The story of Nigeria is a dramatic irony. It is about a country where wealth and suffering both coexist in abundance. Although surrounded by so much wealth, many Nigerians still lack access to quality education, adequate health care service, food, modern infrastructure and security. Over 13 million children are out of school and more than 23 million Nigerians are unemployed.
The working majority are underpaid, while an ‘idle’ minority gets welcome packages in billions of naira. In the same country where ‘justice shall reign’ exists only in our National Anthem and never practised by those who sing it, the real working public workers must wait for several months before they are paid the N30, 000 minimum wage.
Such things can only happen in a country where, according to former Senator Shehu Sani, earn close to N13.5m monthly and university professors earn about N6m annually. As injustice pervades the land, loyalty is eroded and everyone scrambles for every opportunity that comes their way or sidesteps the system.
Aware of the pathetic fate of pensioners, workers attempt to accumulate enough to save for post-retirement reality. Public servants, conscious of a conspiracy among the elite that is targeted against the majority, appear to be interested in grabbing their individual and collective future by the throat. Today, Nigeria suffers violence and the violent are taking the country by force. Kidnappers are in a rat race with the elite, especially members of the Senate.
Desperate to attain the millionaire status, like our distinguished senators, some Nigerians orchestrate their own kidnap in order to extort their relatives. But while the money-seeker on a TV show, such as the popular ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,’ gets a chance to be in the studio via online play or studio play, the kidnapping show is acted live on the streets and Nigeria’s hellish highways.
The hoi-polloi, who cannot afford to travel by air and can only make do with the perforated roads, literally passes through the valley of death nowadays. Those who fall victim to kidnappers on the highways are forced participants in this horrific drama.
Armed with different profiling tactics and sometimes, working with informants, these kidnappers pounce on their victims and take them through harrowing experiences in the forests where they are believed to be hiding. Like the TV show, they offer lifelines to victims by utilising the ‘Phone a Friend’ strategy to obtain ransoms. There is often a 50-50 chance that a victim will be released unhurt. Considerate kidnappers allow their captives to ‘walk away’ after paying thousands of naira, while the satanic ones waste such innocent lives. Not ready to receive this kind of news, relatives ‘ask the audience’ for contributions to cough out millions of naira to the ‘forest warriors’.
From Kaduna to Ekiti State in south-western Nigeria, virgin forests have become the ‘studio’ for thriving criminalities (banditry, terrorism and kidnapping). Kidnappers exploit failed portions of the roads that had for long functioned as extortion sites for vehicle inspectors and policemen.
Global studies have confirmed these realities of existence, even as the Nigerian leadership continues to live in denial. The 2019 Global Peace Index ranks Nigeria in the 148th position and it indicates that a country with such a positive peace deficit provides fertile ground for increased militarisation, domestic conflict and insecurity. The way out of the woods is to act the national anthem. Peace cannot reign without justice. As evident, deleting ‘shall’ from ‘where justice shall reign’ in order to fabricate the ‘where justice reigns’ is symptomatic of the Nigerian leadership’s denial of existential realities. Our reality is that of injustice reigning over and above all else.
But what is injustice? Injustice is poor funding of education, while taking your children outside the country to benefit from a better organised and quality-oriented educational system. It is going outside the country to access quality health care, while giving ‘dying institutions to Nigerians. It is allowing a poor reward system wherein public servants retire, after 35 years of hard work, only to die while waiting on a queue to receive paltry stipends.
Injustice is acting promptly to fix air safety, but neglecting the roads that have turned to death traps. Injustice is also when security agencies are swiftly deployed to rescue the children of the elite, while the poor are forced to live on borrowed lives because they sank into debt after borrowing millions of naira to pay ransom to kidnappers. In short, injustice is having a securitised elite and an unprotected hoi-polloi in the same country.
So, with the ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’ TV show rewarding excellence in knowledge, carrying everyone along in the process, including the children, the neglected, the poor and the uncelebrated heroes, everyone is happy at the end of the day. On that TV show, there is a sense of justice and fairness. The Nigerian state must embrace the value of justice and fairness in a true sense of the word for the sake of real peace, progress and development. Otherwise, it will be difficult for the followers of Abubakar Umar, the notorious kidnapper who made over N200m in his first six months of kidnapping, not to aspire to live like Nigerian millionaire Senators. [PUNCH]