I have always it found hard to believe that some human beings were merely created by God to cause others discomfort, grief and pain. I cannot fathom any reason a person created by God should behave so barbarically as to take the life of his fellow human being. But recent events in the world, particularly Nigeria, have caused me to have a re-think. Are you not a witness to the atrocities going on all over Nigeria? From east to west, north to south, the story is the same. To some people, life is not worth anything anymore. They kill and maim as easily as they gulp a glass of wine. This is how brutish life has become in Nigeria.
Worried by this development, I sat through the weekend of last week pondering the sad events that have occurred in recent times and how much impact they have had on the psyche of those that have fallen victims. The first question that came to my mind was why should God deliberately create such evil-doers to populate the world and possibly thwart his plans for humanity? That question quickly led to another: Where do we go from here at the end of our earthly journey? I wonder if there is anybody that can assuredly provide the answer to this question. Each of us must account for our deeds: good or bad.
While my mind wandered as I searched for an answer to the foregoing questions another one cropped up: for what shall we be remembered when we come to the end of life? How will our page in the annals of life be written? In attempting to answer the last question my mind veered off to the atrocities committed by such despots as Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Idi Amin, etc. How is Hitler, for example, remembered today? His history page certainly contains opprobrious and disdainful words couched in infamy. I know for generations to come his name will be loathed and scorned, because he chastised humanity with his brutality and sheer wickedness.
There are many others like Hitler who will forever be cursed for the unforgettable atrocities they committed while on earth. Probably, what they did not know, while walking the firmaments of life like colossuses, was the vanity of their exploits. Alive they were dreaded, dead they are scorned! Of what benefits then was their bravery? What of those that terrorized others with their stupendous wealth and intimidating presence? Where are they and their wealth now? What are left of them today are relics of their embalmed lifeless bodies. In this category are the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt – resting in their crypts.
There were some people the world had thought would never die considering their looming presence while alive. But contrary to the expectations and imaginations of men they still went the way of all mortals.
I am compelled to ask another question: Why do some people behave as if they would never die? In finding answer to this question my mind strayed to the encounter between the Israelites and Pharaoh in the Exodus. Despite all the amazing things Moses did in the presence of Pharaoh his mind was hardened and he refused to let the people of Israel go. He pursued them unto his own destruction. The operable word here is ‘hardened’. It is the refusal to submit to the will of God that causes people to harden their hearts. This can also be described as insensitivity. Insensitivity is responsible for many of the atrocities leaders commit. A leader sensitive to the sensibility of his people will never do anything antithetical to their interest.
Insensitivity is also a product of a debased and crooked mind usually laced with pride and arrogance. Is insensitivity responsible for insincerity in leadership? Is it also responsible for some people saying one thing and doing another? Is it also to be blamed for the wanton destruction of innocent lives going on in our country today? Can we, therefore, safely conclude that the evils that occur in our land today are caused by insensitive people? Otherwise how could a person ever think of taking another person’s life without even blinking or having a modicum of conscience?
Killings have become some people’s pastime in our clime. The stories we read daily are sometimes too preposterous to believe. There are no longer boundaries or respect for the sanctity of life. Even blood relationships mean nothing to some people anymore. The recent story of an herbalist who killed a 68-year-old retired female Customs Officer that had gone to him for prayers to conceive and bear a child was horrifying. To show the depth of hardheartedness our nation has sunk, the culprit did not betray any emotions or remorse as he spoke on national television. He did not see anything wrong in killing a woman and her daughter who had gone to him for solace. Before the bubble burst he had fleeced the woman of millions of naira in cash and property.
Some people acquire wealth at all costs, even at the detriment of their own lives. The wealth we acquire means nothing if it does not affect society positively. And it is the positive influence your wealth or life has on your society that leads to the immortalization of your name. Great people became great because they laid down their lives for others, dying for the cause they believed in and fighting for the enthronement of justice and equality. Take for instance, Our Lord Jesus Christ: he was sent by God the Father to die a shameful death on the cross for the redemption of humanity. He submitted himself for this redemptive assignment and won victory over death so that we might live. His life was totally devoid of any selfish inclinations. The Holy Writs captured it succinctly: ‘He went about doing good’.
Buddha, Zoroaster and many other great minds as them came, saw and conquered. What of Socrates, Pluto and even St. Augustine of Hippo? They are remembered today for the prodigious knowledge and philosophies they espoused and propagated. What of Mahatma Ghandi of India, whose selfless life imparted positively on the entire Indian nation? Today he is adored and venerated by his following.
Take a trip to Downing College of the Cambridge University, United Kingdom, and see where great scientists such as Isaac Newton have been immortalized for their indelible contributions to the advancement of science. Their name is etched permanently on a plaque in the walls of the University. For generations past and generations to come they would never be forgotten.
My mind went to a particular man as continued with the soul-searching: Abraham Lincoln. He was a former American President who devoted his life to fighting for the entrenchment of equality between black and white Americans. Obviously, he was aware of the colossal perils of his actions and still went ahead to champion them. In the end he paid the supreme price. Martin Luther and his co-fighters completed what Lincoln started: today dichotomy between blacks and whites in America had been abolished. I always find time, whenever I am in Washington D.C., to visit the Lincoln Monument to draw inspiration from the life of this iconic American leader.
