Pangolo Junction
Life, arguments, and kunu... with Max, Nat and Zack

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Crossfire

(Zack and Max are whiling away time in the Junction when a flustered Nat bursts through the door.)

Nat (apologetically): Sorry, guys! I was held up by our Security Manager. Apparently, the bank is worried about the recent upsurge of armed robberies and they want to educate us on what actions to take to prevent this from happening, as well as informing us on what to do when a robbery is in progress.

Max (amused): What else can you do when a robbery is in progress other than do what the robbers tell you to do?

Nat: Well, the manager said that we should not try to do anything dramatic in order not to endanger our lives. However, his focus was more on how we could prevent such robberies from being successful.

Zack: What did he say you could do?

Nat (smiling and shaking his head): Sorry - they only thing I can tell you of what he said is that we shouldn't divulge the bank's security policies.

Max: Aha! But since the non-divulgence of bank security policy is also part of bank security policy, then you've already divulged bank security policy by divulging that you cannot divulge bank security policy! (Grinning) So you might as well tell us the rest...

Nat (still smiling and shaking his head): I didn't understand a word of what you just said there, so I shall hold to my policy of silence.

Zack: The bank would be better off petitioning the government to beef up the police force so that it would be more effective in tackling armed robbers.

Max (contemptuously): The police force? (Gives a long hiss.) Spending money on the police force to fix armed robbery is like pouring water into a leaky bucket, followed by a stream of acid to make the bucket even more leaky. The only way armed robbery will be stamped out in Nigeria is when people are given the right to defend themselves.

Zack (rolling his eyes): You've come again with this your mad idea of arming every single Nigerian. I thought we had already discussed this and decided it was unworkable?

Max (shaking his head vigorously): Uh-uh. You decided it was unworkable - I still think it's a great idea. Right now, when armed robbers approach your house, you have two options - bail out through the back window and hope they don't spot you, or wait and receive your punishment like an emasculated victim. Either way, your stuff is going to be stolen. However, if the government followed my suggestion and allowed everyone to own a gun, armed robbers would think twice before storming into people's houses.

Nat (sceptically): And you don't think that will escalate the problem? Before, when armed robbers came visiting, they would come with machetes. Now that they know to expect an armed response, they will come with rocket launchers!

Max (patiently): You need to understand the psychology of the armed robber. He is opportunistic in nature; he will only target the areas where he knows he will encounter least resistance. How many armed robbers do you find going to Aso Rock to try and rob the President? So when they see you fire back at them, they'll go and look elsewhere.

Nat: Well, the only reason armed robbers don't go to Aso Rock is because they know in advance that it will be too difficult for them. But they believe that Mr. Okon of Ubot Road will not have the resources or firepower to give them the same problem, so they will target that area.

Max: Eh, so after Mr. Okon and neighbours have welcomed them with several rounds of gunfire, the armed robbers will add Ubot Road to their list of areas to avoid, alongside Aso Rock and the Nigerian Army Headquarters.

Zack: I still don't agree. Nigerians are simply not used to fighting off criminals with guns. I'm sure there are many people who don't even know how to hold a gun - if they had to do battle with robbers, they would probably hold the gun with the barrel pointing towards themselves.

Nat: Plus the fact that guns are waaaay too dangerous to be left in houses where children can get ahold of them and treat them like playthings. Imagine the outcry if a young child was to be shot dead from such an accident!

Max (wagging an admonitory finger at Nat): Hey! I've warned you against using that cheap trick of using the image of dead or injured small children to win an argument. Progress cannot be halted just because a child will die. Instead, let natural selection take its course. Then eventually, the only children left alive will be the ones that are smart enough not to fool around with a gun and get their heads blown off - or better still, those who are smart enough to fool around with a gun without getting their heads blown off. These are the children that will grow up so comfortable with a gun that armed robbers will have to think twice about attacking their neighbourhoods.

Zack (vehemently): You're not serious at all! If we were to go by your natural selection idea, then there's no need to do anything at all! After all, armed robbers are the superior group - they deserve to remain the last people standing, since they are powerful enough to finish off all of us weaklings!

Max: No, they're not powerful - it's just that the government is stopping us from fighting back with our own guns, that's all.

Zack (sarcastically): Of course they're powerful! Imagine - even a whole government cannot stop them from getting guns. I say that we deserve to be exterminated by these superior beings! (Raising his voice) Come armed robbers, and kill all of us!

(There is a sudden silence as nearly everyone in the Junction turns and fixes the trio with hostile glares.)

A Patron (loudly and angrily): Zack, if you want to be killed by armed robbers, can you kindly leave this place first and then go to that place under the flyover before announcing your intention? Don't involve the rest of us - as tough as life is, we still want to enjoy it with our friends and families!

Zack (embarrassed): Jerry, abeg no vex. I was just telling a story of a friend who was challenging some armed robbers to a machine gun fight.

Jerry: The next time you tell your stories, please try and keep the volume down. You don't know who is listening these days!

(There are murmurs in agreement, and everyone returns to their business.)

Nat (worriedly): One day, this your loud voice really will put us in trouble! I'm sure you could have made your point in a less dramatic way.

Max (grinning): Zack - sarcasm really doesn't suit you. And you weren't even making a good point. I'm not campaigning for anarchy - all I'm saying is that if the government cannot defend its people, it should allow its people to defend themselves. What's wrong with that?

Nat: Well, first of all, think about this. Guns are rather expensive - so assuming that the government allows us all to have guns, and we are responsible enough to keep them locked away for only serious incidents, then ultimately, only areas with people rich enough to buy guns and ammunition will be able to put up enough of a fight to discourage armed robbers from visiting. But you think the armed robbers will see the futility of their current existence and turn to holy living? No way! They'll just turn to the poorer, less threatening areas to rob. So the problem won't go away - it'll just shift.

