By Khadijah Tijjani
It has been a while since I wrote about issues of national interest. I have decided to steer clear of such conversations because I doubt if it is really worth it. I used to pride myself in being a patriotic Nigerian until about a decade ago when the post-graduation shock shook me to the marrow.
Fresh out of medical school, I was determined to serve my country “with love and strength and faith”, using my knowledge and skills. But I was greeted with a cold welcome into a moribund system – a system that had almost nothing to offer but was ready to suck your sweat and blood and abandon your remains when you’re done with your heroism.
This is not about me and how I lost hope in the fatherland. If I’m still alive, I’ll tell you the whole story some other time. My grouse for today is stimulated by the recent terrorist attacks on the Kaduna-Abuja train. I’m sorry to bore you with this rant; I hope it makes me feel better. I’m just here to let it out and stop pretending to be oblivious.
I despise horror and tragic movies because of some traumatic scenes I watched as a kid. One of such movies is THE BURNING TRAIN, a Bollywood blockbuster that made waves in the early 80s. Vinod, a railway engineer, launched the Super Express, a dream project that was India’s fastest passenger train. Unfortunately, the train went out of control on its maiden journey due to a bomb planted by a rival. Directed by Ravi Chopra, the movie was known to have moved millions of people to tears.
Every time I replay that movie in the part of my brain that stores it for over two decades, I struggle to hold back the tears.
I never imagined something strikingly similar happening in real life, claiming several lives so close to home. The terrorists, having succeeded in stopping the Kaduna-bound train, reportedly shot sporadically and held the stranded passengers hostage for over an hour.
One of the victims was a promising young colleague – Dr Chinelo. This was a brilliant doctor who could have discovered the next best treatment for cancer, HIV or another disease yet unknown. But instead, she was wasted a few days after obtaining her GMC licence to practise in the UK.
Could she have survived if we had quick and effective disaster response teams? Only God knows.
She was lucid enough to tweet a distress call and probably breathed for a couple of hours before kicking the bucket. But what sort of treatment did she get? Welcome to Nigerian hospitals!
The train attack happened less than 24 hours after a similar incident along the same route. This mishap rekindled my memory of that catastrophic movie, The Burning Train. I’ve been trying not to talk or write about it, but my heart can no longer contain the pain.
I am a woman of faith and believe in the power of prayers. However, we’re on a burning train in this country, and faith is not enough to quench the fire.
This train is burning, and the political leaders are going about their rallies, spending millions of naira on branded clothes and live bands.
This inferno is consuming the best amongst us, but the worst amongst us are winning and dining.
This country is burning like wildfire, but there’s no fire truck anywhere.
They say there is light at the end of the tunnel. But the end of this burning tunnel is obscured by thick smoke that can kill faster than the fire itself.
We seek your aid, yaa Allaah!
Khadijah Tijani is a medical doctor. She writes from Ibadan and can be reached through email@example.com or @AskDoctorKT.