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Funmi Iyanda
Lagos, Nigeria
Funmi Iyanda is a multi award-winning producer and broadcast journalist. She is the CEO of Ignite Media and Executive Director of Creation Television
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Monday, March 10, 2008

Staying Safe (long and rambling, not for those with ADD)

Its official, I am bipolar or so my BBF says and she should know. Its really is not my fault and I refuse to take medication for it (didn’t you hear that news report that most anti depressant are just placebos?). I have a perfectly logical explanation for it, I am just a person who feels intensely, it’s that bloody angel who wasn’t paying much attention at the default setting point, he set mine at extra high so I can’t help the wide range and the sheer power of my feelings. The problem with being this way is the sheer amount of energy that I can muster for a given idea, cause, project, speech, article or activity, the result? Sheer exhaustion, physical and emotional as well as creeping conviction that the dog next door is growing a second tail.

I felt that debilitating exhaustion this weekend when I spent some time with the amiable police commissioner for Lagos. He is a decent fellow who is committed to his job, like most top government officials, he is also very well trained. The compound was full of new Toyota Hilux trucks donated by the Lagos State government and the agile RRS commander was conducting a drill. It looks good on the surface but I have the curious tendency to feel beyond what I see. What I feel is that it is all an admirable effort but it is too little, too random, like fighting a boxing match with hands tied behind your back.

Let me digress a little.
It happened a couple of weeks ago in Ikoyi Lagos, almost next door to a beautiful, frightfully expensive luxury apartment complex. 9pm, a convoy of official looking cars were granted entry into this high quality boutique hotel. The occupants disembarked and in the next hour unleashed terror on guests and staff. At the end, valuables were stolen, people were beaten, the gateman was shot and two women were raped. This encounter was told by a still shaken 49 year old friend of the family who lives in Abuja and had come into Lagos for a meting and had gone into the hotel to enquire about availability for accommodation. She recounts the terror of being told to lie face down with the chilling command; if you no lie there I go fuck you too now now!
Why wasn’t she raped? Luck and timing, they were already on the way out.
This story is similar to the one told by Ibim who witnessed an attack at a hotel in Ibadan which she had checked into after attending a conference a couple of weeks ago, the robbers tried to rape a 5 month pregnant woman.

As the first story above was told, we all started doing that curious Nigerian thing; we began exchanging increasingly morbid anecdotes of similar experiences. The most bizarre being that told by a business man who spoke about how robbers attacked the office next to his in Yaba in broad day light and how he watched them raping the young secretary in turns whilst cowering behind the window in his office.

I told these particular stories to underscore the additional unspoken fear of the women of this city in this unstable situation. The men fear dispossession, harm, disability, trauma and death; in addition to all these the women add the burden of possible rape.

If you want to hear more morbid stories read both Steve Ayorinde’s piece in the Punch and Simon Kolawole in this day.

I can tell you stories of such attacks on over 10 people I know in the past one month so if we do the layman maths for the number of people in this city you can imagine the alarming numbers. In all of these there are no official statistics.

There are those who say we should not talk about these things so we do not foster fear and affect our international image citing the example of the violent but well packaged South Africa. To start with, why we want to compare ourselves to the bad is beyond me and even in the bad, you cannot doubt that the country has a way more effective policing structure. In any case should we not determine what sort of environment we desire and deserve to live in and thus start working towards this?

The other argument is that raising these issues limits the efforts of those struggling to make the change and discourages them. On the contrary, my belief is that we must report these incidences with humanity in such away as to get the critical mass of Nigerian to demand the sort of policy and structural changes that will allow those charged with the responsibility perform better. It will also unearth the lazy, unimaginative and fraudulent amongst these and perhaps help to raise the sort of outrage that will remove them.