Max (dismissively): As long as it's no longer my problem, that's fine by me. At least I will serve as inspiration for the residents of other places that the armed robbers visit - if I could shift armed robbers away from my neighbourhood, they can, too! And to those who are too poor to afford a gun, well if they're too poor to afford a gun, they're probably too poor to have anything worth stealing anyway. Or they can always put up notices saying "Armed Robbers - Beware! We May Look Poor, But One Resident In This Neighbourhood Is a Gunsmith!"

Zack (disgustedly): Typically selfish! Anyway, unfortunately for you, the armed robber is as motivated by greed for money as he is by fear of the gun. In fact, I think that an armed robber is typically so recklessly optimistic that he won't even think about the danger of gunfire - he'll convince himself that he is such a superman that no bullet on earth can touch him. And if he can't convince himself through his self-confidence, then he'll convince himself using igbo or ogogoro. So having a gun is no guarantee that your neighbourhood will be free from armed robbers - the threat has to be so high and the reward so low that the armed robber will simply not consider it worth his while.

Nat (wearily): Why all this focus on firepower as a way of stopping crime? I'm sure that there are many other ways of deterring criminals that are not potentially lethal.

Zack (scornfully): Like what? Pleading with them? Telling them that their mothers will be angry with them? My friend, be serious - the only language these men of the underworld understand is force!

Max: Wait - Nat may have a point. You could warn the robbers that you have surrounded your house with powerful juju - for some reason, Nigerians seem fear juju more than they fear God. Or you could tell them that your house is infected with an incurable illness worse than AIDS that will cause their genitals to shrivel up and drop off. Nothing would terrify a red-blooded armed robber more than the prospect of his fellow robbers mocking him for his lack of 'equipment'.

Nat (smiling): Well, actually I was thinking of equipment like mace canisters which could immobilise robbers without killing them.

Zack (exasperatedly): Immobilise without killing? What's the point of that? How will that prevent future crimes when the robber regains mobility and resumes his robbery? I tell you, armed robbers are like cockroaches - they should be stamped to death and ground under with a heavy studded boot!

Max: Plus mace canisters have a rather limited range, and are no match for the firepower of the robbers. Face it - it's got to be crossfire if you want to engage with them. But I'm not as bloodthirsty as Zack - I don't care whether my gunfire frightens them away or kills them, as long as it keeps them away from my house.

Nat: But still, all this is just dealing with the symptoms rather than the actual root cause. There are few or no academic studies about what drives armed robbers in Nigeria to steal. Even in this discussion, we've been making assumptions about whether the robber is more driven by fear or greed. If we really understood the mind of the robber, we would not only have a better idea about how to respond to his attacks, but we would also know how to rehabilitate him.

Zack (furious): Rehabili-what? Nat, you are unbelievable! These... these vermin storm into a householder's property, steal everything he owns, injure the householder, rape his wife or daughters - and you want to rehabilitate them? (Looks at Nat suspiciously.) Or do you have armed robber confederates?

Nat: It's not about loving armed robbers - it's about viewing human life as sacred. You make a lot of noise about stamping on this and shooting at that, but when push comes to shove, if I gave you a gun and told you to kill an armed robber in cold blood, I'm not sure you would have the guts to do it. (Zack starts to protest, but Nat waves him down.) In addition, I would rather have a reformed armed robber who used his experience to help combat armed robbery than a dead armed robber who was no use to anyone.

Max (mischievously): Nat, you have a point. Perhaps this is a case of giving a dog a bad name. What if we actually showed armed robbers the love we have for them? When they came robbing, instead of barricading ourselves in, we could invite them in for a good meal of pounded yam and bitterleaf soup. We could ask them how the evening's robbing had gone so far, and how they planned to relax after it was all over.

(Zack explodes.)

Show love to armed robbers? Yes - I can see it now. (Loudly) Let's just invite all armed robbers to all our houses, and let's just tell them to take everything! EVERYTHING!!

(There is another cold silence in the Junction as everyone again turns to Zack with hostile glares.)

Max (whispering) Like I said, Zack, sarcasm really doesn't suit you!

4 Comments:

  • armed robbery in nigeria and Lagos especially makes me so afraid. Now that these robbers think that they are in action films and shoot without precision it is even more worrisome.

    Anyway, nice one!


    NIGERIAN CURIOSITY
    IT WAS SO MUCH EASIER WHEN I ONLY HAD ONE...

    By Blogger SOLOMONSYDELLE, At March 27, 2008 7:27 am  

  • It's a serious problem. The rich have a lot to answer for.

    By the way, this is to let you know I've changed my id. Formerly naija1st.

    By Blogger naijalines, At March 28, 2008 9:02 am  

  • Great post. I agree that if we had less restrictions on gun ownership in Nigeria, a lot of robbery activities would be checked.

    Why? One word -- Switzerland. The problem is knowing where to draw the line.

    By Blogger azuka, At April 03, 2008 2:07 pm  

  • Respect beget respect: Armed Robbers are not to be found in Asokoro or Senators quarters, neither are they to be found in Naval Army or Airforce barracks despite the fact that they are aware that is where the big bucks are. WHY? The answer is "path of least resistance". All the rich men have guns and security details to protect themselves and their family but prevent other Nigerians from owning one so that the arm robbers gaze would always be perpetually focused on the poor neighborhood. Selfishness to the extreme. But really, does a man not have the right to protect his wife and daughters from arm robbers that not only steal but rape them right in front of you?

    By Anonymous Deji Saanu, At April 24, 2008 10:09 am  

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