Thursday, April 5, 2018 was a particularly sad day for me. Coming from Erin Ile, one of the towns bordering Offa in Kwara State and belonging to a social media group attempting to foster peace in the Ibolo-speaking area to which both communities belong, news of that dastardly armed robbery incident in that town came to me real time.
The first snippet came like some fictitious creation of the new sharer’s imagination. Although Offa, the community where I had my primary education, has become an expansive prosperous town where hardworking locals struggle to prove their industry, there is this rustic essence borne out of the people’s loyal attachment to the traditional values.
In spite of years of industry of the people and the existence of a Federal Polytechnic, Offa does not have the buoyance and flurry of Ilorin, the capital city of Kwara State or even Osogbo, the equally largely pastoral capital city of neighbouring Osun State. I, as a result, did not imagine that bandits could encroach on this community with such venom.
But those who shared the news persisted, apparently being fed from people on site. Before long, there was copious evidence of the violation of the peace and innocence of Offa as images of people gunned down by the armed men came into our phones.
It was a really gory sight. Images of policemen, commissioned by the state to protect the people, fallen to their untimely death in the hands of apparently more equipped bandits and of sinless, unquestioning Nigerians, slouching under the bullets of gangsters, brought tears my eyes. My heart sank on behalf of a country that I call home.
There may be arguments about how violent attacks on the innocent lives may have become a manifest global occurrence lately and there may be some credence to that. However, Nigeria will do well to inform herself that there is no other country in the world, not under a state of war, where life is as devalued as Nigeria.
A telltale sign of the level of our nation’s frightening descent into anarchy and loss of humanity is the ineffectiveness of our policing system. Most often than not, the average Nigeria Policeman is so ill-equipped that if he does not run for cover in the face of the criminal’s superior weapon, he ends up dead.
Just two days ago, the Metro sections of The PUNCH reported the killing of a Police Inspector and four others in a clash between members of the Odua People’s Congress and some cultists in Lagos. On the same page as this story was another one about how gunmen in police uniform killed the Divisional Police Officer in charge of Rumuolumeni in Rivers State.
In Nigeria of 2018, the policeman who is the symbol of law and order is by every appearance mostly abject, susceptible to the manipulations of the very criminal he is supposed to protect the country against and as unsafe as any ordinary countryman.
Nigeria is the only country in the world with a speculated number of close to 13 million children out of school without any obvious plan as to how to stem the frightening trend. It is the only country whose increasingly swelling poor population see child rearing as sport, without any obvious population control plan.
According to the United Nations Children Education Fund, an estimated 2,300 under-five children die in Nigeria every day due to otherwise preventable or treatable infectious diseases like malaria, pneumonia, diarrhoea, measles and HIV/AIDS . The country is also estimated to lose about 145 women of child bearing age essentially due to lack of access to skilled medical care.
UNICEF identifies malnutrition as the underlying cause of morbidity and mortality of a large proposition of children under-five in Nigeria. It says further that “a woman’s chance of dying from pregnancy and childbirth in Nigeria is 1 in 13. Although many of these deaths are preventable, the coverage and quality of health care services in Nigeria continue to fail women and children. Presently, less than 20 per cent of health facilities offer emergency obstetric care and only 35 per cent of deliveries are attended by skilled birth attendants.” As a result, concerning under-five and maternal mortality rate globally, Nigeria is the second largest burden carrier! Yet, access to and quality of healthcare delivery in Nigeria continues to decline rather than improve.
This is the only country with millions of young and agile people underemployed or not employed at all; yet, government celebrates the provision of the token of 200, 000 or 300, 000 unsustainable job opportunities. It is the country without an ambitious educational curriculum, capable of arming its teeming young population for the future of the world.
Yet, Nigeria expects to reap what it has not sown! A society, absolutely insensitive to the present or the future of its people but demanding their loyalty! But that is unrealistic. So, what Nigeria is currently grappling with is the result of its careless treatment of its people.
This negligence currently manifests all over the country. Where we do not have Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen are the menace; where herdsmen are not tormenting people, ethnic militants challenge the nation; in places where militants are not rampaging, separatists’ cries rent the air and where that is not happening, armed robbery incidents (like that unfortunate one in Offa last week), or kidnappings and abductions, remind us of our collective irresponsibility as a people. Nigeria has sown the wind and can only reap the whirlwind, especially as there is no significant change in governmental disposition to the welfare of the people.
This is why when these sad events happen, the Federal Government when it responds at all, only issues feeble clichéd statements about how it was committed to securing lives and property of Nigerians. Governors will visit and shed tears and make promises to turn all stones in the quest to arrest perpetrators of the crime. The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, would pay a condolence visit and take the opportunity of the death of innocent Nigerians to make political statements about his looters’ lists project while the police will usually promise a ransom for information. Sometimes, the police would truly do more, especially when their personnel are involved. You will hear of some arrests within days of the incident. A police force largely lame in preventive policing celebrates breakthroughs in post-crime investigation every now and then. Experience has shown us that while they have succeeded in truly apprehending the real criminals every now and then, there are instances where innocent people, get lumped up with criminals. Anyhow, these cases get prosecuted and go on forever in court until there is another break in the peace of the people and we begin to ask questions about what happened to the last set of arrested criminals.
Unfortunately, the average Nigerian is too drawn into the divisiveness of politics and religion to take their own welfare seriously. We have moved on from last week’s daylight robbery that left at least 30 people dead, allowing ourselves to be drawn into discussions about who is contesting the general elections next year and who is not.
That is not to say that there is anything wrong with being interested in those trying to take office in our future but we do not ask the right questions. We dissipate energy on non-beneficial things and watch as our people die in instalment from diseases, hunger, carelessness of the state or the bullets of the children of anger that an uncaring society is bound to breed. That, pretty much, is the story of the Nigerian life.