A Visit to Ruga Maishayi, Gidan Wanka, In Aso Maraba, Karu Lga


There are many Ruga Mashayi, Gidan Wanka in far-flung remote places around the nation, but not many would expect to see such badly neglected environment right here in our midst—at the outskirts of the Federal Capital Territory. Brace up for a surprise as we take you through this dystopian enclave located at the edge of Abuja in Karu Local Government Area.  Some say it is Nasarawa State; but you can approach it from Abacha barracks on the outskirts of Abuja as you head towards Nyanya, through Kugbo, and then make a U-turn at Mararaba junction, as if you are going back to kugbo then veer right when you get to Kabayi junction. Kabayi junction is located almost opposite NAGIS secretariat. If Ruga Mashayi is like this, you want to wonder how other places long forgotten by the government would be like, particularly in most northern states. The first sight that would greet you on getting there is the dominant army of scrubby looking okada riders, all of them looking haggard and inferior as though afflicted by the messy life they live daily. For a moment, my heartbeat skipped and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue the journey fearful at the grim spectacle that confronted me. Nevertheless, I managed to ask one of the tough-looking youths where Ruga Maishayi is; he looked at me with a sardonic smile and grimaced; If I wasn’t smart, I wouldn’t have noticed the bitter, scornful and jeering scowl on his face. Around him, were his fellow colleagues–hundreds of forlorn-looking and desperate youths prancing up and down struggling to eke a living out of nothing? Yet, in this vast noisy surrounding jam-packed by these illiterate okada riders, they epitomize our poorly defined legal terms for implementing democratic norms and principles for the simple fact that they have been deprived of the basic tenets for decent living and survival. They constitute a large decentralized mass of illiterate people systematically schemed out of, and deprived of civilization. This reminded me of the Hellenistic Era, when, one Polybius coined another term to describe the degenerated form of democracy calling it ochlocracy! Again, because of the preponderance of lawless youths around, you have the impression that, here, what obtains is nothing but a reign of mobocracy—a government by the mob and for the mob, since, apparently, there is acutely no government presence. Otherwise, the picture on the ground is that of the near-collapse of reality and sanity. There is no mistaking the fact that this place—Ruga Maishayi is in total shambles.   It is sheer paradox to allow a slum-like this to exist in the midst of the captivating presence of the Federal Capital; In any case, since we were here for a purpose, we turned back at the Okada rider who was trying to give us a direction.  Of course, the mere fact that he had been embroiled in the daily search for menial jobs had left a bad mark on him: he had become nervous or suffering from the mental condition of paranoia.  Without interest, he pointed a thick dirty finger at the direction we faced and stammered: “na there…there…eno far”. That was enough for us as we drove on, harassed by the reckless okada riders who never cease to scare us. You will be surprised how they squeeze through the tiniest of spaces menacingly—whether the road was bad or not. Well, we had to be more careful to avoid trouble since, as it appears everyone was tensed; moreover, no police was sighted; the only police post we came across proved to be a shame to the image of the real police force we know much less having confidence in their judgment. So, in the event of a problem, it is anyone’s guess what the outcome would be.   A lady who fell into the okada trap was almost beaten to stupor before she was mercifully rescued by some “reasonable men”. From the man’s description, we would have to drive for another 3 kilometres before getting to Raga Maishayi. It is a single road full of bumps. Again, I was made to understand that the many bumps were to prevent accidents and slow down speedy vehicles. The heavy population of mostly women who do all sorts of scrappy jobs, trading in shops, especially the new fad of POS, foodstuffs, hairdressing salon, grinding machine, plus a cluster of decrepit buildings all of them struggling for space in the stifling environment gives the picture of chaos and anarchy. We were told that the place is occupied by mostly retired police and security personnel which is surprising anyway, but the sound of generators because of the epileptic supply of electricity has all but severed the big slum from government presence. As we drove further, we came across more pandemonium; the long stretch of dehumanizing mayhem was too real to be fiction. We had to be alert as any moment, you could plunge into turbulence. Without warning, some children tried to cross the road but were hastily stopped by their mothers who screamed at them. She has been probably hit by what psychologists call homophobia! But that’s the best thing to do in the face of the violent conduct of the okada riders who remain a terror to innocent bystanders. I was still trying to make meaning out of this contrasting fortune; was it deliberate for zero presence of government here? Not only is poverty prevalent, but the scale of wretchedness is as intimidating as it is inexcusable! At once, into my mind flashed a biblical verse Isaiah 42 v 22 “But this is a people plundered and looted, all of them trapped in pits or hidden away in prisons; they have become hopeless with no one to rescue them; they have been made loot with no one to say help them”! This verse may pass for an uncanny representation of the reality that is Ruga Maishayi. How else can we describe the debilitating tumult that stares us in the face? Rollback to verse 7 of the same chapter where God said further “I am the one that opens the blind eyes, to free the captives from the prison and to set free them that sit in the region of darkness!” Region of darkness! And to free the captives! Yes, it is true that the poor flee the city of Abuja to these places to escape the high cost of living; it is also true that places like Ruga Maishayi were designated as satellite towns; now this is what we have: the suffocating environment that is now the habitat of unfortunate human beings; no explanation has so far been offered