What is Human Life Worth in Nigeria?


The spate of deaths and killings in Nigeria questions how much premium is placed on life here. Olawale Olaleye writes

Life is precious. It is the reason everyone desires it. Even those in the most difficult situations or battling distasteful challenges that life throws at them still treasure it. Of course, there are a few exceptions of those, who took their own lives almost needlessly! These insignificant few still cannot colour the beauty that life boasts and presents. It is for this reason that in civilised climes, a premium is placed on life generally – human and animal.

Unfortunately, Nigeria appears an entirely different setting. Akin to the Hobbesian example, life in this part of the world is to say the least, boorish, coarse and horrid. Week in, week out, someone dies the most horrendous death in Nigeria and soon after, everyone puts it behind them as if it never happened in the first place.
The toll taken on the Nigerian people by the Boko Haram attacks is one clear and indicative pointer to this. Whilst it is arguable that terrorism is a different kind of warfare that the whole world is currently struggling to battle, the fact that the Nigerian version is homegrown makes it very scary, as people heartlessly blow up their own brothers and sisters without batting an eyelid.

The mode of operations of kidnappers, which often ends up making casualties of their victims, is another example of how life means nothing here in Nigeria. Everyday people die in kidnappers’ den, sometimes even after paying the demanded ransom and their corpses are dumped anywhere like a waste bag. And more often than not, the perpetrators go scot-free.

Sharing closely with these are armed robbers, who daily inflict pains on their victims even as they forcefully dispossess them of their belongings. Many people have died in the process without regrets whatsoever by their assailers. Life, to these ones, means nothing because it can be taken anytime.

In many communities in Nigeria, there are constant clashes amongst brothers, who have lived together for many years. Suddenly, people wake up someday and over matters as trivial as encroaching on an open space, start a fight that would later claim hundreds of human lives, destroy homes and displace thousands. Disposition like this does not speak favourably about a people, who understand and appreciate the worth of a human life, let alone its very essence.

What with the unimaginable clashes between farmers and herdsmen in some parts of the country, often leaving several painfully dead and many houses consumed in the process? Life, for these ones, means nothing. In fact, the herdsmen would rather save their cattle than waste their precious time saving humans. How does one explain such psychotic character exhibition?

The last few days have witnessed repulsive attacks in Plateau state, resulting in the death of many people in the state. According to reports, over 27 persons had been killed while in their sleep in Nkiedonwhro community, Bassa Local Government Area of the state by unknown gunmen, suspected to be Fulani militants.

The killings happened barely 48 hours after the imposition of a dusk-to-dawn curfew by Governor Simon Lalong in the LGA. But the latest attack was about the third in the LGA since last Friday, when Lalong imposed an indefinite dusk-to-dawn on the area. When you look at this particular situation in Plateau, how does one analyse the understanding of a people with such a primitive mindset about life, much less placing a premium on it?
The worst of them all is the educated club – the doctors, whose Hippocratic oath emphasises the need to save life first regardless of the circumstances. The hospital is the number one place where lives are wasted needlessly.
With insensate demands from a man at the point of death, the medical practitioners appear to have become so used to having people “covered up” that they don’t care how many of such bodies are covered up in a day even where they could have saved them if mindful of time.

It is trite to reiterate for emphasis that the primary function of government is to protect life and property. What is therefore disturbing is the attitude of government when it comes to rising up to this challenge of protecting life. Indeed, the failure of government to live up to this expectation is largely believed to have exacerbated the increasing contempt for life, the result of which is the gory reports about killings every time.

Granted that is the role of the government. But cumulatively, running a society is about roles and responsibilities. The responsibility of the people, which is meant to complement the efforts of government on every front, is almost completely absent. This is why the country runs nearly like the Hobbesian society, worse still, without any indications that life means anything.

In the final analysis, this is one change that must start with government. Government must ensure that the life of any Nigerian matters and is worth a lot more than the individual could ever imagine anywhere in the world. Government must not only go out to ensure the security of life, it must see it evidenced by actions. The time to change the impossible perception about Nigeria and Nigerians is now and the one way to do this is by starting to place a premium on life.