To start off it is important to define Bullying and Harassment.
Bullying: seek to harm, intimidate, or coerce someone perceived as vulnerable.
Harassment: aggressive pressure or intimidation. (Intimidating someone means to make timid or fearful, especially to compel or deter by or as if by threats).
On the 12th September 2023, the death of Mohbad a 27 year old musician was announced. Since this announcement, several stories have come to light online, some with accompanying video clips. From some of the online clips, one can see why many people appear to believe that this young man may have been bullied and harassed by certain yet to be identified individuals.
From the video clips and the stories that are being told by several individuals, the bullying and harassment became so terrible that this young man became depressed and may have at some stage had suicidal ideation.
Several people have called for the Nigerian police to investigate the circumstances surrounding his death. All that can be said here is that may justice be done and may his soul rest in peace, and may we not be partakers in burying our young ones.
The above case is so sad and so negative, the only positive act that can come from this case is the fact that it has forced us to start a conversation on bullying, emotional and psychological abuse. We live in a society with blurred lines. Culturally, we are respectful and disciplined people, but it is important to recognised that there can be a blurred line between respect/discipline and bullying, emotional and psychological abuse.
When a leader or person in power believes that once you question their decisions you have disrespected him or her, then there is a problem. Or people in authority that believe that because they went through some form of difficulties or hardship to get to the top position, therefore, anyone that wants to achieve the same feat must go through the same difficulty or hardship even when easier and more convenient processes have been discovered. This is bullying it is not discipline or respect.
We have in times past heard stories of claiming to have been requested to pay money or do other things including sexual ‘favours’ before one can achieve certain awards or positions. The very common one now among the youths is the issue of belonging to a ‘cult’ or group and taking oaths.
In relation to the youths across Nigeria and here in Oyo State, they are being bullied at all fronts. The Nigerian State has become the ‘Big Bully’. Within the Nigerian system bullying and harassment thrives, as it is acceptable for people with any form of power to lord it over anyone unfortunate enough to be their subordinate, and the youth are particularly vulnerable.
For the youth who have no family, personal, political or religious contact and is unable to buy his or her way through the system, then bullying and harassment is part and parcel of their lives. To get a job employers bully and harass them, they go to school, teachers and lecturers bully them, they walk on the streets uniformed men bully them, they go out for recreation the wealthy bully them. Then the few areas where they can walk freely and breathe a bit of fresh air (amusement pack and gardens) are being auctioned off to serve the interest of the rich people.
The government of Nigeria has also directly joined in on the act of harassing and bullying the voiceless, helping to create a group of emotionally and psychologically unstable citizens, the result is what we see around us. This can be seen with several government policies, for example what do we call a government that removes fuel subsidy, moving the price of petrol up by approximately 250% permanently but then gives the people a few cups of rice to cushion the effect of the subsidy removal.
As the price of transportation goes through the roof, school fees increase, price of food commodities increase, the government officials across the country are either buying luxury cars for themselves and their cronies/supporters or globetrotting under the guise of business development and investment generation. The effect of all these heartlessness is the unconscious creation of heartless, immoral, and unstable communities where religious and elders see the true but focus on money, and the poor engage in extreme get rich schemes.
We live in a society where the end justifies the means, we live in a society where ritual killing, kidnapping, fraud, prostitution, and all other vices one can think off has become acceptable means of making a living. Yet our politicians, religious leaders, elders and prominent members of our societies just believe it is business as usual all because their children are kept away securely in foreign lands attending expensive schools and in many cases living off the resources their parents have stolen from Nigeria.
It is unfortunate that every Nigerian youth with no contact as described earlier had their ‘Mohbad moment’ or their ‘Mohbad moment’ is around the corner. They just pray that when their ‘Mohbad moment’ arrives, that they will not end up six feet under. The Nigerian youth are crying out at this moment not only because they have lost one of their own, but they are also crying out because they know this can happen to them as well.
The political class and leaders have become detached from the people, no feelings no empathy. The politicians and leaders believe it is okay to spend billions of Naira on car, houses, travelling in private jets and so on, but it is unnecessary and a waste to ensure that the masses have access and can afford the basic human needs that is food, shelter, clothing, and clean air.
