–Nnaemeka Oruh (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Everybody talks about the bad image that Nigeria has internationally. While I accept that this is true, what irks me is that nobody devotes time to addressing the reasons for the proliferation of crimes by Nigerians all over the world. I do not believe in heaping blames without taking into consideration the reasons for the actions carried out by people. I believe that analysing the prompts to actions helps to offer an effective solution to the problems which such actions create.
The main criminal acts attributed to Nigerian youths(I am highlighting the ones that could be said to be largely peculiar to Nigeria even though they are not so) are internet scam; bunkering, and profit oriented kidnapping. I used “profit-oriented” to qualify kidnapping here in order to differentiate it from the type of kidnapping that is prompted by the beliefs of a particular cause. In Nigeria, kidnapping is a profitable venture. Of these three “crimes”, two have specifically placed us on the international map, hence contributing immensely to the negative image of Nigeria in the international community. These two are internet scam and kidnapping.
Obviously, the major thing the youths gain from engaging in these two listed crimes is money. Money they say is the root of all evil. Here however, it is much more than that. It is what ultimately defines if you are alive or not. Let me explain.
Firstly, those who claim to be our leaders have no feelings whatsoever for the betterment of the country. While infrastructural development is picking up gradually, nothing has been done in the area of true governance. I define true governance as the type of governance that focuses on human management. Consequently, jobs are scarce and in most cases reserved. By reserved, I mean that jobs are exclusively kept for the children or relatives of men and women who have already made it in the society. So it becomes a case of he who has, is given more, and he who does not have, what he has, is taken away from him. So the children of the rich and influential in the society continue to have access to all the good things in the society while the children of the poor and unconnected continue on the path of poverty and lack(on rare occasions though, a lion-hearted “nobody” breaks into this clique of the favoured and is reluctantly accepted).
In cases where a facade is put up and job opportunities made open to all comers, the applicants are expected to have numerous years of “working experiences”. The question remains, how would the fresh graduate get the much needed years of working experiences? Granted that there have been sporadic instances of graduate trainee opportunities created by some companies in recent years. However these opportunities are so few and far in between that they are nothing more than a tiny scratch on the surface of the nation’s staggering unemployment troubles.
But is unemployment reason enough for anybody to engage in crimes? Some will say that it is not an excuse. Of course, it may not be a valid excuse. But I will tell you how it becomes a major factor. And it is this following premise that I argue, is the major reason behind the crimes in this country.
The Nigerian society is built on a framework of money-defines-personality. To gain respect and relevance in the this society, you must have money and sometimes, so much of it. A man without money in Nigeria is derided, spat on, and treated as a piece of trash by not only outsiders, but also by his own family. Most times, to even get a good wife, you must have money to be even able to walk up to a woman and propose otherwise, it would be termed as an insult. Our very existence is firmly hinged on the supreme importance of money and all it brings. So to be‘alive’ in Nigeria, you must make money.
The supremacy of money in our society is the reason why politicians get into power and see it as an opportunity for aggrandizement. Let me buttress with an anecdote. I have a family friend who at two points in his political career was a local government chairman, and later a commissioner. Everytime people gather to talk about him, they always say; “stupid man that was in government twice and could not even build a house for himself”. So then, government positions are recognised as lucrative job opportunities such that when you get there and do not come out very rich, you are considered a failure: the supremacy of money mentality. This is what has contributed immensely to the high level of corruption in the Nigerian society.
The supremacy of money mentality is also what has resulted in the proliferation of internet crimes and kidnapping by Nigerian youths. These youths have to be relevant in society and with scarcely existent positive means of making money available, they had to take to crimes. I like to put it this way; the need to make themselves socially relevant had made the politicians hold tight to all the country can give out to her numerous citizens thus leaving nothing for the poor “unconnected” youth. The unconnected youth too, needs to be socially relevant hence he had to create his own “mineral resources”. That was how internet scam and kidnapping(and indeed bunkering) were born. These crimes are the deprived youths’ means of satisfying society’s demands of what living is all about.
Somewhere in our evolution as a country, we subconsciously(or perhaps consciously) enthroned money king. This has remained as the root cause of the many problems we have in this country. It is quite obvious that every success in Nigeria is measured by how much money it brings. You tell somebody that Tuface Idibia won the BET Award for Best International Act(Africa) in 2011 and the person immediately says “En don blow ooo!” and then asks “How much is the award worth?”This is exactly how our society is, and it is the path that our thought processes follow.
My summation here then is that it is the Nigerian society’s enthronement of money as king that is the major cause of the numerous problems we are having. If somehow during our evolution we had contrived to place patriotic and noble acts above every other thing, the crimes perpetrated by the youths and indeed by all and sundry in this country would not have been so blatant. An American policeman is willing to serve his motherland and upon retirement be rewarded with a plaque and wrist watch which he cherishes above all things. But the average Nigerian prefers monetary reward to anything else in this world. It is the society we created. It is the society we are living in. To find a solution, we need to start by changing the society’s mentality. A possibility? I will say it is a very difficult one.