When a person calls an experience along a highway memorable, it tends to be for the ugly reasons.
I have quite a few of those. There was that Sagamu-Ore stretch in 2010 where the armed robbers left with our bags while we lay facedown on the cold ground at 3 in the morning.
There was that regular route that kidnappers love so much between Owerri and Elele.
More recently, in 2017, was Damboa Road. That highway where Boko Haram has a penchant for slaughtering and grabbing everyone from the military to civilians. Easily my most intense highway experience.
But then, throw in the stretch from Biu to Damaturu, and you’ll have places like Buni Yadi, where Boko Haram entered a dorm and slaughtered 42 boys in school.
I’m a road monger, and there’s a constant awareness somewhere in the periphery of my mind that, if you eat beans long enough, one day you’ll bite a stone. If you eat enough apples, one day you might dig your teeth into a rotten one.
So when I realised that we were in fact going through the infamous Abuja-Kaduna, it was only natural that I did the “is this my rotten apple?” check.
Leaving Sokoto, we crossed Zamfara, with all its checkpoints to counter the banditry. We passed Katsina, then Kaduna — the Kaduna.
On the Zaria end of the highway is the most militarised area in Nigeria. There’s the iconic Military Training College at Jaji. The Nigerian Defence Academy sits here too.
Further down, in the direction to Abuja, that’s where the chaos tends to happen.
“I’ve never experienced it before,” captain said, “but I’ve passed here before while they were shooting. It’s luck, as long as you’re not there while they’re out, you’ll be okay.”
It always starts with announcement shootings from inside the bushes on either side. Then the grabbings, and perhaps a few murders on the spot.
But if you’ve driven for as long as the captain has, you would have seen all kinds. You would have seen robbers on horseback on the Mokwa-Jebba road in the nineties. Or you’d have survived your own robbery attempt on a highway somewhere in the south-south, early 2010s.
So, what did we see while we passed? Nothing. Nothing but torturous traffic because of an ongoing road construction.
Abuja-Kaduna road might have a lot of bad days, but we got on of the good ones, and for that, I’m grateful.