It was Christmas time, precisely December 24, 2018. In one of the villages in Anambra State, was a bad date for the big cow bought for the celebration. The family members and their children had gathered to watch it being slaughtered. What started with great excitement for a young teenager, turned ashes in his mouth suddenly. Hot tears started to flow from his eyes. The pain was beyond what he could bear, seeing the poor cow struggling to live! His mind was then made up, never would he eat meat again. And he never did!
Fortunate chap, he witnessed only the killing of an animal God has made for the table. Fortunate lad, he had not seen what his mates have been seeing all the time. Slaughtering and burning of human beings are no news to them, especially in Aba. For sure, they will be deriding him and calling him a coward and a spineless boy for weeping for a cow, an animal.
If someone raises his voice that armed robbers are in his house, it will attract the public. They will come and kill them. It is possible that they are armed robbers. They may also not be, but the penalty is the same – death! Nothing precludes a man from shouting that an armed robber is in his house, though he knows that it is his creditor, who has come to collect his money. The sentence is still the same – death! What attracts the passersby is the gravity of the accusation. Nobody cares to find out if it is true or not. If two people have a misunderstanding, it is possible for one of them to frame spurious charges against the other on something the person never imagined. He may die for that. This is why we have courts, where the accused person is presumed innocent until he is found guilty. The court gives him room to defend himself. Far beyond that, he is allowed to get any lawyer of his choice to defend him. There are no such provisions in jungle justice. The public will accuse him, judge him by the rule of the thumb, condemn him and then execute him.
The position of the accused person is made worse by the fact that some of the people present might have been victims of armed robbery and had suffered tremendously in their hands. Not only will they be party to the execution but will ensure that it is done instantly as if on a revenge mission for the evil things robbers had meted out to them.
In his book, Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare, wrote about mistaken identity and its implication. A lady suffered for what her twin brother did. At the end of the day, he emerged from the blues! Imagine her pain if they had decided to kill her for a crime she never committed! This means, that apart from deliberate framing-in of someone, there can be a mistake arising from identity. This is why the aggrieved party should go to court instead of taking the laws into his hand.
Jungle justice is practised also behind the scenes. Infidelity may cause a spouse to kill the partner in secret. Misappropriation of fund may cause the death of the offender. Some people even accuse their mothers or grandmother as the cause of their misfortune. What comes readily to their mind is to kill the suspect, who may be innocent. The need to get blood and human parts for ritual purposes often results in the murdering of people, especially, women. What saved a mother from being slaughtered, when her son wanted to use her in making money, was that she was menstruating when he took her to a native doctor. Imagine!
As great as the trial judge may be, if he finds the accused culpable, he does not impose any punishment of his choice. He has his limit, set by the law and he complies to it. There is no such provision in jungle judgment. What determines, in most cases, the gravity of the punishment is what the first people on the scene decide to do. If they are looking for old motor tyres, petrol, matches, heavy clubs, etc, nobody will be in doubt what their sentence is. There is a spirit that leads the general public usually in killing and in destruction of things.
When people are being slaughtered in public, nobody cares if children are there. Nobody seems to bother how it may impact them in life. I wrote in this column many years ago, how two little children, a boy and his sister, were watching the television. They saw a man kissing a lady and they started to do the same! Jungle justice is an indirect way of training children in committing murder. Watching people being killed will for sure, harden their hearts. They may feel bad initially, but with subsequent slaughtering of people in cold blood, it will mean nothing to them. It used to take my staff member, who kills birds in my farm, when she started, about two hours to kill, dress and package twenty of them. Now, without any demonstration of emotions, when doing the work, it takes her half of that time. I doubt if she still shows any emotion when her spouse and children are hurting.
It was at the age of 12 that I saw a corpse for the first time. We were going to Waterside in Aba to fetch water, when we saw a crowd of people gathering in front of a house. We heard that a certain man was dead. Peeping through his window, we saw his corpse. That memory never left me for long. Today, seeing dead bodies on the road or anywhere means nothing to children. We should protect them.
The usual case for jungle justice is hinged on the premise that the court procedure makes it easy for evil people to escape justice. It is argued that they bribe their way through and that some of them escape from detention and from prison. Prison, they argue, may not be enough punishment for the crime committed. Besides, prison hardens prisoners as the hardened criminals there teach others how to escape justice.
Nebuchadnezzar, as wicked as he was, did not embark on jungle justice, when his officers reported to him that the three Hebrew men, working in his government, were not worshipping the golden image he had set. Unlike what obtains in Nigeria of today, he confronted them with the accusation and gave them the chance to make their choice. Thank God that they did not disappoint God. They rejected his god, in preference to our God, the Living God!
A miniature nature of Jungle justice is found in some homes. Some parents act irrationally to the accusations made by someone against their children, servants, maids, drivers, et cetera, without verification. In some cases, these are not true. This is not right. It is important to confront family members with the allegations and also give them the opportunity to defend themselves. Let us resist jungle justice in all its forms.
For further comment, Please contact: Osondu Anyalechi: 0802 3002-471; [email protected]