I have read with interest the reactions by Nigerians to the just released images and videos of four Nigerian students who were burnt to death over an alleged theft of cell phones. These students were beaten, left to lay in their pool of blood to die and as they lay in their pain, were set on fire. There have been varied versions of why the mob attacked them and murdered them. One version was that they stole cellphones, the other is that they were cultists and the latest version is that the four were trying to collect from their debtors, one thing led to another, their debtors called them thieves, the mob descended on them and ultimately lynched them.
I say “I have read the reactions with interest” because I wonder which Nigeria those who react and seem so shocked “that such a thing will ever happen in Nigeria” grew up in or are growing up in. First, when Boko Haram is the order of the day, you sort of wonder the continued desensitization as well as killings of humans. Second, independent of that, growing up, over twenty years ago, the video you will watch below was my reality. Indeed, I have discussed the mob mentality and vigilante justice that plagues Nigerian society on numerous occasions. It is indeed one of the reasons for starting this blog.
The first time, as a young child, that I saw a man naked was when he attempted to steal clothing from my “compound.” My neighbors caught him, before you knew it, other neighbors rushed in and they stripped this young man, that could not have been more than 20years, naked. They then proceeded to beat the living day lights out of him. I still remember the numerous injuries he sustained from head to toe. I still remember, vividly, his cry for mercy and help. In his case, he was lucky, the police came to his rescue. It was overall a shocking experience and one I do not forget. Prior to that, I witnessed even more shocking experiences i.e. burnt bodies on the streets while commuting to school. However, one particular instance stood out. It was a situation of a lynching that was particularly horrific for me.
Traveling to and from my “Primary School” at the time, I had to travel past a “roundabout” bus stop in the neighborhood I lived in. One day, while on that path and specifically when I reached the round about bus stop, I saw a man that was accused of stealing. In a split second, a mob descended on him. Somehow a tire appeared and was thrown over his neck, the mob poured gasoline on him as he begged for mercy and before I could say “wow,” he was set ablaze. As shocking as that was, sadly, many get desensitized to it. If you steal and you are caught, expect death.
For me, however, it was traumatic to watch. What was worse was “trekking” long distances from my home to that bus stop to catch the bus only to be greeted with the same burnt body of that man. The body stayed there , easily for weeks, and kept swelling till it eventually burst. The stench from that, I cannot forget.
FAST FORWARD OVER 20 YEARS LATER AND NIGERIANS ARE STILL LYNCHING/BURNING THEIR OWN PEOPLE!!!
I think my anger in this instance is best directed at the legal justice system. NIGERIAN LAWYERS, JUDGES AND THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION, YOU ALL GOTTA COME UP HIGHER. WE CAN DO BETTER NIGERIANS!!!!!
MEMBERS OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION, YOUR JOB IS TO GET RID OF THE WIGS AND BLACK GOWNS, ROLL YOUR SLEEVES AND GET INTO YOUR LOCAL COMMUNITIES SO YOU CAN TEACH YOUR PEOPLE, THE POOR, ABOUT HOW TO — USE THE COURT SYSTEM TO REDRESS THEIR WRONGS. YOU CAN LET THEM KNOW JUSTICE DOES EXIST AND THEY SHOULD NOT TAKE THE LAW INTO THEIR HANDS. Sure Nigeria has problems and there is corruption everywhere but the judiciary is charged with the enforcement of the law. It is incumbent, therefore, on YOU ALL, to be active in your local communities and educate the masses, one community at a time. Educate the police, educate the elementary, primary and secondary schools. Have an easy to digest curriculum that introduces them to the legal justice system.
Colleges, law students and law schools through working with the court systems should be a part of this movement. Social media and the media should be used to contribute to changing the mentality of a nation, one neighborhood at a time. Law clinics to help people whether through law schools or other wise should be employed.
Attorney Ope Banwo, based in Nigeria, I understand, prepares the launch of what is the equivalent of the reality TV show ‘The People’s Court.’ Supporting a legal entertainment program like that which has an educational component is critical. WE GOTTA COME UP HIGHER, WE CAN COME UP HIGHER. THIS CANNOT BE THE KIND OF FUTURE WE PASS ON TO OUR CHILDREN. IT CANNOT. THIS CAN NOT BE OUR LEGACY.
WARNING VERY GRAPHIC IMAGE, VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED