"The value of life has suddenly become greatly fractionalized and the worth drastically reduced. Is that due to poverty too? Probably it is a combination of poverty, frustration and anger. It is nevertheless unacceptable..."
This Guardian Newspaper article by Kunle Sanyaolu paints a picture of the current frustration (nay, depression) among Nigerians as we mark our 47th year of independence. Various pockets of "unrest" throughout the South have left citizens jaded and back in the pre-election mood of 'indifferent spectator'. So where is our government in all this?
Four months after President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua assumed the mantle of leadership, the focus of his government is hazy still. The period is short for any meaningful impact-assessment. But it is long enough to have more than a faint idea of what a government will deliver...[and so far it] is not living up to the momentum. Too many issues are urgently begging for resolution and Nigerians are simply losing patience, not minding that the problems did not crop up, or assumed their present dimension overnight.
Can one blame Nigerians? They are living through a difficult time presented by poverty, unemployment, disease, frustration and crime, against the backdrop of a practically non-existent police. In Lagos and a few other western states, armed robbers have taken over, targeting banks in the main, eliminating policemen, bank workers and other citizens who either get in their way or constitute an obstacle - real or imagined. In Port Harcourt and other Niger Delta states as well as some Eastern states, kidnapping has become the order of the day. The serious offence is certainly not new to the country, but it has never attained the seriousness, frequency or pathological fervour with which it is now carried out. Initially, the focus was on expatriates, particularly those working in oil and related companies. Then attention shifted to just any white-skinned in the region, the underlying idea being that they could fetch handsome ransoms, which they did, even where nobody so acknowledged or officials denied outright. It was a question of time before the South-South ran out of white men, a development that led to the kidnapping of children going to school. This was closely followed by their politician parents, particularly those elected. When parents became elusive, grandparents consisting of aged mothers and fathers, became the targets. The rest of the country is only slightly better in terms of security.
The fact that political, social and economic conditions differ in different parts of the country at any particular time has its implications. When Port Harcourt is under the siege of kidnappers and cult members, Kaduna is peaceful, with everyone going about his normal duties. And when Lagos and environs are reeling under incessant armed robbery attacks, Katsina is deep in Ramadan fasting with the entire town praying and atoning for sins. Therefore, anyone commending or condemning particular situation stands the risk of not being perfectly understood by citizens outside the vicinity of his focus. Notwithstanding this, a central theme usually runs through the nation most times, depending on the circumstances. News reports in the media, including live television, in the last few weeks tends to elicit a feeling more of depression, sadness and frustration, that despite the numerous resources and high potentials of this country, its fabric seems to be going from bad to worse. When and how did we get here?
There is little doubt that what is happening now took roots firmly under Obasanjo's government and its reform that lacked a human face. Obviously however, the criminals have been emboldened because no one is challenging them. There is a lot wrong with Nigerians for our newfound love of dispensing with fellow citizens at the slightest provocation or no provocation at all. The value of life has suddenly become greatly fractionalized and the worth drastically reduced. Is that due to poverty too? Probably it is a combination of poverty, frustration and anger. It is nevertheless unacceptable, even if Nigerians have cause to be angry at the insensitivity of political leaders who spend millions renovating official houses, buying Ramadan gifts for themselves and awarding jumbo salary and allowance packages for themselves. Government's assignment in this regard is two-fold. One is to provide a machinery to effectively challenge and subdue violent criminals, be they robbers, kidnappers or political assassins. There is a thin, imperceptible line between them anyway. Two is to provide real governance which entails provision of service to the people; spending public fund judiciously and in public interest; and bringing to book highly-placed officials found to have abused their office or corruptly dealt with public assets. So far, government is not discharging any of these duties either out of insensitivity or out of incompetence...
(read Guardian link for rest of the article in which Sanyaolu points out the need for a proactive government at the state and federal level to tackle the current state of affairs)
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!! May the best of our past be the worst of our future.