Back in Nigeria such names as Herbert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Tafawa Balewa, Ahmadu Bello, Okotie-Ebo, Alvan Ikoku, Aminu Kano will never be forgotten. They were in the forefront of the struggle to liberate our people from the shackles of colonialism and neo-imperialism. They built institutions that have transformed lives positively. Though they died long ago their memories will never end. We still feel their presence in our hearts.
What of Moshood Abiola, Bola Ige, Sam Mbakwe, Aper Aku, and even Abdul Azeez Arisekola-Alao (who just passed away)? These men contributed selflessly to the development of the Nigerian nation. Abiola was a colossus that used his wealth to touch lives in several ways. He fought for the actualization of his mandate till he died. I find his life intriguing, because he did not mind to die for the cause he believed in, despite his monumental wealth. Men of his ilk are rare. My position is devoid of any undue sentiments whatsoever. Bola Ige was a politician with a difference. He came before his time and that was why many did not understand his philosophy of life. I knew him personally and will always remember his simplicity and intellectualism. Aper Aku, a former governor from the Middle-belt of Nigeria, was totally selfless. He spent his life fighting for a voice for the people of the Middle-belt. Sam Mabakwe – a former governor of Old Imo State – was the masses’ man, an urbane and accomplished leader. His achievements still stand as a testimony to his life of service and altruism. Arisekola-Alao was a man in his own world. His philanthropy was legendary and exemplary. For all the years I had known him his name was synonymous with charity. No wonder thousands of his kinsmen have refused to be consoled since the news of his death broke out last week.
The question that comes to mind now is: why can’t those who kill, maim and destroy our common patrimony emulate the lives of these great men who made enormous sacrifices for the common good? Evil cannot be allowed to continue to thrive in our land, when we can do something to put a stop to it. The stigma Nigeria is gradually acquiring is that of notoriety. Which is why I have asked: How much is life worth in Nigeria? We cannot make any meaningful progress as a nation if the safety of lives and properties is not guaranteed. We should not forget that investors consider this factor as one of the most significant before bringing their investments into any country. Addressing the problem remains one of the most important challenges facing the present national government.
There is also an urgent need to do something about the family and its role in national development. Family traditions no longer guide the way parents run their homes. Parents seem to have succumbed to the influence of western culture, and this is having far-reaching impact on many families. In my own estimation, the family remains a very strategic agent in the socialization chain. For this reason, anything that affects the family negatively will affect the entire nation negatively. This is why it is believed that when the family is acculturated, the entire country is acculturated. Reform agenda of any government can only work if the family is made the focus.
It is sad that almost all the ills that plague our nation stem from the neglect of the family. Those that kill and maim their fellow citizens definitely come from families. There is some disconnect between the family and society, causing some imbalance between the two. It is this imbalance that is responsible for the wantonness of the ills that plague our nation.
To deal with the increasing incidence of anti-society activities we have to consider a number of solutions. First, we need to redirect the consciousness of the families to begin to play their assigned roles in nation-building. Family traditions, norms and values should be re-established to serve as a moral compass for the families. Parents should rise up to the challenges of educating their children, leveraging on the word of God, civility and morality. They should also lead exemplary lives and endeavour to take care of their children’s needs as modestly as they can, doing away with over-indulgence and over-petting.
The government has a huge role to play. It should introduce courses that will help develop the child from kindergarten right up to the University. The idea is to gradually build confidence in the child and orient it to the direction it should go. It is wrong to try to reorient a person when he is already grown. We should not forget that children tend to internalize more easily things thought them in infancy. In adulthood it becomes difficult to change them. This brings us to school curricula. They should be reviewed to accommodate the realities of our present-day world, especially where they concern peer development.
It is generally believed that the level of morality a person possesses is dependent on social and environmental influences. After all, it is the kind of youth a nation produces that determines its progress and growth. If a nation pays no attention to the moral development of its citizens then it should be ready for the harvest of criminality. That is what is happening to Nigeria currently.
I wish to state without any equivocation that the situation is not totally irredeemable if government begins today to redirect the consciousness of Nigerians to positive enterprises. Government officials should take the lead in this connection by working in strict compliance to laid-down rules and regulation in the discharge of their duties. Obedience to the rule of law and constitutionality will also go a long way in injecting sanity into our national life and stemming the dangerous tide occasioned by lawlessness and indifference to what is right or wrong.
There is also the need for the citizenry to be more alive to their civic duties by shunning corruption, immorality and slothfulness. They must expose those who make life unbearable for them, and by so doing avoid falling victims themselves. There is a popular slogan among New Yorkers: see something, say something. Ills thrive in our nation because many of us see what is wrong and do nothing to expose it. If we exposed evil-doers our society will be better for it.
Those who kill or maim are no spirits – they are human beings living among us. When we reveal their identity and fail to create safe havens for them, then it will not be long before they lose steam and give up their evil ways.
It is only when this has been achieved that life can be worth living in Nigeria. Till that happens, I can never stop asking: How much is life worth in Nigeria?