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Millionaire ‘senators’ on Nigerian hellish highways

By Oludayo Tade

THE story of Nigeria is a dramatic irony; it is a geographic space of inequality where wealth and suffering both coexist in abundance. With so much wealth, many Nigerians also suffer so much on a range of issues, from education to health, infrastructure and food and human insecurities. Over 13 million children are out of school and more than 23 million Nigerians are unemployed. The working majority are underpaid while the ‘doing nothing minority’ get welcome packages in billions with several millions of commonwealth money stuffed in their pockets for wardrobe and furniture allowances. To earn their illicit billions, they do not set up committees to determine if indeed the country can afford it. But 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 months before N30, 000 is paid to them.

This happens in a nation where senators earn close to N13.5 million monthly according to former Senator Shehu Sani and N15 million according to latest revelation of Professor Itsay Sagay. Yet university professors earn close to N6 million annually!

To pay pensioners decent pensions is a problem but they award themselves severance allowances for improving the standard of living of their families and cronies. As injustices pervade the land, loyalty is eroded and everyone scrambles for opportunity that comes their way or sidestep the system. Aware of the pathetic fate that befall pensioners, in-service workers attempt to accumulate enough to save for post-retirement reality.

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The public servants in gorilla, snake and whatever the next animal skins at government establishments are also grabbing their individual and collective futures by the throat. They are all aware that the elite are conspiring against the majority through deliberate abandonment or the ‘e no concern me’ mannerism. Sadly, we are all realising that this elite conspiracy and the many injustices it manifest are certain to bounce back on both the rich and the poor.

Children that are unfairly treated cannot be fair to the country. Those trained in zoo-like conditions cannot appreciate the value of love and uprightness. They are now fighting back. Today, Nigerian kingdom suffers violence and the violent are taking it by force. With the rising spate of kidnapping in particular, kidnappers are in a battle of “who wants to be a millionaire” with the elite, especially against Nigerian senators.

“Who wants to be a millionaire” used to be a popular television show I watched where a money-seeker with the fastest finger gets a chance to try his or her luck on the hot seat. From little thousands to the million ranges, the contestant is made to answer money-laden questions. Interestingly, the contestant attends the show with a loved one (friend, wife/husband, girlfriend/boyfriend, father/mother) who also contributes to the dream of becoming a millionaire. But the money seeker is not all knowing. He or she is supported by lifelines such as ‘Ask the Audience’, ‘50-50’ and ‘Phone a Friend’. You could also walk away with a guaranteed sum.

In the race to attain the millionaire status like our distinguished senators, pastors, imams/alfas, mothers/fathers, boyfriend/girlfriend orchestrate their own kidnap to extort relations! But while the money-seeker on TV show gets a chance to be in the studio via online play or studio play, the kidnapping show is acted on the streets, neighbourhood, home entrances, shops, and lately on Nigeria’s hellish highways. The hoi-polloi who cannot pay for air transportation and have been managing the perforated roads now drive/ride through the valley of death. Those kidnapped on highways are forced participants in this ‘who wants to be a millionaire show’. Armed with different profiling tactics and sometimes, working with informants, kidnappers pounce on victims and take them through harrowing experiences in the forest green and red chambers. Like the TV show, kidnappers also offer lifelines to victims. While they utilise the ‘Phone a Friend’ strategy to obtain ransoms, the chances that a victim will be released unhurt is 50-50. Considerate kidnappers allow captives ‘walk away’ after paying thousands of naira while the satanic ones waste such 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 Kwara, Niger to Abuja, Kogi to Ondo and Ekiti, Zamfara, Nasarawa to Katsina and lately to highways in Southwestern Nigeria, forests have become the ‘studio’ for thriving criminalities (banditry, terrorism, kidnapping). They exploit bad portions of the roads that had for long functioned as extortion sites for vehicle inspectors, road safety corps, police and kidnappers.

Global studies have confirmed our realities even though our leadership continues to live in denial. The 2019 Global Peace Index puts Nigeria at 148 and 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 reign’ is symptomatic of leadership denial of existential realities. Our reality is that of injustices reigning over and above all else.

But what is injustice? Injustice is poor funding of education while taking your children outside the country. It is going outside the country to access quality health while giving ‘death institutions’ to Nigerians. It is allowing poor reward system wherein after 35 years of hard work, public servants retire then die in the sun while on queue for poverty stipends. It is acting promptly to fix air safety but neglect the roads that have turned to the valley of death. Injustice is also when security agencies are swiftly deployed to rescue the son and daughters of elites, while the poor are forced to live on borrowed time because they sank into debt after borrowing millions to pay-off 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 the true sense for real peace, progress and development. Otherwise, it will be difficult for mentees of Abubakar Umar, the notorious kidnapper who made over N200million in his first six months of kidnapping, not to aspire to live like Nigerian millionaire senators.

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