It is no longer a secret that security has become a major challenge in this country. It is also not news that many people have suffered a lot as a result of the onslaught of enemies against the good people of this country. In a time when we are bemoaning the number of people with disabilities, many have been subjected to the same fate of losing their limbs in a bid to get rid of criminals and terrorists. This is why i choose to bring it up this time.
Unfortunately, there is no regular data for Nigerians with disabilities especially in crisis times like this. What is common is number of death, not number of casualties. And in cases where a loose number is given one may not be able to tell which is lost of hand, and which is lost of leg.
History of insecurity in Nigeria is traceable to colonial era when the Europeans sometimes used force to drive their points home. Many of the people began to live in fear. Fear of the Whiteman trigger, especially as he has gotten to know that the metal inside the gun is responsible for some death. The natives could not again give their opinion, more so, when they know that what they are about to say is contrary to what is been expected. Prior to independence, there were religious riots and what have you. After independence, election crises heightened the trepidation in following years. This state of uncertainty came to a climax in ’66. The coup succeeded in pitching one part of the country against the other, and more havoc was still to come. The war between Nigeria and Biafra is a well known story. But what happened after the war?
Armed robbery assumed a frightening dimension in the ‘70’s after the war years. Many commentators argued that with lots of arms in the hand of free citizens after the war, the temptation to take to crime was more. The ‘80’s was a crucial period in the history of armed robbery in Nigeria. The military decree of shooting armed robbers at stake did little to improve the system. Indeed a lot of people suffered untold hardship in the hands of these dare devil criminals. Many on wheel chair, crutches or with any form of body disfigurement is traceable to the activities of armed robbers.
Inter ethnic crisis brought its own gross disadvantages to add to the already critical condition of the people with disabilities in the country. In Delta state, Taraba, Benue, Kaduna, Plateau, Lagos, Oyo, Osun, Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Ebonyi, Cross River etc ethnic issues, herdmen/farmers crash and land tussles have produced not a small number of people living with disabilities. One cruel thing about inter or intra ethnic rivalry is that the use of crude implements in warfare has a sinister means of causing more havoc than intended. Imagine using cutlass, garden fork, hammer etc in the conflict. Practically, the use of such weapons demands force in other to create desired impact in the victim, and in most cases, the result becomes overbearing. But in the use of sophisticated weapons like Ak47, AK49, bazooka, etc minimal force is applied, and the aggressor may not care much if the victim is felled; in fact he doesn’t chase after the victim, the weapon in his arm does the chasing, and the target can’t escape unhurt. So, the point is, inter ethnic situations is not to any body’s advantage as it creates more problems than solutions.
The case of Plateau is very touchy. Since 2000, that once upon a time peaceful state was attacked and ravaged by violent men, the situation has continued to reoccur. Many today are limbless in some part of the country as a result of such crises. The same Benue state, Taraba and many other states both in the North central and the North east regions of Nigeria. Sometimes one is tempted to think that it is even better to die than to live with some parts of your body missing. The agony and trauma associated to such experience is better imagined and experienced. Yet we have our loved ones in such critical conditions all over the country. Many have been abandoned in the hospitals, others are allowed to roam the street to beg for arms, and many have died on the road side due to lack of care. The ills of violence is enormous, the reason we are bold to stand up against it.
The emergence of Boko Haram and recently farmers/herdsmen crisis have left many eyes with tears. The lamentation that greeted this violence is still reverberating in many homes today. Monetary compensation is not enough, neither will the head of the perpetrators on a platter assuage the pains and grant instant recovery from limblessness, but we are careful to say, may it not continue to happen!
Now that the did is done, how do we cope with the challenges that the occasion brought? The humanitarian crisis as a result the security challenges in the country is untold. Most times, we only note those with bodily injury, whose limbs are off or tortured. What about those whose heart stopped working at the sound of the bomb last? What about those whose ears were stopped by the sound of the missiles? Do we talk about the pregnant women who went to premature labour at such times? What about those who out of panic went into insanity? Do we talk about the destruction of houses and properties, the impromptu asunder that this temporary evil condition put between couples. Many wives have been left lonely in these dark months of the insurgence, not because their spouse are dead, but because they are married to military men who must go out to wrestle the soul of the country from these merchants of death.
Physical disability is not a birth right of anyone. Anybody can stumble into this status especially with the prevalence of insecurity in the world. The more reason every hand needs to be on deck to checkmate this monster. Again, those who are “temporarily able bodied” should find more reason to aid those who are so challenged. We must condemn the practice of jungle justice in some part of the country. A situation where one is not trailed in a court of competent jurisdiction and is sentenced by the discordant tune of mixed crowd is unacceptable. Street and gutter court rooms should be frowned at. This means that our police and other security agencies should be more proactive. Indeed, this kind of savage arrangement has left many people disfigured all through the country. In the recent past, The Sharia system of northern Nigeria left many limbless; the Bakassi gang up in eastern Nigeria became a cult susceptible to the whims and caprices of rich politicians to frame up and witch hunt their perceived enemies. The OPC in western Nigeria ran afoul of logic and civility, as many of their practices and judgments indicates the flight of reason in the group. The existence of these groups has equally added to the number of the people with disabilities in the country. Therefore one must call for restraint in their activities. It is in line with this that we call on the government of the day to take a proactive action to addressing the trend because the consequences is having much toll in the nation.
We cannot adjudge ourselves to be free citizens while we live in fear. Anything that cushions fear into bona fide citizens of this country should be ostracized with immediate effect. Fear on its own has equally contributed to the increase in number of people with disabilities. The Lagos Ikeja bomb blast years ago left a sour taste in the mouth of many. Some legs were broken, some hands were twisted, hairs were singed, flesh roasted not only because they were hit by any missile, but also because they couldn’t control their emotion at an emergency situation. Fire disasters usually have side stories to compliment its tale of woes. These tales are of those who allowed their “hearts to jump into their mouth”, the result is usually fatal. Some could even jump from high risings, and later find themselves as perpetual users of wheel chair; that is if they survive it. Now something must be done to raise the consciousness of Nigerians on how to respond to cases of this kind when it comes. I use this opportunity to call on NEMA, NOA and all other like agencies to pool resources together to forestall the gravity of such sad tales.
Having said all these, we are made more aware of the existence of the people with disabilities in our immediate environment. Myriad of events has made it impossible for our society to lack people who are so challenged. Since they exist, what should be our attitude towards them even as we work hard to ensure a more peaceful and violent free society?
We should avoid any event that could worsen their condition. We can start this by deliberately refusing to expose them to places with likelihood of tension or aggression.
We should encourage them to be their best, and to always be at their best. Start by letting them know that the worth of a person is not in the measure of his body; that is to say, your leg, hand, eye, ear, etc is not the sum total of your personality. Personhood is measured from the heart, and every living person has a heart!
Refuse to discriminate against them. Of course, there are some vocations that they are not naturally “equipped” to do, so politely tell them so. Reason will prevail on them not to insist, but if they do don’t worry, nature has a way of balancing things.
With these and more, let’s strive to make our society livable.