We must start reporting crimes and tragedies not in a detached way but in a way that puts a face to the situation. Imagine if all we know about 911 was the number of those who died, curtly delivered in a few editorials and news report before moving on to the next event attended by George Bush, how would the American nation have felt the rawness, the cutting pain that led to certain changes, for better or worse. Who knows the names, home, dreams, aspirations and hopes of the people burnt in the last pipeline explosion in Lagos? As the motherless child of a father widowed in such circumstance I know it is not about the faceless corpse lying on the street but human lives forever changed. It is the ability to get a critical mass to see the real picture that leads to the sort of emotional commitment that occasions change.

The security challenge of Lagos is a collective responsibility, it is multi hydra and requires not just single minded commitment from the government of Lagos and the police, it requires the emotional commitment of the citizens to doggedly demand of the men and women in charge and of the Nigerian state the sort of changes that will address the situation. The issues involve job creation, education reform, power reforms and stimulation of real economic activities at all levels not this capital carousel economy. These changes will not happen without the people of Lagos and Nigeria becoming emotionally invested in participating and monitoring the way they are governed. We are on the course as our democracy is young but no one should accept undue self-censorship in the name of so called peace. That sort of peace is really peace of mind of the mediocre and fraudulent to keep at his wicked deeds using our common wealth and collective wellbeing. Let us learn from Kenya. In the meantime enough already about international image, don’t we deserve to live better? Bad news may travel fast but good news is hard to conceal.

As for those living far from the line of fire and moaning either about the situation in Nigeria or castigating the people who refuse to help whip up a false sense of uhuru, you berra come home and join forces to build the sort of nation we all deserve or at least work from outside to help the process. Who be blind chicken wey go do all the work for some roosters to home to.

Whilst we are at it, what is this new multibillion-dollar requisition for energy reform? What happened to the 10 billion spent by the last administration? Where are the people who spent it? In the absence of power (been using my generator on and off without a glimmer from PHCN for 3 days, some others for weeks) and a plausible explanation, why are they still walking free?


Anonymous said...

"As for those living far from the line of fire and moaning either about the situation in Nigeria or castigating the people who refuse to help whip up a false sense of uhuru, you berra come home and join forces to build the sort of nation we all deserve or at least work from outside to help the process. Who be blind chicken wey go do all the work for some roosters to home to.

...abi oh!

MsMak said...

Sisi Funmi,

A chill is running down my spine and i am left speechless. I do not know what to do or say when i hear these stories anymore. I used to get sad, then angry, call/email my friends both in Naija and Diaspora so we can talk about how WE CAN CHANGE THINGS. Now i don't know anymore.

For the record i live in the U.S. but have started on my 3 year plan to be back in Naija. However these stories scare me. What's worse, i've recently told myself to cut down on reading Naija news and discussing them with friends, especialy those in Naija.

Whenever i bring anything up i am accused of being faraway and pointing fingers, or of reading too much on the net that isnt true or applicable to most Naija people. If you're Naija you're called a pessimist and out of touch. If you're oyibo like Jeremy on Naijablog and you point out things then you're called a condescending neo-colonialist/racist. I tire.

How about talk of solutions? I get the same "we are trying", "Naija go survive", "Na today", or worse yet, i have no right to see anything wrong in Naija since i dont live there.

Being Nigerian is tough men...

Anonymous said...

Living abroad doesn't take you out of the line of fire baby. The 'state of the nation' follows you everywhere you go, dictates everything you do, especially if you have a large family back home.
You know that no one will pay mum and dad any pension, provide them healthcare, electricity etc or help train your younger ones so you work your arse off and do it yourself(Just ask western union for their figures). You are worried sick for their safety with all the stories you hear(your post e.g). You can hardly afford to have real fun in bligthy. You get invited to the odd party but you work weekends. You feel like packing and going home sometimes but you think of all the pple who rely on you for help.
Then one easter, after about 3 years of graft you go home for a visit. On the saturday before easter Sunday, you are on your way to ...finally! a party and guess what?.....not to add to the already chilling examples in your post, but suffice it to say you return to blighty with your arm in a sling. You thank your maker that at least you are alive and getting freeish rehab on the NHS. You are sent for some post-traumatic counselling and your therapist is a fellow Nigerian who has her own similar 'stories'(not therapeutic). You skip the rest of your sessions, you'd rather watch Gladiator for therapy.
You just hope and pray that your pple back home are safe and that it will be a while before that next phone call (from home)comes, sure enough...."Aburo, oloun a ran e lowo oooo aaah, ole wo soobu mi lanaa......"

