Over the years, Nigerians had been known as some of the happiest people in the world.
Some years ago, the World Happiness Report (WHR), which ranks 155 countries by their happiness, ranked Nigerians as the 6th happiest people in Africa and the 95th happiest in the world.
In 2003 the World Values Survey also reported that the world’s happiest people lived in Nigeria. The study, which was carried out over a period of three years, reported that Nigeria beat more than 65 countries to claim the top spot.
In 2012, a Gallup poll revealed that Africans were the world’s most optimistic people. In Nigeria specifically, 88percent of people were optimistic about their future.
Today, the story has changed. Nigerians are no longer smiling. Signs of stress and of prolonged suffering are daily on the faces of many Nigerians.
The nation’s long history of being happy has faded with the increasing poverty in the land and the resultant increasing wave of insecurity.
Last year, Nigeria was rated as the poverty capital of the world. The country just exceeded India with the largest rate of people living in extreme poverty. The report revealed that about 86.9 million of her population lived in severe poverty.
The latest unemployment rate released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) puts the figure at 33.3 percent. It stated that Nigeria’s unemployment rate was the second-highest in the world.
According to NBS, one in three Nigerians able and willing to work had no jobs in the fourth quarter of 2020.
The figure translated to some 23.2 million people, the highest in at least 13 years.
Contrary to the lyrics of the late Fela Anukulapo’s ‘Suffering and Smiling’ song, which made much sense in the past, Nigerians are no longer smiling. The suffering is now deep-seated.
There is palpable anger and fear in Nigeria. Reasons for being angry are legion.
There is an army of skillful, able-bodied men and women who are wasting away without encouragement from government; a mass population of citizens who pay for electricity they do not use; who are harassed in the day by official armed men and at nights by criminals. The country appears not to hold any hope for the future as leaders think only about themselves.
There are many who have been driven away from their ancestral homes by herdsmen. Yet, there are many others who cannot access their farms for the fear of being killed or raped by invading herdsmen.
Whether people are in their homes; on the road; workplaces, schools or in the market, they no longer feel safe. There is no safe haven in the country.
Many Nigerians in the Diaspora are even more angry at what is happening in Nigeria than those who reside here. When they read about the things going on in Nigeria their hearts bleed.
Some of them that had been kidnapped once or suffered one loss or the other upon their visit home have since sworn never to come home again unless there is a clean bill of health on Nigeria that such high level of insecurity no longer exists.
When a state is afflicted by a precarious economy, a volatile polity and a doubtful security apparatus, it is on its way to joining the league of failed states.
Unity, love and peace which once existed in Nigeria, appear to have gone.
People are now taking arms against the country because in their estimation, Nigeria has failed them.
The level of anger and despondency has already started to produce its unwanted offspring in the country.
Recent African history is replete with the story of states that have literally disappeared or fallen into palpable dysfunction as a result of the shooting down of the government in the capital by armed insurgents advancing from the bush.
Uganda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cote d’Ivoire have in one form or the other suffered this fate with varying degrees of horror.
Apart from the danger daily being posed by criminals who wield all manner of dangerous arms in all corners of the country, even those who are licensed to bear arms have turned a huge threat. They too are angry folks.
A policeman that goes home with a peanut salary, with seven children or more and too many responsibilities on his shoulders; pulls the trigger at a slightest provocation while on his beat.
He is angry with a society that gave him gun without food. He is angry at everybody, because to him, it does not make sense to put the burden of the country on him when he, himself, is in dire need of help.
Then, you talk about too many illegal guns in wrong hands; and nobody cares. From East to West, and from North to South, the story is the same. Too many arms in the hands of wrong and angry people, and innocent citizens are bearing a huge brunt of the madness.
Although the country still retains some number of fairly trained security forces, they are poorly equipped to meet the security needs of the 21st Century Nigeria.
The wave at which sophisticated arms and ammunition are being procured and deployed for criminal purposes calls for serious concern.
A concerned analyst said: ‘In the absence of constitutional guarantees that empower people to bear arms either for self defence or as part of their cultural attire, the possession of lethal weapons by persons not authorised to do so is the most obvious symptoms of a doubtful sovereignty, incipient insurgency and even the seeds of civil strife. The latter possibility should be of greater interest for a country that has managed to survive our nasty civil war.”
The culture of thuggery introduced by the Nigerian brand of politicians who always want to win at all cost may have also given birth to the excessive violence in society.
With the return of the civil rule in the country, the politicians began to see power as a do-or-die affair and in the mad crave to win at all cost they began to acquire dangerous weapons to outdo one another.
In the South East, although the struggle for the revisit of Biafra was initially a peaceful move, it appears that the latter-day agitators are not all brandishing olive branches.
The Nigeria Police and military have severally accused them of bearing dangerous arms. The allegation may not necessarily be dismissed by a wave of the hand considering the wave of crises going on in that region currently.
Observers say that many youths who had been frustrated by the prevailing economic circumstances in the country, whose degrees, higher certificates and skills no longer guarantee them their daily meal may have decided to take the odd and hard way to eke out a living, hence the excessive criminality in society.
Lamenting the danger of the illegal arms in the hands of angry folks, ChidiAmuta, a publicist and former university don, lamented that today, it appears that states have lost the capacity to guarantee security of lives and property.
Amuta, who made the observation during an exclusive interview with BusinessDay, said: “The capacity of the state to guaranteeing security of lives and property is also a function of the state of the economy. It is the duty of the sate to buy guns; to maintain a police force, military and all which is superior to those of the ones challenging them. But a situation where non-state actors are now challenging the state, in the area where the state used to have monopoly; then there is problem.”
The publicist recalled: “In those days, if you hear that government is coming, you run away because government has uniform and has guns. But today, uniforms and guns are no longer a monopoly. In fact, non-state actors- the militants and all the others- even have bigger guns. Theirs is even more frightening.
“Armies and soldiers have a protocol for deployment of forces. Now, a militant or terrorist has no protocol, they have no rule of engagement; in fact, the bigger the gun a person wields, the more the person is a commander. And as a result of that, insecurity which breeds instability becomes the order of the day.”
According to him, “Easily, the most attractive economy in the West African region, Nigeria, clearly offers a lucrative market for the thousands of illegal arms unleashed by civil war and insurgency in the sub-region. Absorbed in its own all too frequent internal convulsions and an exaggerated sense of sub-regional importance, Nigeria seems to have surrendered to the corrupt culture of those paid to protect its borders. So, nearly anything from dilapidated cars to military tanks can literally be ferried across the country’s land borders and entry ports.”
Povertyin the country has made it a fertile environment for easy recourse to violence as a means of settling disputes that would ordinarily require peaceful adjudication and arbitration.
The pressure on individual and group survival has driven neighbouring communities to reach for each other’s jugular over minor boundary disputes, over farming, fishing or mining rights and claims. In order to gain the upper hand in these skirmishes, the political elite have been known to place at the disposal of the combatants considerable amounts of cash and access to weapons.
“When peace and order are restored, these arms somehow manage to find their way into a swelling arsenal of a nationwide underground army of bandits, armed robbers, contract killers and freelance gunmen,”Amuta said.
According to him, “In this thriving sub-sector, arms are sold, rented or hired for a fee with a definite profit sharing arrangement between the owners of the arms and the end users who are often criminals.
“Crime investigations have sometime revealed an uncanny relationship between criminal gangs and the law enforcement agents. Police and military personnel have been known to sometimes make their officially assigned weapons available to criminals for a fee or themselves use such weapons to commit crimes sometimes in government uniform.”