One fact I have always accepted is that if everyone on this planet were like me, this will be a boring place for us all. Hence the diversity of temperaments, likes and dislikes make the earth a more dynamic, adventurous and interesting place to live. But looking at the socio-cultural posture of Nigeria, it is clear that inbuilt contradictions exist in most Nigerians and many are not fully aware of it. On one hand we criticize others from another ethnic group for behaving in a way that seems in consonance with their perceived cultural or religious believe (even if misguided); yet we try to claim an hegemony of our own cultural or religious values. So we are right and they are wrong; even if we do the same things we criticise them for.
A perfect example is the sad case of an Igbo woman who was killed by mob in Kano for allegedly insulting Islam. This was an horrific crime committed on an innocent lady and there can be no justification for it. There was rightly a national outrage and condemnation of this barbaric act by many fellow Nigerians.
But any social media user would have seen the weekly videos and pictures of suspected thieves or kidnappers being stripped naked, beaten and even killed all over the Southern parts of Nigeria; from Lagos to Port Harcourt to Enugu. So my question is, what is the difference? In Kano, an ignorant mob killed an innocent woman for alleged infraction of their religious sentiments but all over the south we frequently assault and even kill suspected “criminals” based on our mob justice and synthetic outrage. Which is worse?
Truth is we are all guilty. The fact that the motivations differ does not make the crimes any different. The foundation of our criminal justice system is that a person is innocent until proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction. This safeguard exists for a good reason. All over southern Nigeria, I have seen cases of the mob supporting and praising the police for beating in public suspected criminals. But who decides guilt? I will tell you a story to illustrate this foolishness of a shameful national pastime many engage in. This is a true story.
Chinedu a student in Lagos called his fairly well to do cousin Peter for help to pay his school fees due in a week’s time. So Peter asked Chinedu to meet him in Ikeja so that he can give him some money. Their rendezvous was the car park of a popular bank. On getting there, Chinedu waited for his cousin to arrive. After five minutes, Peter arrived walking briskly and a bit out of breadth. He was holding a sports bag. “I need to quickly use the toilet next door, can you hold this bag for me” declared Peter to Chinedu after they exchanged pleasantries. So Chinedu took the bag and waited. Within 3mins a mob rushed in and confronted Chinedu shouting that he is thief who stole electronics from a shop in the market behind. All shouts of “I am innocent” was ignored. They took the sport bag from him, opened it and found the stolen electronics in it. They then commenced beating Chinedu, so much that it took the police to rescue him from being killed. The mob were convinced he was the thief simply because he had the bag with him. Had Chinedu been killed, the mob would have been satisfied they have delivered justice to a thief. But from the background I gave, you can see that Chinedu was an innocent boy, who was framed.
This is why it is foolish to jump to conclusions without the facts. This is the reason why we have courts to determine the pertinent facts and give judgement based on evidence. You can never be sure of guilt until you get all the facts in every situation. Mob justice does not bother with facts or even the objective truth. They just use their rage to delver justice as they see fit. This is what happened in Kano. I am sure most of the mob that attacked this lady in Kano did not see or hear her commit the alleged infraction directly. They simply went by the words of someone with his own evil agenda. And this happens all over Nigeria daily as well. The fact that Kano was religiously motivated does not make it any worse than what the rest of the nation indulge in.
So we need to develop a sense of due process in Nigeria from the north to the south and stop being hypocritical by condemning something we also engage in. We need to be interested in facts and evidence rather than the rush to judgement. We should stop showing outrage with what happens in the North, only to do the same things ourselves albeit with a different motivation. Human life should matter and we all need to begin to give others the benefit of the doubt we expect to be given. A sad indictment of our education system is the many graduates that lack critical thinking capability.They do not know how to ask the right questions or critically challenge a thesis proposed to them. Blinded by all manner of sentiments (from religious to ethnic to moral), they believe easily the lies of others and allow themselves to be used as tools for criminal activities through mob action. We must all begin the change by making sure we do not allow ourselves to be used in future. Everyone must be responsible for their own actions. God help us in Nigeria.