Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), a fiery Lagos lawyer and human rights activist came out of the kidnappers den with a message for those in authority: “ Grant the kidnappers amnesty”.
How he wants the government to execute this is difficult to tell but one thing is sure: its modalities will be more complex than that of the Boko Haram which is yet to see the light of day.
From Ozekhome’s account, the men who kidnapped him are well read and articulate, which implies that they are educated young men, maybe amongst the many unemployed graduates roaming about cities in Nigeria.
When the educated takes to crime like armed robbery and kidnapping, it is a cause for concern as the average Nigerian educated man does not fall into the profiling category of hard criminal. White-collar criminality, which has brought this country almost to her knees, is still flourishing because it involves educated men and women.
What is the lesson(s) from Ozekhome’s message? We must begin to address the issues of unemployed youths, especially the species of educated graduates.
Granting of general or blanket amnesty to kidnappers will not solve the problem as that will be an endorsement of criminality. The only solution to all of these, that will be permanent, is for us to be our brothers’ keepers. It is not all those roaming about the streets that cannot work. It is just the environment in which they find themselves made it impossible for them to flourish. Those who are fortunate to lay hands in the public till are termed successful and ingenious; perhaps the unfortunate ones are termed failures. The rich in this country must begin to think out ways by which the underprivileged can be taken care of. Let me make this clarification. A few privileged and rich Nigerians already run programmes that address the situations of the under privileged poor but the majority do not care. When I say rich, I mean those whose income far outstrips their needs and wants.
It is to avoid the chaos that comes with such that Great Britain and other developed countries introduced welfare programmes for their citizens, those who cannot afford to go to work are given weekly cheques to take care of their basic needs.
Most successful businessmen in this country, live on government patronage(s); even our banks cannot make successful headway without government inputs, in the form of deposits and policies. The question then is: If the rich ones are getting all these patronage(s) from government, either in the form of contract awards, ten percent-for civil servants- or outright stealing in the form of bribery, why are they not giving back to society?
Instead of ploughing the money back into the economy to regenerate, our money is taken abroad to generate wealth for foreign economies. How selfish we can be! It is clear that there will be problem if the balance between the rich and the poor is tilted towards either side of the divide. Our rich have abandoned the poor in the society and the poor are paying back through involvement in kidnapping, Boko Haram and such activities.
The rich, especially our politicians, also encourage criminality through election malpractices. You will not see their children on the streets indulging in brigandage and the likes, they recruit and brainwash the poor to do it for them.
To begin with, Nigerians must be encouraged to bring their monies stashed abroad back into this country. This will help to strengthen our Naira – as we still depend a lot on imports from abroad – and help to reflate the economy.
Government must execute job creation programmes –not lip service; craft and skilled centres must be established in every zone in the country for those who cannot further their education and loan facilities made available for small businesses. Open up the rural areas through networks of roads for the agriculture industry to flourish.
There are various ways to create jobs for our unemployed graduates, but, first, the issue of power has to be sorted out, for without power, production is impossible and a country that cannot produce, cannot create employment.
Also, our leaders must begin to set good examples through their living standards. The problems of the under privileged must be the concern of all.
*Mr sunny ikhioya , a commentator on national issues, wrote from Lagos