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Deflating tension in the land

By Theo Adebowale
Murmur, complaints, malice, discord, grudge, conflicts, protests crisis, insurgency, militancy, insurrection are common features in Nigeria at all levels. Siblings quarrel with the only brother in the hometown because they have information that he parades himself as landlord of their father’s house. Though they have no time to visit home for between six and ten years as they have to fend for themselves, is that enough reason for the “impostor” to be landlord of that building? In the church, some worshippers are displeased because they were not nominated to serve in some strategic committees or capacities.

Agreed that they do not have time to attend regular services, is that sufficient to exclude them from the Parochial Church Council? Then the Residents Association. Why must only non-indigenes occupy the EXCO? If the quarter is occupied by non natives who bought all the plots of land, why can’t they invite or coopt, the original settlers to serve in the EXCO? Political parties are most criticized. Those ones have special recognition for financiers. As if they were pipes, it is those who fund the political parties that dictate policies. Officials, elected and appointed have no need for opinion or input of the voters. Is this how to run a democracy? Shasha markets are springing up all over Yoruba land. Northern traders acquire large portions of land in outskirts where they make to erect structures for religious observancies and residence. Having purchased the property, they tend to regulate procedure of commercial intercourse. They forbid native traders to make bulk purchase of local farm produce. They want to buy avocado, pineapple, orange from Ore suburbs and sell to market women (retailers) in Ore the host community. They are not satisfied with the control of prices of tomato, potato, pepper, beans, onion, tumeric and others from the North. They want to bulk purchase food crops from Ogbese, Ita-Ogbolu, Ilu Aabo brought to Shasha in Oba-Ile. Similarly, several groups now have associations, apart from official regulatory bodies determining who may start or operate a new school, barbing salon, car wash, block making outfit. They have packed a heavy burden to impose on new entrants, to discourage fresh graduates who may want to activate entrepreneurial skills acquired from tertiary institutions. Local lords are to be found in every sector and at every level.

National Food and Drug Agency (NAFDAC) was established by the Federal Government to ensure compliance with global practices. But local agencies are on ground to mitigate against such attempts physically and spiritually, to abort their efforts. No one must fool himself that since he has fulfilled official righteousness he can get protection because officials would rather collude with local principalities and powers rather than stand in defense of victim. The other day, a motorcyclist, in contravention of traffic light, drove into the traffic, and got knocked down in front of Akure Town Hall. You would not believe it. The police, and traffic wardens disappeared within a twinkle of an eye. Then miscreants took the law into their hands. This was the only way traffic officials could maximize the extortion from the misfortune of a law abiding citizen.

Places of worship have become a major part of the problem. There is proliferation of churches without recourse to town planning regulations. With connivance of officials, layout plans are set aside even in Government Reservation Areas. Churches are set up indiscriminately while any compound can have a mosque with high decibel loud speakers that have no regard for members of the community, their health, or commitments. Would you then imagine why frustration is boldly written on the forehead of Nigerians? It would not have been otherwise when government itself does not care to protect the taxpayer. It does not occur to officials that payment of taxes and levies qualifies the payee to enjoy certain rights to sustain his patriotism, and to motivate others to do likewise. Hence failure to protect the rights of citizens continues to encourage default.

Not a few Nigerians have mastered the art of self-defense. Sentiments are introduced at random. While contesting a space in the market a Muslim would mobilize other faithfuls to repel or expel an infidel. An “immigrant” would instigate his townsmen to protect him from being ejected from a farmland. They don’t bother to confirm the authencity of the claim of the rabble rouser. They rise in defense of a compatriot, and disturb the peace of community. In this way, many are disgruntled becoming potential recruits for uprising.

To remove the frustration on the face of the citizen requires immediate bold steps. We need to be educated about the rules guiding tenancy in the village, who enforces the rules, and sanctions for violation as well as reward for compliance. There must be on ground a local council official in the market to protect the rights of a recognized occupier who has paid her levies from a bully violating her rights. The local chief must have power to recognize farm owner and protect his plot and crops from any trespassers. Bye law must be simple and not ambiguous. House owners must know their obligations and securing redress must be so simple that citizens are not prey to law enforcement agents. Solutions to problems of the local level must be simple, affordable and prompt.

State and Federal Governments must also strive to reduce conflicts and contraventions as on highways, where dilapidated infrastructure has hindered observation of traffic rules Road signs have disappeared, zebra crossings are hard to find in our urban centers. Many motorists in Oba-Ile and Akure in particular are in the habit of driving against traffic making the roads unsafe. The Motor Traffic Division of the Nigerian Police; and the Federal Road Safety have so much to do in this case better than concentrating energy on arresting private motorists for non-use of seat belts, while overlooking overloading of commercial vehicles all over the state.

Economic hardship in the land makes citizens vulnerable to attacks, injuries arising from avoidable disputes, crisis, conflicts, quarrels and antagonism. We can diffuse tension at the micro level and thereafter have enough resources to deploy to tackle the more serious issues at the macro level. We would then be able to free official agencies, departments and institutions from distractions to enable them focus on lawful assignments without interruption or disruption by interest groups including both the associational and anomic.

Owena Press Limited (Publisher of The Hope Newspaper), Akure

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