Who sings to Mothers of the Damilola Taylors of the World?

by Lakunle Jaiyesimi

The Police came in torrents, as of the bees on a mission. It was a sight of varying frames: men, women and little children recently absorbed into the force, which many refer to as brutal. That morning, they had only one aim: to evacuate, arrest, clampdown and possibly get rid of the so-called ‘dissidents’, who refused to leave the neighbourhood, where the petroleum pipeline had been laid.

There had been alarms raised as to the direct complicity of these dissidents in the vandalisation of the pipelines; a report that has been received too many times to loose count. These dissidents are accused of incorrigibly extorting money (ranging between 10naira and 20 naira) from whoever strays along the paths in the neighbourhood. In connection with this, it will be correct to say that they also collect huge sums from those who are ready to risk the dangers of vandalisation, and subsequently permit their nefarious acts.

Consequently, the Police swooped on them that morning, and it was sweat, blood, and tears mingled with the polluted mud that by itself kills all of life. Some died! The others who managed to survive were detained in the custody of the law enforcers. They were briefly interrogated; but this was ‘abrogated’ as soon as a relative extends a cupped hand of crispy naira notes to the interrogating officer. Those surviving dissidents who have no relatives to come asking for them are, in the nearest future, exchanged for a condemned criminal who has a relative to extend such a cupped hand to any of the officers. They are killed in place of the criminals sentenced to death.

The above scenario is historical, and yet futuristic. It is a representation of what had happened in the past, is happening and will ever happen; like the one that is the same yesterday, today and forever more. I wonder why we live contentedly in an era unguided by progressive principles and feel comfortable being ignorant of result-oriented actions. Everything is haphazardly done and we remain rather indifferent about it all. As reported in the Guardian Newspapers of the twenty-eight of May, two thousand and eight, a community, where the pipeline passed had constructed a wooden bridge over the pipeline route and there are members of the community who stand by to collect a toll of N10 from passers-by to maintain the bridge. One of these community members discovered the leakage early one morning, and he alerted the Nigeria Police and the Nigeria Civil Defence Corps. This averted a possible explosion.

However, these community members who had behaved honourably for the good of their countrymen and the nation’s resources, according to my observations would later be deemed to be the dissidents, who would obstinately remain at the pipeline front in order to extort money and aid the vandalisation of the nation’s pipelines. Rather than reward such Nigerians, they become the victims of deliberately misplaced aggression. The resultant scenario is but a predicted one that probably has occurred once too many times – unnoticed, unreported and no one really cares. It is like the common incident of accident victims, sprawling on the roads; no one wishes to give a helping hand because the case will be turned against them by the Police Force. More and more of such happen but cannot be relayed.

The eventuality is that Nigerians are withdrawn from altruism into egocentrism. Particularly, considering the fact that only the lowly placed, the impoverished and the underprivileged, who have a direct contact with the public daily happenings, are always the victims of the undeserving Police brutality. And the token they must have struggled to earn themselves suddenly disappears into the guarded pockets of the stern-looking, greedy-framed uniformed ‘humans’. Who knows; who knows when this will stop; who knows when the poor man will earn a worthy sum for his labour and be able to save for self and family? Who knows when the President will stoop low to see the fate of the so-called dissidents? Who will one day wake to change the description of the ‘dissidents’ to the ‘unemployed’, the ‘struggling masses’, the ‘underprivileged’?

Who sings the songs of consolation to millions of other unknown mothers of Damilola Taylor, whose Children are plucked off the face of the earth; and who also slump and die shortly before they audibly hear the consolation sounds; who? Who? I ask…. Those we refer to as the leaders of tomorrow die without a notice; and sometimes, before our very our, but without a care in the world, as to who it was that just died. They bloat and putrefy! And then become one of the seasonal stuffs that pollute the air that we breathe. ‘There goes a boy…’ we usually forget to add, ‘that would have become a great leader in this country.’ After such incidents, life remains the same. The oceans do not stop gushing; the sun does not hesitate to rise or set; the rains do not cease from falling; everything seems normal. But is my concern warranted in any way that when certain men die, having pulled themselves through whatever means – avarice, being instrumental – up the ladder of corporate or political hierarchies, the world stands still, the Sun goes to sleep, the rains turn into static clouds and the nights and days merge into one.

How then, if I may ask – as much as I demand a response – or request a controversial brainstorming, can the Nigerian lowly behave to type? How can they observe universal ethics or codes, whatever they call them? How can these people, cheated on all fronts know and respect what the elite prefers to call morals? How can the delicate meal, sumptuous as nothing ever tasted, the better if it is tasteless – something like a dog’s meal, not be stolen if carelessly placed or otherwise, by human elements who had never been worth more than ‘one of the billions’. How will these disgruntled members of the public not steal from those that flaunt their potbellies in the brazen wide-awakening consciousness of alert jumbled and hungry eyes? When shall the courts in the land throw out the cases that are against people, who cannot feed or clothe themselves; whose hunger adequately confers on them the amnesia of what is right and what is wrong; who have no place to keep their heads at night when the rains pour heavily? When shall a good-intentioned politician actually fulfil his promises to these people; when shall such know the significance of promises to the hungry? When shall we all know that the fate of these so-called ‘dissidents’ had not being exclusively brought upon them by themselves, by their laziness, by a familial curse, by a wrongdoing, by lack of education, or by the premeditated act of self-will? When shall we be fully aware that like the rains pour on everyman equally, but in different degrees depending on what protective covering each man has got, so is poverty. The elite usually go broke and recover; but the so-called ‘dissidents’ go impoverished and remain there for a long time, sometimes even unto death!

May we use this to remember Damilola Taylor and the late mother and many other mothers of similar fate, and many more, who are waiting to join the list. Maybe we can avert the lengthening of the list.

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