Sherri said...

u are not bi-polar joh!
u have what i call a severe case of the "cares"
"they" postulate that u can care and can actually work to make the world a better place for all, but u shud be able to detach urself emotionally to be effective. how the heck are u supposed to detach urself and be effective?
u dare not allow urself to think beyond the mundane, or try to make some sense out of the nonsense.
how the heck are u supposed to be normal when everything around u is abnormal?
(ok! am rambling too)

as for the roberries in naija, it's about time people start to fight back, it's about time females shud be ready and willing to fight to the end rather than be dehumanized.
i know lives will be lost, lives are being lost now! it's simply giving them(the robbers) a run for their money.

Ojo Adewale said...

I heard on Radio Nigeria this morning that Lagos CP Abubakar will be transfered as zonal AIG. This was revealed bhe police PRO.

wienna said...

Honestly, to say this rape craze is horrific is the least of my worry. It seems these robbers are always under a sort of trance or demonic spell that turns them into these beasts for them to be behaving like this. I really don't get it at all. It seems to me that they not only go out there to rob to get their hands on money but they also rape women to set some scores. These are the sort of issues that that yeye female senator should be worried about on a daily basis rather than some indecent dressing bull****(excuse my lingo,sis funmi). I tire for my country o.

Miss Demeanour said...

This matter is terribly close to my heart.At the risk of adding to the morbidity, just last Saturday a friend's wife was buried. Apparently she, her husband and two children had been on their way out, as families do on Sunday. They ran into armed robbers who were on their way from a robbery, but decided to postpone fleeing and (literally) carry out executions.These robbers shot into the three cars ahead deflating their tyres and probably killing the occupants, then they approached this car; at which point their 3/4 year old boy, who sat in front with his father, wound down the glass. On seeing that it was a child the robber shot into the back seat which had tinted screens. Bullets penetrated the mother's hand, wounding her fatally, and the head of the 5 month-old baby she carried in her lap. (The baby is alive albeit in critical care.)
And that's just one in the multitude of gory tales that I have heard this month. But where do we start from? A friend decided on a protest march to government establishments. My fear is that that will lead to the 'eye-service' action that the police regularly carry out - picking up pedestrians, and innocent young men, at random, from the streets. I've seen it done before : they stopped any car they saw along the road and if there were any young guys inside they were ordered to get down and get into a waiting bus. Whether they were driving, being driven or walking. 'They' being intimidating, gun-wielding mobile policemen. Imagine if something happened to any of these guys and they had no way of contacting anyone?
So the question is, what do we do?

Anonymous said...

I agree with Sherri, perhaps we should all begin o carry guns in Naija. The robbery issue is escalating by the day and as far as I am concerned there is no police force in Naija so we have to become our own policemen. I hear that in warri, do not know how true it is, robbers hardly visit homes cos they don't know what to expect, you know the average waffi person does not take nonsense. As you are pointing a gun at him, he is pointing two at you, and his teenage son is wielding a matchete. My friend grew up in Warri and recounted how they were once visited, and the father gave each of them a weapon, some hot peppered water, some hot stew, some knives and guns. Both parties were injured but they robbers didnt get in. They fled.

As lagosians we will have to rise and take laws into our own hands, cos the government dn't give ten hoots.If we perish we perish.

