By abiodun KOMOLAFE
Temitope Oladipo Fayehun must be passing through hard times. A native of Ilesa in Osun State, Fayehun’s ordeal started on March 2, 2021, when he, alongside others in his vehicle, fell into the hands of some Fulani kidnappers along Osogbo-Ibokun-Ilesa Road in the state. While some of the passengers were killed and had their corpses dumped in the forest, others were immediately hauled into a thick forest. Fayehun fell into the latter group. But then, that marked the beginning of a journey that eventually lasted 16 days in the kidnappers’ den; as expected, under hellish conditions.
Hear Fayehun, in tears: “as part of the torture, the kidnappers used their boots to stamp on, and mess my eyes up daily. They also sealed them with plasters. My left wrist was dislocated, with other most inhumane treatment that had better be left unsaid in the open. After my release, following the payment of N4 million ransom, I could neither see objects nor do anything without being aided; and this made my life a living hell. On the almost-severed wrist, I was advised to go for Plaster of Paris (POP) immobilization, to re-correct the fractured bone. I have yet to do it.
“I have sold all my property to regain my health, especially my vision. The last diagnosis suggested that I must do an urgent surgical operation on my left eye or risk losing my sight forever, which is never an option. In order to escape this damnation, I need urgent assistance from public-spirited Nigerians so that I can use my two eyes to see clearly again. The first surgical operation on the right eye was performed at the Obafemi Awolowo Teaching Hospital, Ile-Ife in April 2022, at a cost of seven hundred and twenty thousand naira only (N720,000.00). It remains the left eye. But I am at my wits end. So, I pray Nigerians would come to my aid.”
Of a fact, Fayehun is not the only one in this unfortunate mess that has pathetically enveloped Nigeria, our dear Native Land. On Friday, September 29, 2023, no fewer than 25 choristers of the Christ Apostolic Church, Oke Igan, Akure, Ondo State, were reportedly attacked and kidnapped in the Ose Local Government Area of the state. Their abductors placed a N50 million ransom on them before they could smell freedom. On October 4, 2023, gunmen also kidnapped 5 female students of the Federal University, Dutsinma in Katsina State.
And the list goes on and on!
Well, like a furious cyclone, insecurity distracts. When a state fails in manifestation in terms of its stately attributes, insecurity becomes an addendum. It is like bread and butter: they go hand-in-hand. Take, for instance, when a thug discovers that he is beyond the reach of the security agents’ handcuffs, those who may wish to whip him into shape will only be labouring in vain. When this happens, one major adverse effect is the initiation of hitherto innocent guys. After all, in a lawless society, being a law-abiding citizen is a taboo.
With a specific reference to Nigeria, the plight of kidnap victims is given. Since they are always subjected to powerlessness, and are in powerless situations, everything terrible is possible, for the victims lack absolute control. The tragedy of our system is that society is becoming increasingly callous. Impliedly, our world is in trouble, should we fail to reconnect with humanity, for no matter how good or fantastic a policy or programme may be, if humanity is missing, then, we ain’t seen nothing yet!
Martin Niemoller’s famous post-war quote, which begins with “First they came for the socialists and I did not speak out …”, aptly captures the complex nature and the uneven texture of our world. When the central issue of what to eat has taken over 90% of society, society won’t have any excuse again. When everybody wakes up and the normal concern of food for the stomach takes pre-eminence, it becomes a social problem so serious even for those in leadership positions to comprehend. But, since they have cold drinks to sip, they’ll simply go to their refrigerators to satisfy their thirst while the gathering storm extends its phalanges to other untested areas; and this continues until there are deliberate government interventions.
An assessment of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) will show clearly that, objectively, Nigerians are not one, because the issue was never addressed. Unfortunately, we are all gathered from one corner of the country only to live together without addressing what made us to gather. The image or focus changed; it’s the ‘Certificate of Clearance’, that ‘you have done your bit.’ That’s what has represented the entire scheme. Unconfirmed reports even have it that many corps members get their certificates of participation without physically partaking in the mandatory programme as required by the Act establishing NYSC. Arguably, therefore, if a prospective female corps member is going to sleep with a man to get her that certificate, she will just do it. If her male counterpart is going to pay, using his ‘chop money’ to get it, he won’t hesitate to do it. Many reportedly get their certificates from the Orientation Camps without getting to their places of primary assignment. In fact, school is the best: without going to the Orientation Camp, and without knowing anything about its drills, thrills, and frills, one just comes at the end of the service year to collect one’s certificate and go away. This has been the trend, year in, year out.
In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr, “ peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at the goal.” Regrettably, while the scheme gulps billions of naira each year, nobody has come open with regard to the measure of its achievements beyond the usual rhetoric of ‘I served’, ‘you served’, and ‘we served’; nothing beyond the debatable socialization and inter-ethnic marriages. In other words, what the Scheme has done to genuinely address the critical issues surrounding our Nigerianness remains to be seen. For God’s sake, who says Nkechi cannot come from Anambra and meet her destined heartthrob in Bukkuyum without the infusion of NYSC? Surely certainly, until these issues are addressed, the good Lord, we pray: ‘Save us from a point of no return!’
Niemoller was right: things don’t just happen; they must be addressed. To simply sit down and begin to think that all things will suddenly become bright and beautiful can only amount to jokes taken too far. The more reason Nigerians don’t have strong support for, or belief in government policies. They don’t have reference points or examples of policies that work to fall back on. Many other instances have followed but the results have been similar: creeping frustration and helplessness. What we are saying is that, with the situation on the ground, security is no longer seen as a responsibility of the government, not because it is not but because it has not been objectively tackled; and people are getting used to it. So, once you allow yourself to be kidnapped, you are on your own. It is as simple as that!
When former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s family was attacked, it didn’t take much time for Nigeria’s entire security apparatchik to respond with the fierceness and the swiftness that the situation demanded. But for the deadly attack on the then Nigeria’s First Daughter’s convoy, nobody would have known that there was a cross-border robbery kingpin called Hamani Tidjani. But who will do that on behalf of a poor man? So, every citizen must come up with his or her own security measures, or anything that works, whether it is Ogedengbe Agbogungboro that one will need to wake up from his eternal sleep, or conjure the spirit of Moremi Ajasoro to come to one’s rescue. Depending on where one’s faith lies, something needs to be done to watch over one’s household. It is now that bad!
The brightness and the future of communal togetherness expressed is given meaning and intelligibility that government policies are analysed, vis-à-vis, the benefits of the people. Since those benefits are meant to address the plights of the people, when one juxtaposes the benefits with the policy content, one will know how far the government has gone to provide governance to the people. Without doubt, the Nigerian evil, where it came from, was the ignorant elite who foolishly pushed for modern ways of life without the people’s local, inner and moral strengths. They are the driving force of a stable society. For instance, once there is instability in communal living, it spreads like a virus, limited only by the distance covered by the people or the interactions they have all over the world. When selfishness begins in a community, it takes over the country in a jiffy. So, it’s no longer an Ijebuman who lost money. It’s now a general saying for all the tribes. That’s why one can say: for Ijebu-Jesa, it is double per Diem!
To be continued
*KOMOLAFE wrote in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria (firstname.lastname@example.org; 08098614418 – SMS only)
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