Monday letter1

 Life is increasingly becoming meaningless, writes Caleb Adebayo

About a week ago, I was passing through one of Lagos’ very busy roads and an ambulance, its sirens blaring, was trying to weave its way through the traffic, repeatedly sounding its horn, its driver frantically announcing that there was an emergency. A few people tried to move, others just sat still, unyielding, while the ambulance driver was helpless. About a day before, I had seen a similar incident, only this time it was a police vehicle blaring its sirens and honking for cars to move aside. In less than a minute, everyone moved to the side and the police van drove through. Only yesterday, I learnt from a friend about how her uncle had been involved in an accident, and that while he was left there to bleed, his phones, laptop and even wrist watch were stolen, with no attempt at offering assistance.

These incidents and many more I will refer to in this spiel make me wonder: what really is the value of a Nigerian life? Over the past few years, Nigeria has suffered the worst cases of insecurity in sub-Saharan Africa. Its citizens have been killed in droves like chickens slaughtered during festivities. The security incidents in Benue, Borno, Jos and elsewhere should still be fresh in our memories, but has been quickly forgotten, because somehow, we perhaps have gotten accustomed to unnecessary deaths that an extra one is just a statistic and nothing more.

The Otedola Bridge explosion in Lagos in June last year that claimed lives, caused untold tragedies to families and kept many in very critical conditions has not long passed, yet tankers still continue to transport petrol across the country at busy hours of the day, worsened by the fact that these tankers are not roadworthy. Do we also forget Leah Sharibu who was a victim of the Dapchi abductions by Boko Haram and has still not been found over a year after she was abducted? Do we realise how nothing is being said about it by the government?

Some weeks ago, a story made the rounds about indiscriminate shooting by a Customs official because he was refused a bribe. A few days ago, we heard of another indiscriminate shooting incident by a policeman in Ayobo, Lagos State, even though the police have denied it, making it their word against that of eyewitnesses.

To add to all of these, our roads are death traps; a good opportunity for highway robbers and killers, or worse off, for unsavoury road accidents. And while these killings and accidents are on the rise, nobody cares. The average Nigerian who is alive merely thanks God that ‘it was not him’. The government in power only makes an offhand statement, if any will be made at all, condemning the incident while the responsible law enforcement agencies in instances where they are the culprits are skilled in denials; well-worded press statements that play on the intelligence of citizens.

And soon after the tragedy, everyone claps their hands in amazement, heaves sighs, and moves on, as though the dead are the unlucky gamers in a game of musical chairs, the ones who after the music stopped, could not find any of life’s chairs to sit on.

Healthcare in the country is deplorable, security agencies are killing citizens – a terror to those they are supposed to protect, the government is silent on reprisal attacks and ethnic cleansing, politics takes precedence over people, and the same people whose lives don’t matter are the ones who, sadly, are the pawns of the political process, giving up their lives while doing the bidding of one political candidate or the other.

The Presidential elections were just concluded, with violence in certain quarters and reports of absence of security personnel, or where they were there, their passiveness. This again attests to the fact that the Nigerian life is in the hands of the Nigerian, that he has no assurance of security from the government, that if he asserts his right too much, he will be killed by the security operatives; and that if he goes out on the road and gets unlucky, he could be the victim of a tanker explosion from a tanker that was meant to be kept off the road; or if he was from a particular ethnic group or professed a certain faith, he would be the target of abduction or outright death; or that if he stepped out to exercise the most important and basic of his civic duties, he will be intimidated and possibly killed; or even worse that if his two year old developed a severe illness, he would have to hope for divine intervention or simply watch the poor child die, because there was no affordable healthcare.

And we wonder why one in every three Nigerians wants to leave the country for ‘greener pasture’. In a country where lives mean little or nothing, and politics, re-election and power means everything, we are simply building a time bomb of lawlessness. A place where people would rather take laws into their hands than trust the system, because the system does not even care about them anyway.

With all the politicking that has been happening in recent times, which of the candidates we keep rooting for has assured us that the Nigerian life would mean something? Which of them has a road map for affordable healthcare or low-cost housing or increased security or border control? Yet, we, the ones who bear the brunt of it all, walk to the polls and imprint against their logos, endorsing another four years for people who do not place value on the Nigerian life. Until we reverse this trend, the Nigerian life would be worth next to nothing.

 Adebayo, lawyer wrote from Lagos