A bungled recruitment drive by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) last Saturday left 19 desperate job seekers dead and scores of others still in critical condition in hospitals all over the country including Abuja which accounted for eight of the casualties. In Abuja as was the case in other venues, the tragedy followed a stampede as the over 70,000 youths that turned up for an aptitude test tried to gain entry into the main bowl of the stadium through only one point.
Although deaths have become mere statistics in our nation which is today under assault by Boko Haram that attack army barracks, detonate bombs in heavily populated areas killing in hundreds, and Fulani herdsmen that sack villages killing women and children without discrimination, but for a government whose primary responsibility is the protection of lives and property to be seen as an accessory to the killing of job-seeking youths through the sloppy attitude of its officials especially at a time the legitimacy of that government is being viciously challenged through internal insurrections, cannot but be unsettling.
I am also not sure if the crocodile tears coming from PDP and its leading lights whose inept leadership, bad economic policies and total absence of a coherent employment policy this past 15 years account for the current state of unemployment of thousands of youths turned out by our universities annually is not as infuriating as the tragic death of the youths.
The PDP which seems to have shown more commitment to the sharing of our national patrimony by some of its members through fraudulent privatization policy and outright stealing by not a few of its indicted leading members is, according to Olisa Mentuh, its National Publicity Secretary “shocked and deeply saddened by the news of the untimely death of the young citizens”. The president who appointed Abba Moro a minister for no other consideration beyond being a failed PDP gubernatorial candidate in Benue, the late president Yar Adua’s Campaign Organisation Coordinator and one-time Director-General of the David Mark Campaign Organisation was also said to be “personally devastated by the incidents”. To the Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba whose colleagues refused to screen Abba Moro but asked him to take a bow just because he was the senate president’s candidate, the death of the job seekers was “an unimaginable tragedy for the country.” And for Tambuwal, the Speaker of the Lower House, “the death of the innocent youths was sorrowful and regrettable”. But no one is deceived. Nigerians know those responsible for the latest tragedy as well as the current state of our nation.
Moro the Minister of Interior, for inexplicable reasons approved the sales of 520,000 applications for available 4,556 positions, raking in millions in application fees and cost of tea shirts. We are not told the final destination of the blood money but it is certain the amount like the NNPC $8 million a day scam described as kerosene subsidy or the huge amount to be raised by FRSC through double taxation of motorists in the name of new plate numbers will not pass through the federation account. However, in Moro’s judgment, the victims including the dead are to be blamed. As he self-righteously told grieving parents and concerned Nigerians, the victims “lost their lives due to impatience; they did not follow the laid down procedures spelt out to them before the exercise.” It didn’t matter that the applicants were already at some of the centres as early as 6.am while the ministry officials sauntered in at after 9.am and as was the case in Abuja National Stadium, expected the over 70,000 applicants including pregnant women who had been on the queue for over three hours to use only one entrance in the absence of crowd control experts.
But beyond the deaths (we have a daily harvest of that in Borno, Adamawa, Benue, Plateau, Katsina); beyond inhuman conditions, (we have in the words of one analyst become victims of self-abuse as many of the victims attended universities where their hostels had no functional toilets and class room without desks), and beyond insensitive and outright reckless ministers (President Jonathan can boast of not a few), the tragedy of last Saturday, is a symptom of absence of governance arising from the collapse of our bureaucracy, once rated the best in Africa. What manner of government officials took the decision to conduct aptitude test for close to half a million in one fell swoop using various stadia across the country?
The collapse of governance has found expression in the fact that for 15 years of PDP, we have been ruled by one-eyed king as predicted by Bode Thomas who had argued during the pre-independence years that what we needed was regionalism with strong regional parties, and leaders to meet at the centre. The North either for political expediency or its conspiracy against the West for Awolowo’s mortal sin of supporting the self-actualization quest of minorities, who wanted liberation from their northern feudal lords, imposed Obasanjo as its chosen leader for the Yoruba nation even when he was roundly rejected by his people. Obasanjo, who out of delusion thinks without him there would be no Nigeria chose ailing Yar’Adua just as he was also to single-handedly impose ill-prepared Goodluck Jonathan as the representative of the South-south at the centre.
President Jonathan, the late Yar Adua and Obasanjo, their godfather, cannot give what they did not have. And this perhaps explains why when Obasanjo’s attention was called to the absence of a coherent employment policy by PDP during his first term in office, he enthusiastically called our attention to thousands of young graduates hawking recharge cards and the unemployable illiterate youths who could neither read nor write, hawking plantain chips on the streets of our major cities as dividends of undefined PDP employment policy.
Obasanjo’s successors have not gone beyond his poverty alleviation gimmick that allows favoured PDP business partners to be issued with import licenses for fairly used motor cycles and tricycles from India. Yet this is a nation that had its first motorcycle assembly plant in the 1960s.
As if this is not tragic enough, they have continued with his liberalization economic policies which allow granting of waivers to favored business fronts importing, cars, tyres, ceramics, shoes, drugs, textile including used clothes. And now the same set of PDP leaders who have presided over the collapse of all our budding industries this past 15 years are shedding crocodile tears because 19 out of desperate 500, 000 graduates fighting for a place in government politically manufactured 4,500 vacancies in NIS lost their lives.
The truth of the matter is that PDP and its leading lights have paid only lip service to unemployment because as the major beneficiaries of the present economic policy that has ceded ownership of publicly owned companies to their members, they are answerable to none. The banking reforms which as we now know favoured those in government and their friends led to the reduction of employment by over 50%. The telecommunication sector driven only by profit firm their services out .
And if you can still not see PDP politics in last Saturday tragedy, ask if NIS obtained police permit to use the Port Harcourt stadium. Not too long ago, 13,000 employed teachers assembled in the same stadium purportedly to collect their appointment letters. The Inspector General of Police ordered Mathew Mbu his commissioner to disperse the newly recruited teachers with teargas. PDP members whether at the state or national level hardly embark on any venture that will not yield them maximum political dividends?