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Lives matter

Gabriel Amalu
The brutal killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black American, by a ferocious gang of four Minnesota State police officers, has set the United States of America on the boil. Floyd, a minority, by race, was killed by white policemen, after a gangster treatment. A viral video, shows Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, kneeling on the neck of Floyd, like a pew. A plea by Floyd that he couldn’t breathe, caught no ice with the Dracula-policeman, incensed on drinking blood.
As I write, damn social distancing, and all the World Health Organisation’s protocols on the ravaging impact of corona virus pandemic, several American cities, including the city of Detroit, Kentucky, New York, and California, are in turmoil. Shoulder to shoulder, the enraged residents of the cities are on rampage over the unadulterated racism of the policemen. Unfortunately, some rioters have resorted to looting and destruction of public properties over the criminal activity of the policemen, who ordinarily should be in charge of preventing the commission of crime.
The America president, Donald Trump, in his usual brusque cynical manner, showed little sympathy for the aggrieved citizens, calling the violent protesters thugs, and other unprintable names. He has even threatened to send the army to quell what is turning into a rebellion, reminiscent of the several decades of struggle for civil rights, in the United States of America. The slogan, “Black lives matter” has caught the buzz, and the matchers, even threatened the White House briefly, as that 20th century bastion of democracy, was briefly shut-down, while the authorities appraised safety.
The venom in the public arena, shows a seething public discontent with the system. Thanks to social media, the insidious criminality of the policemen would have gone without evidence, and who knows how many of such brutal criminality, by policemen had escaped public scrutiny? In our country, Nigeria, law enforcement agents in their invidious attempt to enforce the nationwide lockdown, earlier in April and May, maliciously killed not less than 18 persons.
While a few of the killings elicited public anger and protest, none can compare to the crisis in the United States of America, over the killing of Mr Floyd. Even with the tepid reactions of Nigerians against the police killings, those in charge must realise that lives matter. Psychologists would tell us that piled up anger is a far greater danger, than instant an emotional outburst. Many of course, believe the present crisis across American cities is a piled-up outburst over the continued discrimination against minorities, especially by the security agencies.
In our country, there are several seething public discontentment, and unless those in charge take steps to change the tide, our nation could upon a significant tweak, go up in flames without notice. While racism is not one of our challenges, because we are of the same race, tribalism and religious bigotry, is a major impediment to national cohesion. One of the greatest charges, against the government of President Muhammadu Buhari is tribalism, particularly in the appointment of public officials.
Many public commentators have complained, against the lopsided appointments by his government without any change. The Igbos which form a significant portion of the population of the country have also complained that Buhari’s government has excluded them from the national security council without any justification. There is also the charge that the government has been favouring those who profess the same faith with the president, while discriminating against others, in making appointments into security agencies.
Even amongst members of the same faith in the north, there is serious tension, between the indigenous Hausas and the Fulani, especially the Bororo stock. In parts of the northwest, the crisis manifests in cattle rustling, and herders and farmers clash. Killings and counter killings, between the rivals have become so permissive, that the society appears numbed about the numbers. The daily carnage, seems to have overwhelmed and numbed the authorities such that a standard template of condolence is the only response after every mass killing.
Further down the middle belt, cruel massacres appear a permanent feature of living. The carnage masquerades as clashes between farmers and herders, in some places. In Plateau and Benue, the claims of an organised genocide is rampant, and each time a wave of killings take place, the local and federal authorities merely throw up their hands in the air, in complete surrender. Between the Tivs and Jukuns, the ancient demon of rivalry, has become more destructive, with the ready availability of sophisticated instruments of mass killing.
In the northwest, for a group, there is a clear declaration that live does not matter. As the vortex of the killing machine, is the Boko Haram, which has declared war on the rest of the country. With a misbegotten brand of Islamic religion as their impetus, the gang of criminals go about decapitating lives and properties. Despite being a rag tag army of bandits, the Nigeria Army, which declared war on the Boko Haram in May 2013, has not been able to defeat the criminals, after more than seven years of military offensive.
Down south, the nation is just a shade safer, with kidnapping, armed robberies, farmers and herders clashes, also rampant. In parts of the southeast, there is a swell of public opinion, that there is a calculated attempt, to use the herders and Almajiris to overrun the territory. Fears of imminent insurgency, has become so notorious that political and socio-cultural organisations, have raised alarms beyond the country. The southwest is no less under a threat, as states in the region have raised a regional security agency as a counter measure.
To make matters worse for the entire country, the burgeoning economic meltdown, has been made worse by the corona virus pandemic. According to some economists, Nigeria would need to spend more than 60% of its estimated income, in the next 10 years to service its local and foreign debts. With over N33 trillion debt overhang, the ratio of the increase in debt profile, cannot equate to the ratio of economic growth. There is also the likelihood that the low growth ratio, may go in the negative direction, if the country goes into another recession.
So, there is every reason, to be wary about the value of life in our country, just as we watch the Americans war, to prove it. Those in authority, whether political, or otherwise, must worry that life in our country, has become: “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”, as wrote Thomas Hobbes in the 17th century. It will be foolhardy, to ignore the signs of distress across the country as the governments at the federal and state levels celebrate another anniversary.

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