Housewives’ solution to Nigeria’s problems

Casmir Igbokwe

First published Sun, March 1, 2009

Housewives in Bauchi are currently said to be very happy. The source of their happiness, ironically, is the dusk-to-dawn curfew Governor Isa Yuguda imposed on the state last week. The curfew was sequel to the religious crisis that erupted in some parts of Bauchi metropolis penultimate weekend.

 The Guardian yesterday quoted one of the women to have said, “If not because of the food items in the house that will finish and we will have to buy them again, and we need money to do other things and the children are still going to school, my wish is let the curfew be increased to 24 hours; no going out completely, so that I will have my husband in full.”

Nigerians deserve to have their country in full as well. For now, the country is out of the reach of her citizens. A cursory look at some recent events will bring my concern here into proper perspective.

Take the Bauchi violence for instance. For a little misunderstanding between groups of Moslems and Christians, residents were at daggers drawn with one another. There were conflicting figures as to the number of deaths recorded. Some fanatics also set buildings including a church and a mosque ablaze.

Jos, the capital of Plateau State, similarly witnessed a crisis of greater proportions last November. The cause of the incident had different colourations – indigenes/settlers dogfight, Christians/Moslems supremacy tussle, and local government election winners and losers battle.

 In the recent past, the nation had recorded similar violence in such places as Kafanchan, Kaduna, Zango Kataf, Kano and many other parts of the North. At some points, there were reprisal attacks in places like Aba and Onitsha in the South-East. A non-governmental organisation called International Crisis Group reportedly estimates that about 14, 000 people have been sacrificed to ethno-religious conflicts in Nigeria in the last 10 years. Millions of others have suffered other deprivations and dislocations.

 The questions are: why do we tend to hate each other this much? Why don’t we respect the sanctity of life anymore? Why do some Igbo view the Yoruba with suspicion? Why do some Yoruba landlords reject Igbo tenants? Why will a northern Muslim regard his southern counterpart as an infidel? Why will an Ijaw man take up arms against an Itsekiri or vice versa? And why will an Efik man insist that an Ibibio man can never be a local government chairman in his area?

Many questions, few answers. Suffice it to say that conflict is inherent in human nature. Countries go to war against their neighbours. Ethnic groups in the same country slug it out against one another. States struggle to outdo one another. Even within the same local government, there is communal violence. Brothers and sisters quarrel. Husbands and wives shout at each other on many occasions. Even the person who professes to love you, sometimes, does so for some selfish reasons. He or she wants to possess you completely and should anybody wink at you, jealousy comes in and then quarrel. Jean Paul Sartre typified this in his existential play, No Exit.

Man is surrounded by problems that seem to have no exit, no solution. He runs away from Bauchi religious riots but gets caught up in Jos ethnic conflict. He relocates to Lagos, but watches his shop demolished by government bulldozers. He migrates to London, but risks deportation if care is not taken. Back in Nigeria, he fears being branded a failure. He sees his mother or sister or next-door neighbour as a witch derailing his progress. He sees himself as being in hell. And hell, as Garcin (a character in No Exit) posits, is other people. He becomes hostile to the society and goes into armed robbery, drug pushing, assassination squad, and cult groups just to get back at the society.

Knowing that human beings are prone to conflicts and crime, civilised societies try as much as possible to enact and enforce laws that guide their behaviour. A few decades ago, whites regarded blacks in the United States as slaves. They never entered the same bus. They had little or nothing in common. Today, that situation has changed. That is why a black man called Barack Obama sits today as the US President.

Our own society is moving more towards disintegration than reconciliation because we have not summoned the courage to divorce unnecessary sentiments from our individual and national lives. We are yet to learn how to enforce our laws. Somebody kills people, sets buildings and cars ablaze and does other atrocities. All we do is to set up probe panels. Nothing ever comes out of such panels. The perpetrators rest awhile only to continue their evil acts a few months after. This is why Nigerians have resigned themselves to fate, trusting mainly in the supernatural. The refrain now is, “only prayers will save this country.”

 Rather than continue to allow the problems of this country to weigh me down, I have decided to draw some lessons from the Bauchi housewives. And the major lesson is that I will always look for the positive aspect of any negative incident to console myself. I recommend that to you as well to avoid high blood pressure.

 Traffic louts in Lagos

 Traffic regulators are doing a great job in Lagos. But a few bad eggs, especially in some local governments, are trying to soil that reputation. One of the ways is to arrest motorists indiscriminately under the guise of one traffic offence or the other and then either extort or collect sundry fines from the victims.

I witnessed one of such incidents at Ogba area of Lagos last week. Somebody had stopped by the roadside just after Excellence Hotel to pick a friend. Commercial buses and other vehicles also park by the roadside there. And there is no sign indicating that cars should not stop at the location. But like a thunderbolt, some traffic wardens from Ojodu Local Council Development Area surfaced and blocked the motorist. One of them entered the man’s car and told him that they could have towed the vehicle and imposed a heavy fine on him; but that they would just caution him and allow him to go. They tactfully directed the man to their office at Ogba where they forced him to pay N7, 500 for “illegal parking”.

 I understand this scenario is replicated in some other local government areas of Lagos. The louts can stop you anytime, charge you for an imaginary offence and extort money from you. Maintaining discipline on Lagos roads is an excellent idea. But state and local authorities should caution their law enforcement agents to exercise utmost care in the enforcement of traffic regulations.

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