There is a reason devotees of every religion worship and pray without ceasing: to strengthen their faith, elevate their aspirations beyond primordial yearnings, and move the hands of the Almighty to do what their mortal minds may deem impossible. Even when they are squeezed between the sky and the ground, they remain fervent. Even when trouble pours and swirls violently around them like a tornado, even when the vicissitudes of life so scald them that the ground under their feet burn like flaming charcoal, they remain steadfast. In and out of season, they are strong in the belief that the Supremo upstairs, who oversees the affairs of men, is in charge and will take care of them anyway, any day.
That is faith. And it is about doctrine, divinity and worship.
Apart from my Christian faith, I also worship at the altar of journalism, steadfast with the resolve to contribute my quota to making my country better than I met it. That commitment is unshakeable because, for me, journalism transcends the occupation of reporting and writing. It is a religion. It is life. It is a ministry (to borrow the language of the Pentecostals). Sadly, there have been occasions when one suddenly goes off the radar in a manner that tempts the god of journalism to refuse to inspire. And loyal readers cannot help but wonder ‘what the hell is going on here?’ That’s bad manners on my part, I must admit. I sincerely apologise and promise to maintain unflinching faith with the contract henceforth.
Many things have happened since I went on AWOL over two months ago. They happened with such frenzy that I struggled to keep pace. Still, I need to work extra hard to recover all lost ground.
Like most people, I’m just getting out of the shock election that yielded that flame-throwing demagogue, Donald Trump, as the 45th President of the United States of America. I never gave the flip-flopping billionaire any chance in hell to win. But the loquacious ‘political neophyte’, who the lords of the Republican Party regarded as a bullish outsider, shamed pollsters and popular media, shredded all pro-Hillary Clinton postulations, and won the most bullish pulpit of power in the world. I reserve this matter for another day.
Back home, I was under the weather when the story of the judges who seemed to have mastered the art of stealing roiled the land. Months back, Ghana had been shaken to its foundation when an investigative journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas, blew the bottom of some juggernaut judges who had itching hands. In an interview I had with him months before he released the earth-shaking video, which showed several judges, caught on hidden camera, receiving or demanding bribes, directly or through proxies, Anas had told me that he was working on a story that Ghanaians would never forget in centuries to come. And that’s exactly what happened. Ghana is still reeling under the impact of that expose. The indicted judges were removed, some of them were put on trial, and Nsawam Prison is yearning for a new batch of elite inmates.
In the not too distant past, Nigerians had been jolted with the story of a top civil servant in the pension unit at the office of the Head of Service who reportedly stashed N2 billion cash in his private residence. The world also saw a whirlwind blow the buttocks off the whistle-blower in that scandal, Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina, the erstwhile chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team, who had been caught re-looting the loot. A Senate investigation indicted the man of fleecing pensioners of a staggering N195 billion.
According to the Senate probe, the self-same Maina allegedly recovered the sum from pension thieves but rather than pay same to the treasury, he cornered the loot. And when the Upper House summoned Maina to come and say what he knew about the scam, Maina slammed a N1.5bn case against the august Chamber (itself, a cesspool of corruption) and the Inspector General of Police. Then, he spoke with his legs. He disappeared.
After the earth-shaking revelation of the bank-in-the-house pension scam, many Nigerians must have sworn: ‘Never again!’ But it did recur. Even worse. It recurred in a most unexpected quarter-Nigeria’s temple of justice. When the alarm blew, no fewer than 15 of their Lords, among them, Supreme Court Justices, were investigated for corruption. Some have already been brought to trial. In one of such cases, the Federal Government revealed to the world how Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court hid N27million (inside his bathroom), one Hummer SUV, and two other cars.
It is not as if Nigerians never knew that the judiciary was a horrific house of corruption. Of course, they have always known that. They have always known that justice goes to the highest bidder in this country. They’ve have always known that the pendulum of justice swings according to the colour and quantum of bribe money. They’ve always known, too, that once the price is right, a complainant can become the accused, and vice versa. What of Jakara judgements? They have always been part of our judicial system. But what was hitherto unknown was the magnitude of the ravages of the corruption cancer in their country’s judicial system. They never knew that the judiciary, too, was fantastically corrupt (I hope David Cameron won’t accuse me of plagiarism). But now, we know. The world knows too. The question, then, is: where or who does the common man turn to for justice? I say this because it’s as sure as daylight that Nigerians do not trust their country’s justice administration. In the reckoning of most Nigerians, trust took flight long ago. How sad.
