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DEATH PENALTY- THE CRIME OF BEING A NIGERIAN

By Chukwuemeka Okechukwu 

The fact of being a Nigerian is welcomed with mixed feelings especially in recent times. Locally and internationally, one could affirm without mean fears of exaggeration that the fact of being a Nigerian places one on a pedestal that is considered generally to be disadvantaged. The Green Passport which typifies the identity of a Nigerian abroad seem to serve not just the purpose of identifying an individual abroad, but unfortunately earns such an individual a status of being welcomed with mixed feelings especially in foreign land. Locally within the shores of Nigeria, the story is not very different since survival in Nigeria is cajoled to bespeak of one’s fitness to survive the worst of conditions; hellfire. Many Christians who uphold the doctrine of hellfire are of the strong conviction that the journey from Nigeria to hell is nothing less than a local journey and as such, they are motivated not to replicate the hell they currently inhabit in the present life by living a life that would vouchsafe a better life in eternity. Being a Nigerian proves being a curse more than it presents itself as a blessing. The Nigerian identity seeks to mark one for annihilation and the evidence of this lies in the recent struggles for cessation by different ethnic groups that make up the country. Nigerians would not let any opportunity of migration to any part of the world with the undiluted conviction that life has better tidings to offer them anywhere else but Nigeria.

Governance has failed in Nigeria at various times and at various levels. There seems to be careless murder of Nigerians in their numbers, all thanks to the bad governance in the country orchestrated by gross incompetence and unbridled corruption. ‘There was a Country’ is a treatise by Chinua Achebe in which he argued that the problem of Nigeria is reducible to the problem of her leadership. Leadership has failed in Nigeria and this footnotes the gruesome murder of the Nigerian identity and the consequent insecurity of lives within the country. In Nigeria the basic amenities that make life bearable are nothing less than luxuries since they are the exclusive reserve of the rich and as such, there are little or no concerns about the good of the poor masses in the larger gamut of governance in the country. Nobody is safe in Nigeria.

A clear instance of the increasing avoidable deaths in Nigeria could be traced to the health sector. It is pragmatically true that lives should be saved in hospitals and allied healthcare facilities. The contrary appears the case with Nigerian hospitals. The health facilities in Nigeria, both at the federal and state levels are undeniably under-equipped. The consequence of this is poor diagnosis which directly translates into wrong treatments and given such a situation, the death toll in Nigerian medical institutions are constantly on the increase. The situation is compounded by the fact that despite how poor these medical facilities are, they are limited in reach (in number) and some parts of the country are found to lack these facilities even as poor as they are. There is need also to highlight the cost of accessing the services offered in these health institutions. One must be willing to invest a great deal of time and money to access healthcare in Nigeria. This is a basic need that should be provided by the government at different levels in Nigeria from the public coffers. Would one wish an evidence of the anomalies that have come to characterise the health sector in Nigeria? Let such a person be shown a country where the president and other public office holders seek medical healthcare abroad. In Nigeria it is no shame to announce that the president and other leaders have travelled to a distant county on health tourism. What happened to the hospitals in Nigeria? Nigerian politicians have looted the funds that should have been channelled to equipping them and hence, Nigerian hospitals could loosely be described as execution grounds where one’s entrance is sure but his/her safe exit is not guaranteed. Such politicians and their rich allies fly abroad to seek medical attention simply because they would not wish to make it to the long list of those executed daily in Nigerian hospitals. And please what is the offence of those who lose their lives in these hospitals? It is simple, they are Nigerians and as such, they are targets of bad governance. This is genocide of its own sort.

