FORSAKEN AT HOME, FORGOTTEN ABROAD
Miss. Precious Kanyip (not real names) is in her early twenties and is a girl that is immensely and profoundly endowed by her creator with a near-perfect physique and the beauty that even the world's best known super model Miss. Naomi Campbell would envy.
Born in Zaria, Kaduna state to a very senior military officer who retired as a colonel but died only few months before Miss. Precious could gain admission to read international relations in one of the elitist private universities in South West Nigeria. Her father built his retirement home in Kaduna, very close to Zaria his ancestral homeland. But her mother who was a senior Director in a federal ministry in Abuja was financially buoyant to see her through her university studies and on retirement from her juicy federal appointment she decided to relocate to her husband's retirement mansion in one of the choice areas of Kaduna. Her decision to move to Kaduna just before the year 2011 General elections proved very costly because of the misfortune that soon befell her.
She was gruesomely hacked to death by some armed rioters in the streets of Kaduna only few hours after the April 2011 presidential election results were announced by Professor Attahiru Jega, the chairman of the incredibly corrupt Independent National Electoral Commission. The armed youth who went from house to house of those suspected sympathizers of the winner of the presidential poll – Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, descended on the retirement home of the Kanyips.
This bunch of rioters made up essentially of almajiris and other motor park touts burnt down the house that was built by this family which took the late retired officer practically three decades to save enough money to finance the building of this edifice which eventually served as his retirement home shortly before he died. Incidentally, the Zaria country home of this same family was targeted and burnt down by these suspected supporters of the opposition presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change -General Muhammadu Buhari.
Miss. Precious, whose entire family assets located in their Zaria country side and Kaduna metropolis were destroyed by the rampaging armed youth was practically saved by mother luck because a day before hell was let loose in the streets of northern Nigeria, she told her mother that she was tired of staying at home doing nothing and that she was heading to Abuja to try her luck to see if she could land herself a job in the Federal Civil service following an announcement of three thousand Job vacancies. Her mother at first resisted her proposed trip to Abuja and promised to call one of her former working colleagues to see if her daughter can be assisted to get the job in one of the ministries that had actually commenced recruitment of some university graduates to fill up the few vacancies.
Her mother was aware that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a Nigerian young university graduate without a god-father to bag one of the very scarce jobs in the Federal Civil Service. But her effort to hook up with some of her professional colleagues who hold high profile appointments in some of the ministries was unsuccessful, so Miss. Precious left for Abuja.
That trip would later turn out as her saving grace because she would have similarly been hacked to death if she had stayed back either in her parent's Kaduna or Zaria homes which came under heavy attacks by the rioters who could not be stopped by the police or soldiers for the first one week that they undertook systematic killing, maiming and destruction of property and lives of suspected Peoples Democratic Party sympathizers including citizens who hail from the Southern part of Nigeria.
Unsure of where to go or who to meet on how she can possibly secure justice for the gruesome murder of her mother and the destruction of her family entire assets, Miss. Precious chose to stay back with one of her female former school mates who resides in one of the most neglected and less developed outskirts of the Federal Capital Territory while she kept trying her luck for a place in the federal civil service.
For several months, she could not secure the job but one evening when she was on her way home to her friends' place, she got a call from her friend who out of rude shock informed her to hurry back home to help rescue some of their few belongings thrown outside by the demolition squad from the Abuja Development Control that invaded the vicinity and commenced demolition of the slums which government regarded as illegal structures. But her return to the rubbles that was her former place of abode gave her more heart ache than relief because she discovered to her chagrin that some street urchins had helped themselves with most of her clothes and other personal effects like shoes because her friend could not be everywhere at the same time to prevent this mindless looting of their precious belongings. Miss. Precious lost all her precious belongings and then headed back to Abuja central business District where she was lucky to have met a Good Samaritan who gave her accommodation for only but one week.
Caught literary between the devil and the deep blue sea, Miss. Precious then made up her mind to emigrate to God Knows where to just try to eke out a living since in her considered reflection, she has been forsaken at home by both the government that ought to provide her and her family safety from unwarranted physical attacks by armed marauders and she has also suffered neglect by the nation's Justice system that for close to ten months failed to arrest, prosecute and punish those who menacingly undertook the dastardly criminal act of arson and targeted killing of her mother as well as hundreds of other citizens.
