Guns and Society in Colonial Nigeria: Firearms, Culture, and Public Order

By Saheed Aderinto | Go to book overview

EPILOGUE
Guns and the Crisis of Development in Postcolonial Nigeria

The caption of a Nigerian Observer photo of two boys dressed in military gear and holding toy guns at a children’s Christmas party in Benin City in December 1972 reads in part: “Children live in a world of their own and since the menace of the ‘gbomogbomos’ [kidnappers] who says children have not become security conscious.”1 This picture and caption do more to paint the image of a militarized postcolonial state and its attendant insecurity than to capture the true role of children in crime fighting (figure EPI.1).2 Of greater importance is that the image fed public opinion that both adults and children were exposed to dangers. While adults were the main victims of armed robbery, which assumed a new dimension following the Nigerian Civil War (1967–70), minors suffered from the menace of child kidnappers.3 There was no time in Nigeria’s history that children were totally immune to abductors; but the petro-naira economy of the 1970s fueled ritual moneymaking, among other diabolic means, for which kidnapped children were supposedly used.4 The representation of guns, crime, and insecurity in the print media, popular music (like Ayinla Omowura’s commentary on child kidnapping), famous stage plays and literature, and other creative works in the 1970s further imprinted violence in the consciousness of millions of Nigerians.5

The causes of insecurity, one of the most potent manifestations of underdevelopment in postcolonial Nigeria, are easy to itemize. Failures of leadership and political and economic marginalization of much of the population gave birth to a teeming demographic of unemployed, miseducated young people capable of diverting their energies to activities that fulfilled

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