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Nigeria: Another Mob Action and a Call to Action

By Vivian U. Ogbonna

Friday, November 18, 2016.

Yesterday, we woke up to the story of a young boy, said to be seven years old, who was killed by a mob in Lagos State. He was said to have stolen garri and a phone. A couple of days later, a different version of the story says the ‘boy’ was actually an adult and a member of a notorious gang of criminals.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about an incident I had witnessed at Uthako, Abuja, where a mob beat up a girl, and may have killed her, because she wore a short dress which was slit at the sides. Two policemen stood by and watched the mob, until I pleaded with them to rescue her. In the comments that trailed the article, most people condemned the act, while others said the young lady deserved it, that she should have known better than to dress like a prostitute.

Earlier in the year, when a certain Madam Bridget was killed by a mob in Kano, many Nigerians said she deserved it. Again, they said she should have known better than to desecrate the Muslim religion by her utterances and words. The men who were on trial for her murder have since been freed.

Four years ago, four young men were killed and burnt to death in a community in Rivers State because somebody had said they were cultists. Many years later, nothing has been heard about the case or the fate of their murderers.

In February 2016, Akinnifesi Olumide Olubunmi was killed in Ondo State because he was said to be engaged in sexual activities with another man. Again, there has been no news that his murderers have been punished.

These are only a few instances of people who have died in the hands of angry mobs. In all these cases, opinions are divided, as they usually are when such incidents occur. While some people say the victims deserved what befell them, others do not agree. Even more surprising are people who are selective about their indictment. They would agree that, for example, homosexuals deserve to be killed while an elderly woman like Madam Bridget deserves to live.

Therein lies the problem with jungle justice. It tends to speak from two sides of its mouth - it applauds one and condemns another; it justifies some and vilifies others. But jungle justice is what it is – a spontaneous, unspoken agreement by a group of people to end somebody’s life or people’s lives. While we all agree that crime - especially that of murder - is abhorrent and an infringement on people’s rights to live, jungle justice is as abhorrent as the original crime. Criminality is not solved by criminality. Like we say in everyday language, “two wrongs don’t make a right.” People should not be physically assaulted or killed by a mob because they have committed a crime, especially when those crimes are said to be utterances or life styles that are not acceptable to others. No sane country can run that way. Laws are made by governments and punishments are prescribed by these laws. Therefore, punishments shouldn’t be left to the discretion of individuals. When this is allowed to happen, societies fall into anarchy, with aggrieved parties engaging in free-for-all fracases! Rather than applaud or justify jungle justice, what we must start to demand for from our government is a reform of the police force and judiciary. What we also need is a re-orientation of the mentality of the Nigerian citizenry.

Another issue that has come up for debate since yesterday, as it does each time these incidents occur, is the appropriateness [or the lack of it] of making pictures and videos related to such incidents public. I am confident that most of the individuals or media outlets who share these photos do not do so in other to gloat or shame the victims. This is not Melania Trump’s naked photos or Chidinma Okeke’s cucumber video. This is a supposedly ‘young’ boy burned to death because he was said to have stolen food! Making the photos available in public can only be an attempt to throw the evil and shame of it in our communal faces, to show us how far we have gone in desecrating the bonds that should hold us together as human beings. More than that, it is also an attempt to incite a revulsion in the deepest parts of our stomachs, a revulsion that will hopefully lead to positive action. This is what I think.

What then shall we say about media outlets like CNN and Aljazeera who show the world the carnage in war torn zones, with photos of children with skulls blown open? Should they be condemned for doing their jobs? How else does the world get to know for certain that these things are happening? What evidence will the Nigeria police and law enforcement agents have that such acts are committed?

There are way too many issues associated with this rising trend than one can do justice to in a few words. From an inefficient and corrupt police force, to a weak legal system that often lets perpetrators go unpunished and families of victims traumatized, to an angry people who’d rather take the law in their own hands than resort to legal means, to a nation that has lost all her empathy, we should brace ourselves for more executions in our public spaces. That is, unless we step in and do something.

This is a call to everybody who is concerned about Nigeria to PLEASE ACT NOW. Let us come together against this new face of evil that confronts us.





Vivian U. Ogbonna is a critically-acclaimed writer who is also an interior decorator. She lives and works in Lagos and Abuja, Nigeria.

Nigeria: Another Mob Action and a Call to Action

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