by Tunde Fagbenle
The rot, the national rot, is from the head. Jonathan has to sack himself after sacking everyone else! For Nigeria to move forward, the sacking frenzy has to consume all. Maybe 2015 will provide the opportunity.
I was outraged, and so were most Nigerians all over the world, by the news of some 19 young Nigerians dying in the course of trying to get a job with the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) on Saturday March 15. The applicants were graduates with varying educational qualifications, from OND to HND, to BSc, and even MSc.
The recruitment exercise went on simultaneously, but with varying degree of clumsiness by the officials, in all the states of the federation. It was a national exercise for a national employment. Some account say about 2 million people had applied out of which some 770,000 were shortlisted and invited to the various centres, out of which 5000 or less were to be engaged in the final analysis.
Most out of the 770,000 have been out of school for many years and have been unemployed since graduating. Many were weak from hunger, many were ill; some of the females were pregnant (by choice or non-choice). Anything that offered hope of getting a job for a legitimate livelihood was welcome, it didn’t matter the risks involved, it didn’t matter the expense.
It didn’t end (or start) at showing up for the ordeal called “tests”, the applicants were also made to cough out N1000 each – application fee! Little arithmetic puts the sum collected thereby at N770 million. Clearly, the focus was not how to reduce unemployment, it was not in helping the unemployed in any way, it was in “how much can be made through this exercise”! Let no one be shocked to learn that the NIS would have allocated some millions more for the exercise as “fees to the consultants,” “transport and logistics” for the officials in all the states, and perhaps even “feeding allowance” for the applicants that got not even water! Add that to the N770 million and you have your billion shared by “ogas at the top” and the so-called consultants alike.
Ours is an unfeeling country where the rich continue to fleece the poor, the leaders continue to loot the treasury; the powerful continue to molest the weak. And so it was that, even in death, those that died struggling to get a job were blamed for their deaths after collecting their N1000: “they shouldn’t have come when they knew they had no food in the bellies,” “they shouldn’t have come when they knew they were pregnant,” “they should have been more orderly in their conduct,” ad nauseam.
Ours is an unfeeling country where concern for the poor is not at the back of the minds of our leaders. On the contrary, those in power believe they are doing the people a favour by doing that which duty demands of them. In countries that are developed or developing, every thought, every plan, is directed towards making life easier for the people: thus public conveniences are thought of and provided in public places in such number and quality to provide comfort; facilities are thought of and provided for the physically disadvantaged; everything is put to reduce queuing and waiting time for all needs, and public offices take pride in indicating how they are reducing the waiting time for their services; and so on and so forth.
Of course we have all forgotten that what happened that fateful March 15 day was nothing new; it was merely more or less a repeat of what had happened five years earlier: same NIS recruitment, same number of deaths! On July 12, 2008, according to a newspaper report: “no fewer than 20 people died and many others on danger list in various states of the federation at the recruitment exercise conducted by the Ministry of Interior to the Nigeria Prisons Service, Nigeria Immigration Service and Customs Service.”
And that is the pity of it all. Nothing changes in Nigeria; we learn nothing and seek not to bring about positive changes. Or else, how could what happened in 2008 not have served as a lesson for March 15, 2014?
Talking with Dr. Ashaolu of True Measures Ltd, an evaluation and recruitment firm that has developed a home grown online scholarly aptitude testing program called ‘Andrews Challenge’ from which the “smartest and swiftest” can fund their own higher education, “there is no justification for this horrendous occurrence. There are modern screening processes that would have helped to sift applicants to a more manageable number of candidates before the rigor of physical exercise. And this can be done in the convenience of each applicant or at appropriate controlled settings. What is crucial is the sincerity of purpose to truly want to conduct an open and fair recruitment exercise, and not a sham!”
While the poor unemployed youth were dying on that Saturday, Nigerians were dying in hundreds, if not thousands all week long in heightened attacks with impunity by the Boko Haram all over Borno and Yobe states; just as Plateau and Kaduna states were also having their own spate of bombings and killings. Deaths on our murderous roads multiplied all over. Electricity supply was at its lowest ebb in my memory. Petrol scarcity returned and business of hawking of jerry cans of petrol was rife with its attendant risks. Life in Nigeria, except for the private-jet flying elite, has become short and brutish. Nigerians are dying!
Perhaps the connection has not hit our power-drunken leaders that a country dies when her people die, and the speed at which country atrophies is directly proportional to the un-stymied flow of death of her peoples. Perhaps that connection will never be made until it’s all over. One thing is certain: things cannot go on the way it is for much longer. Something will have to give. One day, soon enough, Nigerians will rise and say to their mindless, visionless, looting leaders “so far and no more;” or, indeed, by then there will be no more Nigeria!
Many have called for the sack of the Comptroller General of NIS, Mr. David Parradang, some have extended the call to that of Mr. Abba Moro, the Minister of Interior. It is getting to be a joke. At every turn of something amiss we jump and call for the sack of the head of the organisation. We have not stopped to look deeper. The rot, the national rot, is from the head. Jonathan has to sack himself after sacking everyone else! For Nigeria to move forward, the sacking frenzy has to consume all. Maybe 2015 will provide the opportunity.
And that is saying it the way it is – for those who are alive to read this!