Opinion: So, we think we are safe?

by Olu W. Onemola

Many of us have guns that we keep constantly cocked, sure and ready. Many of us hide behind gatemen that never seem to sleep at night. Many of us have 199 on speed dial, for the slightest out-of-place crack on the floorboards of our homes when our families are asleep. But, do we really think we are safe? If you think you are, think again.

We can hide behind our guns, gatemen, or the police. We can even choose to barricade ourselves behind our prayers and faith. Some of us may even go as far as banking our safety behind ‘protective charms,’ however, Nigerians, the truth is: we are not safe.

With the recent extrajudicial killings of four University of Port Harcourt students; the Independence Day massacre of forty-six students in Mubi, Adamawa and; the increasingly blatant and rampant activities of individuals claiming to be connected to Boko Haram, all within the past fortnight, it should become clear to us that the guarantee of basic security for the everyday Nigerian, is no longer basic or secure.

Our brothers, sisters, fathers, and mothers are being killed at every turn. Every day in the papers – even if we choose to set aside the tragic occurrences that are brought about by the extremist few – there is still always a new story that should make us question the functionality of our state security apparatus, especially as it relates to Nigerians who do not have the money, or the position to afford being constantly followed by trained bodyguards.

Politically, economically, socially, and otherwise, Nigeria is dependent on Nigerians. In this regard, for Nigeria to thrive in the aforementioned spheres, safety, which is the trade-off that we should receive from our government in exchange for surrendering some of our freedoms, needs to be seen as a mandatory priority – not just an elective requirement. However, we should not only see this inability of our government to effectively guarantee this fundamental human right as only a problem of the government. Owing to the fact that except for a handful of commentators and civil rights activists, and the occasional tweet or status update about this issue, we have all been virtually silent when it comes to demanding better security for ourselves and our communities.

Yet, if we take a random survey of how safe our fellow citizens really feel – not only in their homes at night, but also in our common areas: parks, markets and streets – I am sure that we will find that our people have retreated to a sense of resignation to our current security predicament. This is because even with the strongly worded promises from our leaders about being unrelenting in bringing perpetrators of heinous acts “to justice,” the truth remains that their actions (or a lack thereof) incessantly whisper to us: “Hey, Nigerians, you are on your own o!”

So, when we examine the abuse and executions of the four young men in Aluu local government area, we should ask ourselves, who’s fault is it? When we look back at the religious inter-community riots that are constantly ignited in Plateau State, we should ask ourselves, who is to blame? Because at the end of the day, we can choose to resort to one of our favourite pastimes: blaming our government for not curtailing the situation. Be that as it may, if we are always quick to light the flame of condemnation and pronounce the government guilty for not dealing with these situations when they are relatively new on our television screens and ‘hot off the press’, but we choose to let these problems run cold when all the ruckus dies down because they do not affect us directly, we will always have another hot problem and cold solutions. Because when we neglect to remind our leaders that we remember the Apo Six; the thousands that have died in Plateau; the thousands that have been killed and maimed by extremists and; the countless others that have lost their lives and loved ones due to the dreadful state of security in our country – we too send our own message to our government. And trust me, our government hears us loud and clear.

Rephrasing Pastor Martin Niemöller’s famous quote about the apathy exhibited by the German people during Hitler’s torment of the Jews:

“First they came for the Apo Six,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a part of the Apo Six.

Then they came for the people of Plateau State,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t from Plateau State.

Then they came for the forty-six students in Mubi,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t one of the forty-six students from Mubi.

Then they came for the Aluu Four,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a part of the Aluu Four.

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.”

If we all continue to sit back and remain silent, because we do not believe that all these problems – no matter where they occur – directly affect us all as Nigerians, what will finally happen when these problems affect us directly? When they are in our communities, or at our doorstep, what do we really expect to happen? Is it then that we will remember that we made a little bit of noise on Twitter, but forgot to demand long-lasting solutions? Or will we stand hopeful in our fellow Nigerians, with the full understanding that come what may, we did all we could, and if “they” did ever come for us – someone, somewhere would be listening.

Because when it was their turn, we listened and made noise – and we did not turn the volume down.

Rest in Peace Aluu Four.

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