Nigeria is part of a new world order in which so much information flows every minute. The age of the internet has created instant circulation of information. As a result, we do not have breathing space to pay adequate attention to all of what affects us. We tend to live for the minute, because more information is rushing down upon us every second. What we do not seem to understand is that such down- pour of information creates a convenient environment to mislead the public. We easily lose sight of what should be important to society. People who hold political power seem to profit from this setting. They are able to manipulate public focus by simply letting tomorrow’s flood of information, carry away today’s topical issue that makes them uncomfortable or that threatens their interest.
It becomes a crucial challenge of information management in our global economy of fast- moving reports, to sift out what is important and to project such for public evaluation and decision making. It is the constructive way to handle a steady flood: we face tidal rumours, fake news, incident reports, data analysis, group bias disguised as objective accounts, inventions, miracles, disasters, hate speeches, and sales pitches, among other items in the daily market of public opinion.
In this regard a recent news event has thrown up the need for us to give commendations to two groups. First is the Niger Delta women who organized a demonstration in PH. The second are the officers and men of the Nigerian Police. Let me explain.
I join to commend Niger Delta women who about a week ago, went on a non partisan “Black Day” demonstration in Port Harcourt. They were driven to the street by the horror story of young women murdered in hotel rooms. Their show of public anger and constructive action, can be seen to have influenced the posture & tempo of the Police on the matter. The women stood up as an active and conscientious stakeholder group for public safety and respect for the right to life. They refused to accept an emerging official narrative that the victims were prostitutes, which narrative implied that it was okay to kill any prostitute in Nigeria. That action by them was the first victory for ordinary Nigerians who have no Police convoy as security. The women groups raised the flag of our popular will as citizens. We are confronted daily by the unspoken historical contradiction which Nigeria’s public policy projects: namely that the lives of some Nigerians who have state security, are more important than those of the rest of us who have none!
The angry but prompt response of our Niger Delta women to the Police, has stated in BOLD PRINT our popular will to see that we uphold a fundamental social principle that “the life of every Nigerian matters”! It may take time but Nigerians will assert a simple right that it is not OK to lose Chibok girls or Odi community, Leah Shuaibu and every victim of kidnapping as well as those who endure avoidable violence since 1999.
Government policies & incompetence have increasingly enthroned a feudal system that enriches a few among the political elite and inflicts upon society mass poverty, mutual distrust & a stampede for survival. Put together, the consequences of poor governance by government confront us on the streets of our urban centres and the unkempt village roads. Our governments violate the fundamental social principle that “every life matters” in Nigeria. How can each person’s life matter when we have no career jobs or secure income to give meaning to each new day? Our sons and daughters are now driven out to sell themselves into slavery outside our country, for the sake of each day’s meal. Nigeria’s official devaluation of the life of her citizens became manifest over the explosion of Xenophobic attacks on our people in different countries. Next door to us in Ghana, many are languishing in jail for being Nigerians. You can’t do that to an American or British citizen. In South Africa the issue went one notch higher in August, with mass killings of Nigerians. Yet we faced the national shame that our Federal government could allegedly provide N30b unsolicited, just to fund each RUGA settlement expected to accommodate even non Nigerian Fulani as reported in the media. But same government could not charter two or three aircrafts for prompt evacuation of anguished Nigerians who were victims of assualts in South Africa?
We had to wait for a Nigerian to send an aircraft to fly Nigerians home! And what is the resettlement package for returnees? Has our National Assembly that wants more luxury cars, provided any reasonable budget for those citizens who became victims because our country betrayed them the first time? This is another betrayal, because no one speaks up for victims in our country.
That is why we must commend the Niger Delta women groups’ for their demonstration. Their action reminds us that our women today share the umbilical cord of their gallant great grand mothers. Those ones spoke up for victims of government in colonial Nigeria, when they led the famous Women riots in Aba and Opobo, to protest anti-people colonial tax policy. Today Niger Delta women groups have shown they can stand as active stakeholder groups.
The Niger Delta needs such true Stakeholder groups to fight for the lives and happiness of our people. The loud silence robs Niger Delta states of monthly oil revenue from Federal allocations. There is no dedicated percentage of such monies to invest in well designed emergency Marshall Plan that will plant two integrated industries in every Senatorial district in each state! The silence condones the daylight robbery of Marginal Oil fields allocated to Niger Delta States between 1999-2017. Where is any progress report by our State governments? Yet Houses of Assembly or legislators from Niger Delta are not asking any questions!
Let us join in commending the Police, especially the new Commissioner of police in Rivers State and his boss, the new IG. We are seeing what looks like a promise to usher in a new era when the Nigeria Police Force is made to be responsive to public concerns. Those concerns include the welfare and provisions for job performance to give professional fulfillment to every serving police man or woman as well as those on retirement. Why should Nigeria run a Police Force where only a few officers grow fat because they run “escort duty” to protect big men & to intimidate the Nigerian public? Under this new IG and the new CP in Rivers, we are beginning to see what looks like positive signs. They hold constant engagement with public groups & the Press. We are also seeing a Police Force that makes attempt to give quick response to situations. For instance, over disturbances in Ogoni, Ikwerre and Ndoki communities in Rivers State between June and August, the Police made substantive statements within 24 hours in each case. Statements by the Police PRO of Rivers Police Command now show a new streak of concern and empathy for victims as well as professional confidence and humility in the Police. These are good signs that should help to redefine the Police and policing in Nigeria.
But these welcome signs are far from substance. They cannot lead us to be confident that our Police Force is now on the road to prevention of crime & pursuit of social justice. They need to show us daily that those two principles are now manifest positive pillars of a new foundation of law and order in our society. We want stakeholder groups that can make sure the police do so, in order to save Nigeria. A good example is the case of the “self-confessed” killer. He was promptly brought into custody and presented to the public. But too many questions are begging for answers. The position that the suspect has confessed, is too easy as an explanation of the horrendous crime of killing people. How is it possible that he alone kills a woman (not to talk of all those women) and walks out of each hotel without footprints? Where did he go after each confessed killing? How is it possible that not one of the victims put up a fight, not even to leave scratch marks as the signature of a death struggle, on a beast who devours the innocent?
Why did he need to kill only young women?
Between each killing where did he stay and who funded his hotel trips?
We just want to be sure that our Police and society are not being sold a dummy. A suspect whose “confession” could throw dust in the public space, is a real decoy for the real enemy to lie low and wait to strike again!
Amaopusenibo Bobo Sofiri Brown.
Managing Consultant / CEO; GRAIN Consulting.