APRIL 18/BAUCHI 10: Is This Nation Worth Dying for?
How can I forget in a hurry how I fled for dear life from Zubuki village in Itas Gadau local government in Bauchi after I was given free knocks on my head and humiliated in my NYSC uniform at the polling station I was posted to as an Independent National Electoral Commission ad-hoc staff and later rescued by a God-sent motorcycle rider. Through it all I got to Bauchi at 11 o'clock at night. Few hours after, the town was literally on fire. Bauchi LGA INEC office was set ablaze, bon fires at major roundabouts, roads and even wanton destruction of properties. The fear of these and unfavourable security reports and rumours locked me behind walls and gates for 3 days and 2 nights. Hot, consistent and persistent fear-propelled prayers and intercession flowed ceaselessly from my heavy lips and discombobulated mind.
How can I also forget in a hurry how friends and acquaintances were sent to early graves like poultry birds? The brilliant and visionary president of Banking and Finance departmental body, Kehinde Adeniji who was my set in Adekunle Ajasin University Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State. Our last moments at Gadau(where I was posted for the elections)-we ate lafun(a local food made of cassava flour) and okro and stew prepared in the same pot. He later gave me passport-sized photograph to deliver to another friend of ours in Bauchi LGA. I passed the night in an adjacent room to his, shared thoughts of our spectacular experiences and bade me farewell-and that was his last. As for Ayotunde Ebenezer Gbenjo and Anslem Nkwazema our paths crossed at Nigeria Christian Corpers Fellowship (NCCF). Ayo's story is very pathetic in the sense that he with some other corps members were rescued from Tafawa Balewa LGA's communal clash that claimed lives and properties and even a corpers lodge. Yet death was lurking around the corner and finally made away with him during post presidential election crisis. As for the gentlemanly Anslem ran for safety into a police station but was smoked out and butchered thereafter. Should I wake the painful memory of the newly married and pregnant Gift Anyanwu who was badly burnt and gave up the ghost days after at the National Hospital Abuja.
Other lives lost are Teidi Tosin Olawale, Okpokiri Obinna Michael, Adowei Elliot, Adewunmi Seun Paul, Ukeoma IKechukwu Chibuzor and Akonyi Ibrahim Sule. I called this politically motivated with religious colouring the height of man's inhumanity to man, although I expressed an unusual optimism in an interview with a reporter with May 2011 edition of 234next online newspaper, which was attacked by many readers. I captured my thoughts in the poem I titled 'TRIBUTE TO OUR MARTYRS'(April 2011)
“With shouts and doubts I greeted
The phone call announcing your home call
Why do bad things happen to good people?
Are probably three decades of gain and pain, sweet and sweat, favour
and labour, thick and thin, ups and downs disappeared into thin air?
My mind replied me with full emptiness...
Dear Naija why drink the blood and sweat of them who served you selflessly
Cover your face in shame 'cos you gave them no defence
Oh! Your parents and loved ones longed to have you in their waiting arms
But you have journeyed to the land of the quiet ones
You even returned home but 'dead on arrival'
Oh! See corps members receive NYSC discharge certificates
But your exit gave birth to death certificates
Ocean of hot tears from bleeding hearts
Has refused to wake you up
Then our hearts are made up
To live our lives on purpose
Impact lives of people
And serve God with sincerity and passion
We remove head-dresses
Cos your nation's clarion call you heeded
We remove head-dresses
For these great leaders, visioners,bread-
Who are gone into early graves
Courage and fortitude we ask you dear Comforter
Forever you are inscribed on our hearts
Good night! Good bye!! ”
NYSC is compromised. A scheme that dances to the tune of the highly connected, mighty and wealthy. Their children and wards serve in choice cities like Abuja, Lagos, Kano as well as big companies or organizations while the other choice-less corps members wallow in despicable conditions. Wicked employers absorb cheap labour, some even serve 'legislooters' kolanuts during meetings at the National Assembly(The Punch; Mar Fri9,Pg 16). What of those militants kidnap, even the Osun 'royal rape', what of avoidable road accidents that claim some lives,etc. Little wonder the acronym NYSC is sarcastically redefined as 'Now Your Suffering Commences'. What a compromised NYSC!It is a pity that the Gowon-conceived NYSC paramilitary and unifying scheme has become a laughing stock. The BIG question is that- has NYSC over stayed its welcome? Or considering its purpose/vision of national integration, cultural cohesion, inter-tribal marriage, job opportunities to mention but a few. Is it that it needs a complete repositioning?
I am not unmindful of the gestures of the FG. Donation of 5 million naira to the families of the 10 slain corps members, automatic employment for a sibling from each of the families, 2 million naira donation by Bauchi state government, state burials and condolence speeches. Besides, the Brigadier General Okorie-Affa led NYSC is saying corps members will now serve in four key areas, a policy that is believed to be ill timed. Also, there is tracking device for their security.
A year is come and gone, I do not want to believe that a critical lesson learnt is that you can perpetrate and sponsor evil and get away with it. What a nation! A nation that turns a deaf ear to the yearnings of its citizenry. When will greed for money, fame and power become a thing of the past in this corner of the world? How I wish that those children tied to their mothers' apron and fathers' deep pockets wake up, face the realities of life and embrace hard work and shun mediocrity. However, all thanks to the scheme for the scattered Hausa language I speak, imparting knowledge and values into young Secondary School students of ATBU International Secondary School, adventure to the northern part of Nigeria but no thanks to the crisis for truncating my plan to visit Yankari Games Reserves. A nation that eats its future destiny in the present is not worth a drop of my blood(QED). Nevertheless, I believe in the Nigerian dream of the emergence of a great nation. In Dr Tunde Bakare's word “Nigeria will prosper in my lifetime”.
Ex-Publicity CDS President,Bauchi LGA
20 Ajibodu street, Karaole Estate,
Ifako Ijaiye, Lagos.