It is truly ironic that, at a time when Nigeria has been formally acknowledged as the most valuable economy in Africa, the worth of human life within it has become so cheap. Even the most patriotic of its citizens can recognise the growing indifference to increasing incidents of serious injury and mass loss of life.
There are remote and immediate causes for this ongoing tragedy. Principal among them are the chaos and destruction of the civil war, the subsequent diffusion of small arms and the consequent rise in armed robbery and violent crime. There is also the problem of weak and ineffective institutions which make the resort to self-help more attractive. In addition, the rise of dictatorial military regimes and their authoritarian civilian counterparts have combined to ensure that Nigeria is a country in which the ends always justify the means, regardless of how violent those means may be.
More recently, the cheapness of human life has been aggravated by the cruelty of the militant Islamic groups like Boko Haram whose putative campaign for an Islamic state has been characterised by cold-blooded acts of mass murder.
Ever since its renewed campaign of terror began in May 2011, the country has witnessed assassination, bombings, armed attacks and abductions on a regular basis. Places of worship, markets and bus stations have been bombed; civilians have been slaughtered; girls and young women have been abducted.
Perhaps the most egress demonstration of the reprehensible tactics of the insurgents is the deliberate targeting of male students as seen in Gujba, Mamudo, Buni-Yadi, and most recently, in Potiskum, where a suicide bomber detonated a backpack full of explosives at a school assembly. Fifty-two students died and 79 were injured. A despondent people and a terrified nation seem to passively await the next atrocity, only praying that it will not affect them directly.
(N/B) The situation is worsened by the lack of responsiveness of the Federal Government which seems to have restricted itself to the perfunctory issuance of statements of condemnation and sympathy.
While those are necessary, it is obvious that they are inadequate, especially when government’s own actions blatantly contradict such pious sentiments.
When over 200 girls were abducted in Chibok, Borno State, the Jonathan administration took two weeks to respond officially, even in the throes of global outrage. Government officials floated the kite that there had been no abductions at all. That was followed by the amazing request that all demands for the return of the girls be addressed to the terrorists who took them, rather than the administration.
Then there was the First Lady’s infamous summoning and interrogation of officials in connection with the abductions. Till today, President Jonathan has refused to visit Chibok, and only had audience with the parents of the abducted girls at the behest of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist.
In April, the president danced openly at a political rally in Kano, less than a day after nearly 100 Nigerians lost their lives in a car-bomb explosion in Nyanya on the outskirts of Abuja. Last week, he went ahead with his formal declaration to contest a second term just 24 hours after the devastation in Potiskum.
As leader of the Nigerian state, President Jonathan must understand that he is more than a mere politician and should act accordingly. When a president engages in partisan politicking hours after terrorist attacks, when he continually gives excuses for failing to act, when he blames others for his own ineffectiveness, he conveys the message that his administration cannot care less about the most fundamental of its duties towards the citizenry – ensuring the security of their lives and property. Such attitudes only serve to ensure that human lives remain the country’s cheapest commodity.