Fashola wants to build a boat hotel that will cost several millions and probably be abandoned halfway. He says he wants to turn Lagos into a tourist city. With the crime rate, no be only mad oyinbo go come risk their life for Lagos so?

sorry, I have overwritten, two people I know were robbed only last week in Lagos. I don vex big time.

Anonymous said...

I think that each area in the vibrant metropolitan city of Lagos should have their own vigilante group. Which is quite popular in the East; Enugu town to be precise.

Individuals should come out of their pockets and make arrangements on how they want the vigilante groups to operate, so as not to have innocent victims murdered or injured.

Nigeria has always being a tough place to live in - some people may not agree with me, i daresay. It looks as if it is getting worse but in reality it is basically the same.

The difference is that this new generation of armed robbers have sophisticated ideas and strategies on how to carry out their operations, not to talk of sophisticated weaponry.

So, the vigilante groups could be mercenaries, maybe, from the Arab countries, Morroco, Isreali's and other countries. Why? Because if Nigerians are willing to buy the state of the art cars, build state of the art homes, run a dog grooming business (which i tell ya, is very expensive to run), have exotic vacations in exotic places, buy state of the art furniture from places like Italy, Germany, e.t.c, not to talk of having the latest electronic gadgets in the home - straight from Japan! Send their to children to expensive schools abroad - Switzerland being one, and Buckingham University being another.

Personally speaking, i don't have anything against how they spend their money; because they work hard for it, and they might as well spend it the way that they choose to. As the popular saying goes, "work hard and play hard."

Then i guess that they can afford to send in the mercenaries that can tackle those armed robbers; i mean, they are humans, they are not God! (That is the armed robbers.)

They just need a higher level of intelligence to tackle the armed robbers constant habit of wrecking havoc on the residents, aside from their weaponry. (I am talking about the mercenaries, meaning, counter intelligence.)

Some pple may not agree with me, i understand. It is just a food for thought........

Chineze Osayi.

Gbemi's Piece said...

What can we really do? Beyond all the talking and sympathizing, what can people who actually care about the situation do? I wonder because like many others, I'd like to do something. I'm just wondering, okay, so if I come home, what can I really do?

wienna said...

Can someone pls tell me if vigilante groups still exist in Lagos, even OPC sef? I remember when i heard dat OPC used to put fear in peoples' hearts a few years ago in Lagos. Whatever happened to them?

Anonymous said...

Its such a shame the way things have turned out in Nigeria, Lagos particularly. As a young woman, one of my greatest fears right now is encountering an armed robber who tries to rape me....it will be my death.

A friend had robbers escort him into his house as he drove in one night, young guys he said. They attempted to rape his wife and all he could do was get on his knees and beg while she cried.His male ego got a good bashing that night and he said he had never felt so helpless in his life. This was his wife who he had vowed to protect and here were this young guys wielding guns and what could he do? Nothing but beg. Fortunately they did not rape her but needless to say that they has a field day smacking her butt and boobs.That just breaks your heart.

Its hard to place the blame entirely on the robbers (truth be told) but i find it heartbreaking and disgusting that we have a government or have had governments that just don't care. Its not about the present day government alone, they can only do so much, its about previous ones which could have nipped this monster in the bud before it went out of control but didn't.

If you ask me,every person who has been in government since independence needs to hide his/her face in shame cos all they will be remembered for is doing NOTHING!!!

Ms. Catwalq said...

I don't know what to say or suggest as the solution to help our people make that transition from animal back to human that poverty and frustration has caused.

With regards to the rape and abuse of women under these circmumstances, I am left helpless. I even question if effecting lifet sentences or something stiffer as a penalty for rape will not result in even worse circumstances with these perpetrators killing their victims rather than risking being caught.

I am afraid and I don't know what to do

Today's ranting said...

This piece gives me a great deal of concern about issues at home.When would there be an end to this show of madness?I don't know what to say cause i'm so short of words.This is so disheartening. Sigh.

Anyaposh said...