Miss Precious had a beautiful encounter on the day she decided to travel outside the country. A man in his late sixties who happened to have worked with her mother in her last place of posting ran into her while she was making a phone call at the federal secretariat complex, at the three arms zone of the nation's capital and there and then gave her a bank draft of one million, five hundred thousand naira to help ease up some of her very pressing economic problems. That monetary assistance that came from her mother's former colleague with other cash she collected from one of her formal school mates greatly helped her to realize her dream of travelling outside the country to search for greener pastures after securing two year visiting visa.
But she made the wrong choice of going to one of the Eastern European nations that was witnessing the current global economic recession. Miss Precious headed to the Nnamdi Azikiwe international Airport and in less than ten hours she was already in that Eastern European Country whereby she had a prior arrangement with a male friend she met on Face book to stay briefly at his place before she could find her feet in the foreign land.
Unknown to her, the male friend who gave her a place to stay in his apartment was into hard drug business and to compound her predicament in that foreign land, her host succeeded in luring her to bed and thereby making her pregnant. Both of them hurriedly wedded at the court which guaranteed her permanent residence permit in her new place.
But just before she delivered, her husband was arrested, charged and jailed for many years over drug-related offences and unfortunately for her, the man never made any good plan for her and her expectant baby by way of having bank savings for the up keep of both mother and baby before he regains his freedom.
Miss Precious made several unsuccessful visits to the Nigerian Embassy to seek for assistance which she couldn't get. She was conveniently forgotten abroad by her country. She left the Nigerian Embassy more disappointed than she was before making the fruitless effort to seek for assistance.
The story of Miss. Precious is a replica of what most Nigerians go through in foreign countries.
The British Council office in Nigeria has just released some findings on 'gender in Nigeria report' whereby the researchers found out among other damaging factors that; “Violence is endemic in some public institutions including the police and certain educational bodies, where an entrenched culture of impunity protects perpetrators of this violence…Fear of violence hinders Nigeria's development”.
Writing under the title; “why do Africans migrate to the West? Mr. Moses E. Ochonu blamed widespread poverty and political instability as two major factors responsible for this phenomenon.
His words: “We all know that poverty and economic desperation make people want to move to places of perceived economic opportunity. This is so straightforward that it should not be diluted by any psycho-social invocations. But if we do not define poverty and hardship only in starkly economic terms but also in terms of what one may call “the quality of life”, then it is possible to see how a successful African professional in Africa, although not poor or desperate in the economic sense could be poor and desperate in terms of the quality of his life.”
He stated further; “For analytical convenience, let me call this kind of poverty existential poverty. What I am positing here is what one may also call vicarious poverty, in which poverty is experienced not by the self but indirectly through the trauma of living in the midst of grinding poverty and of being assaulted daily by reminders and images of poverty, economic collapse, and infrastructural problems.”
The story of young Miss Precious typifies a situation whereby government fails to carry out her constitutional duty of protecting lives and property of the citizens while at home and completely lacks any form of remedial assistance for her citizens who are abroad.
To therefore find out that few days back, that the senate President David Mark battled hard to justify this total dereliction of duty on the side of government officials towards the citizenry when he stated that it was not the duty of the Nigerian government to defend Nigerians in conflict with foreign laws regarding drug trafficking in foreign countries, is traumatizing to put it mildly.
His words: “Those who go there to smear the name of the country should not expect protection from the Nigerian government…that we won't take. So leave them there, let them face what they have gone for.”
David Mark who said government of Nigeria was not under any legal obligation to assist Nigerian citizens charged for drug-related offences further stated openly at the plenary session of the senate thus; “…my conclusion is that we have done our best and it should serve as a warning to others. The punishment in those countries is death, so if they misfire they face the punishment”.
David Mark's statement is a proof of what Miss. Precious said when she exclaimed in frustration that Nigerian citizens are forsaken at home and forgotten abroad.
David Mark is wrong and indeed misfired to have drawn such an absurd conclusion that Nigerians in death row for alleged drug offences in Indonesia, Malaysia, among others won't enjoy government assistance because they 'misfired'.
Government is legally obliged to ensure that her citizens abroad in conflict with the law are given fair trials and properly represented by lawyers of their choice.
It is a shame that while government officials allocate all the financial resources to themselves and their family members, majority of Nigerians are left to die from poverty which is the reason why most of them migrate to foreign land in search of greener pastures.
Emmanuel Onwubiko, Head, HUMAN Rights Writers' Association of Nigeria; writes from www.huriwa.com.