Thursday, 20 April 2006

With guns are you parted from your goods

Gun shots and security
I just read that my blogging friend, the author of Naijablog was almost in a precarious situation of witnessing an armed robbery in Abuja, Nigeria. Fortunately, he only heard gun-shots and then the screeching of tires as they made away.
As I empathise, I relate my own experience with armed robbers in our home some 18 years ago.
Here goes …
I have my own skirmishes in Europe, but that for one, vindicates my having left Nigeria and not having returned; not for a day for a long time.
I am really sorry about that episode and I truly can empathise.
When I was in Lagos, I lived in ShaSha with nothing between our house and the wall of the International Airport.
The traffic on the runway revealed the political pulse of the country; we could say when a coup was in the offing by the type of traffic coming in.
Expecting armed visitors
Anyway, one week in 1988, armed robbers had selected our neighbourhood for operations having done the novel thing of drilling a hole through walls to gain access to property not too far away. That left the neighbourhood in a palpable sense of defencelessness.
That night, we more or less knew it was our turn; they had already gained access to the house and entered the building downstairs before asking my aunt - Madam to open the door.
We did, and we were escorted upstairs where we were made to lie down in the living room as they ransacked on the whole house and got ready to cart away everything of value but our lives.
Then sergeant asked the colonel to shoot one of us; reason prevailed, the colonel said we had co-operated so should come to no harm.
It was not till about 2 hours after that happened that we realised as we wandered between shock and realism what we had just been through.
We vacated the house for 2 weeks.
Bullet tennis with staves as racquets
The village community decided we should have a party of vigilantes go out every night to give the neighbourhood a sense of security.
I sniggered; we were to walk away around in groups of 8 or so with sticks and staves to upset a determined rampage of armed rogues.
It appeared we were preparing for a tennis match with bullets as balls only that we were not offering the first service.
Security trumps economic progress
So, when my father pontificated then about the possibility of ending up in a racist society by being in Europe, I did not mince my words in reply as to the fact that security of life and well-being is of greater importance going from my experience.
In fact, that is my major gripe about Nigeria and it makes the other news piece about being taken off the International Financial Action Task Force (FATF) blacklist hardly worthy of mention.
Without security of life and property what is the point of being off a blacklist, living in fortresses that rival Fort Knox and not being able to get around for the fear of car-jacking?
On the verge of greatness
Sometimes, viewing it from here, it looks like it is a lottery to win safety over the lack of it. It is not necessarily the norm but events like this colour ones view of a country that is on the verge of greatness; if only we could see what kind it is.

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