by Cheta Nwanze
I feel good having averted some bloodshed today.
So what happened?
I won’t put the names, since they are at some level my kin, and they’ve agreed to resolve the situation amicably. More importantly, I’m trying hard not to reveal details of important family business.
Something made me take an urgent break from work and come over to my ancestral region. My cousin, U, and I got to a village and saw a bit of commotion. People were very angry, and it was clear that there was a lot of anger. Some boys, many of these people are farmers, had brought out their cutlasses, and were preparing to go to war. Luckily, U and I arrived just in time, and we managed to speak with the oldest man around, Ogbueshi U. After our intervention, Ogueshi U summoned the leader of the crew who was about to depart for a neighbouring village to wreak havoc. His authority won the day, and bloodshed, a possible reprisal, and God-only-knows-what was avoided.
All in a day’s work eh?
So what caused today’s anger?
Well, the guys in the village have not had power supplied by the national grid since November. No power, as in zero, zilch, nada watts. Now its easy to point out that none of us has power, but remember that these are people who can’t afford petrol or diesel to run their gens overnight, so they’ve simply had to make do, for the most part, with living like their forefathers did. Then this morning, some lady found out the reason for the extended blackout.
A neighbouring village has been owing the DISCO for yonks, and were eventually cut off from the national grid due to their level of indebtedness. Rather than sort out their debt, these chaps decided that misery loves company, so the most prudent thing to do was to destroy the main feeder for the entire area, so boom, they plunged two other villages into eternal darkness along with themselves. That is what the chaps in the first village discovered today, and naturally, blood flowed straight to their heads. Who knows what calumny would have occurred has U and I not been forced to abandon our workplaces and sashay in today…
Now this brings me to one of the problems we have as a people — lawlessness. Rather than pay their debts, some people felt so above the law, that they could destroy public infrastructure, hopefully without consequence. Rather than take the right steps and lodge a complaint at the nearest police station upon hearing about this infraction, some others thought it wisest to reach for their weapons of war to take justice by themselves. This is largely how we run things in this land. It is not sustainable, but it shows a lack of confidence in the authorities, on all sides in this story. If the debtors had any confidence that the authorities would punish them for their iniquities, they’d have thought twice before going ahead with the action. If the aggrieved had any confidence that the authorities would punish the perpetrators, they’d have gone as a first step, to lodge a complaint.
This can be extrapolated to almost all our situations. There’s no law and order, rather the police are going against the judgement of the Supreme Court, and attempting actively, to suppress people’s rights to free assembly as enshrined in Chapter IV of CFRN 1999. So do you think that on the next occasion, U and I will be there to broker a form of peace? Nigeria is 1 million square kilometres. How can we?
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