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Amarachi Alisiobi: Are We Okay with ‘Bad’ Because ‘Worse’ is a Greater Fear?

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It was during lunch break mid last week, when someone burst into the office and announced that a kidnap incident had just taken place on our work street.

‘How?’, ‘When?’, ‘Who?’, ‘What?” …these were the questions you could hear from everyone’s lips.

‘You mean on this our street? This Rivers state is now something else’, I topped up everyone’s agitation.

‘Ahn ‘E’ was driving, when suddenly a vehicle crossed another vehicle and started shooting in the air. They picked up the guy o. ‘E’ got down as soon as he saw and heard the shots. He abandoned his car on the road and ran away’ ,… our nunciate summarized in a bid to answer everyone’s questions in one speech.

I picked up the name of the eye witness from the gist, who also happened to be a colleague and started calling to get the ‘authentic gist’, not ‘what he told A, who then told B, who then told C, who then came to the office to tell us. ‘E’ did not pick. I felt so sad and depressed. We were still talking about the whole ‘Billionaire Evans’ saga and then another one just happened just on our street. It was even more discomforting having heard about two kidnaps cases pertaining to our colleagues within the past 3 months.

‘I am tired of living in this Port Harcourt’, I IM’ed my husband. ‘It’s not safe. I’m even afraid of driving home today. All the way, all I would be thinking about is how somebody was kidnapped on the same road’.

I voiced out my concerns to my colleagues in the office. Somehow they shared the same concerns. ‘Yes this Rivers don bad finish, what are we going to do, every day one kidnap case or murder case’.

‘Wait, Amara, who even told you it’s just Rivers state? It’s the whole country. Where do you want to move to?’

‘Lagos o’, I answered. ‘Lagos. I want to go back home. Lagos seems safer right now’.

‘Haha, which kain Lagos? No be Lagos Evans dey operate?’ My inquisitor retorted. (His question in pidgin English was referring to Evans operating in Lagos)

“Ahn, Evans only has eyes for people he can extract millions of nairas or dollars from oh. Not people like me”, I responded.  We all laughed and made jokes of the whole bad situation as we Nigerians typically do. No matter how bad, we must make jokes out of every situation. The conversation continued:

‘Maybe we need to stop driving. Maybe these people target those who drive. From tomorrow I will start taking keke to work ‘.

‘Which kain stop driving? Last week ‘they’ picked up a commercial bus going from Port harcourt to Owerri. None of those people drove, but kidnappers still stopped the bus and took them captives’.

‘Jeez!!!! Ahnahn what can somebody do again in this place? ‘ 

‘Ahn just be safe oh. Delete all bank transactions from your phone as soon as they come in, keep to yourself. Avoid moving at night’

‘ Which kain avoid moving at night, did this incident not just occur at noon today??’

These conversations were not helping matters at all. I was already feeling sick. This kidnap issue was now serious o. Everywhere, every day, even for ransom amounts of a hundred thousand naira – in this state.

After a lot of analysis, someone came to this conclusion, ‘Guys, guys it’s like it will go round. It’s almost inevitable once you live here. Everyone should put up a kidnap ransom fund account. Even if it is five thousand or ten thousand you can set aside every month. At this rate, if this can happen in broad daylight on this our busy street, then your turn will come.

‘Hahaha, guy no be joke oh, e don reach that extent’, someone else seconded. We started to joke again. Instead of eating, we spent our lunch break analyzing, joking and giving each other hope.

The next morning while praying at home, we intensified the prayer point concerning being safe the entire day and not being kidnap victims. The resounding “Amen” from my household was an affirmation that everyone was terrified still. When I got to work, We had our usual morning meeting. During the safety talk, my colleague was using the previous day’s kidnap incident, to preach about how dangerous the times and city we were in, and the need to be careful. Someone interrupted him.

‘I’m sorry to interrupt here, yesterday’s incident was not a kidnap case. It is a confirmed robbery case. They took the sum of ### naira from the vehicle and left. They didn’t kill anyone ‘.

‘Really? Ahn thank God. Just robbery? No kidnap? Ahn thank God.’, almost everyone seemed to voice out at once.

‘It’s information oh. How did people know he had such amount on him?’

‘My brother, forget about the information. I feel relieved knowing that it wasn’t a kidnap case. Let them take money and leave people alone.’

Me, I won’t lie, I felt very relieved for a moment.  Like I was actually happy cause the kidnap news depressed me the day before. But my relief lasted only a moment. Then I felt worried. Worried that we had gotten to a stage where we were okay, very okay, with hearing about robbery. It was okay to us. It was better than being kidnapped. The same way when we read daily about 5 killed in explosion in Gombe, or 4 killed in suicide bombing in Yobe. The same way we are now immune to such news. Ahn it’s normal na, no new news???

I got worried. I am still worried. I fear. Any hope for us? Would kidnapping seem like a better option tomorrow when another violent act to humanity springs up and becomes our current fear?

Yes, I fear… I fear.

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