A quiet revolution took off on April 8, 2021, by 11.05 am. It was unheralded, without ostentation, almost unsung. But it was something that would have a great impact not only on today, but also on tomorrow, and the future.
On the date in question, a train took off from Warri, headed to Itakpe, bearing 96 pipelines to be used for the Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano (AKK) gas pipelines project, being undertaken by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
It was the first major haulage being undertaken through rail, using the standard gauge line constructed by the Muhammadu Buhari administration as part of the infrastructure renaissance in the country. Under that revolution, you have massive road projects, bridges, rail, airports, and many others.
Quietly, significantly, without pomp, circumstance or much ceremony, the train took off on April 8. It carried those 96 deadweight pipes that would otherwise have been freighted on the roads by the equivalent of 32 trailers, with attendant danger and destruction. But in eight hours, the train, with its princely cargo arrived its destination, a development NNPC describes as “less costly, safer, faster,” and something that would protect our roads. Looking at the train taking off from Warri to Itakpe, I remembered three things.
The first was a footballer in the 1980s, who played for New Nigerian Football Club, and the Super Eagles. His name was Samson Ozogula.
The way stocky and thickset Ozogula moved with the ball caused fans to nickname him Zion Train. He advanced like a thundering typhoon, slicing and meandering through the defence lines of opponents, before dumping the ball at the back of the net. Ozogula was a moving train. (By the way, where is he now? Like most of our sporting heroes, he is probably forgotten somewhere, forced to eke out a living, remembering his own exploits with a shake of the head).
Seeing the train move from Warri enroute Itakpe, I also remembered Femi Anikulapo-Kuti and his Positive Force Band. As a young journalist, I covered that band, sitting through their many rehearsals, first somewhere in Somolu area of Lagos, and later at Omole Estate, in Ikeja area. They had one vigorous dance style called the Ozogula dance. It was rhythmic, pulsating, energy sapping. If you were not fit, and you engaged in Ozogula dance, you were bound to see stars. No wonder I didn’t see any member of the band with spare flesh on their bodies. Ozogula dance was like Zion Train, a cyclone rumbling through the countryside.
And again, as the train took off, I remembered Bob Marley and the Wailing Wailers. (I mean good wailers, not some yeye ones we currently have in the country, crying perpetually like babies who had their lollipops taken away). Marley and his band ‘wailed’ about ills of the society, using music to advocate for peaceful change. The last studio album released by Bob Marley before he died of cancer in 1981 was titled ‘Uprising.’ It had star hits like Redemption Song, and Zion Train.
Oh people, get on board (you better get on board)… Don’t gain the world and lose your soul (just don’t lose your soul) Wisdom is better than silver and gold To the bridge (ooh, ooh) Oh where there’s a will There’s always a way Soul train is coming our way Zion train is coming our way… Two thousand years of history Could not be wiped so easily…. That was the music Zion Train by Bob Marley.
Rastafarianism, to which Marley subscribed, believes that there’s an earthly Paradise/Heaven located somewhere in Ethiopia, Africa, where Emperor Haile Selassie, the totem of the Rastafarian movement hailed from. So, Marley asked as many as were willing to “get on board now,” as Zion Train moved.
Our own train that moved on April 8 is Buhari train. The train of economic emancipation. Transportation nirvana, ecstasy, dream come true for Nigerian businesses. “You better get on board now.”
I’ve always said it, and I say it again: Nigeria currently has serous challenges, particularly in the areas of security, joblessness, quality of life, and the like. But that is not all that typifies the country. Under President Buhari, massive other things are happening. Second Niger Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Enugu-PortHarcourt, Bonny-Bodo, hundreds of other roads, Loko-Oweto bridge, new, ultra-modern airports, AKK gas pipelines, railway infrastructure round the country, and many, many other good things. True, insecurity dwarfs these lofty things for now, however they are there, if we would but see them, and talk about them, and encourage our hearts that Nigeria is not what the poet Godfrey Chaucer calls “thoroughfare of woes.”
Marley’s Zion Train is a metaphor for a path or channel that leads to Heaven. And he urged people to get on board, for “wisdom is better than silver and gold.” The Buhari train is physical, leading Nigeria to an economic kingdom, a Canaan, flowing with milk and honey. Get on board now. It is transportation emancipation. Liberation. Release. Relief. Doorway to business success and prosperity. “You better get on board now.”
Marley sang that “two thousand years of history, could not be wiped so easily.” True. That is how the footprints of Muhammadu Buhari would remain indelible in Nigeria. The man who came, and made our resources work for us, who turned infrastructure around, knowing there can’t be meaningful or sustained development without infrastructure. “Where there’s a will, there’s always a way.” President Buhari has shown us the way. Oh, people, get on board. You better get on board.
...Femi Adesina is the Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity. NNL