Violent crime, such as robbery, assault, carjacking, kidnapping and rape, is almost commonplace throughout the country. Most travel advisories would ask that one exercises extreme caution throughout the country due to the threat of indiscriminate violence. Terrorists continue plotting and carrying out attacks in Nigeria, especially in the North East.
Against this backdrop, Barrister Madaki, a client of his and I were discussing recently about how unsafe our local communities have become, even my wife had recently commented; we have kids, so it is no surprise we are concerned. The Kaduna-Abuja road has for long been a nightmarish experience. Security concerns are no longer a here and there case but an everywhere matter. We are served a potpouri of “the President is meeting with security chiefs”, “the state governors are donating cars to security apparatus”, we are debating local vigilantes, community policing, state police and more, but we are not getting it right.
It was Kelly Slusher that sang “I am the Devil of the Neighbourhood”:
We have devils in the neighbourhood
They think that I’m no good
Wanna live my life how I should
Please believe me I’m misunderstood
Began this morning when I awoke
Thought of my life and started to choke
Today again I sit and sulk
Awake me from this horrible joke
Called someone on the telephone
But nobody is ever home
Not a surprise I should have known
Tired of being here all alone
This isn’t how things should be
Feels like the world’s against me
But if I leave maybe I’d see
Leaving this town will make me free
I’m the devil of the neighborhood
They think that I’m no good
Wanna live my life how I should
Please believe me I’m misunderstood.
So, from Los Cabos, to Caracas, Acapulco to Natal, how aboutTijuana or La Paz, I do not know where Fortaleza is located, neither have I honestly heard about Ciudad Victoria or Ciudad Guayana, except that both have a ciudad to their names. Do you know where Belem is in the map of the world? Have you been to Vitoria da Conquista or do you intend to go to Culiacan? A lot of us can only relate to St. Louis as a brand name for our favourite sugar pack, but it is actually a place and it is also a dangerous place, like Maceio and likeCape Town (we know this) and we also know Kingston, that sounds and certainly must be Jamaica, the weed and Marley town.
It is a long list that has San Salvador and Aracaju, Feirade Santana and Ciudad Juárez, and, yes, I know Baltimore (it is in the US). I have been there, really crazy place. Not sure I know a place called Recife, or Maturin and I do not know Guatemala City and Salvador, but the names are familiar. So, I have never heard San Pedro Sula but I know Valenci, because I know of the soccer team from that city. Three paragraphs gone and I, like you, can’t but wonder what this list is about. The list that still has:
Campos dos Goytacazes
Nelson Mandela Bay
All the listed names above are the most dangerous cities in the world. Los Cabos, Mexico, is the most dangerous city in the world, with a murder rate of 111.33 per 100,000 people. Cape Town, South Africa, is 15th with murder rate of 62.3 deaths per 100,000 people. Nelson Mandela Bay, SouthAfrica, is 46th, murder rate: 37.5 deaths per 100,000 people. And then Durban is 44th on the list.
For all the mud thrown at us as Nigerians, two facts are at play, no one really cares about Nigeria or, as usual, we may just be ‘just’ so bad there are no records, I would settle for a safer but dangerous balance, which is, we are on our way to getting to the list that has Mexico, with 15 cities, Brazil, with 14, South Africa, with three, the US, with four, and Venezuela, with six. Honduras and Colombia have two. Puerto Rico, Jamaica, El Salvador and Gutemala have one each on the list.
So, Nigeria is an unsafe destination. Northern Nigeria is unsafe for foreigners (especially westerners) due to ethnic and religious tensions, lawlessness and the current activities of Islamist groups such as Boko Haram. This is the kind of thing you see thrown around about Nigeria. And you don’t want to know the real truth about criminal activities, and crime lords operating across Nigeria like Mr. Wadume of Taraba, but we are not on the list of the MOST DANGEROUS CITIES OF THE WORLD. And in Esther Opaaje’s words, while, “the country is arguably one of the most visited destinations in Africa (more or less so, depending on which international index you rely on). Lagos alone accommodates over 2,000 expatriates monthly. It is also estimated by the British Commonwealth Office that around 117,000 British nationals visit the country each year. Nigeria is a unique country, but also a country of extremes and home to some ofthe most educated and brightest minds in Africa. Although its polity has been deeply rotten by corruption, it is a country with undisputed international presence and attention. Extreme poverty co-exists side-by-side with stupendous wealth, but there has been apparent stability in the political terrain in the recent years.”
Our poverty in Nigeria is a case political instability, income inequality, ethnic conflict, and faith-colored jingoism. According to a World Bank report, poverty still remainssignificantly high at 33.1 per cent, we are not just poor, but multidimensionally poor. Comically put, our poverty has a surname. Nigeria is so rich and Nigerians are so poor!
In case you do not know, by 2050, we may just overtake theUSA in terms of population. We have crude oil. We import fuel. We have gas and we do not have electricity. We have Fela, and we have Wole Soyinka, but we also have a flawed democracy and with all our improvements we remain a fragile state.
Let me end this way: About 90 million people – roughly half Nigeria’s population – live in extreme poverty, according to estimates from theWorld Data Lab’s Poverty Clock. Around June 2018, Nigeria overtook India, a country with seven times our population, at the bottom of the table. Put in another context, if poor Nigerians were a country, it would be more populous than Germany. Almost six people in Nigeria fall into this trap every minute. And with these statistics come enormous risk, devils are in the neighbourhood and if we don’t do something, the list of dangerous places is beckoning on us.
•Prince Dickson, PhD, a development and media professional, writes via [email protected]