Wednesday 20 June 2007

Hutu chikin Nigeria? Inaa!

Does it really matter anymore?

This represents the unacceptable state of affairs in Nigeria, the issue of safety and security. Having not visited Nigeria for a long time, I have always been anxious for people who return with such regularity as if they are taking a walk in the park.

Obviously, many of these people have quite well laid out plans for their arrival, transportation and safety when sojourning in the country, but I am just beside myself with terrifying incapacitation when criminals run riot and despatch people with armed efficiency without any consideration for life or property.

Now, people do live in Nigeria - 140 million at last count - and are probably inured or resigned to the fact that things are just the way they are in Nigeria - I suspect this is a problem mainly with large citties - I have family in that country and I exercise confidence that they are all well and secure in the hands of Him who watches over all.

They came, they terrified and they left

I did experience the brutal reality of armed robbers entering my home, threatening us with guns and the possibility of getting shot whilst they ransacked our home and made off with every significant material possession.

They calmly executed their mission without emotion apart from when the "sergeant" asked the "major" to shoot us and he said our having cooperated meant that we would be spared - my uncle got kicked about a bit, but thankfully none of us came to any physical harm.

The emotional and mental harm is a different thing; it was not till 3 hours after the event that we found we could not even stand on two feet without a swaying stagger, we were traumatised and in serious shock - none sought treatment, we just carried on with our lives, grateful we could recount the story - my subject says the same thing 19 years on, "It was like a movie but I thank God I'm alive to tell the story"

That was Nigeria, the last and lasting image of Nigeria before I returned to Europe.

VGC - a shattered illusion

It was only a few weeks ago when I asked what VGC meant, apparently it is supposed to be some sophisticated gated community in Lagos where everything was probably more American or European than America or Europe itself - A Paradise by the Lagoon, probably the euphemism for titan mosquito territory, namely, Victoria Garden City.

A young man returns to Nigeria to honour his country with his football talent from his comfort zone in Europe, after the match, he stops over to fill his car with petrol in VGC and gets attacked by "armed robbers", who shoot at his car indiscriminately harming his friend.

"Armed robbers", well, maybe not really, because they did not make away with the car, despite having such massive fire-power, probably hired killers - those are even too dangerous to describe - no entreaty could deliver you from the demonic possession of those who get paid to take life, here, you can only call on a Higher Power as your life flashes before you like a movie in slow motion.

The crab complex

This reminds me of an interesting observation of a friend about fisheries, you never have to put a lid on a bucket full of crabs, every crab trying to escape is always pulled back by those still sitting in the bucket.

It is an appalling analogy, but it would take a number of initiatives to take a stand against criminality in Nigeria, and it has to start with tempering the inordinate quest for wealth to the exclusion of any matter of principle; the purging of our crime prevention infrastructure; an anti-graft agency that pursues seemingly respectable mega-thieves in positions of great influence and prosecutes them objectively to a just conclusion and the revival of the concepts of that old War Against Indiscipline.

Without this, the crab-complex would thrive, each drive to improve the country gets thwarted by the other crabs - elite and masses - who cannot bear to see Nigerian in any light but the almost, maybe, probably and trying circumstance.

The comfortably complacent

I expect reactions; things are not all that bad and I am just being hysterical - well, but we build houses like maximum security prisons and traverse territories that contrast our amazing lives of opulence with proximity abject poverty, then expect things to be just so right.

The time-frame is just recent weeks and four international footballers have been attacked in Lagos - Obafemi Martins, of English side Newcastle, Benjamin Onwuachi, of Greek side Ionikos, Femi Ajilore, of Danish club Midtjylland as well as Romania-based Ifeanyi Emeghara - these are the ones that made the news, talk less of everyday Nigerians.

This is completely unacceptable and it feeds the perception of Nigeria being a sort of failed state.

Let him speak

I conclude this piece by offering what Obafemi Martins said, verbatim, courtesy of BBC News.

"A lot of things are wrong with the system in Nigeria and when you are helpless you need to go and hide somewhere,".

"I was born in Lagos, I am a Lagosian but when I don't feel safe in my hometown then something must be wrong.

"It's a great thing to play for your country, put smiles on the faces of people and also feel safe among your family and fans.

"But when the situation gets out of hand, I don't think coming home is something I can contemplate."

Shikenan! - Hutu chikin Nigeria? Inaa! (Enough said! Holidays in Nigeria? Don't think so - Hausa)

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