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How much is a Nigerian life worth – ‘Yemi Adamolekun

By ESTHER ONYEGBULA

Yemi Adamolekun, Executive Director, Enough is Enough Nigeria (EIE), a coalition of individuals and youth-led organisations committed to instituting a culture of good governance and public accountability in Nigeria through advocacy, activism and mobilization of the youth population as responsible citizens.

Leveraging on technology especially social media, EIE has continued to mobilize significant participation from citizens. The coalition includes The Future Project, EME, Chocolate City, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN), Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND) and Education as a Vaccine against AIDS (EVA), among many others.

Birthed in 2010 out of the numerous issues that were affecting the country, EIE alongside other organisations is determined to make a change in Nigeria.

In this chat with Esther Onyegbula she talks about corruption, Baga crisis and other sundry issues.

Talking about corruption

We keep talking about corruption in Nigeria like Nigeria is the only corrupt country. There is corruption in China, the US and many other countries, but they still function. Now they function because when people are caught, they pay a price, which rarely happens here. Our own brand of corruption has stifled development.

For instance they say Ibori bribed his way out of a conviction in Nigeria but got caught in the UK. In an average church, if an usher steals from the offering basket, I can guarantee that at least ten people will call the pastor by evening begging for mercy. We beg, Ibori bribed, what is the difference?

The usher didn’t go to jail, Ibori didn’t go to jail. Who paid the price? Nobody! So unless we look beyond corruption simply as the receiving and taking of bribes and begin to look at the resulting impunity, we’ll miss the real issue. If it is clear that if I commit X crime, I will spend twenty years in jail, it will affect my decision. But when I know that if I break any law all I need to do is to settle someone and go free, where’s the disincentive?

Yemi Adamolekun...We talk about corruption as something that is out there, but it is the way that we live our lives
Yemi Adamolekun…We talk about corruption as something that is out there, but it is the way that we live our lives

One of our most celebrated convictions in the fight against corruption, DSP Alamesiagha, just got pardoned. What message does that send? What drives corruption here is that people know when they commit crimes, there won’t be a price to pay and this is showcased daily in government institutions and it has become a fabric of our society; a way of life. So it is the function of both the judiciary and Nigerian citizens.

We talk about corruption as something that is out there, but it is the way that we live our lives. We beg, we plead, and just expect people to look over things. And when they put their foot down people think that they are hard or being mean. Our institutions continue to fail, but institutions do not create themselves; they need people. So until we demand more of our governance structures and there’s increased accountability in all sectors, corruption will continue to hamper development.

Current security issues

The unfortunate thing is that we are now normalizing violence and the deaths of innocent people. We debate the casualty figures and then move on as if the lives don’t matter, and that is a very scary place to be. Take the incidence in Baga, news reports and human rights agencies say at least 185 people died, but the presidency say it’s about 25 people. Can the presidency tell us the names of each person that died? With real names and stories, you can’t argue about the death toll.

Apart from the recent declaration of a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, in the other killings, I don’t believe the President has addressed a press conference solely on the state of insecurity in the nation. In other press conferences where he has referred to the issue, we have not heard him mention the names of the victims except the October bombing at the UN building, where the UN had records of all their employees. That is the only reason we had records of the exact number of persons involved. The presidency doesn’t have the details of even the 25 person they claim died in Baga.

Map the issues from Borno, Yobe, Plateau, Abuja and a month ago, in Lagos, where an attempt to bomb some major landmarks was foiled. Do we have to wait till it gets to our back yards before we care? According to CFR, since May 29, 2011, over a thousand five hundred and eighty four people have died due to religious and sectional violence.

Of these, only the names and stories of two people are in the public domain and that’s because they worked for the media. One worked for Channels and the other for NTA. The names and stories of the others are unknown because even the media doesn’t report these stories. You guys just focus on the number of people that died! Meanwhile in Boston three people died and around the world, we knew their names, what they ate last, what they said last, and their favourite things!

No value on human life

How much is a Nigerian life worth? Unfortunately, the Nigerian government and Nigerian people don’t seem to value human life. And it’s not just about religious or sectional violence. Kidnappings and armed robberies have increased but we don’t see how these things connect.

Kidnapping is now a business because the kidnappers make lots of money from ransoms and nothing happens in most cases. The problem about this ugly trend is the culture that we have created around insecurity, because people don’t see action taken.

Stories are under-reported; we don’t humanise the deaths so it all seems far away. The President is the Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria, he therefore needs to command! We need to see more direction and forcefulness in his actions and body language as seen in the declaration of state of emergency in these three states.

Engaging the media towards 2015

The essence of our campaigns is to engage the media in a discussion around citizens’ responsibility as we prepare for the 2015 elections. With all the campaign posters of Amaechi and Kwankwanso; Amaechi and Lamido; and  Fashola and Ribadu; Jonathan and Sambo showing up all over the country, it is important to remind Nigerians that there’s still the business of governing for two more years.

So as politicians are politicking, we have a duty to ensure that we don’t get carried away focusing on 2015 that we forget 2013 & 2014! The electoral process is really more about the four years in between that the election ‘event’ itself. For example, according to World Bank figures, there will be approximately 20 million new registered votes by 2015. This is huge! It is a significant number and they need to be educated and engaged.


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.