Rural Communities No Longer Safe: Which Way Nigeria?
There is this common comparison of hometowns among young lads when we were growing up. We would tease each other with the level of development in our various hometowns. There was one particular episode that has stayed glued to my memory over the years. My brother and his friend were having that argument as usual. “My village open pass una own by far, don’t even try to compare that your small shikene village to my own”. This was the opening remarks made by my brother. “Let person hear word, wetin dey una village? Nor be only witchcraft una sabi?”, his friend fired back. “We get specialist hospital, we get community bank, we get light. You, wetin una get?” My brother said boastfully, declaring the competition open. His friend replied in self defence, “we get standard grammar school, light go soon reach our village, we get standard health centre, nor be like that hospital when just get big name for una village when nor get instruments. Our own get everything complete and dem dey work”. It was obvious that this guy’s village was too small to compare with ours. Ours was actually the headquarters of a major local government council in a senatorial district of the state, so it was like comparing Lagos State with Zamfara, or with Abia state.
But then, my brother who was gliding to victory soon found himself on the defence. “We nor fit count the number of schools wen dey my village, even private schools sef dey. Not to talk of police station!” He added, to give the guy a final punch. Fortunately for the guy, what was supposed to be the final blow, became his lifeline and he did not hesitate to hold on to it. “Una get police station for una village because na thief full una village. We nor need police station for our village because we nor dey thief for our side”, he responded to my brother’s attack with so much confidence. He kept laying emphasis on the police station in the village and the presence of thieves.
That argument always remind me of a particular comprehension passage written by a very popular English language teacher in Benin city some years ago (Mr Francis Erhahon). An excerpt of the passage was used in one of poetry work which I titled “What then is Life?” And it goes thus:
“Each time I walk past the iron gate and step into the living room. I feel like an helpless captive, looking at the windows heavily fortified with strong iron bars. I see a little difference between me and man immediate cousin in the zoo, the Apes. And I cannot help asking, why need I encase myself from the beautiful serene world outside, while I go to sleep?
Of course the answer is obvious, to escape the wrath of his victims, man the burglar, finds the dark hours of the night the most suitable to perpetuate his evil acts. Then the hired assassins, the kidnappers brothers, who would trail a man home and gun him down.
It wasn’t so years ago prior to my transfer from the village school. There the windows had no protectors, the fence was made of tall plants and beautiful flowers. And the window is left open to let in breeze, while the door is closed merely to announce to the world that the activities of the day has ended.
There burglars find no expression for their intent, for the simple reason that we have little or nothing to steal. We were simple, rustic folks, we own little more than the clothes we wear. And everybody till the land to obtain enough to eat…”
This was the case of rural areas we knew years back. Just as my brother’s friend argued, they had no need of police post as there was no crime to warrant police intervention. But today the story is different. For over three months now, the people of Urhonigbe in Orhiomwon local government area of Edo state, have been calling on the state commissioner of police to replace the two policemen that have been manning the police post in their village, who have now retired from the Nigerian Police Force. The effort they’ve made despite the hiccups, shows that they really have need of police presence in their community. What must have made a village that before now has no need of a police post to start requesting for a complete police station, shows that something had gone wrong.
We now hear of gunmen attacking police stations in rural areas and killing police officers, as it was reported in Afuze, Owan-East local government area of Edo state. Rural areas that were supposed to be safe haven for those running from the hustling, bustling and atrocities in the city, have now become a nightmare of its old self.
Now we cannot retire to our villages and enjoy the cool serenity of nature in peace? We cannot leave our windows open anymore to allow the freshness of nature to meander through, as we enjoy our sleep in the coolness of the night. From Edo to Zamfara, From Ondo to Adamawa, from Cross River to Kaduna, the story is the same. If it is not gun men chasing you from your sleep, it will be herdsmen chasing you from your farm. The communal love and brotherhood that once characterised our rural communities is completely gone.
The city is not safe, the village is not safe, where is now safe for us to dwell? For how long are we going to live like Apes in the zoo under heavily fortified iron bars, and high block fenced houses? Crime has made us prisoners of ourselves.
What then is Left of What is Right?
Social Watcher, Edo State.
IDEDE Oseyande, a graduate of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, is an unrepentant believer in the Nigeria project.
His concern for the actualisation of a prosperous nation and the continent, in general, is reflected in his written works.
He currently runs an online advocacy platform (www.socialwatchdog.ng) where he engages the government and the people.
Among his published works are ‘What is Left of What is Right?’, ‘The Portrait of a Revolutionary Leader’ and ‘Warri No Dey Carry Last’.
He is a guest writer for several blogs and his Attitudinal and Behavioral Coaching classes has transformed many lives.