There’s a criminal ‘black spot’ I must drive through on my way to work every day.
As I drive pass, I see all manner of urchins, in different stages of narcotic and alcohol-induced stupour.
While some are hyperactive (jumping all over the place and harassing motorists, commuters and passersby), others are so stoned that they can barely sit straight, as they gaze unseeingly at nothing in particular. And yet others splattered out on the hard concrete slabs, snoring away in broad daylight – unaware of even the stench emanating from their ilk dangerously perched on the edges of the slabs and defecating directly into the lagoon below.
A little higher up this under-bridge community, a handful of other social vermin sit, watching the traffic and puffing away at their lighted ‘joints’. They wait for the traffic on the bridge above to grind to a crawl or outright jam, then they’d resume duty – smashing windscreens and side windows as they rob trapped motorist.
Incidentally, right below their elevated waiting post is a team of policemen on stop-and-search (cum stop-and-snatch) – usually targeting goods-laden vehicles and vehicles with tinted glass. I wouldn’t know if the checkpoint is legal or illegal, but what I know is that neither the policemen nor the urchins disturb each other. Everyone just minds his own business. In fact, just before the bridge is an extension of the criminal community. Here, all manner of uniformed security and paramilitary operatives sit with the urchins (and authentic motor-boys) to eat, drink and smoke whatever together. Just beside the food shacks is a dingy table, where the ruffians are playing cards, betting, gambling, drinking, shouting and fighting at the same time.
From time to time, one policeman (or soldier) emerges from behind the disused vehicles, having finished his own ‘smoking’ in the little bush behind.
This is one place where cops and robbers exist in perfect harmony. Criminality and law enforcement seamlessly fuse together. So, you may as well perish the idea of reporting anybody to anybody.
Yes, we have become so comfortable living with crime and the proceeds of crime that we have all lost our sense of decency. Our sense of right and wrong!
That is why many erstwhile cocoa farmers in the old Western Region have since cut down the cocoa plantations left behind by their forebears to make way for the planting of Indian hemp, which appears to have become the newest and more lucrative ‘cash crop.’
Today, most smokers are also agreed on the fact that the ‘strongest’ variety of this narcotic is the one grown on Kwale soil. We all pass by their ‘farms’ and do nothing. And whenever the overworked NDLEA people make any arrest, it’s no longer news.
Importers of pharmaceutical products are gladly sending all their Tramadol and other such drugs to the growing market in the North, without bothering about the use (or abuse) to which the drugs are put. Everybody is only interested in profit and balance sheet. Money now rules the world.
Now, there is a saying among my people in the South East that when an abomination is allowed to fester unchecked, it soon becomes the tradition. When we fail to stop our children insulting other parents, the children of those other parents would then begin to insult us. And, ultimately, our own children would also begin to insult us. And we must take the insults as acceptable. Of course, this has nothing to do with IPOB and Arewa Youths.
That is why we have begun to accept criminality and the abnormal as a way of life. And it is against this backdrop that I would want to see the satanic massacre, penultimate week, at St. Philips Catholic Church, Ozubulu, Anambra State.
It’s a development that first makes you angry, then it makes you mad, and then it makes you want to cry. And after crying yourself numb, you actually begin to laugh – not because it’s funny, but because you’re gradually losing your sanity. And then when people from saner climes see us laughing at these tragedies, they conclude we’re the happiest people on earth. They don’t know that our country has become one huge psychiatric home, and that we are all outpatient psychos roaming free. And the doctors are just as mad as the patients. Some of us, who have yet to complete the medication abandon it to become commercial bus drivers. Others find their way into government, while yet others begin to run churches as prophets, prophetesses and general overseers. Some even become teachers, teaching both the sane and the insane.
Simply put, we’re all mad but we don’t know it yet. And the rest of the world, who should actually be feeling sorry for us (and coming to our aid) are enjoying themselves watching our public display of madness – with some of them actually envying our ‘happiness.’
It is in this context that I would rather view the Ozubulu tragedy.
Of course, I’m not buying the police story about a drug war spillover from South Africa. It was too hasty in coming. And if it is indeed true, it then means the police in Anambra (like those at that Lagos black spot) were always in the know, but decided to look the other way, maybe, for pecuniary interests.
But, we’ve always had it coming. The moment we began to worship money, when the church began to sell its soul to moneybags, it became clear that we were headed for this perdition. Christ was bound to leave the Church soon. He since has.
Criminals, in their desperation to make the proceeds of their crime look legit, are attempting to bribe God, after having bought up traditional rulers and traditional titles. They’re not just contented with building chapels in their private homes, they move into town to build and furnish whole churches for the entire community, which otherwise respectable men of God go to consecrate without asking where the money came from. You would say its not in their place to ask, but the fact remains that, in most instances, the townsfolk know exactly what business their benefactors are into – where they are not very sure, they have enough grounds for suspicion. But everyone, except probably the village drunk, says nothing. And of course nobody ever takes the village drunk seriously.
It did not start today. Several years ago, a much younger acquaintance of mine, who dropped out of secondary school, but with whom we were all scouring the streets of Lagos for job and livelihood, curiously got a visa to Spain. He made three trips, never spending more than six months on any trip, and came back literally swimming in money.
His traditional ruler personally came to Lagos to invite him home for a chieftaincy title. Everyone, including the traditional ruler, seemed to know he was dealing drugs. But rather than call a spade by its name, they preferred to say “o na ere ogwu (he sells drugs/medicines)”. To the naïve villager, raised in my part of the country, ‘selling drugs’ means legit pharmaceuticals trade – in which my people have made a name for themselves. But to the initiated, it only means one thing: narcotics!
But, with a few transformers for the village, and an SUV for the king, my friend’s chieftaincy title (which translates to “the ultimate problem solver”), was sealed.
The last time I heard about the guy, he was languishing in some jail in Europe. But the story in the village is that he has relocated to Spain.
Even if it is eventually proven that the story of the South African drug war connection is untrue, the fact remains that what has been said about Ozubulu and its South African contingent is replicated almost all over Nigeria. We never stop to wonder what business our children are doing in Indonesia, Malaysia, US, UK, Kenya and other places that is yielding so much money. Our mantra seems to be, just go bring money home.
Definitely, more tragic days lie ahead. For the only thing drug barons and fraudsters revere is money – not God, not man, and definitely not the sanctity of human life.