Former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu will, tomorrow, deliver the Nnamdi Azikiwe University convocation lecture at the institution’s 11th convocation ceremony. The lecture, titled Leadership and the challenges of national unity in Nigeria holds at the university auditorium by 1:00pm. Ribadu was the pioneer EFCC chairman, the government…
A SHOCKING headline you might say. How could anyone in his right senses argue a case for armed robbers and kidnappers, bandits that have held this place called Nigeria by its jugular? Could there ever be justification in any form for banditry, abductions, ritual killings, senseless murders and assassinations? Societies have had these terrible vices throughout the ages and have always condemned them in their totality and entirety.
Britain, the Americas, especially the United States, and most of the countries of Western Europe were infested with serious, nay endemic terrorism occasioned by rampart armed robberies, kidnapping for ransom, gangsterism, ruthless murders and violent rapes. They suffered this plague for years and generations while the vices grew in proportion and in response to the growth in capitalism and unbridled accumulation of wealth and opulence by the noveau riche.
As the vices advanced and social inequalities widened and the gap between the rich and the poor lengthened, leaders of those countries and societies realized that for the rich to have his snore, the poor must be guaranteed his sleep. It was then that social packages were designed to cushion the crushing effect of man-made poverty of the generality of the people. Before then, the US and Britain had experimented with draconian laws that they foolishly thought would put criminals at bay forgetting that a desperately hungry man is less than a shade better than the hungriest lion in the Savannah. One of such draconian laws was public execution by hanging like the one Gowon’s military government introduced in the form of Bar Beach Military execution of condemned robbers tied to the stake. As one robber or kidnapper was caught and killed, twenty robbers and kidnappers were waiting in the wings to take their place. The army of jobless graduates was a breeding ground for such deviants.
The crux of this article is that no one is born a criminal. This writer does not believe in the nonsense of Original Sin and that every human being was born a sinner! Simple rubbish! Behavourial manifestation of every human being is conditioned by many factors: astrological, parental, peers, schools and colleges, religious doctrines, as well as factors of geography, psychology, heredity, and personal idiosyncrasies. No human being is born a criminal. Society by and large defines who you become in terms of one’s responses to vagaries and buffetings of life.
I must admit that individuals are not made of the same stuff and that some individuals are naturally stronger than others. Responses to situations are different while some can adjust to pain and hunger some will cave in to temptations and seek quick fix to their problems.
As far back as 1980 when Nigeria had just started toying with currency chewing and rulers did not know the difference between public treasury and personal treasury this writer had predicted that a time would come when bandits would take over the rulership of the country. In the article titled Banditocracy it was argued that a time would come when your choice of clothe, your choice of the car you drive, your choice of the kind of house you live, the time of the day you can venture out of your house would all be dictated by your fear of armed robbers.
Chickens have now come home to roost. The neglect of 37 years, and probably before then has now come to haunt all of us. It is no exaggeration if we say that there are over 10 million young men and women out there who were qualified for admission into tertiary institutions in the last 15 years or so whose ambition had been frustrated by JAMB, plus some other millions who had graduated in the same time frame who have had their shoes worn out while chasing unavailable jobs. Ogun state alone has over 15 universities and about the same number of tertiary institutions. Imagine millions of able bodied, fairly educated young men and women from that catchment area alone let loose on society! Some other states are in the same predicament.
In the same country are a tiny few who have stolen all our wealth and are parading the streets with stinking opulence and irritating display of humongous wealth. Imagine the flash vehicles they ride, imagine the shapes and sizes of their private jets, imagine the incredible personal wealth of some clerics and the diamond on their wives necks and imagine the millions who go hungry day–in day-out.
I have said it a number of times that but for the efficiency of the Nigeria police in the face of all odds, crime rate in Nigeria should be quadruple what it is now. And whatever anybody may say, I must commend the frustrated youth that they have not increased their level of criminality. Given the harsh times we live in the midst of plenty I am impressed that a larger percentage of our deprived youth whose future we have mortgaged and ruined have not been furious in retaliation.
In my active years in journalism I had interviewed chronic armed robbers, kidnappers and murderers. None of the criminals I interviewed willingly took to crime. While they regretted their actions, they did not apologise to the society for the crimes they committed. Even murderers felt that their human feelings had been deadened by the nonchalance of most Nigerians. They were merely angry at the society and they were taking vengeance. To them this is what you get when a society worships money.
I am not unaware of the gory tales we hear from the victims of crimes, especially the harrowing tales we hear from kidnap victims. I am not also unaware of the heartlessness and extreme cruelty of some of the youth engaged in criminal acts. This is why nobody would want to give them a pint of sympathy. I also know that society is not in the mood to excuse criminality of any kind on any ground. I know.
But the only solution is for the leaders of this country to find the root cause of the ills; several of them including injustice, political enslavement and exclusion, massive stealing and plundering of the country’s resources, importation of the US gun culture; plaguing this space called Nigeria and address it headlong. Nigeria gave birth to this triple-monster called Robber-Kidnapper-Murderer and it is Nigeria that should be held responsible for its malaise. After all we did not have this terror madness 40 years ago, not even 5 years ago!
For now, let the Unitary Government in Abuja learn from countries that had suffered this triple affliction in the past and take our youths off labour market. The Devil they say finds job for the idle hand. Unfortunately the job our Devil has found for our youths is killing all of us.
Nigeria must immediately embark on social welfare programmes. Unemployed youth and retrenched adults must be catered for. Money must be found to pay stipends to our restive youth and huge investments must be made in construction works to absorb millions of unemployed youth throughout the country.
Something must be done to curb ostentatious living and life style. The way our so-called ‘leaders’ show off their ill-gotten wealth is very provocative and insulting to the sensibilities of the hungry masses. We have had a huge elephant slaughtered by the roadside, we had scooped all the meat. The free elephant bazaar is finished; now we have turned our knives on ourselves……butchering and eating ourselves. That is exactly what the armed robbers, the kidnappers and the ritual murderers who were denied a chunk of the free elephant meat are doing to all of us….and sometime to themselves!
They are on a fiendish revenge mission on the society…..