Immigration recruitment: The good, the bad and the ugly conversations

Onjefu Okidu

The strength of the emotion pedestal of Nigerians is impressively commendable. Whenever tragedy struck, we always pushed aside our lingering differences, converge and mourn the situation irrespective of who was involved. In fact, the emotional feelings were usually highest when the tragedy involved “ordinary Nigerians.”  That we have demonstrated same spirit for our beloved departed youthful souls and the injured of the ill-fated immigration recruitment is clear.

For obvious reasons, traditionally, most full-blooded Africans, share the concerns of any tragedy in soothing conversations fashioned in a constructive manner. Perhaps, the most soothing and meaningful words on the immigration recruitment tragedy conveyed by the media came from the Deputy Senate Leader, Abdul Ningi. While contributing to the debate on the motion tabled by the Chairman of the Senate Interior Committee, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, he said that, “we must see the unfortunate tragedies as collective guilt, collective fault. It goes beyond the issue of minister or Controller General of Immigration.” Those genuine, gracious and patriotic soothing words no doubt remind us all of our failure to build a plumb nation which in turn has generated seismic repercussions that haunt us to this day.

Conversation gives expression to our ideas, opinions, feelings and thoughts. We may refer to a “conversation of deviance” in national discourse, for example or a “conversation of hope.” The notion of conversation therefore differs from propaganda in that it directs greater attention at the constitute role played by language in creating meaning and images of reality. In itself, language does not simply reflect reality or power relations; it generally contributes to the construction of knowledges about selfhood, and the realities of the social and material world. Hence, conversations on tragedies such as that of the immigration recruitment should be seen as an opportunity through which we reflect deeply on selfhood, and the realities of our social and material world as demonstrated by Distinguished Senator Abdul Ningi’s “conversation of hope.”

In the case of the immigration tragedy, there are precious little relevant conversations that can be trusted in that direction. Frankly, the most troubling aspect of the tragedy, beyond the deaths and injuries, are the succeeding un-soothing, shallow and meaningless conversations that tend to blur rational, comprehensive and systematic inquiries.

From the scattered conversations can piece together and construct a frame that implies that the Controller General of  Immigration, David Parradang, the Interior Minister, Abba Moro as well as government deliberately called out our young job seekers to be killed. In fact, some have in raw words ridiculously said so. For example, Steve Nwosu, a Daily Sun columnist, wrote on March 19, 2014 edition of the paper: “Jokes apart, I think Abba Morro and government should take responsibility for this tragedy which they planned and executed?”

As ridiculous as this may sound, many others have driven same point home in order to generate uncontrollable hatred for these officers. Apparently, for the Controller General, the Minister, the President and rational Nigerians, the immigration recruitment tragedy is heart-breaking and these kinds of false, harsh, unjust, wicked, unbalanced, unfair and idle conversations harder still.

Apart from sarcastic writers like Nwosu, it is sad that some aggrieved anti-Jonathan partisan elements have inconsiderably taken over the tragic situation to push for political mis-conversations not also minding the collective pains that have engulfed the victims’ families, the Ministry of Interior and Nigeria. For instance, Fani-Kayode, former Minister of Aviation, said in Leadership of March 19: “When I saw the early morning pictures of the crowd of youths at the Abuja stadium my heart just sank because I could almost write the script of what would follow. And so I waited (expectantly?) and wasn’t disappointed.

Would anything come out of it? No. Would life go on? Yes. Do they care? No. And the moron of a minister had the gall to say that candidates died because of ‘impatience.’ Meanwhile the so-called aptitude test was just a ruse. They had handpicked their preferred candidates weeks ago. The crowd alone told me that we have a serious problem of youth unemployment, yet Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala would come out and be reeling stupid figures. Please tell her that she’s not fooling anyone.”
It is painful though understandable for a former honourable minister to buttress his views this way. President Jonathan’s recent theoretical postulations have greatly helped to explain the predisposition. He said, “If former political officeholders had done their duties well while in office the people will not be yearning for what they have already put in place.”

Beyond the tragedy, the minister of interior’s predisposition apparently points to his willingness to learn from the lessons.  He said so many things when the incident occurred. But the only words recognizable among the many by those who want him crucified are “impatience of candidates.” But the minister also said, “The deaths and injuries weren’t deliberate. It is regrettable and heart breaking. I appeal to the good people of Nigeria to show understanding in the circumstances to help us overcome the sad development.” How else can a man be more remorseful? How else can a man express deep pain?  How else can a man accept official mistakes?

Although devoid of sarcasm, the submission of the All Progressives Congress (APC) tends to be contradictory. The party is demanding the sack of the interior minister and at the same time canvassing “criminal investigation” into the incident. Logically, which should come first – sacking or investigation? And why not allow investigation to determine the criminality? To be fair, though the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is ruling, the party’s charge for detailed investigation into the immediate and remote causes of the stampede appears more procedural, civilized and helpful. The fast movement to crucifixion may amount to jewish barbarism of the old.

Frankly, the parameters of this discourse have been shortened by the tragedy. In other words, however succinct, no discussion at this point in time concerning the on-going secret and exclusive employments and the advantage of the open and all inclusive ill-fated immigration recruitment will suffice. As Ningi has soothingly pointed out, times such as these call for deep reflections on the state of our nation, genuine feelings for the departed souls and attentive care for the wounded.

Dr Okidu wrote from Kaduna. Email: [email protected]

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