Simon Kolawole Live!: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
What a hopeless week. It started with the gory story of how over 100 defenceless citizens were ruthlessly murdered by Boko Haram in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area, Plateau State. The attack consumed a serving Senator, Gyang Dantong, and a member of the Plateau House of Assembly, Gyang Fulani, who were said to have died while running away from the attackers who had invaded a mass burial ceremony for their victims. The week ended with the failed suicide attack on the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar Umar Garbai El-Kanemi, and the Borno State Deputy Governor, Alhaji Zanna Mustapha, which claimed the lives of five persons. In-between, 140 persons were burnt to ashes in the Ahoada tanker fire incident. Why is death so generous to us in this country?
This year alone, nearly 700 persons have been reportedly killed in Boko Haram operations, most of them innocent Nigerians who could not be protected by the state. Boko Haram kills at will. They kill whenever they want to. They strike anytime they choose. They are everywhere and nowhere. The more the security forces gleefully announce that they have arrested a “key” Boko Haram “commander”, the more attacks we witness. The more the security forces claim to have aborted an attack, the more strikes are launched. The Plateau massacre took place right under the nose of the security forces. There is a state of emergency in the area. There is an ongoing curfew. There is military patrol, both land and air. Yet the killers move freely and kill freely—night and day. Death is so cheap in this land.
Early morning of last Sunday at Umuakoro village in Emekuku Owerri North Local Government Area, Imo State, nine members of the Pascal Njoku family were found dead at their residence. The preliminary suspicion was that of food poison, which again raises issues about the safety of what is consumed by the public. We don’t have enough information to comment on the tragedy, but we have heard stories of killer beans and all sorts before, so the suspicion may be right. The dead persons were foaming in their mouths, again confirming the suspicion of poison. Another common killer of our people is carbon monoxide emission from generators. Only God knows how many families have been wiped out by carbon monoxide poisoning. You can blame the people for ignorance, but if we had regular electricity, at least generators would be transported to the National Museum for posterity.
Most recently, at least 163 persons were killed in the Dana air crash at Iju, Lagos. There were 153 persons on board and 10 on the ground. The preliminary report released by the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) last week confirmed that the doomed flight lost two engines before it crashed. Why would the two engines fail at the same time? We don’t know. Mechanical devices indeed can fail at any time without giving notice, so maybe that was why. But who knows maybe the engines were not even in good shape? It is one thing for engines to fail because of unforeseen circumstances; it is another for the failure to result from negligence or sharp practices. As we await the whole truth, the reality is that hundreds of homes have been bereaved, hundreds of destinies derailed, hundreds of dreams shattered. Death is so cheap in this land.
Of course, hundreds of Nigerians die in road crashes every month. We don’t even reckon with that. We only focus on air crashes because the elite are affected. While only one passenger plane has dropped since 2006, road crashes occur daily. Trailers crush hapless road users and pedestrians all the time. Our roads are in such a terrible state that accidents are designed into them. Armed robbers sadistically attack and kill travellers, without much protection from the state. Young secondary school girls were heartlessly raped by armed robbers the other day along Shagamu-Benin Expressway. If armed robbers fail to kill you, police will you. JTF too is good at killing innocent persons and tagging them Boko Haram suspects. Death is so cheap in this land.
Does it really worry us—the government and the people—that Nigerians are dying like flies? If it worries us, what are we doing about it? The Boko Haram insurgency, for instance, is neither waning nor wavering. Can we say we are winning the war? How can we win the war? Many of those who should join the government in helping to fight this menace claim that it is government agents that are planting the bombs themselves. The government itself turns round to say it is its political opponents that are sponsoring the militants. While these arguments and finger-pointing are going on, innocent Nigerians keep losing their lives to the insurgents on a very regular basis.
Why do people rush to scoop fuel from a tanker that just had an accident? You can point accusing fingers at ignorance, poverty, greed, fatalism, insecurity, among others. Maybe people ignorantly think there is no serious danger in scooping petrol, despite all the tragedies that have resulted from such act in the past. Some people are so poor that they are ready to risk their lives to scoop the loot, sell and feed themselves for a few days. To them, if they succeed, fine. If they don’t, too bad. Life is not as important to them as we think. You are not likely to find a rich person or the child of a rich person struggling to scoop the spill; it is the poor people that are victims always. So maybe it’s poverty. Or, perhaps, greed. The people saw free fuel and decided to swoop on it and loot as much as they could. That is their own “benefit” in a country where opportunities are limited and only the fittest of looters survive. Whatever the rationale is, our people are dying needless deaths.
I don’t know of many African countries where death is as cheap as it is in Nigeria. We don’t experience drought. We don’t experience earthquake or tsunami or landslide or tornado. But man-made death has been packaged in cheap capsules for us. They are being distributed freely. And we appear helpless in these difficult circumstances. Whenever I look at the cheapness of death in our country, Thomas Hobbes’ line keeps popping up in mind: life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”.
And four other things
I’m sorry to say this, but can we ever trust the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deliver the goods? Yesterday, accreditation for the governorship election in Edo State did not start at most centres at 8am as scheduled. As at 11am, many would-be voters were still waiting to be accredited. Why? Late arrival of materials! The first question that came to my mind was: with all the adequate time to prepare and with only Edo State holding an election, INEC still could not distribute materials on time. Is it when we are conducting elections in 36 states and FCT that materials would be distributed in good time?
I am one of the advocates of “national unity” and a believer in the continued existence of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in the interest of “national integration”. Having said that, however, I ask myself these days: would I allow my daughter or my cousin to be posted to Boko Haram-infested states? After the mass murder of corps members in Bauchi State last year, would I be eager to advise someone I love to go on posting to states where their lives are evidently not safe? Should I support government’s decision to post corps members to these states? My answer is no. No. No. No.
The preliminary report released by the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) confirmed initial accounts that the doomed Dana flight 0992 lost two engines before it crashed, killing 153 persons on board and 10 on the ground. The report indicated that the pilot had been flying in Nigeria for less than a month. He would probably have saved the lives of the passengers if he had chosen emergency landing in nearby Ibadan or Akure rather than bravely trying to make it to Lagos. Who knows what was going through his mind? Let’s hope further investigation will reveal the cause of the double engine failures.
The decision of a British magistrate court to free England player, John Terry, of racism charges is very confounding and dangerous. He was accused of calling Anton Ferdinand “f***ing black c**t”. Terry didn’t deny saying so. His defence is that he was actually asking Ferdinand: “Anton, do you think I called you f***ing black c**t?” That beggars belief. The lawyers might have done a good job of getting him off the hook, but we will live with the consequences. Next time a black player is called “black s**t”, his antagonist can claim he actually said: “Do you think I called you black s**t?” Something doesn’t just click in that defence.