Life is worthless in Nigeria

Casmir Igbokwe

Published in SUNDAY PUNCH, March 14, 2010

In the United Kingdom, a certain abusive father recently got a life jail for raping his two daughters. This reportedly resulted in 18 pregnancies. Nine of the children were born. But two of them died on the day of their birth. The other pregnancies were either miscarried or aborted. For over three decades, this strange father from Sheffield abused his daughters and would badly beat them if they failed to comply.

This case attracted my attention because the authorities that failed to protect these children apologised profusely for their neglect. The chair of Sheffield Safeguarding Children Board, Sue Fiennes, put it this way, “We want to apologise to the family at the heart of this case. It will be clear that we have failed this family.”

An apology to one family? Hundreds of thousands of people have perished in recent times in Nigeria due mainly to the neglect of those paid to protect us. The question is, how many times have our governments at different levels apologised for the collective rape of the citizens of this country? How many government officials apologised to the victims of the latest senseless killings in Plateau State?

What we usually witness in this part of the world is unnecessary trading of blame. Soon after the March 7 carnage in three villages in Plateau State, the state governor, Jonah Jang, accused the General Officer Commanding 3rd Armoured Division of the Nigerian Army, Saleh Maina, of negligence.

The governor said, “I received reports about 9 pm that movements of people with arms were noticed around those villages, and I reported to the commander of the army and he told me he was going to move some troops there…Three hours or so later, I was woken by a call that they had started burning the villages and people were being hacked to death. I started trying to locate the commanders, but I couldn’t get any of them on the telephone.”

The commander has denied this charge, saying, “No government official called me prior to the mayhem at Dogo Na Hauwa and other surrounding villages. They all have my numbers. Some of the text messages we received gave us wrong direction.”

No doubt, truth is on sale here. Either the governor or the GOC is lying. But it won’t take much to detect who the liar is. Both of them should make their phones available to an independent investigator who will check their call logs to determine the veracity or otherwise of their claims. Whoever is found guilty should be severely dealt with no matter how highly placed.

In any case, did the governor need to call Maina to do his job? Where were the military intelligence officers when the Fulani marauders were moving into the villages with arms and ammunition? How did these herdsmen circumvent the curfew in place without detection? Maina and his men have many questions to answer.   

We cannot continue to lose human lives this way. We have already lost thousands of lives to sectarian crises in Nigeria, especially in the North. The Jos crises have claimed over 3,000 lives since 2001. The pogrom against the Igbo in the North, which later resulted in the Civil War that raged between 1967 and 1970, consumed millions of lives.

Whether it is Mataisine or Boko Haram or whatever, these incidents reduce us to wild animals and call our humanity to question.

Everywhere you turn to in this country, life looks too cheap. The other day, it took the online circulation of the pictures of the armed robbery incident which took place last July on the Sagamu-Benin Expressway to bring this reality home to our senators. I remember that SUNDAY PUNCH and some other newspapers reported the incident when it happened. We all took it then as one of those things.

Eight months after that tragedy, we have not graduated from apportioning blame and passing the buck. For instance, early this month, the Police Affairs Minister, Ibrahim Lame, lambasted the police hierarchy in the country. He condemned the current security situation in Nigeria and urged the police authorities to review their strategies in crime fighting.

Of course the Inspector-General of Police, Ogbonna Onovo, put up a spirited defence. According to him, it’s not quite long he took over as the IG of Police. He listed the well-known constraints of the police and attributed the upsurge in crime to unemployment. Clearly, security forces have failed the Nigerian nation. They have not justified the huge investment the nation has made in them.

The international community must be jeering at us now and wondering if we are truly human beings. In civilised societies, the loss of even one life in a non-war situation is a national emergency. But here, it has become a normal thing. This is why some people ask if truly we deserve to be in the same country.

Our old national anthem says though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand. But can a Fulani man claim the same brotherhood with the Berom man? Can an Ijaw man call an Itsekiri man his brother? And will an Ibibio man easily allow an Efik man to be his governor?

We have been lying to ourselves that we are one indivisible nation. Distrust among the ethnic groups has been the kernel of our relationship as a people. Today, the women of Jos are moaning and mourning. Suddenly, some of their beloved children are no more. Some of their husbands are gone, slaughtered and buried in mass graves. Who knows whose turn it will be tomorrow? I weep for my country Nigeria.

We are a confirmation of the existentialist view that the world is permanently unorganised and permanently unorganisable. Until we begin to hold life sacred; until we begin to adhere strictly to the rule of law, we are heading for our doom. And since the government appears incapacitated, the citizens are losing hope.

The acting president, Goodluck Jonathan, needs to act decisively here. This has gone beyond merely setting up a probe panel whose report will end up in a trash can. The perpetrators of this heinous crime and their sponsors must be fished out and punished according to the laws of the land.

We demand an apology from our rulers, a commitment to punish offenders and a pledge that never again will we allow this type of nonsense to happen in Nigeria.

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2 Comments »

  1. 1
    tope Says:

    Due to Gowon inflicted National Youths Suffering Continues, my Sunday has been dry as I no longer read Sunday Punch as I should. Bumping into this archive that burns with the naked sad truths and excruciating pains of belonging to one of the richest country on the globe but which has chosen to be developed, is a great blessing. What do we do? When Nigerians are darely crying for rapid development, we are fraught with the minor issue of our President’s state of health. People kill their own brethren and neighbours over a religion from the east and west. There is fire on the mountain!

  2. 2

    […] The busiest day of the year was April 11th with 70 views. The most popular post that day was Life is worthless in Nigeria. […]


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