It took threats of invocation of the historic, supernatural curses of the Oba of Benin to dissuade perpetrators of human trafficking. Positive reactions to the threat are being felt in Greece, Italy, Germany, and other countries in Europe, where young girls abducted as sex workers are being released to gain their freedom from the slave masters. The fear of the aftermath of the curses has led to renunciations of the illicit trade, of which most of the actors are from the legendary Benin Kingdom. While it may sound as a fairy tale, the associated mythology rests on the 800 years of a strong institution that has safeguarded the old Benin kingdom, which only the King, whose divine traditional authority holds the key. A curse by the Oba, according to the myth, unleashes a predetermined repercussion that may involve loss of life, assets, or total annihilation of a family clan. The hegemonic influence of the Benin King is absolute; and, sons and daughters of the kingdom are ardently aware of it. The deluge of renunciations is a testament to that traditional institution.
The preceding literature of the Benin Kingdom above, and its influence on the people from Edo state is completely in dissonance to the weak, lawless institutions of Nigeria, the host country. No nation can survive without strong, effective, and dependable political, judicial, and law enforcement institutions. Nigeria lacks all three. The serial reviews of the Nigerian constitution have had no effect on how the supportive institutions are managed. Instead, the strength of every institution has systematically been eroded.
Corruption, or illegality remains the most profoundly dominant, socially constructed institution to weather successive governments. If Nigerians can embrace illegality, why do they find it difficult to accept and adhere to rational, legal ways of doing things? The answer simply lies in the ease of committing crimes, the impunity. Crime without adequate punishment is bound to be repeated.And, so, corruption is ubiquitous in Nigeria; retribution is non-existent.
When the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was first created under the leadership of Nuhu Ribadu, an assistant commissioner of police, the fear of arrest, detention, and public humiliation, initially, led to insidious acts of illegality. Fragrant display of stolen wealth was concealed to give some semblance of a rational, law abiding society. As soon as the apprehension and detention of culprits became widespread, public support for the EFCC waned; the antigraft commission instantly was dubbed an agency for political witch-hunting. A stigma that has remained rife.The necessary antidote to weaken an institution established to fight corruption has succeeded; this empirical evidence has clouded any aperture for success. The current Chairman of the commission, Ibrahim Magu, has remained in acting position because corruption, the most potent ingredient of Nigerian society, has won. Lawlessness is the first language of Nigerians; nothing can quell it.
Nigeria’s political structures are very weak. The executive is always highjacked by its surrounded kitchen cabinet members that always form a cabal-like entity. The independence of the executive arm is made or marred bythe personality of the President, not the biding constitution.The absolute power of a Nigerian President—despite constitutional limitations–is as rigid as a totalitarian regime.
The legislative arm of government in Nigeria is always in absolute weakness. Legislators’ crave illicit funds from the executive, which has rendered the national assembly a toothless bulldog, with intense acumen for barking—no bite.
The judiciary is the most corrupt arm of the Nigerian political structure. The rotten justice system has enhanced crime waves. Corrupt judges endorse the immunity of criminals—the national emblem of the Nigerian society.
A law enforcement officer in Nigeria is as good as the criminal in his domain. His immediate responsibility is to himself; how he can survive by coercing the arrested criminal to cough out money and other valuables. This daily drama is everywhere in the country, and with unemployment at its highest percentage since Nigeria’s independence, there is no difference between authentic law enforcers and imposters. Everyone is armed with assault weapons, acquired through various means. This is what makes the lawlessness situation in Nigeria unpredictably dangerous.
It is not unusual to see a fraternity of criminals in perfect collusion with law enforcement officers. There is just one objective: to rob or kill innocent citizens for prized possessions. A young girl was stabbed for her cell phone; another was strangled to death for her handbag. A young boy’s arm was cutoff in a robbery attempt to snatch an I-phone 8. These are rituals; the police are complicit. It is more dangerous to report a robbery incident to the police;you may end up paying out of your pocket for the transportation and other expenses to the scene of the crime.
General T.Y. Danjuma, a former army chief, and a billionaire by all standards, last week, warned of the impending anarchy of ethnic cleansing, orchestrated by the Nigerian military forces and some ruthless bandits.Whether Danjuma’s perspective is acceptable to the government or not, his social status supports a credible, authoritative speaker. The hard challenge to the government in power is how to convince Nigerians that this administration can protect the masses, not the VIPswith police escorts. So far, there is very little reaction to protect innocent lives in Zamfara, Kogi, Benue, and Taraba states. Nigerians are under siege by undefined bandits with assault weapons, presumably obtained from the law enforcement officers, or imported through the porous borders. The rampant act of lawlessness within Nigerian’s sovereignty spells a state of anomie, but the government seems obscured from it.
Criminality has overshadowed a rational, stable, peaceful society where life and property are protected.Unemployment is at the highest level ever; yet,compulsive lies embedded in government propaganda dominate the rhetoric. A situation wherein elected public servants, arrogantly steal from the treasury under the constitutionally guaranteed “immunity clause”, while everyone starves is a direct invitation to the turmoil within.Public resources are marginalized and converted to personal assets. The EFCC is rigorously overpowered in courts; corruption is in high-gear to challenge the anticorruption efforts. All forms of legal twists are employed to reinforce the immunity of a sitting governor, who is visibly corrupt and arming his political thugs to distort his sworn- to- defend state. This paradox is undetermined, undefined.
It seems obvious that our leaders are oblivious of the degraded stage of the fragrant lawlessness, overblown crime waves, and the approaching anarchy, orchestrated by politicians and bureaucrats.
Nigeria is dangerously plunging into another Somalia, with fragmented regional warlords. The big question remains: who can ensure that the various institutions will be tailored to efficiency? With varying political interests, especially those of primordial and parochial actors, there is very little hope that the greedy and selfish elites at the top of Nigeria’s affairs can reconstruct our social perception towards hope and prosperity.
The strongest institution in Nigeria today is corruption, illegality. It is embraced by most Nigerians, irrespectively of tribe, religion, and state of origin. The pervasive lawlessness is an unwritten, acceptable norm. While superficially, everyone seems to loathe the current state ofthe nation, no one is courageous enough to change the situation. Nigeria is gradually slipping into an unbearable, disorderly society.
Maybe we should take a cue from an 800 year- old Benin Kingdom to reconstruct our institutions to such a formidable anchorage; but it requires sacrifice, restraint, and a dependable leadership. Who will lead Nigeria out of this mess???