The recent kidnap of 15 children of the Abayi International School, Aba, and Abia State in Nigeria concentrates the mind. It is a fitting metaphor for a Nigeria, a country in the hands of power hijackers. Nigeria is a kidnapped country at 50 and there is clear evidence. On the eve of the country's celebration of 50 years of political independence, 15 children, leaders of tomorrow were kidnapped in broad daylight. Four days after the kidnappers made away with the kids, they have not been apprehended and the children are yet to be rescued.
Apart from a tepid order by the President to the Police authority to find the kids and arrest the kidnappers and the equally lame response from the national assembly, not much has been done by the federal government. Rather, the frenetic pace of preparations for the Nigeria at 50 'Owambe" continues with little regard for the country's security. Our leaders are going about their lives as if everything was in order. I bet if one of those 15 kids was the child of a Minister, a governor or even a Senator, Abuja would have rolled out the tanks. In more civilized climes where the government is responsible, the president would have issued a riot act to the nation's security apparatus to find the kids and ferry them to safety. He would have ordered that the kidnappers be flushed out and dealt with. After almost two years of unabated kidnappings, the President would have summoned a meeting of the security high command. President Jonathan must address himself more to governance and invest less time in other distractions seeing that he has a great opportunity to make a difference.
Unfortunately, we are not going to get that kind of leadership or action. Not at all because most of those in power now have other priorities and their understanding of what constitutes real leadership is jaundiced. Nigeria is now being run by two powers- the federal government in Abuja and the Kidnapper’s government in the country's South-East. Infact, going by the spiraling number of kidnappings in the last two years and government's increasing inability to put a stop to it or smash the syndicate, one is forced to reach the conclusion that Nigerians have been left for the dogs. Nothing is more symptomatic of a failed state than this. I have lost the number of kidnappings that have taken place so far. In Nigeria, everyone is game-even young innocent children. You begin to wonder if this is some kind of retribution. Here is the scenario that plays in my mind; because a few have kidnapped power and the State through massive rigging and mindless corruption, a group of dare devil individuals have also decided to kidnap just anyone and especially rule over the South East. As much as their action is reprehensible, one must say that every system deserves the kind of people it gets. With graduate unemployment at a record high, a castrated middle class and abject poverty living side by side with sheer opulence, no country or its leaders can be safe. Perhaps, the kidnappers should be more daring and stop being cowards. Rather than abduct little children, they need to come to Abuja and abduct all the people that have kidnapped our resources, kidnapped our rights and who continue to pilfer the resources of the commonwealth at will for a discussion.
There is no better time to confront the menace of kidnapping in Nigeria than now when the country is celebrating its 50th birthday. It is a sad reminder of our failure as a country or better still the failure of our so-called leaders. The kidnappings did not just start overnight. It began gradually. The kidnappers became bolder by the day seeing that the security agencies could not stop them and the government was too busy politicking. That is the story of how we got to where we are today- a state of total insecurity in which every Nigerian is a potential kidnap victim. It is almost a situation of no government because truth be told, the inability of the government to flush out the kidnappers is not only unacceptable, but a ringing indictment on our so called leaders. It is a red card for our security agencies who find it easier to arrest journalists or harass innocent Nigerians at check points and exploit them at the Police Stations. Now that the rubber has met the road, they are found clearly wanting. With all the billions sunk yearly into the Police and other security outfits, it is a sad commentary that there is total lack of intelligence to deal with the menace of kidnapping.
Let the Heads of States, Presidents and other dignitaries already flying into Abuja know that they are in enemy territory. They are in the land of kidnappers and they are the guests of a government incapable of taking care of business.
I submit that Nigeria is a kidnapped country at 50. Our dream and indeed the dream of our forefathers for a strong country have being kidnapped. Our present and indeed our future have all been kidnapped by our leaders. Our hopes, our jobs, our security and sadly our families have all been kidnapped too. The labour of our heroes past now seems in vain. In vain because those that came after them rather than serve the fatherland, milk it and appropriate power for selfish ends.
As our leaders roll out the carpets, dance to the music, eat the anniversary dinner and cake, they should spare a thought for the 15 kidnapped children, their parents, their families and of course they should also spare a thought for the millions of Nigerians who entrusted them with power but who have now become easy preys for kidnappers. Let me also leave our leaders today with these famous words attributed to Pastor Martin Niemoller (1892–1984) about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group, “They came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up”. Someday, unless this menace of kidnapping is nipped in the bud, we all will be kidnapped. Neither the high and mighty nor the ordinary man will be spared. And by the time Nigeria is one hundred years old, there might be no country to celebrate.
Sunday Dare is a Nigerian Journalist and the author of the book-“Guerrilla Journalism-Dispatches from the Underground