[By ‘Yemi Aamolekun]
A few nights ago, a man holding a gun told my friend, “I fit shoot you and nothing go happen.” It was said in jest. He was wearing a uniform, and my friend had said something cynical to him about him wasting his time at the junction, and he’d have been better off servicing Burna Boy. They both laughed.
But here is the thing, many Nigerians have been told similar words by policemen, standing at roadblocks, and wearing the same uniform, and for the most part there is a reason they can say such things: it’s largely true. Policemen in Nigeria have shot people and gone back to work; the same day. Have we forgotten that behaviour like this from the police is what propelled the 2020 #EndSARS protests?
It says a lot about where Nigeria is as a country, but here is the thing: impunity in Nigeria has become democratised, and we’re now all in on the act, from the immigrations officials asking for handouts at our airports, thus setting a bad name for the country at the point of entry to the kidnappers and killers who never get arrested for their activities, and, as my friend explained, even to him, when he looks away when he sees something wrong because he feels helpless and wonders if his intervention will change anything. For me, the worst days are the days when I know the people I’m trying to help will turn on me!
That indifference is the most dangerous. You see, this indifference ties into everything; from the national grid collapsing, according to some reports, for the 17th time so far in 2022, to political aspirants sharing dollars and delegates giving accounts publicly on how they spent the money. Have we forgotten the robber-governors that were pardoned? It’s simple: nothing happens, and as humans, we respond to incentives.
There is now every incentive to do what would be seen as wrong elsewhere because you’re likely to get away with it. It’s the reason why despite all of Buhari’s commiserations, we’ve not seen the perpetrators of any of the 68 mass murders since 2019 inside of a courtroom and he was still making empty promises during his Democracy Day speech.
I choose to believe that there’s a lot of opportunity for youth inclusion in Nigerian politics. And that resurgence is around the corner. The 2020 #EndSARS protest is a major pointer to the power of a focused, passionate and charged youth bloc. And in the words of Kailash Satyarthi, “The power of youth is the commonwealth for the entire world. The faces of young people are the faces of our past, our present and our future. No segment in the society can match the power, idealism, enthusiasm and courage of the young people.”
Why would other would-be murderers not happily go murdering? Why would I not join in the free for all if I get appointed to office? There’s a reason it’s termed, “free-for-all”. We’ll do it and nothing will happen!
I think Nigeria’s current problems start with impunity. Every other thing comes a distant second. We don’t need new laws with regard to the most basic things, we need to enforce, fairly and without favour, already existing laws. Unfortunately, anyone who gets into office and attempts to enforce our laws will be seen as biased because the culture of impunity is now so pervasive.
It’s the moral authority that Buhari was expected to bring to the table in 2015. He failed woefully. Eight years later, is it Atiku or Tinubu that’ll bring that moral authority to the table?
(adapted from a Twitter thread by @chxta.)
‘Yemi Adamolekun is the Executive Director of Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE Nigeria). She has an MSc in Development Studies from the London School of Economics (LSE) and an MBA from Oxford University’s Said Business School.