As a young boy, I watched the torture of Samuel Doe on VHS. I may not have understood what made so many people angry with him at the time nor had I an insight into the political nuances that led up to the civil war in Liberia; but even in my naivety, the grotesqueness of the video was palpable. I considered the video a horror movie like The Living dead or Idi amin because my mind could not conceive violence of such magnitude as fact.
After watching what now is considered the “Aluu four” massacre video, there was no confusion as to whether it was fact or fiction. What was puzzling this time around were questions I had no answers to: How did we get to this point in Nigeria? How did the threshold for violence lower so much without notice? Who are the parents of these murderers? How did they bring up their children as killers and what went wrong in their formative years? How will the parents of the slain ever find succor having watched their sons hacked to death in such brutal manner in their own country?
Children are usually taught to “rat” or tell-on their siblings in acts of misdemeanor. It is a system employed by parents to know when things go wrong in their absence. A child, usually the youngest is the designated whistle blower. If truly the society is an offshoot of the family, it is worrisome that no one in that crowd ran to the police to report? No one felt compassion enough to do anything about it. Instead they cheered on and acted like children angry at lizards which simply refused to die after stoning them down from a tree.
In July, Miss Cynthia Osokogu, a 24 year old entrepreneur was raped and murdered for sexual gratification. While some blamed the poor girl for being of easy virtue, the bulk of the criticisms went the way of the murderers. It was perhaps only Idowu Akinlotan, a columnist for the Nation Newspaper in his essay titled, “The Cynthia Paradox”, that captured my sentiments on the matter. I strongly believe that we need to pay more attention to why these things are happening in the country rather than on the actions themselves. Violence has taken a new dimension in the country. Violence has taken off her clothes and danced naked in the village square while we watch in astonishment. Violence is now the cancer ravaging us from within. Treating the symptoms is tantamount to putting a band-aid on a diabetic foot in the hope that it would heal. It is not enough to set up committees of enquiry. It is not enough to parade suspects on NTA and force confessions out of them. Something lies beneath.
While we slowly came to terms with Cynthia’s demise, a group of youths slaughtered over 30 students in Mubi, Adamawa state. The names of the victims were called out and they were summarily executed. Some reports suggest that their bodies were chopped into pieces. Yet again we wailed and cried and set up more committees of enquiries. The investigations were still ongoing when all of a sudden in Aluu, Port-Harcourt, another violent incident erupted. All these acts have one thing in common; they are carried out by young people and targeted at young people. Be it in the north, west or south-south, the trend is evident-the youths have turned on themselves.
I remember a time when we young people used to boast about togetherness and camaraderie. We collectively agreed that it was the older generation that caused the denigration of present day Nigeria. Youths make up more than fifty percent of the general population, so when there is a dysfunction in the way youths think, then you know we have a serious problem. So what exactly has caused so much disconcertion, disdain and disarray amongst us?
A plausible explanation could be our overexposure to bloodshed over time. We are inundated weekly by wave after wave of violent acts across the Nation and little by little we have lost the human connection God put in us. News of Boko Haram bombings; killings in Jos and Eboyi State are just headlines to us now. I too am guilty, because after hearing about a church bombing recently I was grateful to God that the death toll was minimal. I praised God it was just one person that died as if that one person didn’t have a family. It didn’t occur to me at the time that that singular human life could have been a father, a husband, a brother, a son, a breadwinner and an uncle to someone else. It now takes a large death toll to get our attention.
In addition to the over- sensitization to violence, the present economic hardship in the country has not helped. The youth are frustrated, jobless and restless. They are full of energy and will react quicker to situations. They willfully expend such energies even if it is against the society. They are also more impressionable that other age groups. We, youths, have also noticed that crime is hardly punished in Nigeria. We see no point in going to the police. For instance, when we perceive that oil subsidy thieves are shielded from prosecution, it breaks our hearts. We have seen that Farouk Lawan has remained in the house of representative even after his obvious complicity. We have witnessed people like Dimeji Bankole use inane techniques to stall court processes. We have seen youths kill in Jos, Bauchi, Yobe and Kano and yet walk free after jamboree committees’ met. We have noticed that a man was killed five days after his wedding in Lagos by men suspected to be members of the police force yet no answer has been forwarded. One doesn’t have to be a genius to deduce the repercussions of this. When there is impunity even for seemingly small crimes, disaster looms. This is why the killings have increased in intensity and have gone unabated.
