MR. PRESIDENT, SPARE A MOMENT FOR CITIZEN MICHAEL
My day was spoilt late last week as I opened to my Facebook wall and saw a posting by my friend and colleague. It was an unsavoury piece on a certain young Nigerian, Michael Ikenna Nduanya.
Michael is on death row in far away Vietnam - that desolate far-flung place. It is a very unusual place for a Nigerian to be found. On a good weather, there is no reason a Nigerian should travel to Vietnam of all places to find greener pasture. With reeking poverty and a bloated population of 89m as the 13th most populous in the world, what ordinarily should a Nigerian be looking for in Vietnam? This is Vietnam that sits pretty in the poverty enclave of Asia with borders with Laos and Cambodia?
But to such desert, a Nigerian took heroine and was caught with his wife, a Vietnamese, who actually had the drug on her. While poor Michael got the death sentence, his wife who carried the drug is to serve in jail for life. What a way to handle justice for outsiders!
It is sad and emotional to see Michael's gloomy face and his handcuffed hands as two policemen in green walk him to his prison cell pending the day he would be tethered to a post and shot by seven armed men. While six line up in a shooting range to empty volleys of bullets into him, the seventh by Vietnam law would approach his sagging frame laden with bullets to take the last close aim at his head with a short gun. In a manner of minutes, Michael Ikenna Nduanya would be gone and forever so. As his body is taken down the tether the black hood over his eyes removed, the gag over his mouth as depicted in the video attached to the webpage to muffle his scream would be untied because at such point, Michael is spent and burned out. His screams must have been silenced by the bullets.
Spare a thought on this. Think about it. How does it feel?
That is another young Nigerian wasted abroad for involvement in crime. But it is far more than that. Michael is just one of the thousands of such Nigerian youths who die in the hands of foreigners because they involve in crime that should have been avoided. When a Nigerian leaves here, a nation blessed with all things to wander off into a desert called Vietnam in search of survival, it is just more than an adventure. It is suicide because it is like intentionally taking a wrong step.
There is no justification for what Michael did just because there is hardship in Nigeria, but that is when it is just about this person involved. In a larger situation where the youths of a particular nation migrate in droves and are caught in one unlawful act or the other outside, the country's conducive nature for habitation should be questioned. In this case especially, there seems to be something untidy in the way Michael was tried and sentenced to death. I urge that as you spare a thought for Michael, think also about how he could be rescued from death, and how Nigeria can save her youths from being wasted this way.
The web posting indicated that if Michael would be spared till July when Vietnam law on execution of convicts changes, he would still die, but by lethal poison injection. Either way, to die is to die, and if Michael dies, as the law demands, his family can pick up his body for burial. Then a person like Michael reported to be an orphan ravaged by poverty, reason he took such a dangerous gamble for survival, who would pick his body. Even if picked, of what value is it when the life that made him a human being is gone. In fact, it is possible that as you read this piece, Michael has been silenced. It is also possible that he is still bidding time, pending when the armed shooters would come for him.
In natural fairness, many questions would arise on the propriety of Michael's sentence. He is to die, but the Vietnamese lady that actually had the drug on her is to serve a term in jail.
Vietnam is a communist nation with collectivization, in the grand style of Josef Stalin as the rule. It is a nation with highly restricted media that the government breathes down on with huge censorship. Vietnam is still the type of world where use of the Internet is highly restricted and dictated by the government. It is still far from an open world. There is also a high tendency and possibility that Michael's trial would have been anything but tidy and fair. And given the type of society Vietnam operates, Nigeria has grounds in jurisprudence and diplomatic espousal to argue for Michael's case review even before the UN human rights
The only saving grace left for Michael is diplomatic intervention for his life.
Another big hurdle, that is. Nigeria is not known for such concern for her citizens. We always pretend human beings don't matter. But I have seen a little difference in the days of Jonathan when, as far as I can remember, Nigerian citizens were rescued from war-torn nations. When the Egypt revolution started, President Goodluck Jonathan ordered the immediate evacuation of Nigerians from the country and it was the same in Libya, not minding some delays. That is why I call on Nigerians to join and plead with Jonathan to spare just a moment, a minute of thought, some care and concern for citizen Michael. Yes, he brought shame on Nigeria by involving in what he did. But there is an adage of my people that you first rescue the chick from the kite before you blame it for straying from the protection of its mother. Let us save Michael first, address his case at home and find a way of creating deterrent against further occurrences. It is becoming too frequent to have Nigerians in such mess, but there must be way of addressing the decay that caused this.
I read also the comments of 18 Nigerians in response to Michael's predicament and saw their empathy for him. Actually, few blamed him and one even suggested he should be allowed to die for bringing shame on Nigeria. That is proper, but we have to remember that the big and powerful Nigerians have brought worse shame on the nation and still pose as our leaders. They have not been killed. Though not justifying Michael's act, but if Nigeria should allow those that brought her shame to be killed, I swear that many of the ones that call themselves our leaders won't be alive today.
Take another thought for a comment in the posting: 'As news of his sentence broke out last week, Nigerians across the world have called on the Nigerian federal government to make concerted effort to negotiate his life with the communist government of Vietnam.
'He has been described as one of the victims of Nigeria's neglect with millions of youths in the nation wasting away due to unemployment, and thousands more on self-seeking enslavement across the world looking for lifelines have met their untimely death. Hundreds of Nigerian youths are dying every year through many disgraceful means in desperation to escape to other countries of the world for more dignified life.'
There is the whole truth and nothing but the truth in the summation. It is possible Nigeria has become that nation the Bible said eats up its inhabitants.
Nigeria gets more and more unfriendly for habitation. It annoys most when one sees the factors of wealth and affluence all around him but can't touch any.
There is wealth here enough for everyone, but few have cornered it and refuse to let go. Such is one of the reasons our citizens don't give a second thought to the danger of walking into the mouth of the lion and death. Having been pushed too hard, they get the feeling that staying here is as much death as it is to go out and venture it. Out they go, and death they encounter. But in this case, let us rise and say no and press that Michael should be spared. President Jonathan should be responsive enough to handle this the way it should.