for this dumbfounding injustice and social depravity. This now reminds me of George Orwell “Animal Farm” written in 1945 and his second blockbuster titled “1984”. Broadly, both novels examined the role of truth and facts within any political context and the ways in which they are manipulated. Thematically, while the 1984 novel centres on the consequences of totalitarianism, mass surveillance and repressive regimentation of all persons and behaviour within the society, the Animal Farm is an enthralling account of mistreated animals with flaming ideas and stirring slogans who set out to create a paradise of progress, justice and equality; it is a sizzling account of revolution against tyranny. Surely, good governance or systematic application of government resources, over the years would have given this place a massive facelift or semblance of human existence. Paradise! For these people and many others in Nigeria, that is a pipe dream. How can you talk of paradise when a few hungry people sit on their collective wealth and damn the consequences? Not a single industry was sighted here; not even a bakery and we don’t want the cost of bread to rise? We could see only petty traders, men and women who display cucumber, garden egg, oranges, tomatoes,  dry fish, garri, yam, pepper, raw egusi; girls who should have been in schools hawking “fura de nono”, and boys parading “kola nuts”. Curiously, we counted several churches meaning that the people here may have taken to God for succour. A shop owner we interviewed briefly, said he arrived Ruga Mashayi in 2004, and since then they have relied on self-help, providing everything including light, water and in all the cases they have had to “clear” the mess that littered the polluted environment! There is no better way to know whether a government lacks vision or not. It is even scandalous to allow this state of confusion to remain despite 8 years of two-term in the office! That’s is a rape of democracy! This lends credence to the hitherto widely held belief that politicians only seek political office for themselves and families while bringing misery upon those who haplessly voted for them—giving them underserved peanuts whenever they manage to have access to them. There is no excuse to subject a people to this type of monotonous, rigid life of hard labour; yet the same government chides itself in being “pragmatic” and some charlatans would take out “adverts” to “congratulate” the main spectators in this perfidious scam. In sponsoring this reign of darkness they employ subterranean tactics in carting away government largesse for themselves and cronies while subjecting those they are supposed to govern to unspeakable stagnation and defeat! Invariably, you are wondering what is this thing with “leadership question?” Leaders are supposed to have characters, potentials and integrity; leaders like Lee Kuan Yew was a Singaporean politician and lawyer who served as the first Prime Minister of Singapore from 1959 to 1990; during his long reign Singapore became the most prosperous nation in South East Asia.  Once in office, Lee introduced a five- year plan calling for urban renewal and construction of new public housing, greater rights for women, educational reform and industrialization.  Today, we can all see the result of his exemplary leadership!  Is anyone still following me? I hope so. Soon, we got to our destination and I beheld the tired look in the face of our hosts. His house was stifling hot and there was something like a foul smell in the air. Trust Nigerians; as I looked around, I saw children running happily; there were no fewer than 5 churches within the vicinity. Why not? When all else fails; when you have been abandoned by man—and government– the next step is to take to God. That’s what obtains here. The churches here are nondescript, hastily built of makeshift structures; but they serve the purpose of helping you up your dampened psychological level. In a way, as is so often the case with God, I soon noticed that somehow, the people here have managed to make themselves happy. What cannot be helped has to be endured! As I examined the environment further, I wondered what it would be like to bring somebody like Lee Kuan Yew here. Given time and space, he would turn this shack into the paradise these people so desire—and deprived off by bad leadership.  This was the thought that occupied my mind when I noticed the clouds turning dark and strong winds had begun to caress our faces. While discussing with the shop owner, he had mentioned that in the event of a downpour, the roads in Ruga Maishayi becomes impassable; that would mean spending hours in the gridlock that is certain to ensue.    Hurriedly, we jumped into the car and began the journey back to the city. It was a relief for me when we eventually emerged at the Kabayi junction from where we joined the now dilapidated pothole infested  Mararaba-Nyanya-Abuja only highway that is more like a mini jungle–crowded and abused by all sorts including helpless mothers with children sitting dangerously on the pavements along the highway. How this once beautiful expressway was left to deteriorate is better left to the imagination. But it tells so much about the people who claim to be “our leaders” This is what George Orwell wrote about in 1945 and is prevalent today in our society. This road was like this when they assumed office in 2015; it is still like this today. Maybe someday, we would ask members of the National Assembly what they spend their time doing in office. Just then a convoy blaring with siren whizzed past in ferocious speed carrying perhaps a VIP whose duty it is to put things in order. Is this not one of the reasons most northern villages bereft of any identifiable structure are easy meat for insurgents? When you have no electricity supply, no water supply, no motorable road, how do you talk about safety and health security?  Government magic you would say? This is more like a prison—or keeping people in bondage if you like! Before long, we arrived at the Federal Secretariat in the heart of the city and memories of Ruga Mashayi came flooding back. I look forward to the day justice will prevail and prolong the life of Nigerians who live there—as in other places around the nation. Perhaps, the axiom that “never expect logic and reason to govern human affairs “may be right to us—but not to the likes of Lee Kuan Yew.