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Published On: Wed, Oct 8th, 2014

Victims of insurgency or casualties of a failed system?

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Alhaji Kashim Shettima, Inset- houses burnt by the insurgentsBy Cynthia Mbamalu

You may not appreciate the comfort your home brings whether its thatch roofed or with skylights until you find your home burnt to the ground for no just cause and have to run for safety with nothing but whatever you have on at that very moment. The shock of your reality never sinks in when all you are praying for is a place far away from the monsters of the day. You live through days and night hoping the nightmare is over but each dawn is a reminder of what you have lost and then the reality hits you and you start to look for possible answers to save you from the quagmire of despair engulfing you.

The alarming effects of years of bad governance, corruption is currently gulping in the life of our nation in quanta of small fragments. This is beyond being pessimism but facing reality and accepting that we have long fallen off the horse and must find the strength to hold back onto the reins to drive this nation to our desired home. Do we talk of the victims of insurgency or the casualties of bad governance or perhaps a system that has failed its citizens? A nation’s wealth is not determined by the number of rich men and women or the economic statistics but by the quality of life of an average citizen.

I woke up on Independence Day and truly did not think it would make sense to always lament on the state of the nation in a supposed day of celebration of our independence. But well, it is inevitable, because the more we raise our voices as citizens against the dilapidated state of our nation and the need to chart a new course the better the chances for a new Nigeria. Maybe if we speak up more in unity we would begin to understand that what affects any part of Nigeria affects the whole of Nigeria. In our ignorance to the plight of fellow citizens in any part we lose the true essence of living and meaning of nationhood.

On September 30, 2014, I led a delegation of Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA) election mission to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Girei LGA, Adamawa State to discuss the needs of voters in the camp who should ordinarily participate in the 11th October Bye-Election in Adamawa State. The gate to the camp was a bit crowded by people pleading to be let in. I didn’t understand why they wanted to desperately get into the camp until I noticed the NEMA branded foodstuff wheeled into the camps for the IDP’s.

The insults and stern warning of the men in uniform at the gate issued to these innocent citizens just looking for food did not stop them from pleading and hustling to get into the camp. These were not just hungry people but victims of a system that has failed its citizenry. They represent the very large number of Nigerians who are starved of everything including food in Africa’s largest economy which also ranks amongst largest oil producing nations in the world. Nigerians have a right to a better life, security and at least food. The late Fela Kuti once sang “human rights na my property, you can’t dash me human rights”. Fela is right in every sense of the word because our reality strongly confirms his view. We live in a country where we have are forced to beg for everything including our rights. It is unfortunate that we are yet to understand that our lack of social security is a threat to our National Security. When people have better lives, when the government works for the people, it becomes difficult for citizens to take up arms against the State.

As I walked into the camp, I saw a child crying and a young girl, probably the mother of the child making a futile attempt to comfort him. How does a mother comfort a child when her heart is broken? I finally got to interact with some of the women in the camps asking on their needs for the 11th October Bye Election. One of the ladies spoke with so much pain about her anger with the government. She had a home in Michika Local Government, Adamawa State, she had a source of livelihood and she voted in previous elections from her community. She felt the Government had failed her and her family when they watched as the insurgents tore down their homes and murdered their loved ones. The election or the plan of INEC for the IDPs mattered less to them as all they desire is to return home. She lamented on how previous elections did not change their lives or provide them with any benefit.  As she spoke, the other women beside her nodded vehemently in agreement and looked at my colleagues and I as people who will take their message to the Government to change their situation. Then it hit me, they have hope in Nigeria!

Celebrating Nigeria’s independence should not be about our freedom from colonial rule, but our freedom as citizens. No one is free, if fellow citizens are unanimously held hostages in their father’s land. Hopefully, one day we shall arise as compatriots to sing the songs of our heroes past as we celebrate a true independence day. All then shall we be truly HOME.

Cynthia Mbamalu via twitter @DCynthia M

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