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OSISIOMA PIPELINE FIRE: RESISTING THE TEMPTATION OF PLAYING POLITICS WITH THE DEAD

By Ifeanyi Okali

Since the Friday pipeline fire outbreak in Osisioma near Aba, the commercial nerve centre of Abia state, the cyberspace has been awashed with the gory images of these our patriots whose lives were cut short in prime in such a gruesome manner by those who in a desperate effort to entertain their friends on the social media have become overnight journalists. They accord little or no respect to these dead ones whose families have been thrown into morning, neither do they give a chill to the inappropriateness of displaying the roasted bodies of these fellow citizens to the eyes that may be forced into emotional trauma and the concomitant damage to their BPs.

But beyond this category of people, the political class in their penchant to opportunistically scavenge for political capitals and undue advantages to enlarge their political horizons have seen this as a low hanging fruit. It is no surprise that the scene of the incident has in the past couple of days been a Mecca of sort. I must make bold to say, with all sense of decency that this is far from being a gesture in good faith.

We are approaching a political year and the environment is fully charged towards our once in four year political festival. With various aspirants trying to make optimal use of any opportunity to outsmart opponents, these besieges are not unexpected. The aim is to present themselves as angels of light and those in touch with the feelings of the community. They work on the emotions of the people to curry their votes and what usually happens later, we already know.

It never came to me as a surprise that some of the supporters of these political actors have thrown shame to the dogs and sensitivity to the birds. They have resorted to feasting on who paid a condolence visit first and who paid last. They have resorted to making political capitals on who showed sympathy and who never showed. This to me is a redefinition of disrespect to the dead. It is not in our culture to gloat on the demise of our fellow men and women. It is unAfrican to step on blood to the achieve political breakthrough. Descending this low for personal gains is not just demeaning but shameful and worrisome.

I must now ask these scavengers of political fortune, is this the first time we’re having a disaster in Abia state? Is this the first time we’re having a disaster that led to the death of scores our citizens? Lest they forget, we were all here when a communal crisis broke out between Arochukwu local government and some communities in Cross River state in which scores of people were feared dead and others displaced. These opportunistic agents who feed on the misery of our people were missing into the thin air.

We have also seen how flood disaster has displaced several of our people across the state and what we heard was a deafening silence from the political class while the affected persons carried their cross alone as if they were paying for a certain sin. These same people today probably never thought they will need the people’s vote and support to achieve their political goals.

We must take a cue from the way the Western world responds to emergency situations without any iota of political undertone. They see it as a collective challenge that must be rooted out without attempting to feed their political ego with tears and blood of their people. When the popular 9/11 attack at World Trade Centre in Washington happened in 2001, all citizens gave their support to ensure that the common enemy is defeated. We know how Osama Bin Laden met his waterloo and the rest they say is history.

We must begin to see injury to one as injury to all. We are all Nigerians and people who believe in the sanctity of life as created by God. There must be a paradigm-changing from this culture of feasting in the tears of others. If the country collapses, all of us will be affected and whatever political ambition anyone is nursing automatically becomes a pipe dream.

The political actors must caution their zealots especially the social media warlords. They must desist from stoking the embers of tension, fear and disunity. A politics of ideology is what drives the world and not hate-laden speeches and utterances.

As the election approaches, we must not afford to set Abia on fire just to achieve our political aims. Politicians should device a civil means of selling their agenda to the people without resorting to using victims of a natural disaster to feather their nests. As Igbos will say “Eburu Ozu onye ozo, odika ebu ukwu nku,” English translation: People are indifferent to the burial procession of another person’s dead relative normally characterized with wailing and cries. To ordinary spectator, that qualifies as a mere entertainment. He sees a bunch of firewood. We must begin to put ourselves in the shoes of the families of the deceased persons.

While I deeply sympathise with families who lost their loved ones and wish the injured ones a quick recovery, the authorities should do more to ensure that the surviving victims are given best medical attention they deserve.

Ka Chineke me eziokwu…..

Ifeanyi Okali
Editor In Chief/Publisher Abia Breaking News, ABN TV & OMPAN

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