After the many recent cases of jungle justice and the ear-ripping silences that follow, I often find myself at loss for words in conversation, however slight, that concern the humanity of my society. Before now, I’ll sweat, wear out the muscles and the veins unfortunate enough to be situated close enough to my mouth anytime I hear or read in literature (however old) that my skin mates are derogatorily referred to. Now, whether this is as a result of pure passion and strife for truth or shallow sentiments and half-baked rationalism, is another matter altogether.
An unbiased look (partial even) at our sparsely kept history will leave a terrible blow on any formally strongly held Pan-African resolve. I spoke with Papa Isiuwa (not real name) about this and here’s what he said, “whoever wrote that we live in trees, that our eyes are on our chest, that we are unreasonable brutes and that we are cannibals, may not have been entirely wrong, but only half-correct. That, I’ll blame on over exaggeration on his part. What I think is, we clearly don’t live in trees, our eyes are in perfect position, some of us are brutes, others reasonable, some of us senselessly kill, but we don’t eat — at least not yet. But the biggest blow to our humanity is our silence when we need to speak”. You might not totally agree with him, but you can’t say his rhetoric is far from the truth. You might also say, “but worse things happen all over the world”, and you will be correct but that’s not what this discourse is about. This is not a comparison between cultures, it is more of an appraisal of a Nigerian issue, home-based problem if you may. Hear me out, please.
How do we explain the incessant incidence of glorified murders that we have sweetly nicknamed “jungle-justice”? How do we begin to describe the mass compliance, that is, ‘silence’ or ‘e nor concern me’? I think what has proven to become another diehard problem is the annoying habit of our families, media and the government to quickly turn recurrence of a vice to a norm. Weak phrases like “this one nor be the first time nah” and “wetin you want make we come do nah?”. The same frail whip that we now use on jungle justice has before now been used on issues like rape, incest, cult clashes, massive looting of public offices, tribal rift, domestic terrorism, the list goes on. We all know what happened; they all suffered the same fate — the back page of national dailies, the bill that won’t pass its first reading, crude disinterest from the masses (when it has not affected them yet) and detached sympathy from the interested class. The deaths go unquestioned, the lives lost quickly turn into mere numbers. We quickly forget that the incessancy of a vice doesn’t make it acceptable.
Some few months ago, a rather sad news was all over the internet of a 7-year-old boy that was mobbed and eventually burnt to death because he allegedly stole garri. I remember quickly thinking to myself, “garri?” Who owned the allegedly stolen garri? Who caught the alleged thief? Who else saw him? Who landed the first blow? Who brought the tyres? And fuel? And matches? What adversity pushed a 7-year-old to that point, damning all consequences to steal? There was a plethora of comments, articles, and different versions of the story dripping from all orifices of the internet. Later that day, a different story that claimed that the alleged thief was over 18 and not 7 sprouted. I remember a careless comment from a guy in my class the following day, he said “thank God say nor be 7 years the boy dey o“. He said it with the same level of ease as the many others who were armed with the new development. It instantly occurred to me that most people didn’t have a problem with how he died but the age he was when he died. No wonder there was a breath of fresh air when news broke that the deceased was older than 7. After the incident, I read a comment online that all the parties involved would have a special place in hell. But I also know another group that might also burn there; the Government that is quiet about it; the Judges who killed the confidence of the justice system by bringing in rot; the ones who keep recording every gory scene and never call for help; the politicians, the clergy, atheists, lecturers, students, the international community that is quiet because it doesn’t affect them yet.
I also remember the lovely lady who was said to have stolen a blackberry phone some time ago. She was swiftly stripped of her raiment (as if rehearsed) and mercilessly beaten. Some perverts quickly maximized the moment by using different objects to prod her most intimate members even while she was being paraded. Who can forget the four gentlemen that were beaten and burnt in Aluu community 5 years ago? (God rest their soul). Again, the news also broke the cyber space and trended for several weeks not because we particularly care, but partly because they were university students and majorly because it was good for news-business. I’m not bringing this up now to renew old injuries but to remind us how quick we are to forget the things we must remember and prevent from happening again.
Dear Nigerians, we owe a sense of responsibility to ourselves. And so, the next time we offer our very colourful show of concern when a bomb goes off in France, or a nuclear leak in China, or flood in Florida, let us also speak out in concern when a suspected thief is beaten, molested and burnt in Lagos. Policemen, with the same tenacity you check for receipt of laptops and go after ‘fine’ boys you suspect to be yahoo boys, show up when they call you to come save a suspect. Judges, the fight you put up when the federal government lashed out on you last year, use it also to condemn the perpetrators of jungle justice. Let’s continue this conversation, and that’s how the fight against evil starts. That’s how we win against evil.
Osamu Ekhator is a farmer and he writes. He’s @samuhub on social media