Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Nigeria! Our strength and collective insanity.

Nigeria! Our strength and collective insanity. Written by Kayode Ogundami

In Nigeria, it is as normal as the sunrise to see a man or woman smartly dressed for work, driving a sleek car, abruptly stop in the middle of traffic and jump out to fight with an equally dressed man or woman who has offended him or her in one way or another. Fellow drivers, passers-by and other at the scene of the fight all get to forget about their destinations and pitch in, supporting the party they think is right.

Most often it becomes a free for all with casualties on both sides and even when the fight comes to an end both parties ensure that they aren’t the losers at the point of departure. Great enduring relationships have been born from such fronts and no one is abashed to say that they met at a street fight.

All over the world, Nigerians are reckoned with as tough no nonsense people who will not turn the other cheek with a good reason. In fact you don’t push a Nigerian without getting a shove in return! We fight back on the spur of the moment without giving it a second thought. It is typical for a parent to punish a child who comes home crying in defeat after a fight with another kid on the streets! He’s sometimes told to go right back and beat the perceived aggressor. Truth is, in some settings losing a fight is a stigma a man may never rid himself off until he dies. People have lost their lives fighting to defend their pride and amongst their peers it’s all good.

The causes of most of the inter-tribal wars and civil conflicts that rage in parts of the country are not unconnected to the fact that a people feel disrespected by their neighbor in the way and manner disputes are settled.The party that feels disrespected, always fights back to defend its honour. In fact even religious conflicts erupt because certain faithful feel their deity has been disrespected by non-faithful, thus the need to fight for in their defense. In some traditional worship areas, stories have been told of people who got killed for desecrating the shrine of a revered deity.

For decades successive military and civilian governments in Nigeria have trampled on the rights and feelings of their people with absolute impunity. It won’t be irresponsible to say the government in its mentality despises the people, regarding them as sub-humans whose only value is the justification they give to their clam to the power that gives them access to resources that they plunder and waste at will.In sane circumstances, it is said that the voice of the people is the voice of God.

In Nigeria the voice of the people is disregarded and treated by the government like the voice of scum.Having suffered years of socio-economic and political abuse at the hands of the ruling class, the Nigerian has become oblivious of the fact that that the power that is being used to terrorize him actually rests with him and that the ruler can only claim and use it with his permission. Sadly, the Nigerian fails to reckon with the fact the ruling class did not drop from the sky but emerged from the same streets he flexes his muscles daily in defense of his pride.He doesn’t realize that the ruling class is the same man/woman like the one he confronted on the streets just the other day. He doesn’t even know or come to terms with fact that as a citizen of this country, he has a claim to the wealth that government dispenses on his behalf; wealth that is used to oppress him in all ramifications. The infamous allusion to the country’s resources as government money is his unwitting rejection and surrender of his birth rights to an unscrupulous few who feed fat of his negligence.Thus, he’s become a witness and accomplice to crimes against his own self.

Obviously, we are challenged with some kind of dual personality syndrome; we fight the neighbor we should love and treat him like an enemy while we cower before the enemy we should beat out of our lives. How could we possibly be warriors and cowards in one lifetime? How could we allow our backs to be against the wall for so long and rather get off the wall we are trying to device means of cracking the wall so we could squeeze in some more?

The rise in economic and other related crimes, are as a result of our determination to crack the wall and squeeze in some more in the face of orchestrated economic crisis. Rather than channel our energies and genius into resisting successive governments that have brought this calamity on us and compelling them to correct the wrongs they do against us and our country, we are looking for ways of dodging the impact of the crisis! Rather than rid ourselves of the oppressive political milieu we have been captured into, we go back to our streets to bully one another and operate like warlords in our respective neighbourhoods and turn the other way when the real enemy strikes.

No wonder, Yar’adua and his clique thought they could get away with the current show of shame. Alas in our docility is a new generation of Nigerians, the recent developments and fight to retake the country is a great departure, now we have Nigerians protesting and take the the fight back to the enemy. Movement for the Survival of the Niger Delta (MEND) mobilised bombs close to government house, away from kidnapping innocent souls in that infamous street fights and bullying on weak. The maturity and arrival of a new MEND is good for Nigeria, may be now we can say the split amongst the militants is for the interest of the people of the Niger Delta. Criminals may now be separated from those who really want the people of the Delta free, not just from Nigerian colonisers but from thieving Niger Delta political elite and external collaborators.

