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By NBF News

Sunday, July 25, 2010
Last Sunday July 18th, 2010 this column narrated the pathetic story of Mrs Mercy Ebere Wokoma, the Principal of Community Secondary School, Omuanwa in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State who had been in the hands of kidnappers. The good news is that when the expected N30,000,000. was not forthcoming, they settled for far less. They got some money. This is nearly what all kidnap victims and their relations go through and the list is long.

Chief Okechukwu Okah who coincidentally bears the same surname with me has a more horrendous story to tell. After the kidnap of his wife sometime ago, he paid some money to secure her release but the kidnappers continued to demand additional ransom and threatened to kidnap her again. He rebuffed their demand and moved on as if tomorrow would not come. Apparently basking in the euphoria of her release , Chief Okah repeatedly took their threat lightly until he got another shocker of his life. While he was in Port Harcourt, his mother was trailed by the kidnappers to her farm in Elele Town where they attempted to kidnap her but luck ran out of them when their evil scheme was foiled by the intervention of third parties. Chief Okah was lucky again but not many people share the same fate. In nearly all cases, the kidnappers call the shots and receive their ransom intact as the security agencies lack the capacity to rescue anybody in the kidnappers' den.

The release of the four kidnapped journalists last week is a pointer that if the FGN takes the security of lives of Nigerians seriously, they can put a stop to the business of kidnapping. The journalists were lucky to share the same fate with the little British girl , Margaret Hill whose abducted in Port Harcourt in 2007 and provoked international outrage. Sensing that her case was a bitter pill to swallow, the kidnappers voluntarily released her to the then State Director of SSS, Mr Tosin Ajayi (a brilliant and committed officer) to ward off international and local attention and pressure. The only language kidnappers understand is collective outrage as in these two cases cited above. In spite of this, Nigeria learnt no lessons.

Since last Sunday, a lot of people have been reacting differently to this column. While many of them agreed with us, some believe that Abia State was singled out unjustly as if kidnapping is a localized thing. The truth is that as we have said, the crime of kidnapping is novel to Nigeria and it started in the Niger Delta although Abia State has graduated to be the current axis of evil in the business of kidnapping in Nigeria. Unfortunately, Abia appears to be in the midfield, distributing kidnappers to other parts of the country and endangering her neighbors. Sites have been built in the thick forests to host kidnap victims without the reach of the security agencies. Therefore Abia State government and people must rise to the occasion and change this sad trend and I think the governor is making some good efforts to confront this menace.

We say so because we know that the federal government is too busy with other engagements to worry about the value of the lives of Nigerians unless when journalists or foreign minors are kidnapped. It's needless to say that the government of Nigeria has since failed in the primary responsibility of government, the duty to protect lives and property.

This all seems to justify the claim by the US government that Nigeria would be a failed state in 15 years (from 2005). Though, this prediction angered the Nigerian authorities but did the leadership do anything to reverse the nation from the path of atrophy. A failed state is determined by certain indices such as ability to protect lives and property, ability to create confidence in the populace, ability to offer the main pillars of sovereignty, and the ability to sustain the social contract.

The social contract requires the citizen to surrender all instruments of violence to a sovereign (in this case, the FG), offer allegiance, pay tax. In return, the citizen would be entitled to protection of lives and property, freedom of movement, speech, food, shelter, and association. In a democracy, this expands to freedom to vote in a government of his choice.

This contract is encapsulated in the Constitutions of countries to one major clause that the sovereign must swear to protect the lives and property of the citizens. In the case of the Nigerian Constitution, while the citizen is free to pursue good life through infrastructure provided by the government, the government (sovereign) is under obligation to protect the lives and property of citizens and its failure is an impeachable offence. No governor therefore swore to provide light and roads and hospital etc though they are expected of him but they all swore to protect the lives and property of persons under the law.

If a part of this sovereign entity can no longer guarantee the security of lives and property of Nigerians, cannot sustain freedom of interaction, movement, freedom to go in search of daily bread, etc, then that part of the country has become a failed state, and the nation is failing in installments, starting, perhaps, from Abita State.

The signs are everywhere. Visitors, corporate and individual have fled, seeking abode in other states, capital has fled, economy has fled, the party that ruled the state has fled, seeking accommodation in another party. The PPA is bereaved of its highest prize, the governor, who is seeking shelter in another party. The legislature, the symbol of democracy and representative of the people of any state, is left to decide whether to join the party's founder to exile or to follow the chief executive of the state to seek asylum in a neighboring state.

One wonders what else qualifies a state for a state of emergency. Who really is in charge of Abia State; the governor, the deputy, the legislature, the party, the police or the kidnappers? Else, how can one explain a situation whereby kidnappers went after a police team stationed at Osisioma few weeks ago in attempt to kidnap them? The kidnappers ended up killing one of the members of the special mobile squad sent there to protect the masses from kidnappers. Does this not show that the citizens are totally defenseless and helpless if those sent to protect them are being kidnapped or killed in active service?

It is obvious that Nigeria is now struggling to remain a viable state. The nation cannot fund its capital budget because it is borrowing to make up its recurrent (consumption); it cannot protect its oil region; cannot provide admission to over 900,000 students seeking university admission every year, has no idea how to create jobs for those unlucky to graduate, has no electricity to power the economy, has no criminal justice system strong enough to scare an offender or even a killer, has no idea how to save a man asked to choose a particular religion or die, has no answer to the killing of men and women sent to serve their father land through a national scheme as sacred as the NYSC, has no idea how to give a nation a national passion in the name of football, has no way of making a citizen realize his last democratic wish to make his vote count, etc.

Has Nigeria now started the much predicted descent to a failed state? Is it starting from Abia?