahmed Tijani Abukari to provide me with the necessary support, especially since he was in Accra. The arrangement was, however, varied and I didn’t have to seek their intervention.

It was when I was stranded that I called Ahmed Tijani and narrated my predicament.

The Speed Train

It was Tuesday and per the new arrangement, I was expected to head for Abuja from Kaduna so the High Commission can lend me a supporting hand. God, it is said in the Christian scriptures, moves in mysterious ways. I love stories about development and my trip from the Rigasa Railway terminus offered me an opportunity to behold at firsthand what a modern speed train is. I could not wait to relish the experience, especially since President Akufo-Addo and his Railway Minister are working hard to replicate the project in Ghana.

The motorised tricycle which I rode on from my Malali residence charged me a thousand Naira for the long trip through some of the busiest streets of Kaduna.

We eventually arrived at the modern terminus fitted with a waiting room and modern places of convenience. I had arrived two hours or so before the scheduled departure time of 2:00pm. I had been told about how the system is time-conscious and, therefore departed on time come what may.

The ticketing officer said sales would begin at noon and so I waited in the waiting room but took short intervals to observe what a modern railway station looks like and wondered how the Pakro station would look when the Ghana project is completed.

There is maximum confidence in the system and so many businessmen and government officials have their chauffeurs drive them to the terminus for their trips to Abuja the capital of the federal republic of Nigeria.

I found the cost of the trip to Abuja rather cheap at one thousand three hundred Naira affordable and cheap; I learnt that there has been a downward revision from an earlier one thousand five Naira.

At 2:00pm, the train started to move towards Abuja, after all passengers had embarked. I expected to witness the speed associated with such systems, but it was unobservable but at exactly 4:00pm we arrived Abuja as the occasional voices of the engineers in Mandarin, the Chinese lingua franca, was heard from the controls of the train.

Ghana High Commission

The Ghana High Commission’s Minister Counsellor, Ahmed Tijani Abubakari, had sent a car to pick me to the High Commission. The driver held a card bearing my name and the relief was beyond words when I spotted him.

At the High Commission, I was soon joined by the High Commissioner HE Alhaji Rashid Bawa, who had just arrived from Accra. I joined he and the Minister Counsellor as they inspected some renovation works on the structures still begging for attention.

The High Commissioner showered plaudits on the Minister Counsellor for his wonderful performance and loyalty. The Mission shares the diplomatic enclave with top-notch countries such as Canada, UK, US and was also a stone-throw away from the Federal Ministry of Defence.

Return To Accra

On Tuesday, a protocol officer at the High Commission performed his role of accompanying me to the Abuja International Airport, where he did all the departure formalities before leaving me.

The Africa World Airline aircraft too was on time for the one hour trip to Accra. I heaved a sigh of relief when the aircraft eventually touched down so smoothly; I wished I could pat the pilot on the back.PICTURES SAVED IN NEWDAILY AS SPEED TRAIN

Source: Modern Ghana