As you read this column, I am rounding off my five-day visit to Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, for a training programme.
Deciding to go on this trip was not easy for obvious reasons considering the high level of insurgency associated with the state, no thanks to the Boko Haram group that has almost taken over the state but for our gallant military men that have largely restored peace in most parts despite the casualties they have recorded.
Two days ahead of my trip, there were reported attacks by the insurgents who seem determined for a showdown with the soldiers in a local government area and I did my best not to be discouraged from flying into what is considered a ‘danger’ zone. I secretly wished the programme was for another state capital, but Maiduguri was the choice of the organisers and I had a major role to play.
Some people I mentioned the trip to couldn’t hide their worry about my decision and if they had their way, they would have advised against it. My wife did her best to mask her concern but she must have opted for praying for journey mercies.
If Maiduguri is not really safe as many believe, I’m sure the programme organisers would not have risked endangering the lives of participants and facilitators, some of whom, including myself, are not resident in the state.
Despite all the indications that Maiduguri is largely safe to visit, I flew in the Aziman Airline from Lagos through Abuja, trying to be brave about the journey.
The Maiduguri International Airport was anything but international, with the temporary shed for arriving and departing passengers. But it was assuring that insurgents who once attacked the location are nowhere in sight.
The taxi driver who took me to the Command Guest House where the programme was held assured me that there was no cause to be worried during my stay and driving through the town confirmed his claim as residents seemed to move around like in any other city.
“Most of the scary reports about Maiduguri are written by journalists who have not been here. Some of the attacks happen far away from the capital and the military men are doing their best to control the situation,” he said.
As I later confirmed, I was not the only one who thought twice about the trip for safety reasons. Apart from journalists resident in the state and a few others from neighbouring states who are used to the situation, many came trusting God for divine protection and stayed within the confines of the guest house until it was time to head back to the airport. Some, I learnt, declined to attend the programme because of the choice of Maiduguri as venue.
The first time I heard the noise of a plane taking off over our guest house, I froze for fear of an air raid, but quickly got over it when I noticed that others around were not bothered. I’m glad I made the trip and got over the fear of travelling to Maiduguri.
The combined armed forces deserve commendation for the relative peace and security in Maiduguri, Borno as a whole and other states affected by the insurgency.
Local media houses and journalists have also sacrificed a lot to keep reporting situation in the state.
The labour and sacrifice of dead and living military, police men and women and journalists will not be in vain.
Otufodunrin, is the Online Editor and Special Publications, The Nation Newspapers
Source: The Nation