This is true talk at "whip up a false sense of uhuru". The hypocrisy doesn't solve anything. There is a real need to ensure security at the local level so people can feel safe. Great article and this thing about you having a disorder I don't buy it! I believe we're all extreme in different ways...but I totally feel you on the invested emotions into daily living. Life is hard...

Aspiring nigerian woman said...

The Nigerian police force MUST be decentralised. The states have no control over the local police forces, all orders are from above!!! Let every state fund and run its own police force. Let each state provide its own security for its own people. Nigeria is too big for the security force to be centralised. The UK, with just half of Nigerian's population has it own cities police force, i.e Lagos metropolitan force, manchester etc.

All the people in government, in the last 20 years are bunch of idiots and useless thieves. We need a tsunami to wipe them all out.

olufela said...

Hearing about these kind of attacks makes you understand better why in America ordinary citizens continue to defend their right to bear firearms. Pro-gun Americans will tell you that if there was a number of hotel guests and staff that had their own guns, they wouldn't necessarily be left helpless to be robbed and raped.

On a slightly different note, if the Nigerian police concern themselves more with crime fighting and less with extortion of money from drivers, in particular public transport, maybe the robbers wouldn't feel they could act with impunity in broad daylight.

I live in the UK but I visited Nigeria in February 2008 and the only interactions I had with the Nigerian Police Force cost me about =N=500 each time. It was a choice between paying them or allowing them to waste even more of my time. Like Fela Kuti once said "Police station don turn to bank, DPO na bank manager...."

Anonymous said...

SO we can all agree that shit is going down everyday ion that country. We can all agree that leaders are corrupt, the rape of women is horrific, the rape of our nation by a wealthy few is equally horrific.

I'm in college in America and lived in Lagos for until I was 18. Nothing is going to change with the whole "siddun look" mentality in that country and that's real. No blond haired-blue eyed Jesus is going to deliver us from the situation.

What we need is for something to hit us cold in the face and shock us out of our complacency. What worries me is that could be; Whether it is that Okada guy getting shot or the Indecent dressing mess, God knows that as a nation we have seen our fair share of bullshit.

-- Layo

femi said...

The armed robberies are definitely a big reason why a lot fear to go home.Living in the U.S,which by the way also has high levels of violent crime, and observing how crime is faught and has been faught in big cities like New York, what i would suggest is that more police officers be recruited and deployed.One thing i have noticed is that a strong police presence on the streets does a lot to reduce crime.
Also theres a need to establish an intelligence gathering network, that will smash criminal gangs before they have a chance to strike. This is critical to solving the problem.
And of course the police must be in a position to actually respond to crimes, and that involves equipment , cars ,bikes, communication equipment and ofcourse weapons.
eedless to say paying the police more will also help and this is were naijas need to step in and pay their taxes, cus the oilwealth doesnt cut it.

God willing the crime rate will start to subside

Anonymous said...

It saddens me to hear negative story every time about Nigeria.
Funmi, the government has a lot to do to improve the situation in Nigeria.
It’s not a one man’s job. We should pray for a good leader. One who has the fear of God and who truly love his country.
People, outside have ideas, but some of us are worried about security. Nigerians outside are always on the defensive side because we don’t have good reputation outside. It’s always on the news that a Nigerian has been apprehended for fraud, etc.
The Nigerian police force is weak and something has to be done fast and that is where the government comes in.
The naija government should address important issue like unemployment, electricity, good roads; improve the educational system and housing.
Naija, problem is complex.

Wale Gates said...

I worked with Omonor for a few years ago in theatre 15 (unilag). So am not surprised about ur blogg on how good she is. She's just off the hook, she gets her lines spot-on,give her a script no matter how long on friday she will deliever it word4word on monday morning. In fact, she is the 1st person i know who got a phone call that someone very very close to her had just dead during our rehearsals and she just hung-up,took a deep breathe and was ready to continue and she got her lines spot-on again. she is perfect talent.
Anywayz interesting Blogg, keep it up.