The Nigerian tale in recent times has been characterised with a high level of insecurity. Insecurity is not a new problem in the socio-political scene in Nigeria just that it has assumed a dimension that is multi-faceted; coming from very many angles. Prior to the present political administration in the country, the major security challenge in the country was the insurgent group, Boko Haram Sect, but this has taken a different dimension in recent times. Though many are the success stories recorded in the fight against Boko Haram in the country, the truth remains that the country is yet to be free from the activities of the terrorist group. The insecurity condition in the country has been heightened by the incessant attacks unleashed on innocent citizens by Fulani Herdsmen. This paints a picture of the security situation Nigeria which is indeed muddled up at the moment. Nobody is safe in Nigeria since the death toll evidences that both the rich and the poor; the high and the lowly; the Christians and Muslims; the young and the old, have been victims at different points. Nobody is indeed spared.

It was a sad tale that four seminarians, between the ages of 18 and 23, were abducted recently from their seminary in Kaduna, in northwestern Nigeria. The gunmen, disguised in military camouflage, broke through the fence surrounding the seminarians’ living quarters and began shooting sporadically. They stole laptops and phones before kidnapping the four young men. The seminarians, Pius Kanwai, 19; Peter Umenukor, 23; Stephen Amos, 23; and Michael Nnadi, 18, were abducted on the night of Jan. 8 in a 30-minute operation that saw the kidnappers, dressed in military uniform and armed with guns, force their way onto the Catholic seminary campus, which is home to over 200 seminarians.

“With a very heavy heart, I wish to inform you that our dear son, Michael was murdered by the bandits on a date we cannot confirm. He and the wife of a doctor were arbitrarily separated from the group and killed. The Rector identified the corpse this afternoon,” were the words of Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto, Nigeria, said in a statement released Feb. 1, that confirmed the killing of one of the abducted seminarians after many weeks of physical and mental torture in the hands of the kidnappers. The body of Micahel Nnadi was discovered along with the remains of Bola Ataga, the wife of Kaduna Dr. Phillip Ataga, on the Kaduna-Abuja Highway in Kaduna state.

Many Nigerians and well meaning human beings across the globe have expressed their pains over the death of this young promising seminarian. There is need to reflect with Bishop Hassan Kukah in these lines of his homily at the burial of Late Seminarian Michael;

