Nigerian lives matter 

Though the salacious songs, LET’S GET IT ON and SEXUAL HEALING catapulted Marvin Gaye to stardom, it was his album, WHAT’S GOING ON , which he produced in 1971 at MOTOWN RECORDS, that brought him into serious reckoning and put him in the pantheon of musical greats.

WHAT’S GOING ON inspired a generation of artists, who through their musical and anthemic messages of protest, spurred conversations around racism, violence and disillusionment. Marvin Gaye’s WHAT’S GOING ON gave strong expression and voice to the violence in the Vietnam war and other societal injustices that afflicted America. It was one of the songs that birthed and gave rise to the BLACK LIVES MATTER movement.

Reflecting on the said album, Marvin Gaye had said, before his violent and untimely death:”To be truly righteous, you offer love with a pure heart, without regard for what you’ll get in return. I had myself in that frame of mind. People were confused and needed re-assurance. God was offering that re-assurance through his music. I was privileged to be his instrument”.

Like Gaye, before us, we are prompted to ask: What’s going on? We are compelled to raise this poser because except for one or two geopolitical zones, the entire country is enmeshed in violence. From the North East(which used to be the epicenter of insurgency and banditry) to the North West and North Central, hundreds are being abducted or killed with abandon and on a daily basis.

The country has become such a big cauldron and a vast killing field. And we are back to the pre-2023 General Elections era when bandits, kidnappers and terrorists had a field day, dispatching innocents, in their hundreds, to the great beyond.

The orgy of violence would appear to have resumed with a renewed and demonic fury. Commuters are abducted at will. Students are kidnapped in droves. Hundreds of innocents are mowed down in co-ordinated attacks while they sleep at night. This is the deadly daily routine. This is the tale of woe in the three geopolitical zones of the North. The people are immersed in mourning. Despair stalks their land like some ghoul.

Long-drawn and protracted insurgency has implications for acute hunger and food insecurity. According to U.N. agencies, not less than four million people are to face severe food crisis in the North Eastern States of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa this year. Also, not less than $396million will be needed to mitigate severe malnutrition in these beleaguered States.

Yet we know that this sad and unhappy state of affairs has been brought about chiefly by ham handed, greedy and bad leadership. Bad leadership has in turn engendered massive and unprecedented poverty, illiteracy and misery. Rather than improve the well-being of the people, the various leaderships have betrayed and pauperized them.

The consequence of this betrayal is an army of millions of youths who are unemployed and illiterate. These youths are gullible and are susceptible to being used to foment violence.

Figures issued by the National Bureau of Statistics(NBS) shows that not less than 133 million Nigerians are multidimensionally poor. Of this figure, 86 million of them, representing 65 percent, live in the North. Also of the ten poorest States in Nigeria, eight are from the North. Sokoto, which is the poorest in the country, boasts of a population in which 90.5% are living in extreme poverty.

Also, by UNESCO’s account in 2022,  40% of Nigerian children in the North, aged six and eleven, especially girls, do not attend any primary school. Compounding this horrid statistics is that either out of complicity or complacency, the elites in the North have not articulated any viable agenda to address this backwardness.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who made a number of sorties to Borno State when the Boko Haram insurgency was at its inchoate stages to mediate the group’s excesses, revealed at a recent book launch in Lagos that in the course of his interfaces with the leadership of the insurgency, he was told that it was inspired by poverty and unemployment.

The import of this is clear. With more than 20 million out-of school children in Nigeria, most of which are in the North, and with the army of millions of other unemployed youths pounding the streets, more fertile ground is being prepared for the sprouting of Boko Haram-type insurgencies.

It took a national outcry and the dastardly attacks on the Kuje Correctional Center, the Presidential Convoy and Guards Brigade for the former President, Muhammadu Buhari, to order the security agencies to extirpate the terrorists menacing the country. At the end of the day, not less than 63,111 lives were lost under his lamentable watch.

The resurgence of violence in the country, particularly in the North, would seem to suggest that the measures taken in October last year, namely to uproot the terrorists, was a short term one, designed merely to pacify the insurgents and to pave way for the conduct of the 2023 General Elections.

For hardly had the elections been conducted than we have returned to the status quo: We are back to a security regimen in which the terrorists are allowed to operate with impunity and to kill even on a more genocidal scale. Witness the recent vicious killings, abductions and kidnappings in the North.

Thankfully, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has identified heightened insecurity and criminality as one of the challenges that dogs us in his Inaugural Address. For good measure, he has appointed new Service Chiefs and a National Security Adviser to replace those who served the ANCIEN REGIME. While this may appear a welcome relief , it must be emphasized that this is the easy part.

The real task is for the Service Chiefs to extirpate these terrorists and to accomplish this onerous task quickly, professionally and patriotically so that the people can be succored and have some respite.

The Nigerian State, by Law and the social contract between it and its people, is obligated to safeguard and protect lives and properties of its citizens. It is when it fulfills part of its bargain in this social contract that it creates the environment for development to take place. It is also when it does that that the State can demand that citizens make certain sacrifices.

It is only when the country is safe that it can curry Foreign Direct Investment(FDI). It is counterproductive to invite investors to a country menaced by gun-toting goons and terrorists. Investors will shun such a country like the plague. In fact, and indeed, such a State, which harbors and encourages terrorists, will be deemed to have failed since it cannot discharge the pedestrian task of securing its citizens.

Additionally, we must begin to put premium on human lives. Instead of coldly viewing our compatriots as some statistic, we should show them compassion and fellow-feeling. Nigerian lives should matter in the manner the lives of humans in other civilized climes are highly treasured and appreciated. Never again should we treat our citizens with disdain  in the manner of the aloof, stone-hearted Buhari years.

But beyond calling on the President, and Commander in Chief, to come quickly and muscularly to terms with the reality of our heightened insecurity and criminality, which are endemic in the North, the Northern Governors must, themselves, come to brass tacks.

They must rise stoutly to the challenges aforementioned. They must take measures that empower their citizens educationally and economically. Such measures will steer their people away from becoming vulnerable to terrorism or serving as cannon fodder for those who espouse religious or ethnic hatred.

Nothing underscores the onerousness of the task before the Northern Governors than the grim statistics issued by the UN last year. The U.N. said that even were the Southern States to rest on their oars or mark time, it would take not less than fifty years for the North to catch up with the South in terms of development.

If the report underlines the seriousness of the challenges before the North, it is also a ringing indictment. More than the South, the North has held sway over the affairs of this country. It is a matter for profound regret that the North has nothing to show for the period it held power other than destitution and grinding poverty.

The Northern States will do well to frontally address the challenges of illiteracy, joblessness and intolerance. Leaders must rein in their avarice and primitive accumulation. They must lead by personal example. States should invest in ventures that create jobs. They must create the environment for the private sector to thrive by providing requisite infrastructure.

They must empower their people through education. They must teach their people the virtues of investing in areas that impact positively on the lives of their people instead of on conspicuous consumption or the flaunting of ill-gotten wealth. Opportunities should be created for youths to excel and to express their God-given talents to the fullest.

Youths should be encouraged to set store by hard work and to emulate those who have succeeded by pulling themselves by their bootstraps.
Yes, Nigerian lives matter. We need a government that assures us of this in its deeds. And pronto!

Dazang writes from Abuja