Perhaps it is only in a state of war that one would imagine the number of dead bodies that we behold daily on our roadsides. But that is the reality of today’s Nigeria. Even ifthe Boko Haram areas,where there is currently a nigh-war situation, is discounted, these ugly sites are commonplaceon our roadsides every other day. Life is a great gift that is cherished.The human body is the symbol of that gift. Therefore, virtually all traditions accord the dead some dignity, and consequently, their corpses are not dispatched along the roads as if they belong to lower animals.Surprisingly, however, the increasing number of dead human bodies sacrilegiously abandoned on our roadsidesis not only drawing the attention of those who care to know but point to so many underlying issueswhich equally demandurgent attention. Unfortunately, there seems to be no efficient statistical tracking of these occurrences, which partially explains why such bodies are sometimes almost fully decomposedand threatening public health before public sector authorities remove them. Of course, many of the possible reasons forthese unfolding ugly phenomenonanchor on the usual culprit: the poor economic condition of the country.
A man who can no longer provide shelter for himself and his family perhaps has very few options that can save him and his family fromlivingin the streets. It is also very well known that the inability to shelter oneselfis the lot of many Nigerians. Traditionally but unfortunately,rates on rented shelter generally adjustupwards and has been soaringunabated in the past few decades. Income level of millions of Nigerians, on the other hand,hasconsiderably fallen in purchasing power terms. The effect is that many become homeless and live in the streets. However, while it is easy for some to adjust to life on the street, the majority are never able to adapt.The streetlife approximates the jungle. Some enjoy it just like some animals in the forests do. But some animals pay dearly and regularly with their lives too for other animals in the wilderness to live a good life.Correspondingly, some homeless personsrudely ejected into the streets become the sacrificial lambs that keep other members of that junglealive. In addition to that, most times, living on the streets, naturally comes with many health challenges that take the life of the victim.For instance, newliving-in-the-street members make some behavioural adjustments to adapt to the lifestyle of the streets that quickly lead them to bad health and death. Usually, the roadside becomes the most convenient place to keep the dead body.
Extreme levels of deprivationhave also become the second nature of many Nigerians. It is also needless to state that the deep frustrations that attend to such severe levels of deprivation have resulted in mental disorders for many. Some cannot cope with the psychological frustrationsof not being able to fend for their families which they used to. Such failures manifest in different forms. For some, they withdraw intolong-term despair, depression and other personality disorders. For others, they patronise hard drugs and through that channel, find themselves in the streets. But for a small and yet significant number, extreme deprivations eventually result in their outright madness. A lot of the mad people we see on our roads today are victims of either hard drugs or lack of income and loss of socio-economic status.A few years ago, there was this story that made the rounds of a certain man who jumped into the oceanonThird Mainland bridge,Lagos because he could not repay the debtsthat he owed the banks. Annoyingly, thousands of Nigerians today face similar situations, although it is only a small number that goes to the extent of giving up their lives on the side of the road as a solution. Yet many of the people who have become psychologically affected by today’s economic challenges and wander the streets as mad people end up by the roadsides as corpses.
Jungle justice has also contributed to a reasonable percentage of men and women who ended up on the roadside as corpses. Regrettably too, many of the people who have suffered this kind of instant justicewere never caught trying to steal things that were more valuable than the combined worth of three-square meals. Hundreds of Nigerians have lost their lives in the hands of irate mobs for thieving things that are worth less than 1000 naira. Some ended that way because they went about their search for themoney to feed their families in the wrong direction. The summary is that most deaths by jungle justiceare attributable to extreme poverty. As it is well known, the most dangerous expedition of a poor man is trying to steal from another poor or hungry man. But this class of people abound in Nigeria and are swelling in the numbers every day. Desperate poormen, hungry for survival, usually have no option than to take the risk of stealing from anotherman in need.Unfortunately, desperate men-in-need most times rally around each other when they are hurt or attacked.So, when someone is found taking from one of them, they rarely listen to reason. Their response is usually to exterminate the agent that wants to deepen their woes by taking from them. And again, since it is a jungle justice kind of death, the corpses are left on the roadside to decompose.
One of the many entrepreneurial responses to the pervasive level of poverty in Nigeria is also the recourse to prostitution by many. Several decades ago, known prostitutes were pariahs in society. But that has long changed. Prostitution now has a new and fashionable name which has accorded it some level of societal acceptance. It is now called “runs”. Students at their various stages, as well as married women, now engage in ‘runs’ to meet up as well as put food on the table. But the ugly side of this new craze is the rate at whichthey contract unwanted pregnancies and produce babies,many of which they abandon on the roadsides. One of the consequences of prostitution is usually the possibility of unwanted pregnancies. Now with the massive rollercoaster engagement in this act, hundreds of unwanted babies are brought into the world. More and more girls live in the streets today,and many of them have sad accounts of their experiences with unwanted pregnancies, many of which ended on our roadsides as dead bodies. We cannot deny that we have an epidemic of sexual addiction that is yet to reach its crescendo. But it is worse when the systemdoes not recognise this and fails to preventand adequately manage the unpalatable consequences of such evolving addiction.
So far, we have traced much of the root causes of roadside dead bodies to several culprits which converge essentially onpoverty and deprivation. We have carried on as if Nigeria is not in a state of war. But that is like denying the fact. Unfortunately, we are by all standards in a state of war. Hundreds of thousands of Nigerians are being decimated every day in the Boko Haram infested areas of Northern Nigeria. The results are hundreds of dead bodies on the streets. Boko Haram and other insurgencies are known for creating lots of sordid scenes of human beings massacredas animals and offered to the vultures on roadsides. Boko Haram is not alone in this. Experience has proven that virtually all insurgencies in Nigeria either directly decimates or indirectly lead to the decimation of hundreds of human lives.Otherwise, what will a group of people who organise themselves in a command structure, be doing with loads of ammunition? They always have as their goal as the use of all means possible to achieve the grand agenda, which always lead to the losses of many lives.
To make matters worse, our bad roads that are supposed to be the source of livelihood for many have become the altar of the sacrifice of many Nigerians.Virtually all the road networks in Nigeria today are in a very terrible and dangerous condition. Some are so bad that they qualify fully as death traps that murder lots of Nigerians. Therefore,surviving the jungle justice, the lifestyle of the streets, as well as the poverty and hunger that attend to them, may not be enough as the threats of the road is always there.As should be expected, many of the poverty-turned fugitives on the streets eventually get killed by vehicles that are trying to navigate our motorways.These occur mainly at night when the absence of lights makes them more dangerous.
There are also numerous cases of kidnapping and organ harvesting by ritualists and the eventual dumping of the victims’ bodies on the roadsides. When a country has become so depressedwith inordinately elevatedlevels of trust in religion and faith in the unknown side-by-side a comparably low level of trust on knowledge and their ability to work out the solution to their challenges, the result will always embrace fetishism. Unfortunately, many Nigerians believe that the use of human lives in occult practices can lead to socioeconomic success. Yet for the many years that our African ancestors offered human sacrifices to the gods, they remained the least of all continents of the world, in science, technology, and good quality life. Today, many of the victims of such a belief system end up by the roadside as corpses after the harvest of some of their vital body parts for rituals. Many missing persons have always resurfaced as corpses by the roadside with some of their body parts such as eyes, heart, breasts and private parts missing.
Where do we go from here? We are human beings and not wild cats and stray dogs whose deaths on the roadside may seem typical. Perhaps this evolving ugly trend is beginning to make human life in Nigeria seemequal to some of these lower animals. The best but perhaps an unmeasured indicator of good governance is the absence of human corpses in our roadsides.