Saturday, December 15 2012 will stand in infamy not only as the day a naval Helicopter crashed taking with it precious national assets including a well trained Naval Commander (equivalent of a Naval Lt. Colonel) but other public officers including a Governor and an ex-Chief of Army Staff. But Saturday should never have happened, and if it were saner clime heads will be rolling as we speak even to the very top.
Ignoring for one minute, the very premise of abuse of office that saw a Naval Aircraft being used for private ceremony like kabu-kabu, one could not help but wonder why military aircrafts keeping falling from our skies like pancakes. Clearly the seeming lack of concern we have for human lives on our roads, at our hospitals and our places of work now rules in our military. Will this same military force need to even surrender, when the enemy comes knocking when it cannot even effectively mobilize a helicopter for short hop trips in the Niger Delta without crashing? Bear in mind, this is about the third major crash in few years within the three service arms.
Back to the core questions surrounding abuse of power, and government property; there is no doubt in my mind that in saner climes both the Chief of Naval Staff and someone in the Presidency better have some good answers about this incident. Why will a military asset that is barely enough to police our pirate infested waters be deployed for private use? We are deploying military assets for funerals, naming ceremonies and birthdays while the North is on fire and our cities are besieged!
In Nigeria, I don’t expect answers. This is why: we’re high on rhetoric and short on action. We have a culture that encourages no demarcation between public and private property. Public property is Nigeria is regarded as anyone’s property which means no one owns it. In Nigeria, we had a President that created a Transnational Corporation, and awarded prized national assets like telecom license and oil blocs to it while ensuring he was given some really cool amount of shares to boot. He had defenders then, and President Jonathan will have defenders today!
There is a popular but evil saying in our country, “na where man dey work, na there im dey chop”. So we’ve become a nation of choppers, with government choppers falling off the skies ferrying private citizens and state officials to private ceremonies where it has no business. I guess we need to be more careful about what we chop!
There is no doubt in my mind that a country where armed robbers can hold homes hostage for three hours without fear of police intervention, where accidents happen and no emergency response shows up for hours, where roads are constantly re-awarded while they rot away in reality deserve more than the quality of public service we see today and emblematic by Saturday’s incident.
What we need is a serious soul searching as a people and as a culture. What kind of country are we building for our children? What are our priorities? Don’t we have any sense of proprietary any more? What are we made of when we loot and commandeer public service for our own private purpose without a conscience; while millions rot away in poverty for lack thereof? Do we ask questions of the family member, relative or friend that suddenly finds new wealth at the behest of a government appointment?
Speaking about checks, where is the compromised National Assembly to check the inherent excesses of the executive when we need them? Why is the Chief of Naval staff not being dishonorably discharged as we speak, to send clear signals to other government functionaries- military or bureaucrats that nepotism will not be tolerated?
As we ask questions, we cannot forget that the answers inhabit each of our minds. When you take that result of an under performing ward and pushed him/her into that university ahead of other more qualified candidates, or commandeer a bed in public hospital for use by your relative ahead of other in line – you just took an ill fated chopper.
As we all gradually sink into the abyss of taking no prisoners, we devalue public service and ourselves in the process. Think and Act. May God Bless Nigeria.