How do you view the recent incidences of kidnapping that have happened in Abuja? Would you say Abuja is still a safe haven?
Honestly, life in Abuja, and not just Abuja per say, but life in Nigeria generally, has become terrible and fearful as a result of institutional failure. The political system and the economic system have failed and the infrastructural base of the country has deteriorated, producing a high level of poverty and insecurity.
All these major institutional failures are as a result of leadership failure. It is my opinion that so long as there are no immediate solutions from the appropriate quarters, life in this part of the world would not be easy because, automatically, there is general hopelessness in the society, now that the economic crisis has left many [people] jobless. The society is degenerating every day, especially in the style of leadership in our country as a result of blatant corruption and the lack of sensitivity exhibited by the leadership class. This has actually engendered enormous social crimes in the society.
So life in Abuja is becoming like that of the Niger Delta because the sophistication of the lifestyles of politicians is always a cause of concern to sociologists. Within the city we have a large number of people who are jobless. And there is a combination of different kinds of criminal behaviour within cities globally—it is a point of economic struggle, different sets of people engaged in different occupations.
The cost of living and the idea of fulfilling the basic fundamentals actually engender a continuous process of struggle and sociologists believe that there are two ways individuals can achieve success in life. The conventional pattern, which is otherwise called the institutionalised pattern, is the generally accepted means in every society. For individuals to achieve success there are certain conventional patterns specified by every society. The alternative means is crime, an individual choosing to deviate from the conventional pattern. So individuals are prone to high levels of criminality and high levels of anti-social behaviour as a result of their inability to fulfil their desires through the conventional pattern. By my assessment, the Nigerian nation has failed over the years because we have been so unfortunate right from our independence up to date not to have good and purposeful leaders.
As a sociologist, are you not surprised that crimes like kidnapping are being committed in Abuja?
Yes. Because of the general breakdown of institutions of government like the political system which is characterised by corrupt and selfish leadership styles and the security agencies which are only there to protect the interests and lives of politicians, I am not surprised at all. In simple language, there are structural deformities within the system.
Do you think the government or security agencies can contain this crime of kidnapping?
Yes, the idea is, the more the government of Nigeria continues to turn a deaf ear to the plight of the people, the more enormous these crimes will become. The government as an institution is supposed to provide basic services to the society—provide qualitative jobs, provide effective security, provide educational services and so many other amenities for the good of the citizens. But all these are lacking. The government of Nigeria is busy distributing money to the elite without paying attention to the plight of the populace. And, automatically, as I have said, there are two ways of achieving success in every society. Criminals use the illegal means and these are the sort of people that kidnap.
Would you say that the kidnappers in Abuja are the militants who have been operating in the Niger Delta or are they home-grown within Abuja?
They are there all over the country. The crisis of the Niger Delta is as a result of leadership failure within the system and this same leadership failure has degenerated to other regions. Government’s lack of capacity to provide the basic needs or to ensure fair distribution of national resources as a result of blatant corruption that has ravaged the political system has continued to worsen the quality of life for our people. It has continued to erode the moral virtues of our society. The consciences of people are poisoned and the minds of people are pre-occupied with criminal norms. Our argument is there must be fair distribution of resources, there must be the essence and purpose of nationhood, there must be leadership with focus, leadership with commitment, leadership with dedication, and not leadership with selfishness.
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