By Kunle Oyatomi
Within a short space of 10 days, (late last month), two daring abductions â€“ (kidnappings if you like), took place in Kaduna State. Secretary to the State Government, Mr Waje Yayok and businessman Alhaji Bala Bello were snatched by kidnappers, and the Kaduna Government was said to have paid N10 million to secure SSGâ€™s release on Wednesday.
No doubt, these are worse than dangerous times in Nigeria.
We are virtually on the brink of disaster as personal and social security practically collapse. Nothing and nobody can guarantee security of life (even property) in this place anymore. We are watching helplessly as Nigeria assumes the status of one of the most unsafe places in the world to live in.
Life in Nigeria has become cheap, short and brutish. We have transformed a once beautiful and peaceful country into a hell-hole where the only people safe and free to move around confidently are the criminals.
They are the only ones who can move without qualms in the day as well as at night. Over the years, since the militaryâ€™s misadventure into politics in 1966, criminals have gradually taken over our towns and cities and they appear to have a vice grip on the polity.
If we must tell ourselves the simple truth, they have all but taken over the political process as well. From the armed robbers to the 419 and cyber fraudsters, criminality has been growing in sophistication and wherewithal in the last three decades.
And at every stage of escalation in ascendancy of this phenomenon, our security establishments have proved pathetically ineffective. From the â€œAdvanced Fee Fraudâ€ to armed robbery, Nigerians have watched with bated breath how these criminals have outwitted or out-performed the security agencies in both â€œclassâ€ and sophistication in executing criminality and terrorizing the citizenry.
But when in 1999 the military handed over power and governance to civilians, we had misplaced confidence that peace, freedom and security would return to the land. Our experiences since 1999 have shown how naive we had been.
Not only has the security situation in the country worsened, we have virtually lost our peace and freedom to criminals, and every day now we live in fear of being victims of one form of brutish crime or the other.
We are being terrorized daily by assassins, armed robbers and, during elections, by murderous political thugs. Mysterious extra judicial killings are so common these days that the value of life here is hopelessly low. We have hardly figured out how to deal with all these when suddenly the phenomenon of kidnapping was added to the bloody equation.
What started in the restive Niger Delta as â€œhostage-takingâ€ protests by militants seeking autonomy and greater control of their natural resources has suddenly been turned into a terror weapon in the hands of criminals to extort money illegally from citizens.
Owing to incompetence and probably even complicity, the police and other security agencies have so far been unable to contain the situation. The result is that from the Niger Delta, the crime of kidnapping has spread like wild fire to the east, west and now the northern parts of the country with potential tragic consequences.
Within 10 days of the kidnapping of the Kaduna State SSG, another businessman was also snatched. The police is not looking good as a citizenâ€™s protective force anymore, and fewer people place any worthwhile reliance on them for security.
So what are the politicians doing â€“ the lawmakers, the executive, the security forces â€“ where do you stand in this state of insecurity? Who is in-charge, and for Godâ€™s sake what are they doing to deal with this scourge?
The lesson we have to learn is that if a robust challenge is not given the kidnappers now, and decisively too, it may getÂ so gory, we wonâ€™t be able to cope anymore. Now is the time for every agency and institution of the law to act rapidly (if we are not already late) before the criminals take over totally.