Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


May Nigeria Never Happen To Us – My Jalingo Story By Punarimam Benjamin

May Nigeria Never Happen To Us – My Jalingo Story By Punarimam Benjamin

I honestly can’t explain my excitement about my journey to Jalingo for the new Taraba state governor’s inauguration. The little I knew about the newly elected governor, Agbu Kefas, gave me hope that a new Taraba was possible, and I planned not to miss his inauguration. I was told there was no Direct flight to Jalingo. I had to go to Yola in Adamawa state before I could get to Jalingo. It was fair enough. At least the journey to Jalingo wouldn’t be as hectic as the 10 hours journey by road from Abuja. But to my surprise, the trip was far beyond my expectations. My flight from Abuja was delayed, and on arriving at Yola after 6 pm, I hurriedly headed to the park, chartered a car, and then began my journey to Jalingo.

Taking off from Yola at 7 pm, I thought we would be in Jalingo latest 10 pm as I was told the road was good to ply. Little did I know I was in for a long ride. There were so many factors waiting to frustrate my journey to Jalingo.
The first was the heavy wind that covered the road making it extremely difficult for the driver to see through when rain platters began to hit the windscreen hard. Nevertheless, he kept moving at a snail’s pace so we didn’t remain rooted to a spot due to insecurity issues and fear of the unknown. Heavy rainfalls at night are cashout moments for highway robbers, kidnappers, or even reckless drivers to cause accidents. I realized I was in for a long ride, but it was too late to turn back.
We kept driving slowly until the unexpected happened. The car broke down. The driver parked the car to check what was wrong, and it was at that moment I realized the driver had bad legs and was on crutches. Before the journey started, I went to the POS to get some money, so I didn’t notice the driver’s condition; anyway, it was too late to ask questions.
Alone in the car, It dawned on me that we were on a lonely road with no car, house, or human in sight while the torrent of rainfall refused to stop. I was alone with the car driver, and In a split second, a million things that could happen raced through my mind: death, armed robbers, kidnappers, and all other unimaginable things.

Immediately, the first thought of every mother came to my mind. Oh! The thought of my children came so heavy in my heart, and I started to pray. Lord, please remember how my children will feel without me. At that moment, I remembered all my pastor’s prayers and declarations. At my moment of prayers, the driver who was checking the car suddenly disappeared, and my heart screamed, “It’s a setup.” I hurriedly reached out for my phone and called my elder brother in a whisper. I kept the phone under my thighs so that no one would notice I was making a call (not that I could see anyone, but being careful never hurt).

I said, “Tito, our car broke down, the driver disappeared, and we are in the middle of nowhere.” I started thinking about how I will be killed and my body will never be found. No one would come to my rescue. I called my brother again and told him the situation was terrible, just Pray. I heard my brother scream Jesus, have mercy. He called his wife and said Baby, we have to pray my sister is in danger. I heard the wife screaming in the background, saying Jesus have mercy. At this point, I was expecting the worse.

Suddenly the driver reappeared and said, “Madam radiator ne ya pashe,” meaning the radiator was broken; then I took a deep breath. Despite the fear in my heart, I was calm, and I said Toh mai Abunyi meaning what can be done? He told me there was no solution. He then asked me to reach out to a rope between the door and handed it over, but in my heart, I had concluded that that was the rope he would use to strangle me. I saw him moving towards flowing water, fetching and pouring into the car. At this point, my brother had called multiple times. I also kept calling, but the last time I called, the wife picked up and said, “Toh! Your brother is in the toilet. I am currently treating him for diarrhoea and High blood pressure.” That instant, I knew if something went wrong, I strongly knew my brother would slump from a heart attack. I kept praying and speaking in tongues quietly. I pleaded with the driver to leave the area since he said we were close to a busy location, and he agreed.

Just when I thought I had had enough palpitations for the day, a few meters away and we got to a checkpoint with a suspicious soldier clothed in a raincoat, his uniform hidden beneath. My thoughts ran to stories of fake people posed as soldiers to commit horrendous acts, but the driver said we had challenges and needed help. The soldier asked us to park and started looking for vehicles going to Jalingo.

I was not comfortable with the soldier, so I came out of the car and moved towards the building where he stood before turning and saw some boys lying down on the floor. My heart started beating faster, and I returned to the car, but the driver was still standing there. My wild mind thought the boys might have been kidnapped and the kidnappers were waiting to come and get me. I called the driver, and he went into the car where we both sat.

All efforts to get me another vehicle to Yola proved difficult, as It was midnight already, and the rain refused to stop. I beckoned on the driver to drive further up since another town was ahead, thinking we might be lucky, and he obliged. My brother called again to ask about the development, and I told him it remained the same. He asked to speak to the driver to ask him what the solution would be before my sister-in-law suggested I ask the soldier to take me to any pastor’s house around, but I didn’t have the nerve to ask. So I told them to keep praying.

Sometimes, I would believe the driver was harmless before fear would creep into my mind, and I would panic for the fear of the unknown. We drove slightly further, and we saw trucks parked with the drivers hanging around, and the driver pleaded with them to help us get a vehicle to Jalingo. After 20 minutes, a car stopped, and I was happy that finally, I was out of danger.

As I was about to enter the car, I noticed three young men sitting behind with another young man beside the driver whom I was supposed to share the seat with. Even though fear drenched me at that moment, I knew I had no other option than to accept the ride.

