Every once in a while the hand of the Benevolent Force which I am convinced guides the affairs of this nation shows up to draw our attention to some of the fundamental things wrong with us as a people by allowing some things to go awry, sometimes with tragic consequences. Unfortunately, each time He does that, we do not seem to draw any useful lessons from the thing that has gone wrong or the tragedies that resulted from them. Instead, we choose to bellyache or focus our attention on the symptoms of the problems that have been thrown up and ignore the roots of the problem.
Last Saturday’s national tragedy in which 15 young Nigerians have been confirmed to have died in the Nigerian Immigration Service nation- wide recruitment exercise is one such example. Last year, an attempt by the NIS to conduct the recruitment failed because of allegations of widespread ‘’rigging’’ of the exercise by the high and mighty in the society. You see, it is a fact of Nigerian life known universally among Nigerians that each time a Government ministry, department or agency has vacancies to fill, letters will fly from all places high and low sending lists of men and women to that MDA pleading with, or more appropriately intimidating, that MDA that the persons on their list should be given prime consideration. Such letters also come from places as high as the Presidency! In other words, people from the Presidency who should be the first to frown at such things are the very persons who use the power and influence of that office to subvert rules of proper conduct of public affairs! And nothing happens.
Last year’s failure of the NIS to carry out the recruitment and the controversy that followed which claimed the position of the organisation’s head, is, according to the Minister of the Interior, Comrade Abba Moro, what led to the decision to hold the event nation-wide, on the same day and for all the candidates to be administered the same test in order to ensure a level playing field for everybody.
It is therefore a tragic irony that a well- meaning attempt to be fair, just, open and transparent has led to the terrible misfortune that befell the nation last Saturday. Unfortunately, instead of engaging in sober reflection, trying to ask what I consider some salient questions, we have chosen, in our characteristic manner, to get hysterical which will not in any way address the fundamental question of why hundreds of thousands of young Nigerian graduates turned up for an aptitude test for a job that only about 5, 000 stood a chance of getting. As far as I can see, while we are very much in order in lamenting the senseless death of 15 young compatriots, the lesson we ought to learn is that we have a serious unemployment problem on our hands which is as serious a threat to our nation as the Boko Haram insurgency.
To me, the tragedy also raises the issue of disorderly conduct that has become our national culture. We Nigerians seem to abhor order, decency and discipline. Anyone who saw some TV footages of what happened at the National Stadium Abuja where some Immigration officials were trying to share what looked like the question paper to the anxious and extremely disorderly hordes will understand the point am seeking to make here. If both the officials and the exam candidates had been raised to value order, discipline and patience and these virtues had become ingrained in their psyche, the tragedy of last Saturday would not have occurred. We Nigerians are known all over the world as a people who hate queues and order.
Many government officials who have been similarly tasked with the responsibility of conducting some recruitment test as the NIS officials were called upon to do last Saturday report about how many desperate job seekers who are not shortlisted and therefore not invited for the test turn up and gatecrash to write the exam, stretching the efforts of the test conductor to breaking points.
The late MKO Abiola once said in one of his numerous proverbs that the bigger the head the bigger the headache. God has made us Nigerians to be so numerous. We are a multitude. And unemployment has so ravaged our land that when you are looking for 30 persons to recruit and you duly place an advert, over 300, 000 will turn up seeking to be the among the about 0.1 per cent of those who will be lucky. Given this reality, one of the lessons to learn from the Saturday incident and similar previous ones is that our officials must be well trained in crowd management and orderliness. As a man who always looks up to the Bible for guidance on contemporary matters, I realized that when the Lord Jesus Christ wanted to do a miracle of feeding a multitude of 5,000, he bade his disciples to ask the people to sit down in an orderly manner.
That was because he knew that when a multitude realize that they are going to compete for too few things that will not go round, a stampede inevitably ensures and in the process many are often trampled under the foot as happened in several parts of the country last weekend.
I am usually distressed that when a calamity happens, our first instinct is to either politicize it, or religionise it, or regionalize it or ethnicise it. I am the more pained when those people who are usually wiser after an event happens begin to pontificate about what was not done or what was wrongly done or what ought to have been done. .I know that if they were the ones given that opportunity they would not have done any better yet they are the ones who speak the loudest and apportion the strongest blame.
And because we adopt the blame game approach, no useful lesson is ever learnt. We merely bid time, waiting for the same or similar mistake or tragedy to take place again only for us to behave as we did the last time a similar thing happened. That tragedy did not happen because a PDP government is in power or Abba Moro is minister of interior or Parraddang Is Controller-General of Immigration. Knowing us as well as I do, I am pretty sure that if an APC or LP or APGA party men were in power at the national level and if other persons other than Moro and Parraddang were in charge of Immigration, it could still have happened. My point is that when a mishap such as happened on Saturday happens, it is time for sober reflection rather than an opportunity for politicking or engaging in unhelpful bellyaching which does not help the situation.
Article written by Idang Alibi
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