Last week, this column clearly condemned the killing of four innocent students of University of Port Harcourt and insisted that the perpetrators must face the music. In doing so, I affirmed that my personal knowledge of Aluu community before the unfortunate incident of October 5, 2012 did not show them as barbaric. I do not have any evidence to the contrary.
As an Ikwerre man, I attest that Ikwerre people are as shocked and embarrassed as any other Nigerian on the wicked killing of those young boys in Omuokri, Aluu. Every assemblage or community of people would naturally have bad eggs and it is for this reason that we believe the law must take its course so that our country would not witness an ugly incident like that again. However, in the same article which is still continuing today, I had advised Nigeria and Nigerians to address collateral issues that could strain or promote peaceful relationship between UNIPORT and the host communities to avoid similar violence in the future.
This is because the university community and host communities can ill-afford to be enemies as it happened in FUTO some time past. That in my opinion is what a patriotic Nigerian should do. The column is a call to contribute to national growth and development. It’s not about any other sentiment, tribal or religious. Therefore it will be wrong for anyone to criminalize a race or condemn a people purely because of the irresponsibility of a few persons.
We cannot call every Igbo young man a criminal because two or three Igbo boys had drugged, raped, robbed and killed Cynthia Osokogu in a Lagos hotel. That will be irresponsible and unacceptable. In the same vein, I disagree that all Aluu indigenes or people of Ikwerre ethnic group can be described as killers or cannibals. However, in any society, any person that has contravened the law should face its wrath. Do we need to emphasize that something is going wrong with many Nigerians? How do we explain that fellow UNIPORT students, natives, non indigenes and police watched the clubbing and burning of those boys to death and did nothing to save their lives?
Rather than save the situation, enlightened people were recording and snapping the harmless and battered boys until they were burnt alive. Nobody sent for the VC of UNIPORT or called the dreaded JTF or SOS or Rivers State Government House, PH to save the situation. This is a gradual descent to hell and we condemn it many times again. The lynching of the innocent UNIPORT 4 was avoidable, illegal, unnecessary and unjustifiable. Whatever may be anybody’s offence let every suspect be brought before the temple of justice so that he can answer for himself.
To have killed those young boys in that wicked manner and without a just reason cannot stand before man and God. Following the first publication of my opinion last week, many people hurriedly jumped into wrong conclusions and called me names and voiced curses because I am from Ikwerre in Rivers State. In gratitude, I am happy that many Nigerians are reading my column and I respect their private opinions on what I write. However, what I find very intriguing is that many of them did not understand the purpose of the article.
Those who had the opportunity to call, email or send text to me are now satisfied after our interaction, that we share the same agony and pain on the UNIPORT 4 killing. Evil is evil whether in Abuja, Lagos or Port Harcourt. What we are saying is that even if the Omuokri mob had done all else including stripping and beating but not killing, society would have pardoned them, but outright killing is barbaric. Given this ugly Aluu incident, cases of extra judicial killings and lawlessness that are prevalent in Nigeria, it is safe to say that the criminal justice system (CJS) has broken down totally in our society.
The CJS begins with the arrest of an offender through trials to imprisonment. In this journey, two independent arms of government have played active roles while the entire three arms had played roles. The criminalization process (making of the laws under which an offender is held) is carried out by the legislature. What is not law cannot be broken. Now, when an arrest is made by the police, it is the executive arm of government that is acting.
When the suspect (accused) appears in court, it is the judiciary that would handle the fact finding and penalization. When he is found guilty as charged (after due process), the convict is transferred back to the executive through the prison to administer the penalty so pronounced by the judiciary. The CJS has therefore traveled through the three arms of government. This is why any reform in one unit will not deliver well except the entire chain is reformed. The tragedy we have on our hands is that the citizen has lost every single sense of confidence and protection from the government which should always act through the police. Instead of handing over suspects to the police, the citizens prefer to illegally mete out ‘appropriate’ punishment to the suspected offenders.
In that moment of madness, an angry victim of an alleged offence acts as complainant, police, judge and the hangman. This is sadly a backward resort to the dark age. Everywhere we drive on our roads in Nigeria, we see charred bodies of citizens and we assume that they were robbers. We even thank God that one more enemy of the society has been eliminated. Understandably, we cry when it affects us most,but all of us are part of the decaying society. Are we still our brother’s keepers? Most Nigerians believe that whenever suspects are apprehended and handed over to the police, they return home even before the complainant would get back.
Some suspects even raise their shoulders in the presence of the complainant as if to say, see now, nothing can happen. Have we ever heard some men maltreating someone on the road? The bully would say, I can kill you and nothing will happen! And actually, nothing happens. Until we move our affairs to the point that if a citizen lodges a complaint, the system moves quickly, apprehends the suspect even if he is the son of a minister, detains him, runs the investigation swiftly like the Cynthia Osokogu investigation team in Lagos, and charges the accused to court and allow that court to make a pronouncement, then the citizens would still prefer jungle justice to justice-delayed which they say is justice-denied. This is what happens in all parts of Nigeria.
The final word on this is that we have allowed the citizen to take over control of all his problems with little or no government intervention; private residence to private water system (borehole) to private school for your child to private church to save your soul to private clinic now to private security and private judge etc. Now, the police post is only relevant for making your neighbor lose some money if he offended you. This is why our people would say, he called the police for me so that I would spend. They do not see it that you called the police for justice to be done.
This is the greatest tragedy, if you want your neighbor to spend, call the police, if you want justice, take the law into your hand and administer your own justice. This is sadly and shamefully the real issue all over Nigeria. That’s the behavior nationwide and it’s demonstrated in the ease we saw on the faces of the crowd that watched the killing at Omuokri; no stern faces but giggling lips and uncaring crowd. Also, now that the names of suspects are being reeled out and charged to court, we have Yoruba, Igala, Ogoni, Akwa Ibom names, and few community indigenes.
In the beginning, vengeance was in the hands of a man or his survivors (family). Government came later to ask us to leave vengeance to Government but are we getting it in Nigeria? Later, Christians came and said we should leave vengeance to God, but are people prepared to wait till heaven’s time? That is the real tragedy! This is the terrible aspect of this tragedy.