by Abimbola Adelakun
Moro and all those who were involved in Saturday exercise deserve to be fired but it is not enough. We will only be treating the symptoms of a problem that lives in our DNA. We need to cultivate a sense of order and arrangement in our public activities.
If a poll were to be taken today to weigh public opinion on whether the Minister of Interior Affairs, Abba Moro, should be sacked for the stampede that occurred during the Nigeria Immigration Service job test, the man would be a goner; and it would be a step in the right direction. Moro could not have acted more inhumanely by blaming the victims of Saturday tragedy for their own deaths when he said their impatience caused the stampede. There is no nice way to put it: Moro’s outburst against those who cannot defend themselves is insensitive. I stand with Nigerians who have been calling for his head. He should not even be allowed to resign, but fired. He, along with those involved in Saturday planning, should be investigated and made to serve as a deterrent to other Nigerians who often stage mass recruitment – and similar programmes – without ever adequately taking care of the crucial aspects of crowd control. The tragedy is always bound to recur.
Just four months ago, 28 worshippers were killed in a stampede in Anambra State during a church vigil attended by politicians who came to campaign against one another in the house of God. The election has since been won and lost but the dead are still just as dead. The governor of Anambra state then, Peter Obi, was quoted in media reports as saying those responsible for the stampede would be found and punished. If not, God would punish them. He has since left office and neither he nor the God He created to manage his responsibility has bothered to give justice to the dead. That is one of the troubles with Nigeria. Your death is your fault even when caused by official ineptitude.
A month before the Anambra incident, there was one in Ilorin, Kwara State where Senator Bukola Saraki staged his regular Sallah Day feast of alms for the wretched of the earth. The number of deaths that occurred ranged from 10 to 20, depending on which report you read. Saraki, in response to the incident, issued a press statement that managed to say a lot without promising anything. The interesting thing is that such stampedes are not a novelty at Sarakis’ alms party. In all the years that they have occurred, neither Saraki, his father nor any of their accomplices has had to answer for the deaths.
In the past few days, we have read how a similar stampede occurred in 2008 during NIS recruitment and many lives were lost. Between then and now, what have they learnt about crowd control? The problem here, if all the incidents are jointly considered, is not about Moro and his failure this time. Rather, it is about a country where arbitrariness has become a culture. Our public functions, official and private ones, are almost always rowdy. Crowd control is an area we have never really mastered.
Check out certain functions even the Nigerian president attends, you will never find a proper coordination of people. There is always a crowd milling around, doing every other business except focusing on the one that brought them to the venue. There is never a sense of occasion about their attitude. We have learnt to live with rowdiness and that is the basis on which we organise our lives. You can say disorganisation is the culture of this part of the world, and that is why we never seem to get the basics of modern society right. The arbitrariness exists in our leaders’ attitude to governance, and even the way we carry out mundane activities. From arriving at occasions at our “African Time” to annual budgetary planning, the culture of arbitrariness is evident. It explains why corruption is rampant. It explains why the first lady would go to a school and turn to Santa Claus, dishing money to hungry students without anyone questioning her; why governors “dash” plantain seller money and nobody wants to know which pocket it came from. It explains why we are all implicated in Nigeria’s culture of corruption.
In the various images and videos of the Saturday exercise, one could see that the officials who were to conduct the test were grossly overwhelmed. How could anyone have conceived of conducting job test for so many candidates on the same day? Whatever happened to screening out the bulk of the candidates through an online aptitude test conducted by probably an independent body? Why should a country where bomb explosions go off now and then even gather so many people in one place? Why? What if Boko Haram had chosen to attack in the stadium, how worse could things have been? How could the NIS have screened all the attendees at the various centres for bombs or other explosives? If they could not manage a stampede, how would they have managed a terrorist attack?
This case deserves a thorough investigation and those responsible should be prosecuted. In a space of six months or less, three different occasions of stampede have been recorded. How many more to go before we learn how to do things the right way? Moro and all those who were involved in Saturday exercise deserve to be fired but it is not enough. We will only be treating the symptoms of a problem that lives in our DNA. We need to cultivate a sense of order and arrangement in our public activities.
Okonjo-Iweala and the language of corruption in Nigeria
On Sunday, the Nigerian Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, appeared on Fareed Zakaria show to talk about the “missing” $20bn. In the course of the show, she corrected the host, Zakaria, that the money was not missing but “unaccounted for.” Between “missing” and “unaccounted for” I do not see much difference except, well, the latter makes it seem as if the money fell through the cracks; like some kind of technical slippage. Such intransitive construction of language eliminates the human factor in the acts of corruption that led to the “unaccountability” of a whopping $20bn. In Nigeria, we keep updating the vocabulary of corruption. We have moved through “stolen” to “embezzled” to “misappropriated” to “missing” to, thanks to NOI, “unaccounted for.” From the way she elegantly put it, you would think the money developed wings and walked out of the country all by itself.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.