My street in Surulere, Lagos was a hotspot, and for all the wrong reasons. If there was a fight, it was bound to be on our street, and not just any part of the street, but right in front of our 3-storey apartment building. We lived on the topmost floor, and always had a grand and unfettered viewing of the ongoings of those mere humans below us. It was like being in a skybox at the stadium.
If Alayè’s had smoked enough “igbò” and wanted to go on rampage, “somehow” the action would gravitate to the arena in front of the house. And so it went; we joked about it from time to time, and balked at it, when the heat got turned up. Like the armed robbery attack; or the assassination of the store owner on the ground floor ( My Ma held his “blown apart” head in her hands). Or the assassination of another neighbour. Or the “joint” blasting music from its speakers directly opposite. (Not in the same league as assassinations of course). That street was a training in “Nigerianess” I tell you.
And so, one merry day, we are lounging in the balcony, glad for the relative ambience when suddenly, a man darts into the street in what looks to be the race of his life. Milliseconds later, a few people follow in hot pursuit, cries of “Olè! Olè!” renting the air. He runs into the compound opposite us and tries to scale the fence and drop into the canal. Hands are clawing fiercely, trying to get a grip. Alas for him, his pursuers get a hold of him. They drag him outside the compound and out into the streets. I don’t know how, but the numbers have suddenly tripled. I don’t know if half the people there even know what crime the apprehended suspect is alleged to have committed. I don’t think they even want to know.
Then the beating begins. Somehow, his clothes have disappeared. Everyone wants to lay a hand on him. Cement blocks are smashed on his head, building lumber, stones, anything at all that is available. Soon he is bleeding, and the call for tyres is made, by whom I know not. Suddenly the man breaks free and lunges into the brick cage that houses the transformer. Aha! They can’t get to him. It is a tight fit in there. That infuriates the crowd, and they race about in a frenzy, in a mad blood lust, looking for objects to throw on him and dislodge him from his precarious but “safe” position. He doggedly remains there until, wonder of wonders! The police arrive and cart him away.
That was suburbia. Not some village somewhere. The tyres were ready. They were set to burn that man to death right in the middle of a busy Surulere street, with children everywhere. He had committed a crime and he must pay, immediately! Jungle Justice aka Murder by Mob.
This was many years ago, but I immediately recalled it when I heard the awful news about the 4 boys burnt to death at Aluu, Rivers State.
First I must ask; if you were a bystander or a passer-by at any of these crime scenes, what would you do? How would you calm a murderous mob? How? What are the Police numbers in this country anyway? 911?
If you don’t know how to calm a murderous mob, then don’t blame the people who did our Law enforcement a favour by capturing the crime as it was committed via multi media. No one would have understood the horrors perpetuated if someone didn’t do this. I just hope that all this evidence that has been amassed will amount to legitimate arrests.
Second, people argue that jungle justice is the best deterrent to crime. That no one in their right mind would ever commit an offence after witnessing it. Which is funny, seeing as the executioners are also committing an offence; however it seems that in this country, stealing is looked upon with exceptional rage, which brings me to my third point-
There are so many varying stories about what the late young men were up to. The initial story has them as phone and laptop thieves; next they were cultists who had killed a villager; then they were creditors come to collect a debt. Now that they are dead, we will never know will we? Proof anyone?
On the other hand if they had killed and raped people like Cynthia Okusogu’s killers, would it be less abominable?
Fourthly, I watched the video coverage of these murders. These boys had been abased, broken, humiliated, crushed; and yet even as they rolled, half dead in the mud and grime, stripped of every facade of humanity, I hear several voices, saying “die, die, that one still dey move…”. At least two were still alive when they were set ablaze. This is the same Rivers State that was thrown into mourning when the tanker fire burnt several indigenes because of their own stupidity.
Where was mercy? Where was pity? Was the punishment commensurate with the crime? Who is without sin?
Fifth; Brutality responds to brutality. Remember the JTF’s response to militancy in Odi was mass slaughter. A death cycle has just been created. He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.
Sixth(ly): I pray those boys made peace with God before they died. Innocent or guilty, they were murdered, plain and simple.