In finding solutions to these “uprisings”, we may need to look at the Aluu incident more critically. We need psychologists (the Nigerian government is not interested in such things) to investigate the upbringing of the perpetuators. What went wrong in their childhood? I believe that there are certain people who are prone to violence and crime-an infinitesimal few. For others-the majority- they need to be pushed to the wall to commit crimes like armed robbery. Around the world we hear about misguided persons such as Timothy McVeigh, Andres Brevick, and James Holmes, committing mass murders. In such instances, the perpetuators acted alone and in the case of Brevick, his sanity was questioned. But when a group of “sane” people champion killings and go on to record it on video, you begin to fear. When a group of young men lure a lady Lo Lagos in order to rape and kill her, you sense a depravity. When bandits connive to kill 30 students in peace time, you are terrified for your children yet unborn. Even in war, soldiers’ sometimes suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) because of the things they do and see. My argument is that the community of people that killed these four boys are sick.
In order to prevent this from reoccurring, the law must be seen to function. The perpetuators’ of the act must be punished severely. Those that gave the order, those that supervised, and those that executed the order must be punished. The Mubi killers must also be punished. If eventually the law finds them guilty and capital punishment is employed, their executions must be made public. This should be done to elevate the sacrosanctity of the law. The law needs to make a statement that it exists. Executions even in the US are made public in some states. Sadam Hussein’s execution was made public. Even in primitive societies, the hang man (representing the state) performed his duty in the full view of the public. This was done so that people respect the law.
The Goodluck Jonathan administration has experienced an unprecedented wave of bloodshed. In 2010, I wrote then that I hoped we would never come to a point where suicide bombers would be employed. I actually thought I was exaggerating. In 2012, suicide bombing is no longer news. It seems funny that the President made a speech three days after the Aluu incident and the four boys did not get a mention. Perhaps he forgot, or it wasn’t on his agenda for the speech. I was disappointed. The President should have called for national mourning. Flags should have been flown at half mast. If he didn’t consider it a national tragedy, then it probably wasn’t so important. Flying flags at half mast is a call for national re-awakening. It sends a message that the incident must never repeat itself. By not given it a mention, he has tolerated it. He has in avertedly agreed we have the capacity to deal with such things. I have been extremely slow in criticizing this President because I think that we as citizens abdicate our own responsibilities sometimes. But why are all this things happening under his watch? Is it all a coincidence, or is there something he is doing wrong? Where has he gone that he shouldn’t have? Where should he have gone that he didn’t go? There has been too much bloodletting under him.
In conclusion, we all must know that violence begets violence. The law of sowing and reaping is in motion. The bloods of the innocent have been spilt time and again. We cannot claim to have heard the last of the Jos conflicts. If your family member was maimed during the Berom and Fulani fracas, do you think you will forget? Would you live happily ever after with those you know killed your spouse? Will the parents of the slain four ever forgive the Aluu community for this action? The truth must be told. Many families have been hurt. They have not seen the state provide the justice required to keep them at peace, so they wait simmering, hoping for the perfect opportunity to strike back and shed blood. The cycle goes on. What we need is to break the cycle. A holistic approach must be sought. While we work assiduously to bring perpetuators to book, we should also target the next generation. We must begin to teach those coming after us to respect life. Parents have a huge responsibility here. The body is a function of cells the way the society is derived from a family. If we miss it at that level, then we will fail. The state must enact laws to compel people to plant trees and keep pets. There must be stiff laws for killing animals. If you go to prison for killing a dog, you will think twice before killing a human being. It will take time but it will work. If the little children love life, they will preserve it. They will in turn teach their children and one day we will have our beautiful land once more.
©2012 Otaigbe Ewoigbokhan