I prayed relentlessly until my prayer point changed from “God save me from kidnappers” to “God protect me from any accident” as the driver drove like he was in a race with time, not minding the bad road filled with potholes. Whatever I was told about Jalingo Road was wrong, it wasn’t a smooth road to ply, and the driver literally bumped into every pothole without caution. Not exaggerating, but I would have screamed Jesus a million times If I kept count.
To make matters worse, this driver doesn’t even stop at checkpoints. He kept driving with his friend encouraging him to evade the checkpoints. I wondered why they weren’t scared of being shot by these security officers. Sometimes he would say you don’t know how to drive move!!! And I will say, God help your child, for I am here.
As the journey proceeded, I got relieved that they were not kidnappers, but the speed was killing me, and the potholes were unbearable. You wey sabi sleep for car abeg come to sleep. You cannot even try it as the car kept throwing us in and out of terrible potholes. The journey became endless until I saw a signpost with “Welcome to Jalingo” Oh, sweet Jesus! I got a sense of relief

Whenever I travel to the north, I never dress like a hot babe. I Strictly wear my long dresses with a cap or head tie. It helps a lot. You gain respect and protection, but once you try to show sexy babe you’re on your own, anything can happen. I remember years ago when my friend and I were travelling to Jalingo dressed in jeans and a small top. We saw youths blocking the highway and burning tires. It was a protest. We had to hide because we could get killed, or so I learnt.
The new driver told me he would drop everyone at the park, and I asked for directions to a hotel as it was already past midnight. The driver was kind to drop me at a junction to a hotel. The rain hadn’t stopped still, but I managed to get to the hotel. The hotel’s gate was locked, then I began to knock. Someone showed up after 10 minutes and shattered my heart with the news that all the rooms were occupied due to the inauguration.
My Jalingo’s plan didn’t involve staying in a hotel as Taraba is my home, and I had plenty of choices to pick from regarding accommodation. But I was in a difficult situation, no bike, no keke, and now, no hotel room. The man recommended other hotels but advised me not to stress it as I couldn’t find a room there also. He carried my bag and said madam can you sleep here? Where? I asked, and he pointed at the gatehouse.
Jesus!!!! Ha! I screamed internally but entered the room and sat on the chair. He brought down a sleep-and-die mattress, if you know what that means, and flashed back to my orthopaedic bed where my visitors would scream that I sleep on a stone, all of that doesn’t matter now he said you could sleep here, with the look on my face he told me to feel free, even one army man wey come yesterday na here he sleep.
Hmmmm. All my plans were shattered. I sat on a chair and refused to lay on the bed, but I was too tired even to sit; then I reached the mattress and lay my head, but I couldn’t sleep once I heard a sound. I jumped up, thinking it was someone coming to hurt me. The thought of rape was heavy in my heart. After 6 am, I heard a knock on the door, and I jumped up. It was morning, so I got up to see the security guard greeting me.

Oh! You didn’t lock the door, but I had no answer for him. Mosquitoes had feasted on my legs all through the night. I was shaking from the cold because of the rain and had no covering. He told me I would get Keke by then and even helped me with my bag to the road. I got keke, and I remembered the smiles on his face when he was waving at me. Nothing was funny to me, but I was pleased with his reception and kindness.

Arriving at my cousin’s house was like breathing a fresh breath of air. Looking back at all my experiences, I could only thank God for my life. It was a moment of joy seeing my cousins after a long time. I narrated my story, and everyone felt so bad they all wished I could have done something to help me, but Nigeria happened to me.
Looking back, I realize that all I had gone through was a result of bad governance. Taraba state has existed for decades, yet the roads are bad, insecurity has worsened, and you can hardly trust anyone. My driver had no intention of harming me, but the stories we have heard daily of killings, kidnappings, robberies, and the like will make anyone fear for their life.
In the past, people liked to travel by road for sightseeing, you could stop by to eat bush meat and palm wine, but now people will instead drink their palm wine in their homes. The roads that I plied when I was in secondary school from Zaria to Jos were still the same way with no improvement. State governors will say its federal roads. Past president Muhammadu Buhari said he did a lot on infrastructure development. Economic hardship is increasing, and no business opportunities. Not many people travel to Taraba state. The road isn’t just far but in terrible condition.
We have one airline, Overland, that manages to fly to Taraba once or twice a week but has refused to fly for months due to runway issues. The government didn’t care. You have to fly through Yola before you can get to Taraba. We had leaders upon leaders who would not even bother about their citizens.
Taraba state is still so backward, with only highland tea to boost off. I saw so many abandoned projects neglected by other administrations. Finally, the long-awaited flyover has been commissioned. I saw light only once throughout my stay in Jalingo. The water board is almost non-existent in the state because Water flows once in three months. Taraba TV uses the generator for two hours only for its flagship program. Pensioners hardly get paid. Employment is at a zero level. What is going on? Past administrations have failed us. We wonder what they did all these years as governors. Lt Colonel Rtd Agbu Kefas has now been sworn in as the governor on May 29. Whether he will get things working is the expectation of many.

Punarimam Benjamin is a journalist and writes from Abuja.

You May Also Like


Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Faruk Yahaya has commissioned the Nigerian Army (NA) projects in the Gembu community of Sardauna Local Government...


Governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Kefas Agbu, has been declared the winner of the Taraba state governorship election. Gatekeepers News reports...


Publisher and Managing, Editor of Taraba Truth and Facts Newspaper, and Chief Executive Officer, Rock FM 92.3 Jalingo, Ayodele Samuel has said the Taraba...