Nigeria is at a point where we must call for a verdict. There must be something that a man,nay, a nation should be ready to die for. Sadly, or even tragically, today, Nigeria, does notpossess that set of goals or values for which any sane citizen is prepared to die for her.Perhaps, I should correct myself and say that the average office holder is ready to die to protect this office but not for the nation that has given him or her that office. The Yorubas say that if ittakes you 25 years to practice madness, how much time would you have to put it into real life?We have practiced madness for too long. Our attempt to build a nation has become like theagony of Sisyphus who angered the gods and had to endure the frustration of rolling a stone upthe mountain. Each time he got near the top, the gods would tip the stone back and he would go back to start all over again. What has befallen our nation? Nigeria needs to pause for a moment and think. No one more than the President of Nigeria, Major General Muhammadu Buhari who was voted for in 2015 on the grounds of his ownpromises to rout Boko Haram and place the country on an even keel. In an address at the prestigious Policy Think Tank, Chatham House in London, just before the elections, MajorGeneral Buhari told his audience: “I as a retired General and a former Head of State havealways known about our soldiers. They are capable and they are well trained, patriotic, brave and always ready to do their duty. If am elected President, the world will have no reason toworry about Nigeria. Nigeria will return to its stabilizing role in West Africa. We will paysufficient attention to the welfare of our soldiers in and out of service. We will developadequate and modern arms and ammunition. We will improve intelligence gathering and borderpatrols to choke Boko Haram’s financial and equipment channels. We will be tough on terrorismand tough on its root causes by initiating a comprehensive economic development and promoting infrastructural development. . .we will always act on time and not allow problems to irresponsibly fester. And I, Muhammadu Buhari, will always lead from the front.” There is no need to make any further comments on this claim. No one in that hall or anywhere in Nigeria doubted the President who ran his campaign on a tank supposedly full ofthe fuel of integrity and moral probity. No one could have imagined that in winning thePresidency, General Buhari would bring nepotism and clannishness into the military and theancillary Security Agencies, that his government would be marked by supremacist and divisivepolicies that would push our country to the brink. This President has displayed the greatestdegree of insensitivity in managing our country’s rich diversity. He has subordinated the largerinterests of the country to the hegemonic interests of his co-religionists and clansmen andwomen. The impression created now is that, to hold a key and strategic position in Nigeriatoday, it is more important to be a northern Muslim than a Nigerian. Today, in Nigeria, the noble religion of Islam has convulsed. It has become associated with some of worst fears among our people. Muslim scholars, traditional rulers and intellectualshave continued to cry out helplessly, asking for their religion and region to be freed from this chokehold. This is because, in all of this, neither Islam nor the north can identify any realbenefits from these years that have been consumed by the locusts that this government hasunleashed on our country. The Fulani, his innocent kinsmen, have become the subject ofopprobrium, ridicule, defamation, calumny and obloquy. His north has become one large graveyard, a valley of dry bones, the nastiest and the most brutish part of our dear country…We are being told that this situation has nothing to do with Religion. Really? It is what happens when politicians use religion to extend the frontiers of their ambition and power. Arewe to believe that simply because Boko Haram kills Muslims too, they wear no religious garb?Are we to deny the evidence before us, of kidnappers separating Muslims from infidels orcompelling Christians to convert or die? If your son steals from me, do you solve the problem bysaying he also steals from you? Again, the Sultan got it right: let the northern political elite whohave surrendered the space claim it back immediately… On our part, I believe that this is a defining moment for Christians and Christianity in Nigeria. We Christians must be honest enough to accept that we have taken so much for granted andmade so much sacrifice in the name of nation building. We accepted President Buhari when hecame with General Idiagbon, two Muslims and two northerners. We accepted Abiola andKingibe, thinking that we had crossed the path of religion, but we were grossly mistaken. WhenJonathan became President, and Senator David Mark remained Senate President while PatriciaEtte was chosen by the South West became a Speaker. The Muslim members revolted andforced her resignation with lies and forgery. The same House would shamelessly say that theyhad no records of her indictment. Today, we are living with a Senate whose entire leadership isin the hands of Muslims. Christians have continued to support them. For how long shall wecontinue on this road with different ambitions? Christians must rise up and defend their faithwith all the moral weapons they have. We must become more robust in presenting the values ofChristianity especially our message of love and non-violence to a violent society. Among thewolves of the world, we must become more politically alert, wise as the serpent and humble asthe dove (Mt. 10:16).

President Buhari is found guilty of conspiracy in matters of insecurity in the country. This fact of conspiracy is understood on two grounds. First, is what one may call failure conspiracy. It is the prerogative of every government to protect her people from internal and external aggression, hence the issue of security. Granted that no nation of the world can boast of a perfect security system, insecurity is found to be glaring in some countries of the world. The level of insecurity in Nigeria, obviously gets worse by the day; the little successes recorded by the Buhari-led administration in the fight against terrorism is far from ensuring peace within the Nigerian state. This failure by the government has only but encouraged the numerous perpetuators of these crimes with the full knowledge that the government is handicapped and inefficient in bringing them to book. This is the case of failure conspiracy.

Conspiracy of Silence becomes the second form of collaboration that President Buhari has established with the assailants. Nigerians have been worried over the unusual silence on the attacks meted on innocent Nigerians especially by the Fulani herdsmen. No public statement of the president has been reported in reaction to the numerous attacks. Even the particular cases reported in this work has not been reacted to by the President at the time of this report. Silence in the normal African understanding underscores agreement. The silence of the President to these and related issues, could be taken to be his consent, hence, conspiracy of silence.

It is high time that the government started being accountable and responsible for her citizens. There is every need for the government at all levels in Nigeria to rise up to the responsibility of protecting the lives and properties of the citizens. Every hand must be on deck to end the series of deaths especially those not adequately accounted for in Nigeria.

 

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