Wednesday, 28 August 2013

And so Margaret Died... Just Like That.



And so Margaret died... just like that.
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”         -          Edmund Burke
Friday, the 12th of October, began like any other day for the household of Col PAM Ogar (rtd), a former Military Administrator of Kwara State, resident around the Polar Road area of Ungwar Rimi, Kaduna. Members woke up, got set to carry on with their respective daily pursuits with hope of making a success of the day. Those that would go out to work did step out; all of them wishing each other well. They all looked forward to reuniting at the end of the day, sharing a meal together, sharing the joys and the hard knocks of the day together, consoling each other, laughing at themselves and with each other for mischiefs and other sundry vicissitude during the day, praying and retiring to bed, probably after watching a bit of a home movie.
Margaret Aruku, commonly known as Meg, was a member of that household; a daughter. She was an ebullient and vivacious lady. She loved to sing and had infact been a chorister in church for many years. She enjoyed the company of friends and was ever ready with a quip in the pouch any time you passed by her. She also stepped out that fateful Friday morning to her business located at the Marafa area of Independence Way, Kaduna. She, like the rest of her family, looked forward to returning home at the end of the day. Her business day did come to an end in the evening. She then went over to Narayi for a prayer meeting which finished between the hours of 8 and 9pm. She called home to tell them that she had finished from the prayer meeting and was on her way back. She then picked an Okada bike. She would vanish into thin air!
Meg’s family’s relaxed expectation of her return gradually turned into an anxious wait as the night crawled on. It would dawn on them that they would not sleep that night. By morning they would be in an ominous limbo. They had made all manner of calls and were still making more. Gradually, more friends and well wishers got to know that Meg was missing. Notice was up on Facebook and, as time went on, friends called upon each other to pray for her to reappear, safe and sound. The anguish deepened for all who knew her, but most especially for her family, as the days kept counting. Finally, on Monday the 22nd of October, ten days after she went missing, Meg’s corpse was discovered, already fast decomposing, around the Ungwar Mai Gero-Karji area along the new by-pass that links Ungwar Rimi to the southerly end of Kaduna at the NNPC Refinery junction. Of course by that new route, it would only take Meg barely 15 minutes to get home, in Ungwar Rimi, from Narayi. The police are investigating the incident.
You are reading Meg’s sad story probably because this writer had known her personally – for at least 20 years. But the truth is that there are many such stories happening every other day across our country. Meg’s case is probably better because her remains were found and she would get a befitting burial. Her family will have the consolation of pointing to her grave as a concrete reminder that she once lived; that they once laughed and cried together; quarrelled and settled, and stood for each other. Many others do not get to enjoy this “luxury”. For such, it’s like going with the wind, for the deceased, forever; and for their families and friends, it’s an abyss of uncertainty, gnawing with painful expectation that only the joy of knowing the true fate of their loved one can assuage. They would not experience that joy and that would haunt them for as long as they live until they also die and then they would know, for they would meet the lost one in the hereafter. You know, as things stand in this country, such fate could easily be your lot too.
Meg’s sad story, as with many others, throws up issues concerning the realities that are Nigerians’. Every Nigerian lives under circumstances of extremely high vulnerability, never mind such threats as Boko Haram. There is very little around that gives him comfort with regards to his security in whatever terms one wants to view the concept. A Nigerian, whether he realizes it or not, goes about knowing that he could drop dead at the most insignificant of incidences and would only amount to a mere number: no one would remember even his name except of course his family and close ones. This speaks to the failure that the Nigerian state has become to its citizens. This is an indictment on government on the quality of services they have rendered to Nigerians.
Let’s look at Meg’s story. Meg would hardly have died under such circumstances if government had clearly identified that proper urban/town planning and execution is really largely a matter of security and safety. They would then have been working assiduously to ensure that such plans are strictly adhered to; that roads are very well laid out and well paved; that installing streetlights everywhere and properly maintaining them is not an extra... an icing on the cake, sort of, but infact really an integral part of the whole works. That way, our cities and towns will not have been so full of many dark alleys and corners that provide evil elements with the conducive environment to carry out their activities. Meg would hardly have died under such circumstances if government had long realized that transportation in a 21st century society, with its multifarious influences from far and wide due to globalization, must necessarily be a systematized structure. If you seek to ensure the security and safety of citizens, then you cannot afford to allow just any other person without proper documentation, and probably without an address even, to come in and begin to render transportation services. This is what you get if you do that: Many dead Megs; many of whom no one gets to hear about.
Government must do something. 21st century societies do not run on uncoordinated templates; they run on systems. Nigeria’s leaders must be seen to be deliberately working to install systems that will minimize the risk that has become being a Nigerian and living in Nigeria. Governors, especially, must take note and the Local Governments must be provided the right framework to be able to deliver on their mandate and play their role in this whole matrix.
Meg was laid to rest on Friday, 26 October 2012, in Cross River State. We do not entertain much hope that the police will work hard to fish out her murderers, but we shall be consoled if they succeed, even if ten years later. For that will begin to show to us that as Nigerians, we are not just some number, but real people with names and identity. To Meg we say: requiescat in pace. Adieu!

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