We cannot afford to wait …there will be nothing left to eat for the poor but the rich…!

By Fayth Deleola Daramola

Out of confusion in December last year, after the “Queen Mother of Ogwashi-Uku” , Prof Kamene Okonjo was kidnapped and released, her family claimed she ran away from the kidnappers but the Nigerian Police Force countered that they 'rescued' her, I wrote:

“the issue is the $10million, neither is willing to admit to the payment…soon, (kidnapping enterprise) this will be a gainful employment for Nigerian youths, all it requires is for them to know that the captive will yield ransom, a risk that is far better than armed robbery which in comparison, they are able to determine what the revenue will eventually be.”

I still find it difficult that the Nigerian government is not in panic mode after the kidnap and subsequent release last week of Kehinde Bamigbetan, Chairman, Ejigbo Local Council Development Area,Lagos State. More worrisome is Lagos state's silence, and most irritating is the deafening silence from the people who are vulnerably potential victims, sort of “thank God, it's not me”.

It could be you, it could be me next time.

I was praying fervently for his safe release so as to, at least afford us an insider's narration because of Bamigbetan's profession of journalism before he became a politician.

My joy was boundless when I read about his ordeal in The Guardian of April 22nd :

“… Many of them are graduates, have not been in jobs for years and have gone to take the risk because they cannot match the millions and billions that we talk about with what comes into their pockets. They cannot understand why we budget billions of naira and graduates cannot get jobs.”

That description is it. It is the summary of what Nigeria is today. It is the true account of what our leaders have built into the fabric of Nigerian state.

KB (Kehinde Bamigbetan) as he's fondly called, also threw the bombshell of the kidnappers' identities, nay, the profile of jobless Nigerian youths of today, many of whom have decided to pursue the path to quick wealth – just like those who rule the country – through criminal activites.

“One kidnapper claimed to have studied Human Resources Management, another said he was already in the final year in a United States university when his father's shopping complex was demolished and he had to be recalled home, while another one said he was a commercial motorcyclist whose source of income had been outlawed by government.”

Is this not the true sad picture of the Nigerian society today that heinous criminal path would be chosen by young people who should be on professional career paths because they see those in politics, in high government positions getting rich overnight through ill-gotten gains derived from criminality using their positions?

Hundreds of thousands of unemployed graduates roaming the streets daily, and millions of miserable fellas who are unable to complete schooling because of our leader's irrational policy or the peasant self-employed citizens whose businesses were outlawed or stiffened by government? Lagos State Government is still demolishing structures – legal and illegal in many parts of the state and quite unfortunately, the poor are the targets and victims of these demolitions which the driving force is to make Lagos a mega city!

Compensations to owners for these demolitions are not paid not only in Lagos but in other states, especially in Yorubaland. Same with the commercial motorcyclists (Okada riders) who are banned by the Lagos state not minding that it is the only source of many peoples' livelihood yet, the government's main reason was that Okada is being used to aid armed robbery. Should the state government not find ways of controlling threats to crimes in its domain rather than throw the baby out with the bath water as a saying goes?

If it used to be the Niger-Delta Militants' area of expertise years back, kidnapping foreign oil workers to press home their demands, it has now become ubiquitous and commercialized all over the country.

Why can't the federal government see this as a threat to the country's very survival as something calling for a state of emergency? Why are the leaders missing the message from Bamigbetan's kidnappers? Do we have to wait till it becomes a trade where operators will brazenly register kidnapping as a business enterprise before action is taken? Or, maybe when the child or relation of a very very Important Person-ality is kidnapped and murdered, government would act? Or because most of us do not YET have any related missing persons, (according to Bamigbetan, there are other kidnapped victims he left behind in the dungeon) we do not care?

This is where I will always have problem with we, the followers and not, many times, the leaders: now, Bamigbetan is free but at what price? He knows, his associate does, but the rest of the masses don't know. What matters is that he is free and back to his family and no one is asking about those left behind.

Those left behind are part of us who cannot pay these ransoms being dished out. Bamigbetan claims he loves us; Fashola argues he serves us and Tinubu pronounces he represents us all, yet, no one is asking about other kidnapped victims.

The police who should help did not even know Bamigbetan had been released in the first instance. Funny. The police came out few days to say that they are on the heels of his abductors but that they had fled to Ghana! None in positions to ask the Police Commissioner if the kidnappers left a note of where they were fleeing or how they got to know that they are in Ghana: the press, state government, and others – have done so up till today, and yet all goes on as normal!

Just as it happened with Prof Okonjo's saga, her family claims she ran away, the police said she was rescued. No one asked how an 80-year old could have 'run' away from her abductors after negotiation was on for $15 million!

The constant denominator in these cases is the amount eventually paid for ransom and none of the freed nor their families and friends has answered to questions on the sources of the money paid.

It is easy to blame the unemployment of the youth for the malaise. Some have chosen to drop the liability at the door step of the inefficient Nigerian Police Force while majority would want to pin our vision-less leaders to the wicked turn of unfortunate events of our lives. Any of these elements contributed to it but the bulk is a pointer to the inalienable fact that the state of Nigeria is rudderless and very sick.

Three things cry out over the malaise that envelope our country: the earlier we come together to agree to rebuild or redesign the faulty union, the better and faster for the healing.

The followers should be alert and continually be asking for their economic, social and cultural rights as guaranteed by UN Chatter for Good Governance by voting for leaders who will defend not only these rights but be accountable to just and equitable distribution of our collective wealth. The best way to achieve this is to ask questions without necessarily confronting or probing. Having good leaders elected in a country like Nigeria also means working at prevention of electoral malpractices.

Lastly, the leaders and policy makers should be humble enough to read the message from different ordeals particularly the Bamigbetan's kidnap and release, otherwise, they will soon be consumed by the disintegration, because when the poor has nothing else to eat, they, the rich would be the only available delicacy!

We cannot afford to wait till THEY come for us or any of our loved ones. Please follow the URL below to sign the petition, a small step that does not require carrying a placard, protesting in the sun, very effective as those are; this is also important, and a mere first step.


Fayth Deleola Daramola

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