11th June, 2012
By Peter Claver Oparah
The smouldering smoke from the ill-fated Dana Airline crash in Iju Ishaga, a suburb of Lagos, has gradually died down and with it, a nation tottering on the brink of security maelstrom has gone back to its troubled sleep. Life, as in the greatly unsecured and un-assured form we have known it as Nigerians, has assumed its normal style. Oh yes, an un-shockable nation (apologies to the late Dele Giwa) has shown its fly-in-the-pan reactions. Crocodile tears have been shed, weeks of mourning have been declared, flags have been flown at half mast, but the nation retires to its state of decay to await the next crash. The president has cried and assured it will never happen again. People have expressed their traditional piety but you can bet that from the scene of that fatal crash, most have gone to resume the same dawdy ways that pockmark life and conduct of every business in a nation that is fast becoming a scourge to the human race.
I wonder who believed the president when he vowed that we won’t experience such crash again. At most he has been dour and uninspiring in leading a meaningful exit from such charred cases. Many wonder whether he meant a crash of a Dana plane in Iju Ishaga on a bleak Sunday afternoon. If that was what he meant, he might be right. We may not experience such again. If however he meant that Nigerian aircraft would not crash again, he was indulging in a flattering hyperbole. As a president whose words have lesser meaning than any president in the history of the country, he was not scoring a first in such hyperboles. He was far from hitting the bull’s eye with such statement and woe betides whoever takes his words here to the bank. Remember the moratorium to cement manufacturers to crash cement price last year? Remember the ultimatum to sell kerosene for N50 a litre? Remember the false promises and the prurient vow to turn Nigeria to a modern wonder with the proceeds from the fuel price increment last January? Remember the promise on power, mass transit, state of the wonder rail lines, etc? Which one has been met except in breach? So Nigerians, pummelled by bad leadership, has come to treat the words of their president as the free outpourings that occur in an average beer parlour. The issue of presidential flippancy is not our concern in this report but the fact that Nigerians are living corpses; whether they are flying in the air, traveling on roads, praying in churches and mosques, sitting in the comfort of their rooms or in any other place. Nigeria has become a looming disaster region and no one is spared its negative fallouts.
What better way to show the kind of dire security risks and imponderable safety options facing Nigerians presently than the many events of the week of the fatal Dana Air crash? In the middle of the week, travellers, bystanders and other sundry road users on the ever-busy but horrible Lagos-Ibadan Expressway (?) were roasted in an early morning inferno as a full laden petrol tanker tipped over on the uneven, scraggy and tight road. It splashed its combustible contents on people and automobiles near its deadly vicinity and a wild fire consumed so many Nigerians, so many vehicles, and properties. It locked up the narrow road for the rest of the day and this imposed huge trauma on road users who ply that gateway to Nigeria’s commercial and economic nerve. A day after that, there was a repeat of such similar hell on another stretch of the same road; this time with deadlier effects.
On the morning of the day of the ill-fated crash, Boko Haram terrorists set upon worshippers in two churches in Bauchi. When they had exhausted their deadly mission, more than twenty Nigerians lay dead, many others sustained varying degrees of injury while properties were destroyed. On Friday, 1 June a Nigerian cargo plane exported its nuisance value by crash landing on road users in neighboring Ghana. It took with it, ten lives and with the benefit of hindsight, it was just a forerunner to a deadlier carnage in Nigeria 48 hours later. The Dana Air crash took with it all passengers on board, the flight crew and of course several other Nigerians that were relaxing in the comfort of their homes thus climaxing the security miasma that threatens every Nigerian at present. There is practically nothing to show that the nation has seen its last air crash as there is nothing to suggest the security wild cat that threatens to devour all of us is about to be caged for reasons we shall see in the course of this report.
Sometime in the week preceding this chain of ugly events, I had written on the social media forum that Nigeria is a land where horrible reports of insecurity struggle for space with each other. In another, I had written that in the present day Nigeria, a heinous case of corruption merely waits to be displaced each day by more egregious cases. And in both, I had tried to draw a nexus between the increasingly insecure state we have in Nigeria with the rampant cases of corruption, which to all intents and purposes, had been elevated to a directive principle of state policy by successive governments in Nigeria and has been made a binding law by the present government, which has so far, shown the most tolerant and permissive attitude to corruption. I still wonder why anything can work in such state of sleaze and audacious stealing.
