Opinion: This Woolwich ‘monster’ is our brother

by Oluyinka Esan


“This guy is not a Nigerian… British born Michael ‘Mujahid’ Adeboloja with an accomplice yesterday beheaded a British Soldier on a street in Woolwich, London…. Nigeria should just be left out of this…”

There is a mail making the rounds in social media network routes. It has come on the heels of the savage butchering of a British soldier in broad daylight. It is doubtful if anyone remains who has not heard of the despicable incident that happened in the Woolwich area of London on Wednesday just gone by. The man, Lee Rigby, known as Riggers to his friends and family was first hit by a vehicle, then dragged into the road, then using the tarmac as their slab, the assailants, Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale had his head chopped off.

In case you have not seen it, I post below, excerpts of the mail, essentially a call to Nigerians, to deny our connection with the assailants suggesting that the links are nothing but tenuous.

“Nigerians all over the world should speak out and condemn the beheading of a citizen yesterday in UK. The beheading was done by a British citizen and not a Nigerian as speculated; his name does not confirm his nationality. This lunatic was born in the United Kingdom, never been to Nigeria, [he has been] issued a birth certificate in the UK and holds a British passport. Suddenly he is now a Nigerian?

“This guy is not a Nigerian….. British born Michael ‘Mujahid’ Adebolajo with an accomplice yesterday beheaded a British Soldier on a street in Woolwich, London…. Nigeria should just be left out of this…”

As with most viral media messages, it is not clear who has authored this but the person is clearly a passionate and patriotic compatriot. Their response reminds me of our erstwhile Minister of Information Professor Dora Akunyili’s response to the matter of the botched American airline bombing attempt. She declared then that suicide bombing is “not in our character”. Hers was the official coalescing of the views of many who chose to deny the culprit, to find reasons why he should not be identified as one of us, in spite of the fact that his father, a highly placed, and ostensibly responsible and respected member of the Nigerian society. “Oh, his mother is from Yemen”. “He schooled in Togo”.“He was resident in London; see what they have done to our son”. That’s was the closest we came to identifying with him.

To those sentiments above, I should add the age old one that is common in Nigeria when things go awry– the wicked have done their worst! Though not uttered on that occasion, it was implied at least in the compassionate views expressed about the villain. This sort of denial is rampant on such occasions especially within the domestic sphere. It is evidence of a blame culture, a refusal to accept responsibility to contribute to the restoration of a broken equilibrium. We are quick to wash our hands and distance ourselves from the aberrant. We would rather not explore the unpleasant situation to see if and how we might be culpable in the transgression. So homes are broken on account of erring children. “A good child is the father’s” we say; when a child offends the mother is to be punished – excised from the family home with ignominy, for polluting the stock.

Very well but whatever happened to the view that it takes a village to raise a child? We now live in a global village. Many who were born in Nigeria are raised, or are raising children in various parts of the world.

As a British Nigerian, here is my reply to the call to shun the Woolwich attackers. I deplore the act unequivocally, regardless of who may have committed it. I am definitely disappointed that the despicable deed can be associated to Nigeria even if remotely. I understand why compatriots resent such associations but we should not bury our heads in the sand or deny our own. The name Adebolajo attests to a Nigerian connection. And deplorable as the crime may be, as a Nigerian, I will not disown Michael Adebolajo, nor should you. We should stop to consider his folk. How they must feel at this time. How they must feel at the monstrosity he’s turned out to be. We should all be concerned that other seed of Nigerian descent do not become so corrupted. What can we do to ensure that Nigeria’s children walk uprightly and attain glorious heights? That should be our concern. After all, when British-born Nigerians do well, we are happy to claim them as our own. Let’s not be fair weather friends. This monster is our brother. At least he is our brother’s son.

Regardless of the bad press that prevails at this time, I am still proud to be a Nigerian for the fact that one deviant element does not reflect the whole. I know there are many more like him, in perhaps not so dissimilar ways. They exist in Nigeria, in the UK and in other nations of the world. May I remind us of Anders Behring Breivik, the man who in 2011 killed 77 people in a bomb attack and gun rampage in Norway? Norway is not known for violence, neither is Newtown, Connecticut U.S.A. the scene of the chilling gun attack that claimed the lives of 20 children, six adults including the mother of the gunman. That gunman then killed himself – 27 lives in all, wasted just like that in December 2012 and for what? Bizarre, yes; just like the acts of the deranged Michaels. So you see – it is not about nationality, race or religion. They are depraved, and they should be dealt with appropriately.

Undoubtedly, media representations are important. They influence how individuals and groups are defined. So, I understand, even appreciate the objection to the media labelling of these guys, done by introducing a qualifier which distances them from the dominant group. By describing them as being of Nigerian descent, there is a distancing from these Britons; perhaps as a means of explaining the barbaric nature of the act. After all, previous acts of terror had been brazen and brutal, but none had been so savage – head chopped off with a cleaver in full glare of the public. It is stuff from nightmares, played out in horror films, best not imagined, but it happened.

The media is justified to present the facts and we must be measured in our reaction to the reports.

Rightly, the mail going round lists Nigerians who have brought glory to the Britain – the land of their birth, and to Nigeria – the root of their parents. Sadly, the behaviour of the duo is shameful. Yet, we and folks whose name they share, need not despair. The name Adebolajo may not ring a bell; but till now it had not been associated with notoriety. There are enough Nigerians doing good and I am glad. So yes, warts and all, of my Nigerian heritage I remain proud. The lessons it has taught me I will use. The discipline I have learnt from my culture I’ll deploy. I shall thus strive to do my bit, for God and for country.


Read this article in The Nation


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

Comments (3)

  1. Oh,because the name of the criminal says “Adebolajo” abi? If it was a”Muhammad”,or Abdulmutallab”would your write up be the same? Would you have been that understanding and ready to defend despite the media outcry?

    1. I completely agree. This has been my stance as well since the news broke out. Condemn the act, not the person. We should all stop being hypocrits. After all, many overseas-born artistes sing/perform/act on stage as Nigerians.
      All over this country, Nigeria-born people perform crimes much more henious than this. Look at the kidnappings, rapes, murders that happen in our country all the time, most of which are never reported.

  2. He’s not a Nigerian. Its that simple. Stop painting it

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