Building, or owning, a house is a normal dream for each and every adult, male or female, whether in Accra or Ankara, Lagos or Los Angeles, Mali or Makkah, Abuja or Aberdeen or wherever. The freedom often derived from the houses however vary widely depending on the part of the world you are fortunate to be. The houses being built by the middle class and above in some areas in West Africa are nothing but prisons rather than homes.
The freedom being sought from the style/design of the structure is always being met by the challenges of neighborhood security thereby forcing you to budget for unnecessary surveillance and physical constraints measures. Hence, for many living in the free rural areas, it takes them little time to notice how restrictive the urban middle class lives can be. It takes them little to see beyond the advertised grandeur of the “rich” homes to see prisons instead. How do you describe this feeling: You are passing by your friend’s house and you need to have some conversation, yet you are pressed for time. You called your friend on phone to step unto his balcony for some chat. Alas, the balcony has been fully barred with iron rods; so he has to talk to you behind bars, as you might imagine!
It is around here, unlike what may obtain outside of Africa, that you will see some individual structures with security towers (for the watchmen); despite a very high brick fence with electrical deterrents already constructed. You may also have to drive in through a toughened iron gates into the compound. Looking round, you will likely observe windows with wrought iron burglary restraints; and CCTV cameras for both internal external surveillance. You will be entering the house through a toughened steel security door, and you may have to pass through a couple of such doors before accessing the main living room. What a structure! You will not be too far from the truth if you look at this as a microcosm of the Fox River – the main prison in the popular TV series, Prison Break.
Ironically, the prison inmates still feel much more safer and relaxed than most “inmates” in a typical Nigerian middle class house. Fear of burglars and robbers, with their terror, sometimes pervade neighborhoods; palpitations sometimes experienced whenever some gentle breeze blows around the curtain blinds………what a life! Is it possible to turn this tide around? Can we work round this sense of fear and insecurity?
Of course, we can! We are currently at a point where youth development and productive ‘busy-ness’ to be underpinned by adequate social welfare have become highly necessary in our societal existence. We need to productively engage the teeming youths in ideas and ventures which will consequently dissuade them from the culture of crime and intimidation. We can:
- Establish lots of community vocation centres where youths can engage in skills acquisition and development. There should be real efforts to teach today and future’s skills, and not just basket weaving or palm tapping! The youths want to be competitive and relevant in the society.
- Establish our own social security benefits scheme for unemployed and underemployed people. This would not necessarily create a sense of dependency on the government, rather showing government’s responsibility to the citizenry. The stipends will naturally take care of the pangs of hunger, but importantly it will free the mind towards creativity and entrepreneurship.
- Sincerely extend loans to yearning small business idealists to start something. This should be driven down to the lowest level of the societal hierarchy. We can create functional advisory boards to guide this small business guys in setting up systems for business operations. With the experience of the Bangladeshi Grameen Bank, we know this type of scheme will work and that people will repay the loans – they are even more honourable than the corporate debtors other banks run after.
- Create more security posts or police stations across the states to tackle the spate of crime. The officers, of course, need to be well trained and equipped to face the tasks. Our intelligence efforts are also concentrated around politicians and government properties, it’s high time an average citizen enjoyed the benefit of the State Security Services.
With these and some other measures, we may be able to relax the restrictive measures in our homes since many would be much productively engaged. We will free ourselves from living in prisons but rather as real free men.
Share your thoughts on measures you believe can fine tune our prison homes by dropping your comments.