DEATH, NYSC AND THE NIGERIAN FACTOR
Naturally, it is painful to hear any news of death even if you don't know the deceased. I lost my Mum - the most cherished person in my life - some two decades ago and many close relations and friends, so I know how painful it is to lose a beloved. It is even more ?painful when someone dies at a youthful age, full of promises. Death is inevitable and part of life.
We do not have control over death. We are most times taken by surprise when it strikes. One can die prepared, unprepared, at home, in school, in your state, in? another country, with or without an apparent cause. We are just no more. However, a lot of us are of the view that there are certain avoidable deaths, especially when that has to do with Nigerian citizens which, many believe, is caused by government ineptitude.
All one can do is but pray for a fruitful life. The violence which followed the announcement of the Presidential ?results in some parts of the country penultimate week is unacceptable ?reprehensible, condemnable and to say the least, despicable. For whatever reason, citizens are not expected to take the law into their hands in which process, innocent lives and properties are most often lost. Most tragically the lives of nine young men on the verge of realizing the dreams of their parents and the larger society were sacrificed.
These youth fell to the irate rabble.. They died in active service trying to midwife a free and fair election that will secure the life of innumerable youth after them. Expectedly, the incident generated a lot of debate. Unfortunately, the significance of the event is getting out of focus because it is being lost in the now familiar nauseating appeal to primordial considerations. Some commentators have questioned the relevance or otherwise of the NYSC scheme. Others have called for the outright proscription of the nearly 40 year old scheme. Comments including Newspaper editorials did not help matters as they only fanned the embers of acrimony across the nation.
They exposed the resentments and divisions that were hitherto buried by the first hand? information on cultures other than ours gained during the one year national service. The innuendos made by some commentators on the scheme leave much to be desired. Some of the commentators suggest that the cause of death is being in the service, concluding that these youths wouldn't have died if they hadn't been serving! Much as we condemn in the strongest terms, the deaths of these young Nigerians, we must also put the unity of the nation above all by avoiding inflammatory remarks derived from emotions. A front page comment by a governor in one of the dailies indicated unguarded comments over the death of corps members in his state.
Going through the report, I concluded that the governor may have been misquoted. He may have been trying to calm nerves only for the press to misconstrue his comments to serve a dark purpose. Needless to say, this is capable of creating more tension in the polity and ultimately prompting reprisals. Curiously enough, these commentaries are as uninformed as they are inaccurate, pedestrian and unfortunate. For instance the Nigerian Tribune of Thursday, April 28th, carried a feature in which one Kunle? Awosiyan claimed that participation in electoral duties 'is a prerequisite for the award of certificate of national service'.
Nothing is more further from the truth. To put the records straight, no corps member was 'forced' to partake in the electoral processes. In?fact, the NYSC DG, Brig. Gen. MI Tsiga was inundated by calls from corps members who could not make it to the INEC list of those to participate in the INEC exercise.
As to whether the NYSC scheme has outlived its usefulness, I think, it is not that the lofty ideals it is founded upon have withered away, but the societal degeneration bedeviling our beloved country has eaten too deep into the fabric of our nationhood. Before my service, I was of the opinion that the Igbo are the worst set of people. Thanks to the one year service in their midst, I realize they are simply the best. My kin couldn't have treated me better. Moreover, many corps members confessed to me their preconceived notion of the much touted belief of the illiteracy prevalent among the populations of the North of Nigeria. Their coming here has cleared that misinformation.
Let's now consider the Nigerian factor. Nigerian government is neither unable, nor unwilling to save the lives of not only the corps members, but the general public. The problem concerns all of us. It is the Nigerian factor that nobody is safe. A sitting Minister of Justice ?(Chief Bola Ige) was assassinated without any culprit being brought to book in relation to his murder to date. A lot of Nigerians both the high and the low have been killed by yet to be identified persons. Remember Chief Harry Marshall, Funso Williams,? Sa'adatu Rimi, Sheikh Ja'afar Mahmud Adam, just to mention but a few.
Thousands of lives have been lost to avoidable circumstances from road accidents that are not accidents, armed robberies, generator fumes, kerosene and petrol explosions to the new vogue : kidnappings and bomb explosions which are becoming the order of the day. There were no hysterical calls for punitive, collective punishment. Deaths due to irrational human action have tragically become a recurring decimal in the modern world. Hardly a month passes without mass killings making headlines. These occur from the Americas to Europe and places in between. Details of these killings are too well known and too gory to bear repeating. These incidences occur despite up to date crime prevention technology and concerted effort to minimize and ultimately prevent their occurrence.
A major and important difference from our situation is that these societies try to find scientific explanations and solutions to such incidents. They allow their education to take over even when emotions are provoked. Primordial considerations are not allowed to becloud judgment. In every society there exist the bad eggs, the miscreants and the low life? who perpetuate all these kinds of crimes to humanity despite maximum protection and without really minding whether or not, the victims are their kinsmen.
Finally, I wish to state that we can serve the memories of the late dear corpers b
better by looking into ways to immortalize them. One sure way is for all of us to strive towards ensuring a just and fairy country where reason and respect for each other is paramount. In Nigeria, there is no state or region that is safer just as there is yet, no state or region that is more prone to crisis. This is because there is no universal cause of a crisis. Certain factors, which are most times, divergent and unforeseen make crises erupt.
Harris wrote from Maitama, Abuja,