by Olaleye Olalekan
The former minister of Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai recently in a tweet triggered another controversy when he alleged that he was number seven on the alleged Jonathan’s snipers’ watch list. He did not stop there, he went ahead to identify four others; General Muhammad Buhari, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Governor Rotimi Amaechi and Chief Bisi Akande as also making the list. Earlier, Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State had made the allegation that he was number one on the said list.
These allegations, and if you like insinuations is premised on the letter written by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to President Goodluck Jonathan where the former accused the latter of training snipers and putting 1,000 people on a political watch list. Obasanjo also accused Jonathan of keeping a killer squad. Since the matter became a public debate, there have been accusations and counter-accusations between the presidency and individuals on the validity or otherwise of the claim, while Nigerians are also anxious and quick to demand proof from the accusers to ascertain the truth about the matter.
As grievous as this claim looks, it may not be too easy for us to sweep under the carpet. Our understanding of what constitutes political killing may also be necessary here. It should not be construed to mean the intentional killing of politicians for political purposes alone, but also extended to cover the death of citizens, put differently, the killing of Nigerians through government bad policies or reforms that do not only see the light of the day but also fall short along the way without seeing maturity due to lack of heuristic values.
Nigeria in this instance can be likened to a list in the hand of President Goodluck Jonathan, in which the names of Nigerians are contained. The manner in which the list is handled determines the longevity or otherwise of the lives of the Nigerian people. It goes to say that the handler can decide to maim or spare the lives of the people whose names are contained in the list employing different methods and tactics at his disposal. Hence, who is not on the list?
Many Nigerians have been killed and many will still be killed before 2015 due to the ineptitude and cluelessness of the government at the center. Nigeria under the present administration is a disaster. Nigerians are killed in avoidable circumstances within and outside the country with little or no help coming from the government. Many Nigerians are killed in road accidents as a result of the bad condition of our roads. Youthful skills are been silently killed with unemployment. Due to poor health system, malaria and other preventable diseases send Nigerians to their early grave. Lives are lost to armed robbery, kidnapping and violence, while thousands die of hunger as poverty ravages the country and people die in succession.
The reason we think of politicians alone is because our humane disposition to issues is a varnishing virtue in the land. Massive killings are remembered only as tolls, the scourge of joblessness is perceived just as unemployment percentages and appreciation of poverty is reduced to figures and graphs. Hence, a mass of data is available, but very little humanity is felt beneath the information. After the figures have been announced in the headlines, the deep human issues deriving from the episodic tragedies are hardly pursued. The sense of collective shock is receding at the news that thousands of lives are lost in violence and other disasters. The only time we probably get conscious is when it involves a political figure.
The low value placed on human life partly explains why very little is done to prevent recurrence of tragic happenings. After one tragedy, the government and the people simply wait for another to happen. And this can be observed daily in this land.
According to a new report released by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Nigeria with an estimated population of 160 million citizens, is reported to have more than 60 per cent, equivalent to ninety six million of her population going to bed hungry on a daily basis. While in its report in 2008, the agency revealed that about 300 Nigerians were dying of hunger daily in their own country. Here, let’s do simple arithmetic; 300 multiplied by 30 days in a month (all things being equal) give 9,000. When this result is further multiplied by 12 months in a year, the result is alarming. The government kills One hundred and eight thousand Nigerians yearly, from hunger alone! Hence the poser, what is the essence of having a government in place when the people continue to die at this magnitude when Nigeria is not afflicted with famine or drought, neither is she engaged in a war? Billions of naira is continuously earmarked for presidential flight, kitchen utensils, generator fuel and constituency allowances for legislators with nothing to show for it at a time when Nigerian women and children are dying of hunger. If we claim this is not political killing, then what is it? That food is becoming a threat to Nigerians today is a great concern resulting from massive corruption in our government quarters.
A visit to our hospitals will give you a clear picture of my contention. You will find people laying helplessly, some waiting for the messenger of death to beckon. Or what do we say of a friend, Abdrahman Lawan, a brilliant young man of 36 years, who suffers from kidney-related illness and needs a huge sum of four million naira for kidney transplant? My visit to him recently at Alimosho general hospital, Igando Lagos state reflects a man looking pale, unhealthy and hopeless. He could not summon enough courage and exchange greetings with us. Immediately I saw him, the question that came to mind was who will come to his rescue? What about others like him? Abdrahman is already on the list!
In a society imbued with humanity, some of the avoidable causes of lives in Nigeria will simply not be permitted by the public. The people would ask questions and make government take steps to prevent further loss of lives.
However, the fact remains that you risk the chance of being killed as long as you travel on Nigeria roads or fall sick when you do not have the means to get treatment abroad. Your death may be caused by hunger or violence as the case may be. You do not necessarily need be a politician before you are killed. If you are yet to be killed, it is not because you are not on the list; it is because you are still enjoying God’s favour. As we speak, Nigerians are being killed one way or the other!
Olaleye Olalekan Nurudeen, 300L Law, University of Ilorin.