. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dots represent infinities. What are infinities? To me, they are those entities that exist forever and cannot be extinguished. They are expressions of eternity and statements of our history, our present and the future. The 23 dots that herald this article are 23 infinities that have today become etched into Nigeria’s history, and represent martyrs for our country’s future.
On March 15, 2015, over 600,000 Nigerians had dressed up in white shorts, white shirts and trainers – all purchased in preparation for the recruitment exercise of the Nigeria Immigration Service. They had beforehand also purchased a 1,000 Naira scratch card being the requisite for application for registration to participate in the recruitment exercise.
From all across Nigeria, tens of thousands of job applicants trooped to the various test points in their states and adjunct states to participate in a recruitment programme that had only 4,000 slots available. That is not to mention that even within these limited vacancies, most would have already been reserved for the connected of the society who probably would not have attended the exercise.
But the vast majority of those who trooped into these centres did so out of hunger and desperation. They desired to escape from statistics as part of the over 40 million unemployed Nigerians, and the over 62 percent trapped below the poverty line.
23 Nigerians lost their lives on that faithful day across the various test centres due to – and nothing short of – the failure, ineptitude and callousness of the recruitment organiser. The organiser – the Ministry of Interior – had outsourced the exercise to a household company. And after raking in billions of Naira from the sweat of Nigerians, amidst pangs of poverty caused by the government’s incompetence, the result was the death of Nigerians who woke up to hope, chased it, but ended up dead in the pursuit.
In precisely Abuja, Port Harcourt, Minna, Gombe and Benin where the unfortunate deaths occurred, scores were injured from ensuing stampedes. The Minister of Interior, Mr. Abba Moro obtusely came out to inform Nigerians that the cause of the deaths were due to the disobedience and disorderliness of the applicants. Only days after, when he was summoned to the Senate, did he take responsibility and apologise for the unfortunate occurrences which came about as a result of the bad planning of the Ministry and its consultant. That is the kind of government we are stuck with – well, till March 28. And up till this minute, Mr. Moro still presides over the Ministry of Interior! If it were in an upright and sane society, the Minister would most likely have been sacked, if he refused to resign, and undergone or undergoing trial for his mismanagement of office and dereliction of duty.
President Goodluck Jonathan, in his ‘wealth of wisdom’ promised jobs for candidates from the family of each of the deceased and probably called Mr. Moro not to worry about the situation as he had it under control. To Mr. President, the loss of the lives of 23 Nigerians did not matter enough to determine that the person with the utmost responsibility for the failure, in the person of Mr. Abba Moro, needed to be sanctioned through the termination of his appointment. Personal interests – whatever these might be – came first, as usual, and the Minister is still on his beat.
Our uncharismatic Senate chimed in and summoned the Minister in its perfunctory style to listen to his gist of the story and told Nigerians that they will investigate the matter. One year later, there are no results from that ‘investigation’ and the more damning of the facts.
These 23 Nigerians who lost their lives on that fateful day must never be forgotten. We must continue to hold them as martyrs of hope for our nation’s salvation.
These men and women, to me, remind Nigerians of the many deaths, casualties and other forms of trauma arising from the ineptness of this government.
These deceased men and women speak about the unspoken in our country due to the horrific levels of unemployment bedevilling it.
These deceased men and women remind us of the nefarious injustices perpetrated by this government on Nigerians.
These deceased men and women remind us of the nonchalance of Jonathan’s administration to the security of the lives of Nigerians.
These 23 Nigerians we lost on March 15, 2014, represent a cross-section of the 40 million unemployed Nigerians whose future this administration has been insouciant about.
The deaths of these men and women tell the story of 6 years of unprecedented levels of fraud, mismanagement, corruption and sleaze in government.
But also, these 23 passed Nigerians present a call, a message and a dare, to rescue our nation from the hands of a pococurante administration that has failed to do even the least necessary of governments, not to talk of the protection and safeguard of the lives and well-being of its people.
The fraud of the Nigeria Immigration Service recruitment must not go un-remembered. We must continue to remember these men and women whose determined struggle for hope, for survival, for the artifice of transformation, for livelihood and for life brought them to their unfortunate ends.
One year after, these 23 infinities must continue to remind us of our peculiar situation and the duty we must accept to rescue our country. They shall not be forgotten.
Johannes Tobi Wojuola is available at www.google.com/+johanneswojuola