How Much Is Your Life Worth?

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

How much is the life of a typical African worth? Probably nothing. Yes, nothing! Or, at best, a buck; and that’s about it. The vast majority of Africans live in the margins, in utter penury. They are poor, beaten, exploited, damned and condemned. They are the dejected, the rejected, the hopeless, the abandoned, and the ill fated who mostly live in foul and inhumane conditions; they are the wretched of the earth, the perpetual miserables.

How did a continent so rich in human resources ended up being the most underdeveloped of all continents? Well, one need not look too far as corruption and brutality is a common currency in the continent. The history of modern Africa is mostly a history of excesses, gluttony, viciousness, and treacherous behavior on the part of the leaders and elites.

Equatorial Guinea has Obiang Mbasogo. Here was the fellow who, in 1979, violently took over the rein of government from his uncle, the sadistic Macias Nguema. Cameron has Paul Biya, France’s poodle and errand boy, while Congo-Brazzaville has the totally corrupt Sassou-Nguesso. And then there is Omar Bongo in Gabon. In spite of its glorious past, Ethiopia has been the bedrock of anarchy and of vile leaders. Uganda has never had a decent man at the helm of affairs, be it Milton Obote, Idi Amin, or Yoweri Museveni. Until he was forced to leave, Daniel arap Moi almost bled his people dry of their marrow.

Anywhere you go in Africa, the story is about the same: leaders who dehumanize their own people, snuffing the life out of their own, debasing men and women and children. Anywhere you went in Africa the story is the same: children dying from avertable diseases, people living in fear and in appalling conditions and uncertain about the future. Everywhere in Africa, the story is the same: leaders who ran their countries as though the country was their personal possession; leaders who stole and stole and stole and kept on stealing as though they would need the money in the valley of death; leaders who committed more atrocities than the colonialists could ever have imagined.

Sad, isn’t it what Africans do to fellow Africans; what African leaders do to their own nations; what citizens do to fellow citizens; what citizens do to their own countries — it is pathetic and wicked and contemptuous and cruel. What we Africans do to our people and our land and our future is quite shameful and sorrowful.

On a daily basis thousands of Africans lay waste to ethnic and religious conflicts. Nation-states are fighting nation-states, ethnic groups are fighting the nation-state, and groups are fighting groups for share of economic resources, political power, land and other political goods and services.

On a daily basis Africans are dying in high numbers in the desert and in the oceans — as stowaways in ships and planes and trucks — trying to enter Europe and other parts of the world in search of greener pasture. On a daily basis the police, the army, gangs and armed robbers kill thousands of Africans on the streets. Who is more dangerous — the army, police, gang members or armed robbers? No one knows and no one cares.

On a daily basis Africans are sold into slavery and servitude as girls young as 14, 16 and 17 are forced or lured into prostitution. They have no dignity and no education; their lives mean nothing! On a daily basis thousands of Africans are dropping dead like fowls and houseflies from the ill health brought about by water and airborne diseases, and from malnourishment. But more than anything else, thousands of Africans are dying each year from despair and abandonment. Their lives mean nothing to their governments. Nigeria is the greatest disappointment of all. What a sorry sight — a tiger behaving like an ant.

Americans treat their dogs and cats better than the Nigerian government treat her people. Dogs and cats are well fed, they have access to medical care and are loved and cared for and are protected. Not so in Nigeria where the vast majority of humans do not have access to well-balanced meal, to the courts, to health and life insurance, and to medical care, and quality education. Most have never been to the dentist. Never! Dogs and cats in the US have it made; while Nigerians have a life made in hell.

In Nigeria, it is better to die than to be sick. Why? Because Nigerian hospitals are mostly mortuaries-in-waiting. Day after day hundreds of people die on our highways and freeways. Not only are the roads bad and poorly managed, 65% of the vehicles are not road worthy. They are more like Iraqi made improvised explosive devices. Death traps!

In cities like Lagos and Port Harcourt, a lot of people live by the dumpster or refuse-mountain. Traders have their stalls by open and stagnant gutters. Meat and fish sellers’ parade their wares accompanied by houseflies and maggots and other disease carrying agents. How pure is the pure-water merchants sell? No one knows the amount of cancer causing agents we have in the food and water we drink. No one knows what’s in the air we breathe. What we eat and drink and smoke and breathe is gradually killing us.

And so when a neighbor drops dead, we blame the wizards. When our brother or sister develops stomachache, we blame the witch down the street. When we catch the cold, we blame our father’s second or third wife. When we suffer other unexplainable ailments, we blame our spiritual enemies. We blame others for our reckless life style. In years gone, the Europeans came to our continent to trade in humans, and in the process carted away our resources. Today, our own leaders are trading in human life and human dignity.

Who cares about you? Who cares about you Africans? Not your governments and certainly not the international community. Your political leaders and the elites are busy stealing your money, busy doing business with financial institutions in London, Paris, New York and elsewhere. They are busy appropriating your resources to their family members. What if we die? What if we die like chickens and musca domestica? What if we die needlessly and ceaselessly? So what? How much is the life of an African worth, anyway? That a country like Nigeria could not locate a crash site almost 24-hours after an accident tells you a lot about how the country and the government value her citizens…

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Anonymous January 26, 2006 - 8:40 pm

Hi, i am Lanre from Lagos, Nigeria. I am deeply moved by your article. But i dont quite agree wiht you on some issues. I want to believe that you are not aware of the true things of situations here probably because you are away. It is a known fact that Africa is day by day becoming underdeveloped due to ……But what i will want to say is that we should stop arguing about African problem but rather start seeking for creative and constructive way to solve the myriad of problems deep sated. If we continue to talk and complain about it without proferring solutions-we all lose. Because as the Yoruba says " ti aba ni ki adiju ki eni buruku lo, akoni mo igba te ni rere ma tel" -if we deicide to close our eyes for the wicked ones to pass, the righteous one will also pass unnoticed. And my last word for you sir-do always find time to come home. NO PLACE LIKE HOME.I rest my pen!

