Nigeria is 50, and wailing
It is the absolute dawn of Nigeria's 50 years of independence – a symbol of freedom from (British) oppression, but not all of Nigeria is at peace with itself.
The township of Aba, in the south-eastern state of Abia has practically shut down, following the kidnapping of 15 children.
The hapless children were on their way to the Abayi International School on Monday, when an unidentified vehicle blocked the path of their school bus and took them by force. All 15 of them have since not been seen.
Not even the approach of independence day is enough to make the gunmen release the innocent children. They are demanding $130,000 before they are released.
Being disgusted with it all, schools, banks, markets and shops are refusing to open – and the refusal is not just a mere protest, but also an action borne out of fear that gangsters might be wanting to kidnap more children.
The Abia state, which is close to Nigeria's oil-rich Delta is a place where foreigners in particular are often kidnapped in return for huge sums of money.
Because security for foreigners has improved dramatically, gang leaders have been targeting wealthy locals and their relatives in recent times.
President Goodluck Jonathan is deeply disturbed by the development. Instead of taking time to practice a speech he is expected to deliver as part of the independence celebrations, he has had to deal with what he calls a “callous and cruel” act.
A spokesman, Ima Niboro says “President Jonathan has ordered the inspector general of police and heads of other security agencies to take all necessary steps to rescue the abducted children and return them safely to their parents.”
In most cases of kidnapping in this area, hostages are released unharmed – as long as a ransom is paid.
For the safety of the children, many will wish the government would just go ahead and pay up.
But every ransom paid is an encouragement for another kidnapping, creating a truly vicious cycle.
Who really wants to allow criminals to make a business out of kidnapping?
And no one wants to see the children held in captivity, day after day.
It is an unnecessary situation that Nigeria really doesn't have to deal with on the eve of independence anniversary.
But the kidnappers have put it high on the agenda.
How can 50 years of independence be much of a celebration, when kidnappers who are also citizens deliberately enslave 15 innocent children?