The sordid state of Nigerian security and the Nigerian state at present is a demonstration of what corruption a culture of impunity can do to a nation. Nigeria resembles the Hobbesian state of nature where life is brutish, short and nasty and every Nigerian is a potential victim of this Frankenstein monster nurtured over the years and which has now assumed full manhood. In the opinion of Theophilus Danjuma, a ranking PDP chieftain and a former Chief of Army Staff, Nigeria is very much like Somalia today. And Somalia typifies a state where law and order have irretrievably broken down. The systematic enculturation of an amoral order that rests on the rotten pillars of corruption, graft and avarice has gotten to a dizzying height that leaves us with no better expectation than the dishelved state of anomie we are living with today. Life has become so cheap that Nigerians are living corpses to the forces of Hades that have been littered so generously in the polity to snuff life out of any Nigerian at the drop of a hat. The reality of the frightful Nigerian state at present is that one can meet extinction mid air in the flying coffins that pass as our airplanes, on the rickety roads as mobile infernos, unlatched trailers, heavy duty vehicles struggle for space with all manner of small vehicles on our crater-riddled, narrow, ill maintained roads. What more, armed robbers, killers, kidnappers, terrorists of all guise and persuasions lie in wait for Nigerians on the roads, ready to pounce on hapless Nigerians at will. Even in the worshipping places, markets, work places, schools, Nigerians are potential causalities to all manner of criminals who run rings round a confused, clueless and corrupt government and make mincemeat with Nigerians at will. Hunger, privation, disease and want complement this destructive ennui that has been let loose on Nigerians while the government dithers and those in governments feed fat from the common till.
Through acts of corruption, public treasury is there for the incessant raiding of those that warm government positions. Annual budgets merely finance the freebies, nuances, idle lives, excesses and idiosyncrasies of those in government, together with their civil servant collaborators and of course their private sector laundry men, who help them stash public funds while the public sector suffers. As a result of corruption, our roads have remained death traps even as trillions of naira was reportedly spent on them, our health facilities have turned to mortuaries, our schools have gone decrepit, the energy sector continues to generate millions of megawatts of darkness, our energy sector wobbles on the weight of trillion naira scams and unbridled stealing. In fact, the nation’s infrastructural state is so decadent that nothing more than the present state of bedlam is possible. Poverty walks on all fours, as graduate unemployment has reached a crisis point. These and many more details of a collapsed state have sowed dread, fear and ennui on the minds of every Nigerian that life has become so unpredictably cheap.
At a time like this, when Nigeria totters on the brink of disaster, the lack of an inspiring, competent, knowledgeable and incorruptible leader to lead a possible recovery stands out so pointedly in the confusion and lack of wit that afflict our leaders. Operating under a searing halo of corruption, the present Nigerian leadership demonstrates the hopelessness and helplessness that loom over the country at present-and this is a very fearful scenario. The present government that should offer hope is riddled with abject lack of hope. The government that should help out the citizenry is in dire need of help. Its soul is gone and in this state of crisis, it rather exacerbates the national tragedy that Nigeria faces today. Ethically rusty, morally ship-wrecked, lacking in integrity, deficit in character, hollow in clues, bereft of ideas, the present government leads in the ranking order of atrophy and national tragedy that looms all over the country and its citizens. It has failed in mobilising the will and the capacity to act in the face of the threatening tempest that pokes ceaselessly at the soft underbelly of every sector in Nigeria . Its coziness with corruption has further worsened an already bad situation such that Nigerians look for divine solution to their worsening problems.
It is not too late for Nigeria to start the process of repair that will positively improve on the security crisis in the country but also mend the many sectors that have been badly mauled by corruption. The citizenry must lead an ethical regeneration that should target a return to the hallowed ethos that disallows the prevailing culture of corruption that reigns presently. An affirmative action that should attract citizens to take more pro-active moves to protest the raging corruption and incompetence that have grown into portent threats to the nation and its citizens must start and all Nigerians must sign up to it. The national tragedy is becoming so real and scary that no one would be spared its wide reach. The citizenry should constitute itself into a formidable force against the corrupt acts that have almost completely wrecked the country. I believe there lies our salvation from the present state of national perdition.
•Oparah wrote in from Ikeja, Lagos. E-mail: [email protected]