Although jungle justice is inexcusable under whatever guise, and no matter the provocation, I daresay that it is this apparent distrust in the system, or deprivation of justice, that makes most people take the law into their hands. It is the fuel that stoke the rash of mob murders roiling our cities. It is common to see mobs maul and roast fellow humans for snatching a wallet or a mobile phone at a bus station while thugs and hired crowds hail politically exposed persons who steal their country blind. These same personifications of corruption even get long chains of chieftaincy titles and honorary doctorates to boot. Yet, the result of their corrupt activities manifest in the craters that litter highways nationwide, turn hospitals to mere consulting clinics, and force children to learn on bare floor and under falling roofs. Despite the devastating impact of their corrupt activities on our lives, I will never support the dare-devil looters being lynched. No. Rather, they should have their day in court.
Please, don’t get me wrong. There is no controversy about this: stealing is stealing. A thief is a thief. But in a country governed by law, in a country where the rule of law is supposed to be held sacrosanct, it is absurd for a mob to accuse, try and execute a suspect without the due process of law.
Which was why my heart bled so profusely recently when someone sent a grisly video to my WhatsApp. In the clip purportedly recorded at a place called Alafia on the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, penultimate Saturday, a thoroughly brutalised half-clad young man sat on the tar, bleeding from the head, begging for dear life. The mob was not swayed by the blood cascading from his temple. They bayed for more. Shouting and smiling, they tried the young man, and sentenced him to death for stealing a mobile phone. The mob ruled that the suspect not only stole the phone, he also reportedly attempted to murder the owner. And before the traumatised suspect could shout ‘Mother Africa’, the blood-baying executioners had thrown a tyre round his neck, doused him with fuel, and set him ablaze. This is no fiction. It happened in 21st century Nigeria. But was the country outraged?
I saw no seething rage. Only some rumbling in social media. There was no raw rage because we have got used to such barbarism. As a result, most people just carried on as if nothing happened. The Senate, however, tried to rise to the occasion, upper Tuesday, when it resolved to fast-track the passage of an anti-jungle justice bill to curb mob killings or jungle justice. The Upper House also jerked the police from its slumber when it ordered them to bring the perpetrators of the heinous crime to justice. I pray the police would act speedily in this matter and the judiciary would do its job by delivering the same justice that that mob denied the boy at Alaafia to his executioners.
Although, as they say, the wheel of justice grinds slowly but surely, the case of the boy at Alaafia should not drag endlessly like that of the unfortunate four students of the University of Port Harcourt, who, in 2012, were lynched by a murderous mob at the Aluu Community in Rivers State, after falsely accusing the undergrads of stealing. Also pending is the case of Madam Bridget Agbahime, a 70-year-old woman who was murdered in Kano State, in July 2015, by a mob who accused her of alleged blasphemy.
Nigeria must halt this terrible spectre of mob killings. The Senate must work speedily on the anti-jungle justice bill and prescribe heavy punishment for violators. Police investigation must be thorough and comprehensive. The judiciary must also seize the moment to redeem its badly dented image by working diligently to dispense justice without fear or favour. The judiciary must seize the moment to begin the process of removing itself from the path of self-destruction it has been steadily treading these past years, as a result of corruption.
Now, I detest Donald Trump, the loud mouth who takes over as President of America from January 20, 2017. But I want to borrow his words to beg Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, the new Chief Justice of Nigeria, to please position himself on the right side of history by “draining the swamp” in Nigeria’s judiciary. The same goes for the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Kpotun Idris. He must drop his ‘Arase-must-be-destroyed agenda’ and focus on the arduous task of giving Nigeria a highly professional police force and effective policing strategies that would ensure that no other soul or citizen faces mob execution.
Mob killings are barbaric. They diminish us as a nation. All hands must be on deck to stop the evil phenomenon. Parents must teach their kids on the dangers of getting involved in such barbaric act. Pastors, Alfas (Islamic preachers), traditional religionists, even atheists, must preach against it. Human rights advocates must not rest on their oars until this embarrassing situation is dead and buried.
I rest my case.