Sunday 26 January 2014

Opinion: My Views About That Human Trafficking Exclusive

Revisiting that story
I did think I should do a piece about my reading of the Premium Times piece about Human Trafficking by the investigative journalist Tobore Ovuorie.
A few days have passed since I first read the story, and I have been able in some way to begin to appreciate some of the detail shared in that four-part piece.
Now, I am driven to write this now because Ikhide R. Ikheloa, who we all fondly refer to as Pa Ikhide on social media has raised some rather pertinent questions as to where this narrative lies between fact and fiction.
Healthy scepticism
Indeed, one should harbour a healthy scepticism towards such incredible stories and challenge many assumptions by posing some serious questions that need clear and detailed answers.
This is importantly part of the verification process, yet, some stories because they are narratives possibly taken without the convenience of notes, but a debrief after a traumatic experience might suffer the conflicts between the trusting part of taking it at face value and the verifying which is somewhat a distrusting it with closer scrutiny.
I would not rewrite Pa Ikhide’s piece here, rather, it is pertinent people read that along with other narratives and make up their minds.
Follow the money
On my reading of Tobore Ovuorie’s story, a number of things jumped out at me that made me feel that the matter of man’s gross inhumanity to man is an extant evil fuelled by the quest for filthy lucre and no particular care for anyone who gets trampled on in the process.
If I were to go by the catchphrase, ‘Follow the money’, as a breadcrumb trail through this Hansel and Gretel forest of narratives, I see two trails, one paid up by the mafia that smooths everything from the acquisition of willing victims, through their inductions, the officialdom that provides passports, passage and providence, to the inability for many victims to extricate themselves because of the rotten contracts they sign, signing off their lives.
The love of money
The second trail is that which cajoles and beguiles the victims who believe in the possibilities that the mafia gang promises in great returns from making it out of a difficult Nigeria to Europe where the pickings – yes, pickpocketing was a new one to me and the macabre organ harvesting was even more gruesome.
However, when I read of what informs the Nigerian psyche of success in the acquisition of things as cars, building houses, partying with the powerful, money being passed around in jute bags and the apparent hierarchies of progression through the system, I am persuaded to err on the side of plausibility.
The risks
Having lived in Amsterdam, I did a quick check for where ZAM Chronicle purports to operate from, and I am quite concerned and at the same time interested that a journalistic outfit would choose to site their offices under a railway arch at Tussen de Bogen 66, 1013 JB Amsterdam.
However, the bigger question which Pa Ikhide raised is about the risks Tobore Ovuorie took and the willingness for all the parties to this enterprise to allow the journalist to go through this activity which carried the possibility of her losing her life. I ask, do we have war correspondents? Is reporting from a war zone a carnival? Do reputed news organisations send people on such projects? Do we lose journalists in war zones?
Considering, the number of witch doctors that suggested she might bring bad fortune to the business, and the tale that two of such harbingers of bad omen were taken for the slaughter in the presence of the ladies about to be trafficked, the venture was careless bordering on recklessness, but then, it is possible from a Western perspective to measure risk in those terms and yet realise that none of this story would have been possible without the willingness to entertain this possibility.
Mighty dread
Much as I am wont to believe the best of everyone, I could very well see in the more African or Nigerian context where the outrageously outlandish seeking excoriation and sanction is an everyday issue and I would not be surprised if Tobore Ovuorie’s motivations were as compelling as she proffers, informed from watching her friend expire from an AIDS-related illness some 14 years before. She had the antecedents, the possibility came, and the opportunity presented itself for her to embark on this venture, and for that, I seriously commend her.
In this story, I see what Lord Lugard in his rotten assessment of Africans in 1922.
The religious sense seldom rises above pantheistic animalism and seems more often to take the form of a vague dread of the supernatural.
There was lots of fetishist activity and the use of the dread of the supernatural to terrify the ladies about to be trafficked into compliance either by the ritual or the murders for organ harvesting. I would think the organs were harvested for ritual purposes rather than for medical procedures. The evil and savagery was palpable.
Used and dumped
Again, having lived in Amsterdam where prostitution is legal and regulated, the people in the trade have access to social, legal and medical support whilst those seemingly trafficked to other parts of Europe simply had utility when healthy and were dumped when their health failed without respite or care.
Such was the fate of Tobore Ovuorie’s friend who died of AIDS-related Kaposi Sarcoma, this is a type of skin cancer and it is the same cancer that killed Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. Worst still is the heartlessness of the trafficking mafia that had no concern for the deterioration of health of their victims, that once their vile chattels stopped earning money, they were discarded.
The pain and agony of cancer is something I have once experienced, this cancer is treatable though the treatment is expensive, first with Antiretrovirals and then chemotherapy. It goes without saying that the trafficked were used like animals, they engaged with unsafe sex which some punters would have preferred, they contracted HIV and probably passed it on to others without once thinking about it – that is if they even knew that they were infected.
The system is paid up
Before I entertain the needed healthy scepticism at Tobore Ovuorie’s story and the many unanswered questions that need to be addressed promptly, the deeper core of my humanity suggests many are probably going through worse than Tobore Ovuorie attempted to share, and one can only wonder about the even more unprintable backstories that inform this sordid human trafficking enterprise.
This is the system we are up against, bought and sustained on the lives of many with no name sacrificed to this evil activity of human trafficking.
Don’t worry about crossing borders and getting caught,” she had told me. “Immigration, customs, police, army and even foreign embassies are part of our network. You only run into trouble with them if you fail to be obedient to us.
This alone shows why the risks were taken and possibly how the moneyed, the powerful and the influential are turning a blind eye to this, because, they are the system.
The real fight
Our altruistic desire that the institutions we have from law enforcement, through non-governmental organisations, the international aid organisations, our governments, politicians and representatives engage in abolishing the human trafficking should take us back to a historical parallel and the length of time it took to abolish the slave trade.
As long as great profits are there to be made from human lives sold and traded like dirt, much as the truth is critical, the reality of just one conscripted into this evil enterprise should inform our desire to eradicate these narratives from either the fact or the fiction of our humanity.

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