Nigeria: A Federal Republic of I-don’t-care people
By Oludayo Tade
The growing fear of insecurity and the consequent worthlessness of lives of Nigerians have been further affirmed by the deaths recorded across the country last week: (Plateau (over 200 lives), Lagos (over 10 lives) and Ibadan (five lives). The indications into how poor security infrastructure Nigeria and its handlers will unprotect hapless masses emerged on the turn of 2018 with the Benue massacre of about 100 persons felled by Fulani herdsmen.
Since that bloody beginning, Nigerian lives have become counted as numbers. We are only alarmed again with the killing of over 200 persons in Plateau State by Fulani herdsmen who operated for hours without intervention from our police who would normally tell us that they are ‘on top of the situation’. What we have seen since January is a president who consoles and begs victims of massacre to tolerate and leave in peace with others while pampering the killers. In the latest condolence visit, President Muhammadu Buhari revealed that he was told that herdsmen now carry AK47. Earlier he had said he did not know the IGP did not obey his directive to go to Benue. He is just realising the need to get his security chiefs work for Nigeria. What this shows is unalloyed loyalty to clannish sentiments and divided loyalty to the constitution and laws of the country. Welcome to Nigeria, the Federal Republic of I don’t Care People and the world’s capital of poverty-stricken people.
It is not the killings of people in Benue, Zamfara, Plateau, Ekiti, Ondo and Nasarawa that foreground the worthlessness of lives in my country; people are only alarmed by the daring nature that the serial killings have assumed following presidential lip service to checking it. If we are given opportunity to choose how we want to die, none of us will choose to die as experienced in the Plateau, or the Otedola Bridge way. The Yoruba categorised these dimensions of death as Ikúgbígbóná (horrifying death). Many prefer to die peacefully in their sleep (fífowóroríkú) but when people are hacked and burnt to death while asleep or awake, that is ‘hot-death’. But the way we are treated while living is more likely to influence how we shall die or the way we shall be interred.
In Nigeria, we experience the practicality of man is born equal but some are more equal than others. The foundation of future death is already laid by a government that pays less attention to the education of her people. The ruling class needs the children of the masses to be illiterate so that they remain unquestioned and silenced. Those that attend school are not catered for; they drop out of school, become useful pawns and fight back at the society that fails to cater for them. They are used as thugs and killed in battle by the state instrumentality that made them so. What a worthless life!
Death is just everywhere! People die in their hundreds on poorly constructed or refurbished roads on a daily basis. To make matters worse, the police, FRSC, Customs, lurk around the bad portions on the roads where they unleash terrors on drivers not only because they do not have papers but because of what they must ‘settle’ them. Those who resist are shot dead and nothing happens afterwards. Passengers would rather ask drivers to pay and let them proceed. We have simply been reduced to ‘I don’t care people.’ Wrongs have become normalised. In all these, the Aso Rock messiah can do no wrong even when the body language leaves a lasting impression of approval.
What is life of a civil servant worth in Nigeria? N18, 000 ($50) poverty wage in a month! We are governed by legislators who take over N13.5million monthly and full compliments of security and severance allowances when they leave office. The executive and Judiciary are yet to reveal their humongous earnings. The civil servant who after retiring is still doomed to queue in the sun has no money to access health facility. Many pensioners are owed for years. The point is that with N18, 000 there is limit placed on the value of your life and life chances in terms of what you can become and enjoy and one is likely to die.
Do you imagine how valuable our lives are worth in the eyes and heart of those who rule us? How many people die in hospitals daily for failure of government to provide basic hospital needs to cater for us? Hospitals don’t have electricity and drugs. The qualified Medical doctors are leaving in droves to countries where their skills are valued, and where their lives and that of their family can be better. In Nigeria today, the lives of the poor are used to nurture and service that of the rich and ruling class. Collective patrimony is used to treat president in the United Kingdom. Governors use scarce resources to treat their malaria abroad. In the absence of proper wage, children have become breadwinners and ply their trade on dangerous roads where they are killed, raped, and kidnapped for rituals. Other children lost hope and resorted to taking drugs and will be used by the exploiters to inflict pain on the rest of us. In the north, millions are out of school and among them, now wasted as suicide bombers.
What the state wants to do, it does; what it does not want to do, it does not do it. Is it not the same Inspector General of Police that transmitted special squad from Abuja to arrest the Offa robbery thieves that is finding it difficult to tame killings in the north-central? Beyond the face-saving, post-massacre deployment of security which is yet to stop the killings as more have been killed, the President needs to move beyond praying to solve security problems. Why did he not pray to heal himself when sick but had to travel to the UK to access quality treatment? Ace musician Idris Abdulkareem, had in his ‘state-condemned’ song, Jagajaga described how the masses are treated and are unified by suffering and death. Idris underscores how state failure allows the killing of innocent citizens ‘gbosagbosa, gunshot in the head’.
Revenging the life of cattle with that of human beings only shows another dimension of life’s worthlessness in Nigeria. What is difficult in arresting rustlers and ensuring that they are made to pay double what they stole and jailed? What is difficult in arresting and making murderers face the law? How long will it take PMB to arrest members of the opposition within or outside APC if they are truly culpable in wasting human lives? What more describes failure other than when a government cannot protect the lives and properties of the governed?
Let those alive till 2019 elections represent the interests of the dead by voting those who can protect and value us better. But I know these periodic losses will pass and we shall be back to our normal ‘worthless’ routines waiting for when it will be our turn. This is the story of Nigeria, the Federal Republic of I don’t Care People.
Dr Tade, a sociologist sent in this piece via firstname.lastname@example.org