By Alex Enemanna
One would probably have remained oblivious that the largest black race in the world, Nigeria is incubating a legion of opportunistic looters and thieves-in-waiting if not for the recent #EndSARS protest sadly hijacked in a Gestapo style by criminal elements scavenging for avenue to unleash mayhem on our people, instigate confusion, rain anoint of tears and eventually gave the noble movement a connotation of negativity.
We are all witnesses to how the protesters coordinated and organized themselves, moving about with waste bins, brooms and other sanitation kits, ensuring they do not litter any part of the city or harass anyone as a result of the procession, steadily maintaining a peaceful atmosphere until the state authorities began to recruit machete-wielding miscreants and hooligans to attack and discredit the movement in apparent desperation to douse the discomfort and heat generated by what appeared to be the first ever twitter-to-street effort of the phone-pressing generation to speak up against catalogue of social injustices meted to them. There was a sharp twist of events from moment the government introduced a black market solution to what requires a strategic thinking, communication and action, which eventually fouled the air and birthed widespread criminality they couldn’t contain. Has the chicken come home to roost?
Irrespective of whatever prism one may wish to see the orgy of raiding and mindless looting across the country in recent times, there is absolutely nothing virtuous in forcefully taking possession of what does not belong to you – hunger, starvation, health challenge, none justifies it. It is traditionally, religiously and morally reprehensible and should be condemned. Interestingly, there is a strike of balance in federal character principles as no region of the country is left of the festival of looting and raiding, including the Federal Capital Territory where unpatriotic scavengers of palliatives broke into NYSC orientation camp in Kubwa, carted away mattresses, office fittings, just anything they could lay hand on, while some event became emergency corps members, taking selfie with NYSC uniforms, desecrating our national identity and further battering our already precarious image.
Admissibly, we were initially made to believe they are hungry and deprived Nigerians reeling under the pain of poverty, therefore, resorted to taking their destiny into their hands by embarking on the voyage of discovery of storehouses of COVID-19 palliatives, taking a cue from Lagos that opened the floodgate of breaking and looting of palliatives in its Maza-Maza warehouse. Sadly, it has since gone beyond ‘hungry Nigerians looking for food’ slogan. What we see today is sheer criminality, stealing, thievery and robbery of both public and private investments.
There is no better way to look at what is happening other than an interstate looting match, with each trying to outdo the other. Abia, Kaduna, Taraba, Ekiti, Cross River, Osun, Kwara, Plateau, Kogi, Oyo, many others have had their fair share of raiding of public facilities, private businesses and homes, even as the enemies of our country continue to pontificate on how much footprint of wreckage they have left us with. How long shall we continue inflict injuries and pains in the hearts of our fellow countrymen? How long shall we continue to feed them with the bread of agony and water of bitterness?
In Oyo for instance, the criminals invaded the home of Senator Teslim Folarin of Oyo Central, carted away empowerment materials said to worth about N200 million, scheduled for distribution among constituents December. We watched in utter amazement and consternation how they flew into the thin air with about 300 motorbikes, fridges, food items, congratulating themselves, giving themselves ‘high 5,’ grinning in fanfare after an evasive robbery. Shopping malls, banks, business ventures are currently counting their losses as a result of the criminal looting visited on them. They are in state of confusion, weeping, wailing, for their means of livelihood is gone. Suffice to say that a very great number of them are heavily indebted to loan houses from where they sourced their capitals. Who will shoulder their pains? The carnage in terms of willful and malicious damage was massive all over the country. The dozens of BRT buses torched in Lagos means more difficulties for millions of commuters. Will residents suffer for these? No doubt. The enemies went berserk, setting fire on just anything, including media houses, police stations, markets et al. Call it opportunistic criminality, you won’t be wrong.
This writer is in total agreement that no responsible government should hoard foods made available courtesy of kindheartedness and generosity of fellow citizens through the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) while our people starve. It is criminal. We have also read the excuses being bandied by some states that they were yet to receive a nod from CACOVID to distribute the palliatives, yet some states including Bauchi and Borno dispensed of theirs without hesitation and no part of the heaven fell. Whatever the reasons are, the entire scenario cannot be extricated from the question of trust and confidence of our people in those presiding over our affairs. These items could find their way to the market tomorrow through the backdoor or end up as campaign kits. That is the hub of the people’s concern.
Most often, we fiercely criticise those in positions of authority for plummeting and looting our common patrimony. The poser we must ponder on is, are we any better? Most often, we raise the question of moral on those presiding over our commonwealth, have we asked ourselves, in what way are we better? In our small enclaves, community association, trade unions, peer groups, how much sense of leadership do we exhibit? Again, the collapse of family system has further raised a litany of willing thieves and looters who see any opportunity to curry undue advantage as a divine blessing. ‘Chinedu that went and looted one bag of rice is he not your fellow man’? ‘Where were you when Wale your mate brought home air-conditioner from the orientation camp’? ‘Haruna that carted away one freezer, does he have two heads?’ These are questions you are likely to be confronted with by aberrant parents, as against open scolding and condemnation of criminal behaviours.
A nation of religiosity, where Fridays and Sundays are nightmarish to innocent road users, yet a safe haven for vicious and intending looters. No amount of sermon can change a heart so mired in criminal intents. We cannot achieve the society of our dream if all we think about is to unduly feather our nests on the misery of fellow countrymen. There must be an inner conviction to do what is right even when nobody watches. We don’t need to be chased around with horsewhip like livestock before we can exhibit acts of patriotism.
It is enough that our delicate economy is grappling to survive the effects of COVID-19 before the looting and destruction bazaar struck. Any more attempts on it could spell a doom on us all. Enough!
..Alex Enemanna is an Abuja-based journalist.