By Femi Aribisala
In the bible, Jesus cast a legion of demons out of a demon-possessed man. However, he cast the demons into 2,000 pigs nearby. Immediately, the pigs ran over a cliff, fell into the sea and drowned. When the villagers heard about this miracle, they were not pleased. How could 2,000 pigs be destroyed just in order for one “useless” man to be delivered? As far as they were concerned, 2,000 pigs were far more valuable than one demon-possessed man.
Therefore, they came to Jesus and pleaded with him to please leave not just their town, but their region. His presence was obviously too costly for them.
Cows and men
In the past 4 years, Nigerians have been confronted with the dilemma of a government that seems to prefer cows to men. Fulani herdsmen attack farms wielding AK47 rifles; and they kill the rightful owners for the sake of obtaining feeding grounds for their cows. The government has acquiesced in this carnage by doing nothing.
Presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, even went as far as advice Nigerians that it is better to give up their lands than be killed. This is because when push comes to shove, the government would rather protect the cows of the Fulani herdsmen than protect the lives of farmers and their families.
How did we get here? How did we come to this pass? How did we so lose our humanity in Nigeria that we elected a government that refuses to protect our lives and livelihood but would rather protect cows?
It was a long time coming but we finally arrived at a calamitous destination. We got here through an insidious but systematic disregard for human life. We got here because, over the years, we have become a stone-hearted people who have no regard for our fellowmen. We don’t care what happens to Nigerians and don’t even seem to care what happens to us.
We put in office people who rob us blind. We celebrate armed robbers and pen robbers. Our heroes are murderers and charlatans. We hail those who don’t care a hoot whether we live or die.
A few years ago, the government passed legislation criminalising homosexuality in Nigeria without regard for the implication of this for fighting the scourge of HIV/AIDS. After South Africa, Nigeria has the highest number of HIV/AIDS patients in the world. Who cares if by criminalising homosexuality, homosexual patients are discouraged from seeking such medical treatment as are available locally? Let them die; and if they don’t, we can certainly stone them to death if we ever discover they are homosexuals.
The Boko Haram go to churches to kill Christians. Christians go to church prayer-meetings to kill their enemies. Atheists go to babalawos to negotiate death-sentences for their rivals. It is no longer a big deal to hear of Fulani herdsmen killing the innocent, or of area-boys executing jungle-justice in our streets. It is now all par for the course.
Let us face it: there is no regard for human life in Nigeria. In Nigeria, we love life but promote and encourage death. We lavishly celebrate births, but disregard children after they are born.
The Israelis would move heaven and earth to protect and defend the life of one Israeli. But governments in Nigeria don’t give a damn whether a Nigerian lives or dies. Over three million Nigerians were slaughtered in a three-year civil war; and yet there is no national memorial commemorating our loss. The victims are gone, what else is new.
How much is a human-being worth in Nigeria; not more than the cost of a hearty meal in a “mama-put.” If you want someone killed, you don’t have to break the bank. You can get a contract-killer for as little as 1,000 naira and the job will be done. The list of unresolved murders is so long, you begin to wonder what exactly the Nigerian police is doing. From Dele Giwa, to Alfred Rewane, to Anthony Ikhazoboh, to Bola Ige, to Harry Marshal, to Funso Willams; to Olakunri Fasoranti, Nigerians continue to get slaughtered without any reprieve.
If someone were to kill you today, the only people who may blink an eye are members of your household. Even they may be more concerned with sharing your property than with prosecuting your killers. As people come ostensibly to commiserate with your relatives about your death; so would they be asking if they can have your spanking stereo system.
When I was living in a block of flats, our “maiguard” got drunk one night and was killed by a hit-and-run driver. His friends sent a delegation to the tenants, saying they needed money to send him home for burial. We contributed money and gave it to them. But as we watched from the window, they gathered round and shared the money among themselves.
Who cares? The man is dead.
By the law of averages, if you are a Nigerian the chances are high that you will be dead before your 40th birthday. It is amazing how many people kick the bucket after proverbially “brief illnesses.” We have hospitals where doctors can go on strike for months, while the government dilly-dallies. Indeed, hospitals are places where Nigerians go to die. If a relative of yours has to undergo surgery in Nigeria, it is time for fasting and prayer.
