Friday, July 2, 2010

The Growing threat of Jungle Justice

 A lot of you know where I stand, on the ongoing
 but largely ignored, revolt of  the jobless in Nigeria. One angle that has probably escaped all of us collectively, is that the theoretical fears I expressed, of violence and crime, are the nightmarish real-life dramas of many hapless,and helpless Nigerians.

Round the clock, 24/7, rain or shine, someone, somewhere, within the shores of Nigeria, is loosing his/her life, property, or innocence, in a violent fashion. People are shot,stabbed,axed,maimed, and raped, sometimes   for less than five hundred naira!

It would be foolhardy for me to expect to live in a crime free society, that is a Utopian expectation, and is only probably possible to some extent, at the Vatican. 

We will always have criminal elements amongst us, greed would always ensure that. My hope, is that our society, by our negligence of the vulnerable, and financially helpless in our midst, would not find ourselves struggling against a steep incline of violence, our very own Frankenstein monster.

The misfortune we are creating for ourselves, is tragic. We find the weak at the bottom of our "hellville" , they suffer the most;in turn, they rejoice when they hear that robbers have visited a rich man somewhere. They have become so accustomed to the experience of suffering a crime, that they wish it on their neighbours.

This gangland siege, is breeding a vigilante complex in our people.

A consequence of this is the entrenchment of jungle justice in our psyche. and that was what I saw on my way to work this morning.

I saw a young man, who ,from his build and other evidence I could deduce,could not have been more than thirty years old. 

On his back was a motorcycle, it probably had belonged to him. They were still united in the aftermath of the fire that had consumed them. Someone,or some people, had killed him, and set fire to him, it is even possible, that he was not completely dead before the fire was set.

I was told by a fellow nearby, that he was one ,of two robbers who had been chased to that point by some people in the night. the other had escaped.

The dead, young man, was someone's son,brother,uncle,husband or father. he meant something to someone,somewhere. 

Is it possible, that he could have been innocent?

Could it have been a fatally-tragic case of mistaken identity?

Have we ever bothered to ponder that we might one day kill an innocent person in error?

The risk of such an event happening, ought to be enough to dissuade us from dispensing justice ourselves.

Evidence abounds, that even in advanced societies, with the best of legal systems, and care,sometimes innocent people are falsely convicted, and sometimes executed unjustly.

God forbid that the individual who would suffer this horrendous fate would be someone we know, or one of us!

That would be truly tragic, and a nightmare. 

Fela, in one of his songs, sang, this uprising will bring out the beast in us. It seems the beast in us is already loose.
I also remember him saying then too that, if you had an enemy, all you had to do to get rid of him, was to follow, and point to him on the street, and shout, Ole! (thief)

He said people would kill him for you! They would throw a car tire around his neck and set him on fire! 

When I was growing up, it was rare to see thieves immolated. They usually were captured, and taken to the police who ensured, that justice was truly done.

People did not dare kill another human being they had subdued.

Today, things are sadly different!

The cataclysmic fracturing of our social structure, has reversed the natural order. We now have a police force, that is more corrupt, than the criminals it was set up to control. 

Police stations have become business units, and police check points, are now toll gates!

The police have become the very symbol of the crimes they were set up to prevent!

How did we descend beyond the level of acceptable depravity? Nigeria is becoming a nation that sets new benchmarks in how bad things can be, and how abominable a people can get!

I have a friend who now lives in the United states , when he was still in Nigeria, he once told me that if he had only one bullet in a gun, and he saw a police man chasing a thief, that he would shoot the police man.To him, the criminal was not in doubt!

The policeman was a true criminal, the other fellow was still a suspect, whose guilt ,or innocence ,was yet to be determined!

That is how a lot of Nigerians view our police.

We do not see them as our friends, as regularly advertised.

Because of this, people now prefer to dispense justice themselves. 

At the risk of being accused of holding brief for criminals, some of the crimes for which people kill criminals, do not actually warrant the death penalty under the law!

I say this because we need to restrain ourselves from the chasm of chaos our country is gradually becoming!

We are becoming like Somalia, without the pirates, a lawless living hell!

While other societies are evolving new ways of civility, concord, and care, we seem to be going back in time. To a time of anomie!

We are devolving,declining, and deteriorating desperately!

We need to pull back!

We need to stop!

We need to remember!

We are humans,


As we do,


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