Cattle=Human: The worthlessness of Nigerian lives5 min read

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By Oludayo Tade

THE growing fear of insecurity and the consequent worthlessness of lives of Nigerians have been further affirmed by the deaths recorded across the country. The indications into how Nigeria’s poor security infrastructure and its handlers will unprotect hapless masses emerged on the turn of 2018 with the Benue massacre of about 100 persons felled by  herdsmen. Since that bloody beginning, Nigerian lives have become counted as numbers. We are only alarmed again with more  recent  killings in different parts of the country by herdsmen who operated for hours without intervention from our police, but are quick to tell the public, they are ‘on top of the situation.’

It is not the killings of people in Benue, Zamfara, Plateau, Ekiti, Ondo and Nasarawa that foreground the worthlessness of lives in my country; people are only alarmed by the daring nature that the serial killings have assumed following presidential lip service to checking it. If we are given opportunity to choose how we want to die, none of us will choose  to die as experienced in the Plateau, or the Otedola Bridge way. The Yoruba categorised these dimensions of death as Ikúgbígbóná (horrifying death). Many prefer to die peacefully in their sleep (fífowóroríkú) but when people are hacked and burnt to death while asleep or awake, that is ‘hot-death’. But the way we are treated while living is more likely to influence how we shall die or the way we shall be interred.

In Nigeria, we experience the practicality of all men are born equal but some are more equal than others. The foundation of future death is already laid by a government that pays less attention to the education of her people. The ruling class needs the children of the poor to be  illiterate so that they remain unquestioned and silenced. Those who attend school are not catered for; they drop out of school, become useful pawns and fight back at the society that fails to cater for them. They are used as thugs and killed in battle by the state instrumentality that made them so. What a worthless life!

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Death is just everywhere! People die in their hundreds on poorly constructed or refurbished roads daily. To make matters worse, the Police, FRSC, Customs, lurk around the bad portions on the roads where they unleash terror on drivers not only because they do not have papers but because of what they must SETTLE!  Those who resist are shot dead and nothing happens thereafter! Passengers would rather ask drivers to pay and let them proceed. We have simply been reduced to ‘I don’t care people.’ Wrongs have become norms. In all these, the Aso Rock messiah can do no wrong even when the body language leaves a lasting impression of approval.

What is life of a civil servant worth in Nigeria? N18, 000 ($50) poverty wage in a month! We are governed by legislators who take over N13.5 million monthly and full compliments of security and severance allowances when they leave office. The executive and Judiciary are yet to reveal their humongous earnings. The civil servant who after retiring is still doomed to queue in the sun, has no money to access health care. Many pensioners are owed for years. The point is that with N18,000, there is a limit placed on the value of life and life’s chances in terms of what one can become and enjoy and one is likely to die.

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Do you imagine how valuable our lives are worth in the eyes and hearts of those who lead  us? How many people die in hospitals daily for government‘s failure to provide basic hospital needs ? Hospitals don’t have electricity and drugs. The qualified medical personnel are leaving in droves to countries where their skills are valued, and where their lives and those of their families can be better. In Nigeria today, the lives of the poor are used to nurture and service those of the rich and ruling class. Collective patrimony is used to treat the President in the UK. Governors use scarce resources to treat their malaria abroad. In the absence of proper wage, children have become breadwinners and ply their trade on dangerous roads where they are killed, raped, and kidnapped for rituals. Other children lost hope and resorted to drugs and are used by the exploiters to inflict pain on the rest of us. In the North, millions are out of school and among them, are those now wasted as suicide bombers.

What the state wants to do, it does; what it does not want to do, it does not do. Is it not the same Inspector-General of Police who transmitted special squad from Abuja to arrest the Offa robbery gang that finds it difficult to tame killings in the North-Central? Beyond the face-saving, post-massacre deployment of security which is yet to stop the killings as more have been killed, the President needs to move beyond praying to solve security problems. Why did he not pray to get healed when he was sick but travelled to the UK to access quality medicare? Ace musician, Idris Abdulkareem, had in his ‘state-condemned’ song, Jagajaga, described how the masses are treated and are unified by suffering and death. Idris underscores how state failure allows the killing of innocent citizens ‘gbosagbosa, gunshot in the head.’

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Avenging the life of cattle with that of human beings only shows another dimension of life’s worthlessness in Nigeria. What is difficult in arresting rustlers and ensuring that they are made to pay double for what they stole and then jailed? What is difficult in arresting and making murderers face the law? How long will it take PMB to arrest members of the opposition within or outside APC if they are truly culpable in wasting human lives? What more describes failure than when a government cannot protect the lives and property of those under its watch?

Let those alive till 2019 elections represent the interests of the dead by voting those who can protect and value us better. But I know these periodic losses will pass and we shall be back to our normal ‘worthless’ routines waiting for when it will be our turn. This is the story of Nigeria, the Federal Republic of ‘I don’t Care People.’

*Dr. Tade, a sociologist, wrote via [email protected]