You can even go to a hospital for vaccination against a disease and end up dead from that very disease because of an overdose of the vaccine. That is what killed my only sister, Yemisi, at the tender age of eighteen. It should be against the law in Nigeria for government officials to seek medical treatment abroad for any ailment whatsoever. Let them improve the medical facilities here at home or face the music with everyone else.
We keep discovering new ways to send people to early graves. We sell fake drugs, knowing they can either kill the sick or ensure that they live like vegetables. We pile up rubbish in the streets, not caring that this makes us prone to diseases. We pump oil out of the Niger Delta, without regard for the pollution of the environment. The oil companies know they can get away with murder in Nigeria, doing things in our country that would bankrupt them if they dared to do them at home.
In Nigeria, we produce children, without sparing a thought for how they would be cared for. You can have a messenger in an office, earning 18,000 naira a month; nevertheless, he is the father of 12 children. How does he expect to take care of them? He does not! He expects them to take care of him.
From an early age, he distributes some among his relatives. He sends out the “leftovers” as sellers of chewing-gum and groundnuts on the streets. They become street-urchins and beggars required to make daily returns to him. What does it matter if they grow up to be kidnappers and armed-robbers?
Because human life is disregarded, a whole segment of our population still cannot read and write in this day and age. Because we have no regard for life, our policemen are as equally likely to shoot you and kill you as they are to protect you. If you are more fortunate, they might arrest you merely for walking on the streets and lock you up for 10 years without trial.
How many men have you ever heard of going to jail for raping women in Nigeria? It is not because Nigerians are not rapists like others, but because in Nigeria rape is no big a deal. Neither is marrying under-aged girls. That actually happens to be the preferred pastime of our distinguished politicians.
University lecturers go on a strike for six months. Nobody seems to care that this constitutes wasted months or years in the life of hapless students. In serious countries, such neglect might be enough to bring down a government. Not in Nigeria.
We all know our university education is largely useless anyway. Most graduates in Nigeria cannot write a sentence of English correctly without “firing bullets.” What does it matter if they waste time while lecturers and the government stare each other down? Everyone knows when they graduate, they will waste even more time looking for non-existent jobs.
In our cities, you can go to work in the morning and find a dead man lying on the street. When you come back in the evening, you are likely to find him still there. Nobody really cares.
Nobody cares that, as a result of being the highest users of generators in the world, we are killing ourselves with the fumes. Nobody cares that our women are dying by the tens of thousands from ingesting the smoke from cooking with firewood all day long.
Nobody cares that our orthopedic hospitals now have glorified “okada wards,” full of people maimed and crippled by naira-drunk motorcyclists. Nobody cares that our flea-markets and supermarkets sell expired foods and our so-called pure water is responsible for the high incidence of typhoid.
When they discourage the smoking of cigarettes in the West because of medically-proven research that it causes a lorry-load of deadly diseases, the tobacco industry finds a high-growth market in Nigeria with every encouragement from our easily-bought legislators.
Our mechanics put fake spare-parts in our cars, not caring a hoot if that makes us vulnerable to accidents. In Nigeria, if you are not killed while driving on the road, you can be killed while walking on the sidewalk because the okada-rider or the “Keke Marwa” driver does not believe the sidewalk is reserved for pedestrians.
Can you imagine it if the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 had been a Nigerian plane full of Nigerians? Would the Nigerian government have been particularly bothered to spend money in search of the plane, after all, what are 239 missing Nigerians in a country of 170 million?
There are so many Nigerians, we are easily expendable. Even if the government were to budget funds to search for the missing plane, it would not be amiss for some public officials to pocket the money. After all, the people are already dead. Why waste time and money looking for the dead?
When the livelihood of a hapless street-seller was confiscated by government officials, she appealed to the governor of her state who was put in office to seek her wellbeing. “What will I do now?” she asked him in earnest.
The governor’s response has become a national anthem of Nigerian officialdom. He said to her: “God and die.” That heartless governor is now the chairman of our ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).