Nigeria is ranked number 158 out of 182 countries listed by the UNDP in its Human Development Index (HDI). It would be good to know that a few “little” countries in Africa are ranked higher than this – Libya, the highest ranking African country is at number 55; Gabon is 103, Equitorial Guinea is 118, Namibia is 128, Swaziland is 142, Ghana is 152 and Lesotho is 156. I know that many Nigerians view this low ranking as white conspiracy to put the country down but the fact is that millions of Nigerians are migrating to these small countries, simply because life has better quality there. The UNDP, we must know, however, is a body with Nigerian staff, as it is a UN organisation. The UNDP also uses so many parameters to assign the HDI ranks, so it is fairly difficult to rank a country wrongly. If the ranking was based on one parameter of say functional hospitals or schools or death rate, we would understand the possibility of wrong conclusions and ranking. Not so with the UNDP HDI. It uses lots of parameters, in which Nigeria really ranks very low. It uses values for literacy, maternal mortality, GDP, mortaility of children under 5 years of age, etc. If we take life expectancy, in Japan (ranked 10), you are expected to live to 82.7 years. In Nigeria, the life expectancy is 47.7 years, and statistics bear this out – our parents’ generations lived longer than our generation. In the past, diseases of microbial origin were rampant. There were also wars but they mostly fought over land and settled the rift in an honest manner. In my place, for example, we knew the village boundaries and every year, youth from each village would make the road to the end of their border, where the youth from the other village met them and they sat to drink palmwine, and discussed which girl was the most humble and worthy of marriage. Not anymore. The British came, drew some lines on the ground and gave the fate of other nationalities to one ethnic group, to run it they way they deemed fit, just as long as this custodian group allowed the British to loot the land. This is how it has continued to this day, but this is not the subject of my article today.
Nigerians are dying sooner and in larger numbers than before because of the manner in which the country has “progressed”. Today, we have cities that have no safe potable water supply. Where the waterworks are still functioning, pipes are exposed, damaged and freely flowing. People urinate and defecate on them, and the water gets to the houses to be consumed. It is no wonder that cholera and typhoid are rampant. The majority is still drinking water from the stream behind the house, into which all the industrial waste has gone, along with faeces and urine. Our rich people and rulers, have not made any effort to improve the situation. They sink their own boreholes and get their “clean” water from these, but no one cares to measure the mineral contamination of this water – they drink all the heavy metals and die young.
But let me leave some of the “natural” causes of death in Nigeria. I have colleagues who were far into planning their return to Nigeria, either temporarily or permanently. Many are re-planning, given the events of the last few years, to the present time. Things are happening very rapidly. The yearly massacres in the North are no news, and many people have relocated from universities up north to move to the middlebelt and the south. I know of many people who would want to return home to work on the Plateau, not only because of the cool weather but because for years, it was the most peaceful part of Nigeria, with hordes of Europeans and good schools for children, including a European-standard secondary school, Hillcrest. Not anymore. Babangida, on instructions from his Hausa lords made sure that that peace was shattered. Plateau State has witnessed no peace since he created Jos North Local Government as an appendage of the Sokoto Caliphate, on the land of another ethnic group. Today, the terrorists can operate freely in Jos and all parts of northern Nigeria, as there is no one to halt their activities.
When kidnapping started in the riverine areas, I told my friends that the activity would spread quickly to other parts of Nigeria and not be limited to non-Nigerian victims. I was proved right, and today, there are kidnappers from Port Harcourt to Kaduna. Nobody is safe, from prominent citizens like Pete Edochie to school children. The kidnappers would just come, pull out a gun and ask you to follow them, and you had no option but to follow them. In this as in the annual killing orgies in the north, the state failed to protect the citizen.
Armed robbery has been with Nigeria since the end of the civil war. As a child, I heard about the exploits of men like Oyenusi, one of the fathers of armed robbery in Nigeria. It was rare to be accosted on the roads in the 70s, but the rate of operation increased by year, and the government had to stop public execution, as it no longer served as deterrent. Today, robbers are all over the place, and it is rarer to move from one town to another without running into a robbery operation. The state, again, has failed to provide protection to the citizen. Armed robbers are becoming more daring, not only because they carry more sophisticated arms than the police but because the police men and women that would stop them do not have the heart to stand and fight. Many Nigerians now go into the armed forces and police not as a devotion but out of lack of something else to do. It is common for the police (and army) to get to robbery sites long after the robbers would have left, even if the thieves operated for hours. The police would complain of inability to act, citing reasons from the mundane to the sublime. Today, it is lack of men, tomorrow it is lack of a vehicle, and other times, there is no petrol in the operational vehicle!
