By Chioma Gabriel
I have often wondered when we will have one Nigeria again, when all the hatred and hate speech will stop; when ethnics and religious jingoism will become a thing of the past; when we’ll become brothers again. It has become very scary to go on social media and read comments. All you read is Igbo, Yoruba, and Fulani but never about Nigeria.
When Nigerians were arrested for internet scam by the FBI, it became an Igbo thing on social media and then someone had to dig up what happened in the past about Nigerians hanged in Saudi Arabia and projected the Yoruba dominance of the victims just to remind those talking about Igbo internet scammers that the other ethnic groups are equally as guilty. People run commentaries on social media based on where the person who put up a post emanated from. But is that leading us anywhere? The truth is that it is not.
I was so ashamed to watch what they did to Ike Ekweremadu in Germany and was more ashamed by the fact that those who did it are not apologetic about it. It really becomes so scary when a statesman of Ekweremadu’s stature is subjected to disdain by miscreants who managed to find their way overseas. You can hear from their bad English and the pronunciation and mixing of R and L that these are not quality kind of people. It is easy for miscreants to blame their shortcomings on hardworking Nigerians who have nothing to do with what have befallen them. A man who is successful in Germany or Japan, who has made his imprints in the sand of time will not be walking the streets looking for whom to disgrace. Successful Nigerians overseas will not walk the streets looking for Nigerians and leaders who are visiting to strip naked. If they are better Nigerians than our leaders, let them show same in their behaviour. Change begins with the man in the mirror. If leadership has failed in this country, follower ship is worse. The led have not done anything to show they are better than the leaders. Rather, they compete to equate with the bad leadership.
Indeed, leadership is failing and so is follower ship. It is not leadership that commits all the atrocities on the highways. I’m talking about militancy, insurgency and banditry. I’m talking about cattle rustling, armed robbery and kidnapping for ransom. Kidnapping is now targeted at individuals and groups. Innocent travelers in a commercial bus are being kidnapped. School children have been kidnapped in groups in various parts of Nigeria.
Kidnapping used to have a political dimension. In the past, it was militants kidnapping oil company employees to advance a political agenda.
In the northeast, Boko haram insurgents are kidnapping young girls.
These are follower ship problems. If we say leadership has failed like it has, what about the led. It is the led that are kidnapping, killing and maiming people on the highways to the point that as Christmas approaches, there is no road to your village.
The current wave of kidnappings is no longer confined to a particular region. It has become nation-wide and the goal is to extract the maximum ransom.
These days, there is no specification for quality of people being kidnapped. Even the very poor get kidnapped. Students are not left out. The highways in Nigeria have become highways of terror. It is not the leaders kidnapping the led. It is the led going bunkers and subjecting everybody to fear and terror. Victims are released on ransom. Some still get killed in the process.
As it is, the government allegedly sometimes pays ransoms in high-profile cases. There is little hard evidence about how many kidnappings are actually taking place. But the fact remains that Nigerians are living in the midst of a kidnappers and the government appears powerless to stop it.
Many states across Nigeria have adopted death penalty for kidnappers. Kidnapping is no longer treated with kid’s gloves. It is a serious crime that in many cases, has transformed into other felonious offenses, such as physical violence, financial victimisation, and murder.
Something or someone is always blamed for what is happening in Nigeria today. The high unemployment rate in Nigeria has forced citizens to find other ways to make money and some of those ways are illegal. Kidnapping a rich person can be a lucrative business. A cash-strapped unemployed person may believe that when he kidnaps someone who is rich, he may be able to become rich himself.
By global standards, any person living below $1.25 a day is living below the poverty line. Poverty can propel people toward crime as a way to make ends meet. Sometimes, a person who is poor might believe that kidnapping or other illegal acts could provide the necessary money to start a new life—a life that will no longer involve crime.
Many kidnappings in Nigeria today have their root cause in religion. Some people love their religion so much that even when it teaches them something that is wrong, they believe it is right. There is also the issue of greed. Some people are not content with what they have and wish they could have more things. A wicked businessman can kidnap his business rival for a large ransom to become richer.
Many corrupt politicians are perceived to have arranged for the kidnapping of their opponents. Sometimes, they do this so that their opponents will make concessions or change their votes on the issues.
Nigeria being a society where corruption is rife is experiencing a high level of kidnapping. When a government is corrupt and embezzling public funds, citizens are reacting by kidnapping those corrupt politicians in an attempt to recoup some of the stolen money. They are also kidnapping the very poor and the innocent.
But for how long will Nigeria travel this route? Will Nigeria ever be a land of peaceful co-existence again?
The answer is blowing in the wind.