By Kunle Adekoya
THE word, travel, describes an activity. It is a construct, which when it passes through our sensory frontiers, becomes an experience.
For those of us who are non-native speakers and users of the English language, travel is also a noun, a transitive verb, and an intransitive verb as well.
The commonest type of travel is by road, anywhere in the world, simply because man is a land-bound creature, or animal, if you like, and before technology came to help him dominate his environment further, simply roamed round his surroundings in pursuit of happiness.
In bits, and then in leaps and bounds, ability came to deal with water bodies through canoes, boats, and eventually, ocean-going ships.
Finally, man learnt to fly like birds with the invention of the airplane. All manner of vehicles, and the rail-track were also developed to make traversing landscapes easier and faster. As a result, travel widened in scope and activity, and developed, with specialisations, into full-scale businesses. As a people, we love to travel.
With a little money to spare, we love to see what other lands have to offer. If we are not traveling to other countries, we travel within our country a lot. We carry foodstuff from one part of the country to the other; we haul fuel from depots in tankers to filling stations all over the country; we transport beverages from their places of manufacture to where they can be sold for profit, and being the kind of social animals we are, we travel hundreds of kilometres from one part of the country to another to attend weddings, funerals, party conventions, or just to visit. Travel drives our lives and drives our economy.
The transportation sector of the economy is structured to deliver the travel activity in as seamless a manner as possible. So, we have airports for air travel, seaports for sea travel, and bus stops, motor parks, and train stations for travel by land.
The first plane landed in Nigeria in 1922, but ocean going ships have been calling at our shores since 1441. Rail transportation began in Nigeria when in 1898 the first rail track was constructed, linking Lagos with Abeokuta.
Since then, the components of the transportation sector have developed at varying speeds, with road transport outstripping others by far. While Nigerians traversed the length and breadth of their country in pursuit of happiness, a problem started incubating, the problem of insecurity.
From the end of the civil war in 1970, crime and criminal activities started growing, first in arithmetic progressions, later in geometric progressions. Now, the problem of insecurity is growing in android progressions. But the power elite did not see it as a problem that deserves tackling the way one would tackle a threat to life. Slowly, and steadily, the state started losing grip as non-state actors got more daring.
For instance, in the oil sector, bunkering and crude theft, which started as isolated incidents have now become so huge that as much as $3.27 billion worth of crude could get stolen in 14 months without any arrests, prosecutions, and sentencing.
From isolated cases of kidnapping and abductions, insecurity is now an industry, to the extent that nobody is now sure he will return if he leaves home for work. When people return, they thank God.
Now, in the year of our Lord, 2022, in the 21st century, petrol is selling for anything between N165 to N250 or more where it is available, while diesel is selling for as much as N650. The recently revived train services provided a relief window, only for shocks to be delivered.
This same year, the Lagos-Ibadan train service was disrupted when the engine ran out of fuel. Now the Abuja-Kaduna train service has been hit by terrorists, leaving at least eight people dead, tens injured, and scores abducted. Airports have not been spared as the Kaduna airport was also attacked.
Today, is April 1, 2022, or Sha’ban 30, if you’re a Muslim. Ramadan starts tomorrow. At the end of Ramadan, the feast of Eid-el-Fitri will be celebrated, and if you add May Day, it promises to be a long weekend. Will we be able to travel to celebrate with our kith and kin? Ahead also is Easter, another long weekend.
With airfares at the rooftops, bandits and kidnappers blockading highways, trains running out of fuel and being attacked by terrorists, the number of people who may wish to travel will be reduced and the transport sector will shrink.
We are, like Robinson Crusoe, marooned in our cities, towns and villages since travel, hitherto a pleasurable activity, is dead, no thanks to armed non-state actors.
The icon of that death, in my book, is the lady medical doctor, Chinelo Megafu Nwando, shot by terrorists, on her way back from Abuja after a trip to process travel papers to Canada.
Travel is dead here!!!