29 April 2014

Nigeria: Children - in Nigeria, in Korea


APRIL 14, terrorists abducted school girls from a government school in Chibok, Borno State. We are still debating how many they are. The rescue efforts were futile enough for the parents of the victims to dare Sambisa Forest, on their own.

National life is bustling; except for the parents, little else is being heard. Boko Haram, accused of taking the young girls, has been slaughtering students, bombing anywhere they want, robbing banks and simply appropriating parts of the country.

April 16, a South Korean ferry bearing more than 500 passengers, mostly high school students and their teachers on a trip from Incheon to the holiday island of Jegu sank. Only 174 survived with the rest presumed dead though rescue operations continue. On Sunday South Korean Prime Minister, Chung Hong-won, resigned in response to criticisms of government's slow reaction to the accident.

The Prime Minister was not the owner of the doomed ferry. He was neither the Minister of Transportation, nor was he the captain of the ferry. He was captain of a larger enterprise, the nation, of which a ferry that sank was a part. He was held responsible for failing to keep the lives of his people safe. He accepted responsibility. He made no excuses; he blamed no one else.

"Keeping my post is too great a burden on the administration," Chung said in a brief announcement. "On behalf of the government, I apologise for many problems from the prevention of the accident to the early handling of the disaster.

"There are too many irregularities and malpractices in parts of society that have been with us too long and I hope those are corrected so that accidents like this will not happen again."

Bereaved families are not placated. Some want President Park Geun-hye, who became South Korea's first female president in 2013, to resign. She has the most power in government.

South Korea is in a sombre mood as the dead are interred. Applause has been banned at baseball games. Television comedy shows are suspended. A nation feels the lives of its people - now its young ones - count.

We may not be South Korea. We may not have a culture of accepting responsibility. We may find power too attractive to ponder leaving it. We may have every defence for doing nothing.

Are we saying that nobody has responsibility for keeping us safe? Does the oath to obey the Constitution mean nothing? Have the welfare and security of the people (Section 14 2b of the 1999 Constitution) ceased to be the primary purpose of government?

The wailing of the abducted young girls in Sambisa Forest judges our security, especially the commander-in-chief, the President.

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