Anonymous November 16, 2005 - 1:16 pm

Wow. Yet another applaudable effort by the author to stir up the emotions of people by being a true journalist. If no one else does, I appreciate your honesty in delving into and elaborating on matters like this. I agree with the commentator that said, "the ways a people can grow and thrive is to be honest with themselves." but I also believe that it is our civic responsibility to be active in seeing the advancement of our people. it's good to sound the alarm about an approaching enemy, but what good is it if no one attempts to prepare or is prepared for the fight at hand how long will we sound the alarm about the pathetic and egocentric activities of geovernment when will we finally rise up and say, "If you don't care, then we do!"

Anonymous November 15, 2005 - 4:33 pm

naija will never ever change till may the world come to an end by a meteor or God himself come and end the world .

Anonymous November 13, 2005 - 4:09 pm

I read your articles quite often and must admit that I admire your bluntness and honesty. It is my belief that one of the ways a people can grow and thrive is to be honest with themselves. As the scripture states,"The truth shall set you free" I wish Nigeria would change for the sake of her people and for the sake of itself. I also wish her the very best.

Anonymous November 11, 2005 - 5:15 pm

I do agree with comment #6 in that it is balanced. As for the author, he sheds light on what ills Africa and more precisely Nigeria. However, he overgeneralizes his points. Yes! Africa suffers from all kinds of issues but what other continent is totally devoid of what he descibes Please let's tap on the brakes a little here! How about we devote our energy towards long lasting solutions. We are all in this together. At the end of the day….even with all of out issues, I AM PROUD TO BE AN AFRICAN!!!!!!!!

Eazy9ja November 8, 2005 - 10:53 pm

I disagreed with comment#5 by totally condemning comment#3,because the latter part of that comment made a lot of sense. How long are we going to be criticizing government policies without actively participating in anything that could make positive changes. Most of us have gone through the best form of education in the western land,been involved in contributing to the economic bouyancy of our host countries & yet felt no need to actively do anything back home either through investments,politics or engage in any constructive reformations that has positive effects on our social,economic & political situations.

All we do is theoretical submission of reformational policies to the same old people that lack the political & economic wisdom to implement them.Ask Sabella & some other intellectually sound individuals why they have not taken the bold step to go back home to invest or involved in the affairs that affect their people, am sure after finance, they will most likely cite the same reasons of wizards,witches,spiritual enemies or 2nd & 3rd wife of their dads.We need to start from somewhere.

Anonymous November 7, 2005 - 2:13 pm

This is for the unknown user (comment #3). My advice to you is to shut the Fk up and take time to read this article again before you write stupid comments like the one you just did attacking the author.

We are all witness to the attrocities that our so called leaders have brought upon our people because of their insatiable greed. For many of us living in foreign lands, it sadens us to know that the problems facing our continent are easily solved if only the right people are given the chance to govern.

So instead attacking the author for the crime of only trying to stir up the anger in those of us who are feed up with the fifth class lifestyle we are forced to run to on foregin soils, so that we can make changes, sit down and think up ways that we can use to turn the tide against our blood sucking, greedy leaders who want knowing but to continue to run the continent to the ground.

Anonymous November 4, 2005 - 10:59 pm

I commend your write-up for bringing to the public's attention the deplorable conditions which the Nigerian governments have subjected her citizenry to since independence. It is very sad that this present government has failed to provide basic amenities for Nigerians. No good roads, lights, good drinking water, medicare and adequate food supply even though the country is blessed with abundant wealth. The government banned all basic food imports when it could not produce enough locally. Medicare is a no go area for the poor, yet the president's wife died abroad after plastic surgery. Our Minister of Finance is busy talking irrelevance and arrogantly while she could not manage or invest the huge oil revenue (since the Iraq war) on developments projects for Nigerians. Governor Kalu also is claiming to be a billionare, when his State is one of the poorest in Africa. Nigerians need to ask the president when will the redemtion come Enough of these mal-administration and deceits. Government, please use the GOd's given resources of the country to improve the conditions of your people. Nobody is going to do it for your people, but you.

Anonymous November 4, 2005 - 9:57 pm

Haba sabella dis one na blow under the belt..the plane was found in 12 hrs moreover it was not govt. fault as you might want to believe..why can';t bellview install the right equipment or even attend the workshop by FEMA 2 weeks before the crash Okay, how much is the life of New Orleans worth to Americans I will say as much as Africans are right The solution in Africas problem is not our government, but us. The government are not angels they are our children, uncles, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters! Many of our problems are not uniquely african, only dat many africans unlike Chinese or Malaysians will rather complain abroad than go back home and invest, employ people, put their ideas to work, run for government, show the best practices that make their adopted countries work! If you sabella will do so, may be I will follow..I am sure u won't so I am pretty sure Africa will remain hope is that the world market will saturate soon and then the world will need a new market which will make africa attractive then we will have to sit up or we get the 'Saddam Hussein" treatment!

Anonymous November 4, 2005 - 9:01 pm

CEO i agree with you, ants work for the goodness of their colonies. this is just the same way the chinese are working to better their larg population

CEO November 4, 2005 - 2:04 pm

You wrote: "Nigeria is the greatest disappointment of all. What a sorry sight — a tiger behaving like an ant" I beg to disagree; it is the other way around. Ants take time to meticulously build quality ant-hills . The greed of a tiger is the characteristic most Nigerian Leaders have. The tiger will grab and grab and leave a little rotten left-over.


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