If you’ve asked an average Nigerian the problems facing the country, their response would range from Venus to Mars. Everyone seems to have an opinion, based on personal experience or a broad spectrum of difficulties facing the nation why Nigeria is so systematically misplaced.
But in one week, the problems of the country seemed to have been summed up into a single anomaly. Our entire problems facing the country, be it political, economic, infrastructural, educational or even religious all seems to stem from one huge source and that is accountability.
This accountability problem was made evident with two bizarre incidents that occurred last week. The first was the exposure of the inhumane treatment the independent national electoral commission otherwise known as INEC subjected its ad-hoc staff to. And the other was the incident with the man that was shot dead by a customs officer at the Shagamu interchange at Ijebu Ode.
While a more progressive nation would do its best (which is a lot) to bring the horrific incident to light, address the issue, solicit justice for the victim, have a conversation on how to prevent such a unfortunate occurrence in the future, and finally put in place, new laws or adjust the current law to ensure appropriate preventive measures. Over here we barely even talk about things of this nature.
It’s barely been a week and it’s safe to say that both incidents have been quickly forgotten, with most of the nation now conversing over the newest twitter controversy, which is nowhere as serious as what occurred last week.
This culture of negligence which we have unknowingly adapted to, spams a parasitic and unhealthy mentality amongst the Nigerian people which ultimately creates an inhabitable environment for true progress.
Prior to the postponed elections scheduled to hold on Saturday 16th of February 2019, youth service corp members and other volunteers who had placed their name in the hat to take up ad-hoc duties, did so confidently because they were beheld to a few promises. These promises made by INEC staff, comprised of due security and accommodation for those that had taken up the call to serve their fatherland. Unfortunately, the ad-hoc staff learned the hard way that nothing is as insincere as a politicians words.
With images surfacing all over the internet and social media, I need not describe in too many details the inhumane treatment corp members were subjected to. They were forced to sleep in highly dangerous and uncomfortable surroundings. Most corp members arrived at their registration area center (Rac), and found no form of accommodation, forcing them to improvise by sleeping on the floor of classrooms, inside the vehicle that had brought them, and some as bad as sleeping in the open field, atop grasses, mud and or sand, exposed to mosquitoes and other dangerous insects, all these while still being at risk of being attacked by political thugs.
This violation of basic human rights and sheer nationwide embarrassment resulted from the thoughtlessness and callou from the INEC body and the government respectively. They callously failed to keep to the promises of accommodation and security they had made. Humans, need I say, university graduates and patriotic citizens of the country were subjected to refugee-like situations, with not even as much as a fair warning before hand or an apology ahead of time. Basically tricked people into working under conditions they wouldn’t have initially agreed to.
It is a disgrace that till date no one has been questioned for this gross maltreatment of the volunteered adhoc staff , let alone held responsible, and I shudder to go as far as saying punished, for endangerment of human lives. The very humans who responded patriotically to the call of their nation.
This brings into perspective just how little the authority figure in this country thinks of the common person, and one can’t help but wonder, if this is how things have always been every other election period. If so, where do we draw the line. If no one is held accountable for such misappropriation, what is stopping inec from doing the same thing, next election?
Death at the border
While the nature of this incident differs from the INEC/ad-hoc incident, it remains similar in origins, and the untimely death or rather the unjustifiable killing of the man shot at the Shagamu border can be attributed to lack of accountability in the nation.
Last weekend a video depicting a tense altercation between a man believed to be returning from Europe with alleged contraband and a border patrol officer trended on social media. The video shows a civilian in a heated argument with an officer of the law, supposedly over 5000 Naira, and rather than the officer exercising patience and discipline, (which are skill sets I believe should have been taught at the academy) he does the polar opposite, and shoots the man in point blank range. Every other thing that occurred in the video after the shooting ranged from hysteric reactions, to panic, to near lynching.
Moments later, custom service of Nigeria decided that doing some PRing, instead of launching a full scale investigation was the best line of action. An insult to the family of the victim. Public relations officer of the customs service released a statement which for the most part consisted of defending and justifying the killing of an unarmed civilian by a public officer. It was disgusting to read, seeing as we literally witnessed the whole thing, while the report suggests something different from what we saw. They claimed the shooting was done in self defence as the victim attempted to un-arm the officer, the video shows otherwise, while there seemed to be an argument, it didn’t appear to be physical .
Both incidents brings into the conversation, a question we Nigerians need an answer to: ‘Who do we hold accountable?”
The question itself seems quite easy to answer. Any reasonable person would deduce the fact that a government originated issue (negligence of governmental duties) should be pinned on the government. But looking at the question while taking into consideration the nature of the people being governed, the question quickly becomes more complex to answer.
Like Edmund Burke said: evil prevails when good men fail to act.
For a puzzle to be completed, every piece must be intact, you can accredit that saying to me. I came up with that. But on a more serious note, both sayings come into effect when putting forth the question: who do we hold accountable?
Inec can subject its workers to terrible conditions under the barest minimum, and the government can turn a blind eye to the undignified treatment of its citizens, unjustifiable killings and a general negligence of the duties they were put in office to carry out. But all this will not be possible if the people in question refuse to stand for it. If the people collectively speak up and even act against corrupt governance, it would make government officials uncomfortable and eventually force them to act accordingly. It is like the star trek character Spock said: Logic dictates that the needs of the many outweighs the needs of the few. But surprisingly this doesn’t seem to be the case.
Immediately after the whole debacle with the treatment of corp members, I got into an NYSC forum platform, which I wish to keep anonymous, to gauge the reactions of the people who seemingly suffered the most at the hands of inec, and it was hard for me to believe that some corp members were not exactly outraged about how they were treated. The conflicting feelings among the primary victims was an interesting thing to witness.
To put it simply, they didn’t believe that what they went through that night was a big deal.
They had initially expected to be subjected to the inhumane conditions they were eventually subjected to and even now they plan on enduring the same come the new election eve day.
With people still eager to stake their lives participating as adhoc staffs in the elections it becomes easy to see why inec can un-repentantly neglect to provide the necessary requirements needed to conduct a free and fair and safe election. And with no social justice action, protest or legal action taken by citizens to ensure justice for the man shot at the border, why would an already corrupt government be coerced to address or take responsibility for the killing of an innocent man by an officer appointed by them.
It becomes apparent that the problems facing the country both stems from the people and its government. The Nigerian people constantly tolerate the corruptness of the government and in doing so, they empower and permit the government to continue in its tracks.
For Chinedu Okafor, its all about making an impact with words, creating a profound impression on the audience with the intended narrative.