Christmas is around the corner but a lot of people are afraid of travelling to spend the season with their loved ones in their country homes. Beside spending so much on the trip, they were also afraid of the high rate of insecurity and violence found in our villages today.
When I was growing up, Christmas was the only period extended families gather to renew their relationships. We used that period to catch-up on events that happened in the village within the year. That period was when most of us learnt much about our villages and our extended family members. We always looked forward to Christmas holidays because we will visit our villages. Then, our rural areas were safe haven.
Things began to change during my undergraduate days. Then, I noticed that the number of people that returned home for Christmas began to dwindle. Speculations had it then that people were afraid of coming back to their villages because they believed that they were targets of their relatives who were witches and wizards. There were many stories that showed that some people that came home for Christmas returned to the city only to die mysteriously after some days. People started pointing accusing fingers at the aged and at those whose children were stationed in the village.
The narratives changed shortly before I went for my youth service. People have learnt how to protect themselves against witches and wizards, as well as from juju, so they were no longer afraid of them. But then, the era of poisoning arrived. This time, the young men were both the victims and the suspects. The claim was that they poisoned each other when they hang out. Nobody knows exactly what was going on, but the truth is that our villages became unsafe.
Today, no one talks about witches and wizards any longer, and poisoning seems to be a thing of the past. The problems we face in our villages right now are robbery, assassination, herdsmen attack and kidnapping. Robbery cases are gradually reducing because most villages have set up functional vigilante groups. As for herdsmen, their problems are way beyond human understanding. These people made themselves gods in most of our villages and no one questions them.
However, the problem of kidnapping has proved itself to be stronger than our village vigilantes. I believe the reason for this is that the people that carryout this heinous act do not dwell in the village, even though they have informants there. These kidnappers have succeeded in making our villages unsafe and the worst thing is that you can’t really tell who their informants are.
No one is free from these kidnappers. They go for the old and the young, male and female, religious and laity. For some time now, priests and pastors have become their targets. Day in day out we hear of their evil deeds and no arrests are made. We hear of how ransoms are paid, how released victims returned or are found dead, how more people are kidnapped and so on and so forth. The country is indeed unsafe.
What I don’t really understand is why these kidnappers freely do their businesses without hitches. Here in Enugu, we keep hearing about people being kidnapped along Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway. We also hear of their operations around Nsukka axis. And these places are unsafe up till now. It is as if these people are having their field day knowing that no one will challenge them.
I don’t know if these kidnappers are faceless. Maybe that is why they cannot be arrested and tried. We keep hearing stories of how they take their victims into deep forests and all; does it mean there is no way those forests could be searched? Besides, I don’t believe these kidnappers live in the forests. These hoodlums are human beings and they live among people. So if the police really want to get them, they will.
Nobody is saying the jobs of policemen are easy, especially when they are underpaid and undertrained; but I believe they can do their jobs of keeping the country safe if they are truly motivated. They should think about the effect of these crimes on the nation’s economy and on her citizens. Nigerians need to feel safe in their homes. They have enough stress already; they don’t need insecurity added to it.
However, for those that wish to travel home and enjoy the Yuletide, I’ll suggest that they stay low and enjoy their holidays quietly and peacefully. They should cut down on flamboyant style to avoid attracting unnecessary attention to themselves. If they want to donate funds for a community project, they should do so quietly. They should feel free and mix up with their clansmen but they should be mindful of what they reveal. Let’s always remember, it’s the house rat that tells the bush one that there is fish in the house. Stay safe.