A few years ago when I first began blogging, I decided that I would share only positive and optimistic content on this platform. I realized that this in itself was going to present a conflict. How do I then talk about an experience in its entirety, without half-truths or plain lies?
As a compromise, I decided to always highlight positives among negatives and to never dedicate an entire post to a rotten experience. There was, and still is, a lot of negativity about my home country (Nigeria) on the media. I chose a long time ago, not to be another outlet that dwells on this. I chose to see the beauty in everything and share that optimism with you.
Sometimes, I talk about the challenges of travelling locally – and there are many. However, I often try to present ways to rise above these challenges and make the best of every situation or opportunities that life, as we know it, presents. Some days, making points in favour of Nigerian travel is easy. Other times, it is not. Certainly not when people lose their lives while trying to explore the country.
On Friday, 19th April 2019, there was an attack in Kajuru. As a result of this, two people, Matthew Danjuma and Faye Mooney, lost their lives while visiting the Kajuru Castle.
When this news first broke out, it hit me badly. I felt so much sadness for two young people whose lives had been cut short. I felt so much anger about how they had gone. It should not have happened. I had a lot of “if only” statement moments when a friend who was in the castle during the attack told me about her experience. And like many people who have been to the tourist attraction in Kaduna State, I felt fear – a selfish kind of fear. ‘It could have been me‘.
On the Kajuru Castle Attack…
I wasn’t the only one reacting to the attack. Social Media users were aghast and the comments showed it. In a few minutes, the incident at Kajuru Castle, now overshadowed by more recent events, was a trending topic. People hurled several negative comments at the Nigerian government, the bandits and even the tour operators who commit their time and resources, without support from the government, to promote the tourist attractions within the country. And of course, many vowed to never to visit the attraction even though they had always wanted to.
I realize that everyone reacts differently to fear and tragic news. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t think of cancelling future trips to Northern Nigeria. However, rather than fixating on the common narrative that is associated with ‘the north’, I chose to focus on the good things I remember about the times I spent there.
Like when I was posted to Adamawa State for my Youth Service. I remember how I would go to the market and the women would refuse to take any money from me. How the bus and taxi drivers would also do the same. I remember spending months in Jos and Minna, surrounded by so much nature and beauty. I loved these cities so much that I decided I wanted to attend universities there.
Discouraged by the attacks, I also decided to rely on the numbers. While these don’t do much to provide rest of mind, we must put things into perspective.
What do the Numbers Say?
According to a 2017 report by the Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics, Kaduna ranks low for offences against persons. The numbers for Lagos, for example, are very high but we can attribute that to the population and a few other factors. Yet, if we compare states with a more similar population, Kaduna still doesn’t rank as high as several states we consider fairly safe.
Having noted this, it is important to keep analyzing the current security trends in the places you intend to visit. There are several areas in Nigeria notorious for conflicts. Sometimes, these conflicts arise around certain periods, like the months before and after a general election. Sadly, the local government where this castle is located has been affected by numerous conflicts within the past two years.
Don’t ‘cancel’ Kajuru yet and here’s my argument why
So while I am not quick to say you should visit the castle today or tomorrow, this year or next, I believe that rather than saying, ‘I would never visit Kajuru (or Kano or Gashaka Gumti), our approach should be one where we hold our government representatives accountable.
Rather than accept an unstable, unsafe Nigeria as our fate, and then deciding based on that where we choose to visit within our own country, we should aspire to change our narrative.
Nigeria is far from perfect. Sometimes, I wonder where and how do we draw the line between not complaining and accepting the status quo. How do we change our current situation for the better? Is our country damaged beyond repair? Should we lose hope that it would ever get better?
Where do we even begin?
This question in particular plagues and I could write an entire article why. But I’d love for us to discuss in the comment section. Maybe we could come up with a project we can embark on together to make a change, no matter how small. We owe it ourselves to start somewhere and to do something so that those who have lost their lives would not have done so in vain.