Our people need to survive in the face of this onslaught. It is not only for the sake of keeping a good profile on the UNDP index. Everyone of us wants to complete his or her time on earth and bring up the children. The state has failed. The state should empower the citizen to defend himself. Imagine what would happen if kidnappers came to pick their quarry, but realise that everyone or the majority on the street holds a gun. Ditto for the robber or the terrorist in Kano, Kaduna, Maiduguri, Bauchi, Zaria and Jos. They would have to think twice. Those cowardly Fulani terrorists that went and ransacked a village in Plateau State would think not twice, but thrice. Their intended victims would be bearing arms. The robbers that asked the bus driver to run over their victims would know that a majority of the passengers would be armed. Why do you think there is no armed robbery in South Africa? This is a country that is notorious for car-jacking and a sophisticated banking system. Yet robbers rarely attack the banks or hold up buses. They are wary because many of the people at the banks or in buses are armed. You could kill one but you would be dead before you shoot the next person!
I am conscious of the fact that guns can be mis-used. I used to think deeply about this until I studied the Americans and South Africans, two of the most militarised societies in the world today. You do not shoot easily to end a minor squabble, if you know that people standing by could shoot you to death. It is as simple as that.
I know how difficult it is for government in Nigeria to take a decision on any issue. While it may not be possible to travel on a bus with arms, as passengers are searched, it will do well for any citizen in volatile areas of the country to be armed. This would include areas in the south-south and east where kidnapping is rampant, to the north where islamic terrorists are on the loose. Even if you are unable to get a gun, at least hold a good machete or a bow and poisoned arrows. That way, you could at least take someone with you as they descend on you. I do not want to sound like an unsecured information bank but guns are freely available in Nigeria, and the authorities know this. It is in the interest of any citizen that wishes to stay alive to get one. Even before the authorities legalise it.
Re: Arms For Our People
Bill Carson posted on 03-13-2010, 11:27:01 AM
Thanks for a very insightful article, the democratization of arms within Nigeria Society will be the beginning of civilization and personal accountability. Guns are readily available to criminals (including military personnel who are bandits in uniform) holding law abiding citizens in permanent state of siege.
The only reason the Hausa/Fulani Talabans in the Middle Belt stopped targeting Igbo neighbourhoods is the knowledge that vigilante groups with sophisticated weapons operate within such hoods.
Re: Arms For Our People
Abdulmumin posted on 03-14-2010, 01:01:36 AM
The writer is obviously still baying for blood after all the torrents that have flown in the last ten years in what used to pass as the most beautiful city (at least in my opinion) in the whole of Nigeria; Jos.
Nigeria is practically lawless as it were without the proliferation of guns and this writer tries to argue for a situation where every citizen would have a right to acquire one. Where would that leave us? Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen? Your guess is as good as mine.
The path to peace in Jos is at the negotiation table. The blood of innocent women and children (Berom or Fulani) would not achieve peace.
Re: Arms For Our People
Maikanodahiru posted on 03-14-2010, 06:05:09 AM
Peace can only be achieved in Plateau State and elsewhere in Nigeria if all the parties involved in the crisis decide to choose the true path of reconciliation and forgiveness.No amount of arms will stop the violence but can only bring more bloodshed and further loss of lives.
Re: Arms For Our People
Ochi Dabari posted on 03-15-2010, 02:02:22 AM
Thanks, Bill. Knowing that your intended victim may be armed definitely serves as a deterrent. I vividly recall one such incident in Zaria in 1993 or thereabout. There was an eclipse of the moon, and as ignorant people are wont to do, the "believers" promptly gathered in their streets and started shouting death to the infidels, while marching towards the predominantly christian area of Calvary. The christian response was prompt and massive. Everyone came out, did not run but prepared for a show-down. And I don't need to tell anyone that people now have all kinds of arms - it is the only reason the Igbos still remain in the north after each round of terrorism. To every cry of "allah u akbar", the christian side responded with "praise the Lord". Adhoc commanders issued loud and clear instructions: a life for a life, a mosque for a church, etc. The message was clear. The "believers" were stopped in their track. I never felt more secure than that day and until I left northern Nigeria, I knew I was safe.