To ensure Mohbad and all the other victims of the system do not die in vain, we must stand back and ask questions: where did we miss it? What do we have in place for our youths from poor backgrounds?
Where did we miss it? We missed it when we stopped rewarding academic excellence, integrity, honesty, and truthfulness. Once money took over, we missed it. Every State in Nigeria has the list of names of all the students in the State-owned schools. When was the last time we rewarded the best students in each school, when was the last time we organised an inter schools’ competition be it sport or academic? What we always do is we reward the overall best student; we forget that the overall best student usually comes from the more established schools or private schools. The government must rethink its strategy on rewarding students in state schools, and the youths in general.
What do we have in place for our youths from poor backgrounds? Let me start with the palliatives. We gave some food stuff to people, and we went on live television, radio and online to state how great the government is. Where are the long-term sustainable youth development programmes? Here in Oyo State, how many young people have made sustainable progress in the last 4 years? Take the YEAP project as an example, imagine a young person who saw that project as his or her only way out of poverty, can you imagine how their hopes have been dashed. If I am right, there are talk of giving affordable loans to youth entrepreneurs. No one has come out in a transparent way to explain the eligibility criteria, where and how to apply, nothing is available. I hope we will not be told in a while that the loans have been disbursed using the alleged ‘list’ in the Ministry of Agriculture and OYSADA. What is the contribution of the ministry of youths and sports? It can be stated clearly the government across the country has systematically put the youth through serious mental torture with all the promises that has never materialised.
Do we even have the statistics regarding the number of Youths from each State that have tried to cross the Sahara Desert, do we know how many youths that are involved in fraud and prostitution. In a country where the minimum wage is 30,000.00 Naira, a government which was voted in to serve the people is selling off the people’s assets without consulting the same people that employed them. Where is the State affordable housing, where are the functioning health care centres, what happened to the WAEC rating.
These 3 areas (Housing, Health, and Education) mentioned if properly done will improve the lives of the youths. Remember that food, shelter, and clothing are the 3 key basic needs. It is sad that no government has been able to provide these for the poor and vulnerable even minimally. Yet housing estates keep springing up all over the country and same here in Oyo State, but they are all well priced out of the reach of the average citizen. How many people in Oyo State can afford 5 million Naira for a plot of land not to talk of 45 million Naira?
How many supposedly low-cost housing estates that have come up in the last years.
It is clear that the current system is unconsciously designed to emotionally and psychologically abuse the poor and vulnerable, because he who controls the finance is seen as all powerful. Looking at one of the sectors that employ many young people, that is the hospitality sector, many young who people work in bars, restaurants/eateries and hotels across the State are paid between 15,000 and 30,000 Naira monthly depending on the standard of the establishment. The working conditions in most of this place can be likened to slave labour. For this amount these youths are expected to work 7 days a week, from about 3pm to the following morning. They cannot go home until the accountant arrives at maybe 10am (19 hour shifts), they rush home have a shower and then return by 3pm. These young workers sleep on the floor or tables once the customers leave.
Apart from these financial, physical and psychological abuse, then there is the sexual abuse that goes on. Bear in mind that some of the prostitutes can be paid between 15,000 to 30,000 Naira in one night, the fraudster can make same in a few hours, so you can see why streets of Bodija and the Shoprite in Ring Road is littered with young girls looking for punters.
It is time to fight for our youths in a genuine way, the lip service stops now. The government must immediately kick start the process of salvaging the collective hopelessness and wreckage in lives of our youths to ensure a safer future.
May the souls of Mohbad, Omoniyi Boluwatife, Olayinka Adeshina (Khadi) Ibadan 2023, Vwaere Diaso (Young doctor that died in the elevator accident in Lagos), Toyosi Ayanwole (abducted on BRT bus Lagos Feb 2022) and all the fallen youths across the country rest in peace Amen.
WE CAN DO BETTER
Suggestion : The state house of assembly should pass a law for better working conditions for the youth that will include safeguarding vulnerable individuals.