Niger Delta’s misguided youths

We have no choice than to cut off your index finger and that of your wife since your family refused to play ball by paying the N30 million ransom. The two of you will have to live with that scar for the rest of your lives,” And the index fingers of the 84 year old pa Azun Asoya and that of his 55 years old wife were accordingly chopped off. Relishing such cruel and bestial act, the sick abductors of an octogenarian taunted: “Old man, it is like you don’t have enough blood in your veins. I expected to see lot of blood gushing out but it is just a little quantity. I guess you don’t eat well”.

This is a chilling true life story of 2013 Nigeria. The scene was in Okpanam, a stone throw from Asaba, capital of oil rich Delta State. Even if these young men were on drug, one would have expected them to become sober after a day. But these misguided young men who were bent on reaping from where they did not sow were under the influence of something worse than drug- loss of human feeling arising from deprived proper parental upbringing. Otherwise, how does one explain that after this sordid act, these young men without any thought about their own parents, went ahead to keep an 84 year man and his wife in the thick Delta mangrove forest for another 14 days without the luxury of having a bath, going to toilet or changing their clothes?

And to think they chose to place a ransom of N30m on an old man not known to have been part of Delta’s past administration led by those a British court described as ‘criminals in government house’ or known to have been a PDP contractor, defies logic. Even within the culture of barefaced looting of our resources by those in government which has come to characterize our society these past 14 years, it is still hard to imagine that these misguided young men did not see anything immoral forcing Pa Asoye’s struggling children to borrow N3.5m before securing freedom for their parents.

This is a signal to descent to state of nature where life is ‘nasty, brutish and short’. The circumstances whereby criminals who openly boasted they work hand in glove with the police kept their kidnapped victims for 17 days, a stone throw from Asaba, the seat of government with the police as in other kidnapped cases remaining clueless, is a clear indication of government gradual loss of its rationale, which is the protection of life and property for which we traded our freedom.

Yet we amuse ourselves insisting “We have reorganized the Nigerian Police Force and appointed a more dynamic leadership to oversee its affairs; improved its manpower levels as well as funding, training and logistical support; increased the surveillance capabilities of the Police and provided its air-wing with thrice the number of helicopters it had before the inception of the present administration”. But shouldn’t it be a source of concern to a government that throws money at every problem that the more money we pumped into the police, the more complex our security challenges become? For instance if we stop playing the ostrich of ‘kidnapping started in 2006 before the advent of the present administration’, what we discover is that the 63 kidnapped cases reported for 2006 and 2007 paled in significance to about 475 in 2011 and 500 in 2012. And for first half of 2013, even with almost half of the cases unreported, the Economist of London has claimed Nigeria had the most kidnapped attempts in the world followed by Mexico and Pakistan.

In a recent lecture, Charles Soludo, the former CBN governor reminded us that ‘Over the last 20 years, every new Inspector General of Police (IG) has launched one special ‘operation’ or the other to signal his zero tolerance to crime. Over the same period, the size of the police force has more than tripled, its budget ballooned, and yet the state of insecurity worsens.’ Quoting from different sources, he says in spite of these huge investments, Nigeria is ranked the “kidnap-for-ransom capital of the world accounting for 25% of global kidnappings’. The Global Peace Index ranks Nigeria the sixth most dangerous African country to live in; KPMG ranks Nigeria the most fraudulent country in Africa; while the Economist Intelligence Unit ranks Nigeria the ‘worst place to be born’ in 2013. The US Fund for Peace has, for three consecutive years, ranked Nigeria as the 14th failed state in the world (out of a total of 178 countries).” Soludo maintains that ‘Insecurity of life and property is at the heart of these worsening indices’.

If the dividends of investment on the police is more crime as Soludo seems to aver, there is obviously much more fundamental problem with the police. The inference one can draw from the lamentation of Soludo who also told us he had as CBN governor forced The Bankers Committee to procure about 25 armoured personnel carriers for the police, arranged foreign training for officer in the US, Israel and UK, is that we are just moving in a vicious cycle by refusing to accept that what is required is decentralization of the corrupt and highly politicized Nigeria police as presently constituted. Let us for a moment imagine the possible effect of a Delta police command answerable to the governor and manned by Delta indigenes who are masters of their own language and custodians of their people’s culture on the 17 days travails of Pa Asoya marooned in a jungle not far from the state capital.

But beyond the police, the Asoya case questions the new culture of reaping where people did not sow that today defines activities of some leaders and youths of the Niger Delta who justify oil theft, stealing by leaders and non execution of contracts under the usual excuse “it is our oil money”. For instance embedded in most of the works of J P Clark, poetry and plays is the theme of hard work. The culture of reaping where people did not sow is a new creation of Delta elite that has failed to prepare the youths for the challenges of adulthood.

It is on record that the political and intellectual elite of Niger Delta armed, lionized and groomed the youths to become parasites since 1999. Today many of the half educated Niger youths with no visible trade receive free money from government. They like the political and some intellectual elite live like parasites. It is obvious those who subjected Pa Asoya to such indignity see no difference between leaders’ looting of their common wealth and youths raping of private individuals.

Death penalty or arrest of traditional leaders for the sins of kidnappers is merely attacking the symptoms. It is a battle of the mind. Youths must be made to know they have to invest in their own future through hard work. As the Yoruba will say – hard work is the therapy for poverty; the common theme that runs through most of Pa J P Clark’s literary work-poetry and play – is a culture of hard work among the various nationalities that make up the Niger Delta. Clark in spite of a privileged background went fishing in the Niger Creeks with his uncles. He literarily raised himself up through hard work.

Like Pa J P Clark, many other successful Nigerians once followed their parents to work in their farms. And today many of them have unemployed youths who would not hurt a fly. It is time the Delta parasitic political elite who gave their youths the illusion they also can live as parasites to see the assault on Pa Asoya and many other self-made men of Niger Delta origin as a call for a new orientation for current youths who have no secured future.

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