Nigeria is a massive crime scene
God Almighty bless my soul
How many chicken did I stole?
Ten last night, ten the night before, And I’m going out tonight to steal some more!
(This is from a post-grammar reggae tune)
Thousands of miles of yellow police tape surround the boundaries of Nigeria from the Atlantic Ocean side to the Benin Republic border, up North to Chad and Niger borders and down to Cameroon. A giant crime scene enclosing other sub-scenes. Or should it be called crime sin and other sub-sins?
There are private sins as well as public sins. There are sins which are neither private nor public but both. There are political sins and economic sins. There are sins of omission and sins of commission. There are unseen sins and there are sins that take place in open public arenas. In fact, there are eggs and there are eggs. Same with sins in Nigeria.
There are private sins or fathers impregnating their daughters and pleading the devil made them do it. There are private sins of wives hacking their husbands to deserve pleading that years of suffering moved them to violence. There are sins of fathers doing examinations for their sons and mothers standing in for their daughters at testing times! There are intimate sins unspeakable to the hearing of humans and they will not be mentioned.
What about the sins that are both private and public? Mother and Child hospitals set up to sell new born babies to those couples who halve not been able to have babies of their own. This enterprise loads sorrows into the future of these undocumented babies when their buyers pass own and those who know refuse to accept that they were born of those they called parents! What about sins around abattoirs of human parts for sale for those who need human parts for one ritual or another. There are sins of human trafficking with branches into slavery and prostitution.
There are kidnapping as small, medium and big business divisions. The small business ones are kidnapping for small sums of money, carried out by those just beginning in the enterprise of kidnapping. Some of these starter packs have often asked to be forgiven when arrested, and promising never to do it again. Medium and big businesses are for those who specialise in kidnapping traditional rulers, senators and important prophets, pastors and televangelists. The ransom demands for these begin from one hundred million naira or you will never see them again. And by the way, you are allowed to call and report to the police. But let us tell you that the police are part of us and we are part of them, we are all working together, the police and us. And the cell phone sim we use is used only once. Each time we will give you a new cell phone number to call during this limited edition negotiations.
What is peculiar with the next set of sins is that they get committed but nobody owns up to committing them, nobody is ever found to have committed them. And the country continues to sleep peacefully after the murder of Dele Gina through a letter bomb, first of its type in the country. Bola Ige, attorney-general of the country and minister of justice is assassinated in his bed and nobody is help responsible. All over the country people are killed violently or arranged to be killed in motor accidents and nobody owns up to these crimes. The peculiar question here is the continuous asking who done it? No investigation, no closure for relatives, no justice done.
The abuse of public office by people in public offices is the one crime that covers the length and breadth of the country. It exists in every local government area, in every state of the country including the federal capital territory of Abuja. And at the federal government level it is there. Again who are the perpetrators of these sins? The evidence of the sins exist in terms of thousands of development projects abandoned over a period of forty years – roads not built, bridges not completed, hospitals abandoned half way, schools left at foundation levels, university hostels reclaimed by the bush after the funding disappeared into the pockets of the public officers responsible for them.
Of all the consequences of crimes and sins is the betrayal and the pain of betrayal suffered by those at the receiving end of these sins. One example would do. A young person is awarded a scholarship by the federal government or his or her state government to study overseas, say in a European country. The young scholar travels to the country of study, registers and begins the studies that would lead to a degree in engineering or medicine or agriculture or architecture. A few months into the programme her landlady is not paid. She is waiting for funds to come from home.
Then the bursary of the university let her know that her fees are still outstanding and could she do something about settlement or else she would not be able to register next semester. A visit to the local Nigerian embassy draws blank with the authorities claiming they know nothing about these financial arrangements and scholarships. But they would contact home and find out what is happening. More visits to the embassy produce no positive result.
The landlady throws out the young lady out of the house. The lectures become impossible and lab work is not possible. The young scholar withdraws from the university. What to do to survive? Return home to the jeers and sneers of those ill-wishers who had eaten and drunk at the send off party and prayed that she would not get what she was going for? Return to family looking forward to her return a few years hence as doctor curing the ills of the family both physical and mental?
I don suffer, no be small
Upon say I get sense
Poverty no good at all, no
Na him make I join this business.
419 no be thief, it’s just a game
Everybody dey play am
If anybody fall mugu,
Ha, my brother I go chop am.
So, maybe Nigeria is not a crime sin/scene after all. Everybody is a thief. Nkem Owoh has provided our new national anthem.
Kole Omotoso, 20/04/2017