by Bukola Ogunyemi
This would come as a surprise to those who have followed me keenly over the past twelve months and those who are familiar with the cardinal principle that underlies my commentaries. I am a strong advocate of not jumping to the press to comment, form an opinion, and/or take a position on an issue whose shell has just cracked, but the content not emptied, especially issues that have to do with political power play in a nation like Nigeria.
The conspiracy theorist in me has the there-is-more-to-this-than-meets-the-eye position set as my default whenever any rainbow appears in the forever unclear sky of politics in Nigeria. As such, I am attuned to waiting for more facts to emerge on any burning issue before getting my pen engaged, but this time I am breaking the rules.
News broke yesterday evening that the mother of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s Finance minister, Professor Kanene Okonjo was abducted earlier in the afternoon at the gate of her husband’s palace, Professor Chukwuka Okonjo who is the traditional ruler of Ogwsashi-Uku, Delta State. The 82 year old retired Professor was sad to have been taken away in a Golf Volkswagen car by heavily armed kidnappers numbering about ten.
It didn’t take long to see opinions on the matter sharply divided on social media. While some empathized with the family of the octogenarian and prayed for her safety and release, others attributed the misadventure to the handiwork of karma, pointing to the sins of her daughter, the Finance minster, under whose watch trillions of Naira got siphoned last year under the guise of fuel subsidy payments, while the nation has been plunged into a sea of debt.
While everyone is entitled to their opinion, it is only proper that we, for the sake of our common good, at moments like these see beyond the morality of a victim of evil and condemn the evil itself. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s sins are many, and same holds true for most of us, even if the gravity differs, and I would be happy to have her atone for those sins sooner than later, but the abduction of her 82 year old mother, for whatever reason, is inhumane, and we all with one voice must condemn this act of criminality.
I am as dissatisfied as every well-meaning Nigerian with the state of our nation and how the government of Goodluck Jonathan, and indeed government at all levels, is heaping burdens on the common man through acts of misgovernance and corruption while living large on our sweat and resources. I am enthusiastic and passionate about the prospects of a positive and progressive change in the way Nigeria is been governed and earnestly look forward to the day these criminals in power would be made to pay for their acts of inhumanity.
However, the kidnap of Professor Kanene Okonjo has got very little or nothing to do with our clamour for change and a better Nigeria and I condemn strongly and in all its ramifications her abduction and pray sincerely for God’s protection to be upon her and for her prompt release. Kindapping is a nefarious commercial venture, not a revolutionary act, and these kidnappers are not working for the cause of a better Nigeria.
If we assume the abduction has no political undertone, then the kidnappers are likely to ask for a ransom running into tens of millions on Naira. How does 30, 40 or 50 million Naira in the hands of ten axe-wielding, gun-blazing, weed-smoking kidnappers, if their demands are met, improve the lives of the masses upon whose welfare our activism is premised? Are the kidnappers thinking of the state of the nation? Or do they seek through to better the lots of the poor man on the street through their venture? No! It is about them, it is about self, it is about money to be spent on arms, drugs, alcohol and women, and when the cash is gone they move on to their next victim. As such we must condemn them just as much as we condemn political thieves and crooks, for they are neighbours, and their continued existence spells doom for our own safety and the future of the land we care so deeply about.
And there is the possibility that Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s mother was kidnapped to make her bow to some sort of pressure. Whatever it may be, we cannot afford to encourage, either by our actions, words, or even silence, these criminals and their retrogressive enterprise. We cannot afford to celebrate evil, we cannot stoop so low as to emblazon criminality. The eyes that cry should see. We should not for the sake of the rot in the nation harbor acts of evil and violence, even if such are against our perceived enemies. For when violence rages and consumes our enemies, it pounces on us and rages on.
I am against all forms of evil, be it bribery, corruption of kidnapping, no matter who the victims or beneficiaries are. We plant a seed of evil for ourselves in the future when we rejoice at the misfortunes of others.
We rejoiced when Abacha died, we thought we had seen the end of evil in our land, but fifteen years later, we are still singing the ‘Death to the Dictator’ song. It is the system, not the people. Garbage in, garbage out they say, but when you feed a system with garbage for so long, it disobeys the law of input-output and by default produces garbage irrespective of the input. Nigeria has reached a state of deterioration in which changing the input alone won’t bring about the desired change, the entire system has to be sanitized, and we must start with ourselves.
For those who see this as the appointed time for the poor to feed on the rich, remember that the ruling class can afford to have their family members shipped abroad in the twinkle of an eye. The fury of the poor would then be turned on the middle class to which most of us belong. In Nigeria, the poor wont feed on the rich, rather the rich would feed the poor with themselves. That, brethren, is why we cannot afford to celebrate.
Meanwhile, this I hope would serve as a wake-up call to President Goodluck Jonathan that the security challenges in the nation are profound and in need of urgent decisive attention. We have had enough of his blame game and fool’s paradise pictures, now is the time to man up and be the commander-in-chief. The death that removes a man’s cap sends him a signal.