May be we can now smile a bit , with Save Nigeria Group matching on Abuja not ounce but twice, even daring to storm Aso Rock, the devilish enclave where animals in human skin reside, and now the celebrities join in with the youth in Nigeria taking the fight to Abuja, breaking police barriers to say “Enough is Enough” and for the first time in many years our own Rev King in the person of Dr Tunde Bakare putting his fellow “men of God” to shame and confirming the long held belief that the church must be on the side of the weak and oppressed, and may be now we can smile, as the Muslim cleric join hands with professor Wole Soyinka in Abuja to start the beginning of that true Nigerian resistance. May be now we can smile a bit as “internet warriors” move from the confines of the keyboard to the streets of world capitals. May be we don’t have a collective insanity after all. May be 2011 will be different.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

They killed him for a laptop. The Charles Umogo-Ogbolu Story. Written by Kayode Ogundamisi.

They killed him for a laptop. The Charles Umogo-Ogbolu Story. Written by Kayode Ogundamisi.

In the early hours of 25th February 2010, a 25 year old Nigerian left his home holding on to the only thing left for ordinary citizens of a country in a state of disorder and that is hope. It was another day to get to work and earn a living, he waved good bye to close family friends and a neighbour he met him around the corridor as he hurried to get out of the house and beat the early morning traffic rush. As he left, the young Nigerian waved and made what would be his last known words on earth “see you later” if only he had known he would not be seeing any of his family, friends or neighbours, he would have probably missed that day’s work. As it is with many unreported cases of armed robbery in Nigeria, the young Nigerian was accosted at the Idi Iroko bus stop whilst waiting for a bus, his assailants demanded he hand over his lap top and other belongings, not done with taken his possession, they shot him at close range for a laptop that was worth less than two hundred British Pounds, approximately fifty thousand Nigerian Naira.

This is the unfortunate story of Charles Umogo-Ogbolu. He is not a Nigerian politician or a known public figure, so the reader would be forgiven for wondering why his story and that of others like him do not make the front pages of the national media or that he did not get a mention in the evening news. Horrific deaths of ordinary citizens happen so frequently that we have come to accept them as part of the sacrifice that comes with living in a country like Nigeria. Sometimes we even comment that after all people get robbed even in civilised countries but we fail to mention that efforts are made to find the killers.

What is even more sickening, is that on the day Charles was gunned down, the noise of the gun shot sent nearby witnesses running for cover, and by the time they recovered and came back to the spot of the heinous crime, his fellow country men could do nothing but watch as he shrieked in pain, screaming for help with his life slowly ebbing away.

His last sights were the sorrowful faces of his countrymen who could not do anything knowing that they were probably going to be the next Charles. Even if they had rushed the victim to the hospital they may be asked to produce a police report and no one would dare go to the police fearing that they may be arrested for witnessing a robbery. So we are a society whose soul is snuffed out by a state of helplessness.

Absurdly the same spot where Charles was gunned down, the Idi Iroko bus stop is known to the police authorities and the Onigbongo Local Development Area as a crime hot spot. Just a few days after Charles was shot, residents claimed that several attacks though not fatal, had taken place at the same bus stop. The Anthony Village police station is less than 5 minutes away from the Idi Iroko bus stop but amazingly there is never any police presence in that neighbourhood.

The Idi Iroko incident is not an isolated one; there are many unreported crimes in Nigeria. In August 2009, more than 20 Nigerians travelling on the Sagamu-Ore-Benin expressway lost their lives when they were crushed to death during a robbery, on the same day there was another report of 12 people shot by armed robbers along Ijebu Ode – Ore road.
In the past couple of weeks the World Wide Web has been overflowing with photographs of armed robbers allegedly ordering a luxurious driver to run over passengers who are made to stretch out on the road. If the last incidents is verified to be true, then we have lost all sense of decency and the government and those entrusted with the protection of lives and properties must up their game and live up to expectation.

No citizen of Nigeria should feel insecure and live in a permanent state of fear. The ill-fated killing of Charles Umogo-Ogbolu is unwarranted and could have been avoided if those in authority do what is right, providing the police with adequate equipment, a firm gun control mechanism that will check both the legal and illegal importation of large and small scale arms into Nigeria and tackling corruption which fuels youth unemployment and a social decadence. Insecurity is a major hindrance to growth and development and the earlier those in authority see the link the better for the Nigerian society.