In less than a fortnight, Nigerian youths were dealt the crushing blow of two gruesome murder cases that left about 44 of them dead in controversial circumstances. In Mubi, Adamawa State, 40 students were reportedly killed by a gang that combed the off-campus residence of the students with a hit list. Reports had it that the victims were either butchered to death or shot straight in the head. Some said it was the fallout of cult-activities; others thought it had to do with the Student Union election that had been held the previous week. While the nation was smarting from the hurt and security operatives were busy hounding suspects and following faint leads, the news filtered in through the social media that yet another four youths have been murdered. This time, the assailants carried out their bloody act in broad day light and some people in the crowd were bold enough to film the footage for the public eye. The youths were accused of stealing laptops and cell phones and the people of Omuokiri-Aluu community in Rivers State having had some bitter dealings with marauders and rapists, could not think of any better way to treat the case than resort to extra-judicial execution. The gory video footage that has since gone viral on the internet reveals how the students were clubbed to death. Tyres were then rolled into their body, as heavy sticks pound and fracture their skulls, spurting fresh blood and brain. And two of them were only teenagers, university undergraduates.
Ever since, the country has not stopped talking of how to ‘bring the perpetrators to book’. The National Association of Nigerian Students has given the government a seven-day ultimatum. The Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Ndabawa, has promised to ‘make the culprits face the full wrath of the law’ and in all fairness, 13 people or more have been arrested, including the traditional chief. Nigerian youths are threatening taking the matter to the United Nations if the Federal Government in its characteristic manner pussyfoots. Everybody is talking tough. And how I wish the momentum of public outrage would be sustained. How I wish the killers of the Mubi youths and the Aluu four indeed would be made a public example. But history has proved that our reactions as a people are triggered by flitting emotional outburst. We act on spontaneous impulse that doesn’t stand the test of time.
In 2005, 11-year old Samuel was accused of kidnapping a baby, and despite the poor-boy’s plea of innocence, he was dragged through the streets as his flesh peeled off, before he was eventually lynched. That sparked public outrage and human rights activists and other international bodies became interested in the case. The faces of the killers were extracted from the video. After some initial fervour and grandstand, the matter petered out and everybody returned to their homes. During the fuel subsidy riot in Lagos, a youth was allegedly killed by a trigger-happy policeman. We don’t know how the matter is going. Kabiru Sokoto, alleged mastermind of the Madalla Christmas carnage probably caused more fuss than the rest. His earlier dramatic escape led to the sack of a former Inspector General of police. Today, nine months after his re-arrest, the police have yet to begin his trial because they are still searching for proofs to concretise his prosecution. It therefore amounts to cruel comedy before people who have knowledge of recent history when we shout, rave and rant over ugly incidents like this.
Probably Mr. President is one of those in this category. President Jonathan who ought to feel the pain more than anybody did not deem it fit to talk about either the Mubi murder or the Aluu four in his broadcast. His empathy with the bereaved families could have assuaged the feelings. Many expected a reference to it either to calm frayed nerves or reassert government commitment to security and protection of human lives. But Mr. President showed he had other irons in the fire. Some critics would see this as insensitivity on the part of the chief security officer of the nation. However, it could be that Mr. President has not been duly briefed on the merit of the incidents considering the circumstances that surround them.
I don’t wish to discuss the merit of the two cases. My focus is on how as Nigerians we fight and run, only to fight another day. We appear not to be poised to fight our battles to logical end, thereby encouraging more impunity with the law and an ending streak of violent death and devastation. Martin Luther King once said “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”. There is the need to make an example of the executors of the Mubi 40. There’s the need to mete out unmitigated justice to the cannibals who ended the hope of the Aluu 4 in a single day. The path to that road will begin when as a people we learn to sustain the momentum of our agitation for justice.
The media owe the people the obligation of following up on stories of this nature no matter the frustration of protracted legal process. Several other incidents like this have had out-of-court settlements because there was no more critical media surveillance. The reporters and editors should not only kindle public interest but sustain it through consistent agenda setting reporting.
The government is running out of time. The patience of the people is waning thin by the day and Nigerians are losing faith in the ability of their government to protect the property and lives of its people. The government is obviously making spirited efforts at checking insecurity as evidenced in recent clampdowns on members of Boko-Haram, but it must do more. At the risk of playing the devil’s advocate, I should note that the largely illiterate people of Aluu as report indicated have experienced frustration with the security situation in their area. The government could not secure their properties, pushed to the wall, they formed an alternative form of state and the spill out is there for all to see. And as someone rightly said, nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. But this does not preclude them from the discipline of the law because no nation can afford to joke with its youths who represent the future.
Governor Rotimi Amaechi and the people of Rivers State therefore have an important task to run the criminals to earth. Those in neighbouring states must also be on the alert. Anywhere the killers are sighted; they must be promptly reported and handed over to security operatives without much scene. The social media have made the job easier by sifting the faces of the killers and everyone now has a duty to justice. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
Mr. President erred for not making mention of either of the killings to empathise with the parents of the deceased and indeed the whole of Nigerian youths who now face uncertainty and insecurity in the country. This does not portend well for posterity. I suggest aside from providing adequate security for campus students, there is the need for improved students’ accommodation on the campuses to support concentrated security measures. Also, it is crucial to the credibility of security agencies to brief the press on the outcome of notorious cases, especially when the public have shown considerable interest. This will help to establish deterrent precedents for those nursing such wicked desires and help maintain a sane society.
•Samson is a graduate of Mass Communication, University of Lagos