PRIOR to his ascendancy to the exalted number one position in Nigeria, ‘General Daura’ had promised to block corruption loopholes, fix the economy and end the problem of insecurity. Things happened so fast that people could not probe how age, education, health, agility and personal idiosyncrasies may obstruct the implementation of the promises. They were confident ‘General Daura’ will outshine Otuoke lucky boy with his exploits against Maitatsine and his acclaimed ascetic lifestyle. The beneficiaries of ‘change’, who had rejected Baba Hannan thrice, repackaged him and went to town to drum support for the converted democrat with a promise that Baba Yusufu was tested and trusted. Majority trusted Sai Baba with their votes and expect positive impacts in return.
Fast-forward to 2020 and what confronts you? Basic goodness of life is fading away and many Nigerians are now on the fringe. In the most callous manner, people are beheaded and televised for people to see to bring about fear. Extra-judicial killings, unemployment, food and physical insecurities have escalated. From Imo where INEC office has been ‘strategically’ burnt, to Benue, Borno, Kaduna, Ondo, Ekiti, and others, the tragic story of insecurity has moved from ‘Change’ to an insane ‘Next Level’. Even those hitherto sitting on the fence have carried holy placards to protest against the ruthless termination of lives and the insensitivity of Abuja.
To make sense of what is going on, we need to understand the foundation and unpack some of the pillars of contemporary episodic insecurity, criminality and victimisation in Nigeria. Since we have leaders who do not read, it is difficult for them to relate with intellectual vessels in Nigeria’s cerebral ecosystem. The renowned criminologist and social problem expert, Professor Adeyinka Aderinto who delivered the 482 inaugural lecture of the University of Ibadan provided important criminological insights. His presentation, entitled ‘On the fringe of the society’, x-rayed in practical terms Nigeria’s journey to a ridiculous and brutish state of criminality, from insurgency to terrorism, banditry, human trafficking, kidnapping, among others.
He reasoned that the preponderance of criminality is not a sheer coincidence but a consequence of (deliberate) collective negligence by uncaring parents, incapacitated and underfunded educational system and ill-motivated teachers, parasitic elite and their bed-bug associates who suck the collective patrimony. Their premeditated actions and deliberate inactions have pushed the weak and the vulnerable to the fringe of society. Relying on the Yoruba maxim Omo ti a bi ti a ko to ni yoo gbele ti a kota (the improperly trained child will sell the parents’ castle), the criminologist maintained that children who have been pushed to the fringe of society are simply fighting back – this is an endorsement of the philosophic intervention that man is not born corrupt but corrupted by the social world.
The writer of our national anthem was deliberate to stress the need to ensure justice. Regrettably, our rulers recite the anthem only in vain. They sustain injustices and make peace elusive. Despite being beneficiaries of state investment and scholarships, those in power today blatantly or manipulatively use the levers of power to deny opportunities to the children of the masses. They hide under the lies of ‘no money’ to sing that ‘parents must pay for the education of their children’. This irresponsibility is one of the pillars upon which over 13 million out of school children rest.
Before 2019 polls, they fooled market women when Aso Rock ‘pastor’ preached with money to influence their votes. Today, the ‘pastor’ is yet to visit one market or village as he did in pre-election era to see if traders still need money. This ‘use and dump’ injustice is one of the reasons we do not have peace. Even worse is the Salaries and Wages Commission that pays the ‘do-nothing gang’ so much that the rest of us are impoverished. National Assembly allowances already factor in inflation but the civil servants must threaten strike to get N30,000 as minimum ‘poverty wage’. And just before they start collecting the money, our policy formulators have implemented tax strategy which denies civil servants of any benefit from their struggle. This makes many civil servants and their children perpetually trapped in the dungeon of poverty.
In the same country, the children of our rulers attend the best schools abroad but their parents’ sit in government offices to justify why Nigeria cannot fund public education. Not minding the initial obstacle, the children of the poor eventually graduate without any prospect of employment. About the same time, unadvertised employment in FIRS, Central Bank and NNPC is being shared among the children of parasitic elites.
The political elites preach national unity but are divisive in policies and actions. They don’t have sustainable transportation policy but will ban survivalists Okada riders who are barely getting by on the fringe of society. They chase away the poor from where they had labelled slums and sell the lands to the rich. They increase budget to security yearly but enthrone insecurity by their actions, policies and inactions. It is, therefore, shocking that the parasitic elites are wondering why crime is increasing!
More damning contradictions contribute to contemporary forms of criminality in Nigeria. For instance, police men and women are underpaid and poorly equipped yet we complain about their extortion. In universities, lecturers have no modern facilities and books in the libraries are outdated. Yet, we want them to produce world class graduates. In the same country, First Class students receive N100,000 as the best, while reality show winner attracts endorsement deals and receive N45 million. Do you, then, wonder about the foundation of internet fraud? Already, young people, especially students in institutions of higher learning, have been socialised to perceive corruption our national value. They have seen the flamboyant lives of overnight billionaires in the corridors of power, despite being less brilliant.
In all of this, many churches and mosques have become accomplices. They raise money to build massive cathedrals amidst crunching poverty among their members. Some of the pastors and Imams, as well as their people are now the targets of those on the fringe of society – the kidnappers. With the state incapable of securing the porous borders, small and light weapons are in sinister peoples’ hands. On the roads where corruption created pot-holes, kidnappers reign free and the forests have become hellish for victims while offices have become spaces of extortion and sexploitation
Will regional security such as Amotekun correct the pillars of criminality in Nigeria? NO. Regional security agenda will fail if the foundational problems that push citizens to the fringe of society are not tackled. Only criminality and insecurity will reign in an unjust society. In agreement with Professor Aderinto, I am certain that what we are experiencing today is a cumulative consequence of years of irresponsibility, selfishness and personal aggrandisement. We must address poverty, provide jobs, enthrone justice and implement only evidence-based policies to prevent further descent into cataclysm.
Dr Tade, a criminologist, wrote via firstname.lastname@example.org