Let's be factual, the massacres in the north have been lopsided because the non-Hausa side has never been the one that attacks first. And the loss on the non-Hausa side has not been for lack of a will to face the enemy. Every time, the Hausa-Fulani have been bold to start the killings because they realise that by the time the other side fights back, the army would have been deployed on the streets. We know who is in the army - we do not want to confront our own sons. I sit back and listen to the soldiers after such operations - the pain that they go through having to confront their own people. Now, the commander in Jos knows this and sends his few brothers to face unarmed civilians, even when they only protest the lack of protection. It is a pain that people are not armed to confront this official killers.
But Jos is only a tip of my worries for Nigerians - killings happen yearly, some times every month, in Bauchi and Maiduguri. Kano and Zaria/Kaduna have taken some holiday, but this is not to say that they are safe places for the non-Hausa/Fulani. Then of course there is the age-old robber, and the new age kidnapper. These people are shortening Nigerian lives and should be halted. If anyone tells me that arming everyone is not a deterrent, then s/he must be benefitting from the killings of innocent Nigerians.
p/s: Can someone tell me why Bankole's House of Rapes decided to ban NYSC corpers from Plateau State? I know he was in the UK for most of the time that NYSC corpers were killed in other parts of Nigeria, so why have these other volatile areas not lost their corpers? It is not that I approve of such attacks but corpers are being killed by the same ethnic/religious group, whether in Plateau or in Borno. Bankole should free the chains around him and stop the killings rather than dance to his masters' tune all the time. I urge Plateau state to withdraw their sons/daughters from other parts of Nigeria and put them to the service of our people.
Re: Arms For Our People
DeepThought posted on 03-15-2010, 02:16:48 AM
We Nigerians are a funny and reactionary people. Ever reacting (when it is too late), never planning for what is obvious or what should be obvious...
Ochi, if I may ask you , a few years ago, before this troubles came to your neck of the woods, would you have supported the call to arm "our people"?
Anyway, nevermind. Soon enough, many people here who are saying you are talking nonsense will soon enough have cause to revisit their opinions. Lets just hope it won't be too little too late then....
Re: Arms For Our People
Ochi Dabari posted on 03-15-2010, 22:22:46 PM
Honestly, I have always been for people to carry arms. Note that when I make this call, I do not mean that every Jane and John should be licensed. Even in countries where arms are legalised, it is not every applicant that is granted a licence. I know that in the Nigerian system, bribes would be the order of the day, but it is better for guns to be in the hands of all than only in the hands of official killers (soldiers and police) and criminals (armed robbers, kidnappers and terrorists).
The revolution that we talk about may even materialise faster if Nigerians are armed. Local govt chairmen, councillors, governors, senators and rapists are looting the treasury and putting up fanciful mansions all of the place, as people die of diseases and hunger. These rulers destroyed our educational structures and send their children to Europe, South Africa, Malaysia and Ghana. They are not scared of the people, as votes don't count. Imagine what would happen if a few chairmen were knocked out. There will be accountability. Coups don't even work, as one group of criminals simply replaces another; it is the people's coup that would work. If Nigerians were armed in the 60s we would never have had the civil war. At worst, the Hausas would have pleaded with the Igbos to leave the North, or risk loss of life on their own part - not the one-sided orgy that infuriated Ojukwu and the rest of the world.
Yes, again, I have supported guns all my life.
Re: Arms For Our People
DeepThought posted on 03-16-2010, 01:32:54 AM
I was being slightly facetious but thanks for humouring me with a serious response. My own take on this issue is that not only should Nigerians bear arms, but that military service in one form or the other should be made compulsory for all. I know that sounds drastic and I know it will not be well received.
I also know that as Nigerians, we generally want something for nothing.
I think, eventually, we will realize the folly in this line of thinking