I’m not sure if this title is apt. Because, on a second thought, I feel like the devil did not really visit Nigeria after all, he has always been resident with us and we have been very hospitable to him. He only just manifested his full elements, which we had been very familiar with but chose, in our usual flippant way, to look the other way.
Was the government not aware of the atrocities of some policemen? The brazen display of sheer wickedness that chilled to the bone but played the ostrich, buried their heads in the sand and pretended to neither see nor hear?
What gets me angry is when I realise how precarious the work of policing is. How risky the job; that poorly remunerated people could put their lives on the line, in the sun or rain, night or day, watching over the city while we sleep. Yet they are so loathed because of a few rotten tomatoes in their midst that the authorities neglected to deal with. They killed, maimed and boasted that nothing would happen. Indeed, nothing happened in almost all the cases, as perpetrators of such heinous crimes were even compensated with promotion.
Now pushing got to shoving and the country was conflagrated, resulting in avoidable deaths, the carnage and destruction of prized properties.
Nigeria must build a respectable police force that we can all be proud of. All the bad eggs spoiling the security outfit must be fished out, flushed down the drain and prosecuted. It is not about the hastily cobbled Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT). The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) by another name would be just as ruthless. Rather, the police authorities must do a holistic overhaul, which includes good welfare and compensation package for the men and rejigging their mindset so that they can indeed be our friend, respected and responsive.
For a very long time, living in Nigeria has become more hellish than hell itself. There are no jobs, no hope for the youth, who bore the grinding hardship with Nigeria’s characteristic ‘suffering and smiling’ equanimity. Instead of improving the lot of the people, government officials made a kill of our common till, looting or frittering away resources that could have been deployed to make life better for the masses. The worst is government’s official role in creating this unemployment and underemployment which, ironically, it flaunts as achievement.
I’m talking about the so-called N-Power programme, which is a synonym for slavery. Imagine enrolling a graduate in the scheme for a mere N30,000 a month stipend and yet pushing him out of the scheme into the gutter from where he was picked a few months earlier, and bringing in yet another batch. Actually, it is a scheme meant for politicians to reward their hangers-on. Now, if there is work to do, why not employ and pay them living wages? If there is no job, why ‘waste’ the money that could have been deployed to infrastructural development so that companies could improve and employ these hapless Nigerians that now regret wasting their time going to school in the first place? Even the Vice-President’s weird kokoma dance inside markets, distributing Tradermoni is ineffective.
More so, it is unimaginable that when other countries were helping to cushion the ravaging effects of COVID-19, Nigeria chose to inflict more pain on its people by increasing cost of fuel and electricity. Haba! Is it not a wonder that the acclaimed COVID-19 palliatives are now being looted from warehouses where they were stocked for God-knows-what reasons while those they were purportedly meant for are dying in droves of hunger? Things happen in this country that make one wonder if we are truly human.
No man understands the madness going on in the electricity sector. Almost all residents in the Agodo area of Lagos were billed in excess of N20,000 in two-bedroom flats last month. Even a room apartment inYaba, Lagos, was billed N25,000; it is the same situation across the states. Haba, are we running factories in our homes? Yet the government refuses to act after stripping us of our national assets and handed us over to Shylocks that would not even obey government to meter us and stop estimated billing.
A bag of rice is more expensive than the N30,000 minimum wage that most organisations don’t even pay. Where is the humanity in expecting such a man, even the cop, would use his entire paycheck to pay electricity bill, then starve and trek to work for the rest of the month. Won’t he eat, won’t his children go to school, and where is the government? There are so many questions without answers.
That was why the youths were uncontrollable, and still are. The anger had been bottled up for far too long and they merely gave expression to it. If they were in school or engaged, they would not have time for rioting. But they were not in school because agreements governments struck with ASUU have not been implemented for years, leading to industrial dispute that has shut our universities for months now. They are not engaged because there are no jobs, and no businesses. They were even forced to take up ‘entrepreneurial’ activities but there is no electricity to power their clippers and welding machines. So, in the absence of hope, they poured into the streets like locusts and destroyed whatever stood in their way.
However, that is where these youths missed it. They had a genuine case such that, for the first time in the history of this country, government responded promptly and acceded to their request, scrapping SARS. But they lingered on the streets for too long, and became tools in the hands of disaffected politicians and criminal elements.
The destruction has pushed more youths into the unemployment market. The destruction means scarce resources would now be deployed in replacing or repairing those valuable properties destroyed. The destruction of properties like BRT buses means youths too will now have to trek more or stay longer at bus stops, waiting for more expensive means of commuting. The burning or destruction of police stations mean that the police protecting us no longer have offices to work from. Attacking prisons and releasing confined criminals mean that armed robbers, kidnappers and murderers would now have free rein again to attack their ‘benefactors’. Attacking psychiatric hospitals and releasing mentally challenged inmates means that no one can move freely without fear of vicious attacks from someone without a mind to control his or her actions. There is so much folly in the destructions; this should never have happened, and never again.
As for the government, this is ‘thought for food’ and I think time has come to use your ‘teeth to count your tongue’. I deliberately phrased it that way because we live in very awkward times and government must be inventive. Someone predicted that time was coming when the rich would no longer be free to drive their limousines on our roads. I think that time is now. Consider the attacks on rich and powerful Nigerians whose properties were looted or destroyed and you just have to be more ingenious in governance.
Before you send our graduate sons to learn carpentry after spending years in university, where are your own children? Before you run down our schools and health institutions, make sure your wards are there and that you are not a health tourist abroad. Before you send us to the farm, and we are ready to go, what tools are you giving us, and are you coming with us?
Enough of hyperbolic verbiage without soul. Walk your talk and make life worth living for Nigerians, who now live in hopeless hope for tomorrow that may never come. I want it to come sooner; we have the wherewithal to rule the waves, if only we put in the right indices. I honestly think we can, thanks to President Muhammadu Buhari, if he breaks his back and leaves indelible footprints in the sands of history in the short period left of his tenure; that will wipe off the sordid tale of the recent inglorious past. Prove it, sir, that the spontaneity of youth can never measure up to the deliberate slowness of age. I see a new glorious dawn springing from the ashes of the recent carnage. What about you?