Lessons From Margaret Hill

Last week, we were all shocked by the embarrassing news that a three-year old British girl Margaret Hill had been kidnapped by unknown gunmen at the Mgbuoba area of Port Harcourt. A week earlier, a similar fate had befallen a three year old Nigerian boy. We have been watching with undisguised disinterest, as this ugly trend grow from a slightly understandable level, to this completely preposterous stage. In the end, the recurring abductions are credited to the efforts of Niger Delta ‘militants’. And what are the ‘militants’ doing? We are told that they are using the abductions as means of presenting their grievances against the exploitation – without adequate compensation – of their lands, by the oil companies. A careful analysis shows that the abductions are prompted by personal needs.

Now, here is how it works. If the abductions are motivated by communal needs of the oil producing communities, the ransom of course would be something that would be beneficial to the totality of the inhabitants of the oil producing communities. The mere fact that the financial ransom that go into the pockets of a selected few are demanded, points to the personal and selfish motivations for the actions. A lot of people of course do not know that there are many cliques scattered around the Niger Delta that operate solely on the business of kidnapping. It is a well organised syndicate that is motivated by the desire for personal aggrandizement. There actions are confused as politically motivated, and overlooked.

We must accept that kidnapping is not armed robbery, so to the consciences of the perpetrators, it is no crime since it does not have the same weight of social criticism that armed robbery has. I mean, a renowned ‘chairman’ of a kidnapping syndicate can contest for a public position, and be given chieftaincy titles. He can further be a recognised knight, and deacon in a church, and nobody will raise an eyebrow, including the pastors and Bishops. It is – plainly put – a means of survival thrust on them by the survival of the fittest doctrine in the country – that is the arguement.

Really, I see no immediate end to this menace. A whole lot of Niger Delta youths are warming up to join the business. They are witnesses to poor young men turned millionaires overnight through this venture, and so would want a part in the booty. Experienced members of existing cliques are breaking away, and are forming their own cliques. Soon there will be myriads of kidnapping cliques. The multiplicity of these groups will lead to the shortage of clients. And that is already happening. Matured expatriates are beefing up security, thus making it more difficult. The kidnapping of Margaret Hill shows this, hence the ‘boys’ are switching to the family members of the expatriates. Soon, security for the family members will also be tightened. Can we now guess who the next targets would be?

The next targets will be well to do Nigerians. Already, I have overheard some rough youths mention this. The idea has already crossed the minds of some of them. Soon these ideas would germinate, and the seeds distributed. Then of course, the extremely rich will protect themselves such that when we walk the streets, we will be greeted by the sight of armed bodyguards everywhere. What a sight this will make! Not forgetting of course that soon we may start hiring the kidnappers as bodyguards, and then watch them take us easily!

Seriously, we all stand in danger. The problem of tackling the wanton kidnapping of expatriates is not one that should be left for particular quarters to handle. It is an issue that demands the collective attention and support of all of us. It demands that we stand and condemn it as we condemn armed robbery. It demands that stringent laws be made, in order to forestall it.

Laws of course may not have as much effect as a complete re-orientation of the youths may have. I have persistently suggested that seminars, interactive forums, and workshops should be held with the aim of working on the present mentality of most Nigerian youths. What we all seem to forget is that these crop of young men and women represent the future of Nigeria. If desperation and violence have become the breath of their lives, then the future of this country is very bleak. The question then becomes; whither Nigeria?

Let us all take lessons from the unfortunate incident of Margaret Hill’s abduction.

Written by
Nnaemeka Oruh
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    That the land where life began

    Home of the birth of man

    Where Pharaohs sailed to find escape

    Making annual pilgrimage

    That the land of milk and money

    Flowing with blackened honey

    With maidens holding men entranced

    Lost to the fruits of romance

    That the land whence strangers came

    Virtues lost, fortunes made

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    Missing in the fattening rooms

    That the land whence nations fed

    Their greed until all was red

    While the land’s offsprings had nought left

    Save waste, all remnants bereft

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    Wells full of watery dread

    Where the drillers’ cup spilled over

    With pure death from the river

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