by Richard Odilu
…what was very disturbing was that I noticed in the video that the perpetrators enjoyed the show like the Romans would for sport in The Arena many centuries ago in the old Roman Empire and recreated in the popular series “Spartacus”.
This morning I changed the atmosphere in my office by showing my colleagues the video of the killing of the four UNIPORT students in Aluu. Deep sighs accompanied with ‘My God’, ‘No’, and ‘Why na?’ rented the air, followed by an outburst of curses and condemnation to the perpetrators of that act. Silence followed afterwards, and the once lively office turned sad like we were in mourning. Yes, we all were, we were mourning the loss of four young Nigerians who were cut down in the most cruel and barbaric manner by their fellow compatriots, and I had a quick flashback of a similar event.
The event I remembered happened long before the age of the social media, before the advent of Facebook, before twitter, and before the use of smart phones. I speak of a jungle justice that happened at a time when I was in junior secondary school form two, and I was thirteen years old. It was the military era and the Lagos State administrator; Buba Marwa had set up a crime combating military police known as Operation Sweep which helped in no small measure to bring serenity to the then Lagos crime infested society.
Word had gone round that a supermarket, not too far from where I lived, had been robbed the previous day and goods worth thousands of naira had been carted away. I learnt later from a friend whose elder sister worked as a sales girl at the supermarket that the said theft almost caused the business owner paralysis as he was an elderly retiree and it was his life savings he had used in setting up the business, but rather than call the police he had gone on his knees and asked God to cause the thieves to show themselves.
Whether it was his prayers or sheer stupidity, no one can tell, but the criminals had revisited the same shop, but this time they had come to celebrate the victory of their theft the previous day. A passer-by, the landlord of the property had noticed the inner light was still on; he got suspicious and alerted his neighbors. The robbers were apprehended while they were eating short bread, and drinking fruit juice inside the supermarket. One of them even wore one of the stolen gold rings on one of his fingers.
I stood-by with so many people and watched as the thieves, three of them, and very young too, were beaten to a pulp. I watched as the mob stripped them naked, poured the melting wax from some burning candles on their skin, slapped, jabbed, and flogged them with thick sticks, hurled heavy stones at them and succeeded in bursting the head of the eldest open and fear, real fear, gripped me as blood pumped out of his head. The robbers screamed in pain, a kind of pain that can be only imagined, and the women who stood by, most of them mothers started crying and pleading for leniency. The business owner who couldn’t bear to watch the torture begged that they be handed over to the police but his plea fell on deaf ears. Other male adults who didn’t participate in the torture couldn’t stop them either as it was a risky move to attempt such, lest their compassion be questioned and they would be tagged as accomplices.
Like the Aluu scene, I had watched them put tyres round their necks while they waited for the return of someone that had gone to fetch petrol. That was when the women crying for mercy begged the most. They were aware the boys were guilty as they were caught in the act but as mothers whom have endured child birth, they knew nobody deserved to die like that.
Miraculously, an Operation Sweep patrol team came on time and whisked the boys away much to the relief of many people, and rumour has it that it was either the landlord or the business owner that had called them on the phone for the timely intervention.
As a young boy then I had hoped that that would be the last time I would see or hear of such until this recent incident in Aluu. I have heard different version of what happened and I am not in the business of pointing fingers but I don’t think anyone, good or bad, deserves to die the way those boys did, and what was very disturbing was that I noticed in the video that the perpetrators enjoyed the show like the Romans would for sport in The Arena many centuries ago in the old Roman Empire and recreated in the popular series, Spartacus.
I am not an indigene of Aluu, and I refused to see the sense in what they have done. It was bad enough that they pummeled those boys like one would pound boiled yams in a mortar, but they shouldn’t have killed them. They should have handed them over to the police and the justice system, no matter how slow or ineffective the institution has become; because it is better that a criminal should go free than for an innocent man to die.
For those who will be quick to say they were not innocent, let me ask who amongst us is innocent? Do I see a hand up somewhere? Com’on put it down, we are all sinners and we sin on a daily basis, it’s only that we have formed the habit of justifying our sins.
Richard Odilu is a film-maker, media consultant, blogger, writer, and he tweets from @thenaijaseer.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.