Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mob justice in the soul of a nation

The solution to all crisis lies in its roots. It is from the root one can fully understand the interplay of value systems that compels a particular trait and inevitably, a course of action.

And this applies to all things, including the mob killings like the publicised one in Aluu, Rivers States. A petition for the mob Justice Prohibition Bill recently went viral. As much I expressed my support by appending my signature, I am pretty much convinced that the Bill will do little to tackle mob justice in Nigeria. Reason: mob justice is a symptom of a bigger crisis within the Nigerian socio-political space.

What supports the full adoption of a Bill into law is an enabling culture that views an action as a departure from the established way of doing things within a society...and mob killing is a practice we pretty much subscribe to at least on a subliminal level. Think of this: what influences what we subscribe to? Our perception, right? 
Then what influences what we perceive? WHAT WE SEE…

So, what do we see?
- spouses proudly tell tales of their extra-marital escapades and are hailed (it is culturally accepted to cheat; as long as you don’t get caught);
- a car jumps the traffic light, pays out a N100 bribe and goes unpunished; 
- an armed robber turns out to be a police officer and is discharged with honors.

Or on a national scale, no one was punished after:
- a disagreement between two friends led to a 3 year civil war that killed over a million people; 
- a president cancelled the freest and fairest election in Nigeria’s history (and yet the man walks free. The then president elect was allegedly assassinated);
- or in recent times, it turns out that the high cost of PMS in Nigeria is influenced by the greedy desires of a ‘cabal’.

This constant sense of injustice triggers a behavioural pattern that promotes the total annihilation of those that we disagree with. On a smaller scale, it is revealed in our vehement outburst and how we ‘descend’ on those that come against our stance. These traits are evident in our relationships, on our roads and pretty much anywhere more than one Nigerian is involved in a transaction. Perpetrators of car accidents are beaten to stupor, cheating wives are stripped naked or their nude pictures made available over the internet. Two weeks after the Aluu killings, the video of a young lady stripped naked and molested in a high brow shopping district of posh Lagos Nigeria went viral. Her crime: shoplifting. We have slowly accepted that this harsh and somewhat brutal acts should be used in reinforcing an accepted code of conduct, despite what common logic tells us.

And it is everywhere; we see tortured criminals paraded on National TV; we also hear of interrogation proceedings in Area F. How common is ‘accidental discharges’? Have we forgotten the ‘unknown soldiers’ who attacked Fela house, or those that perpetrated the Odi massacre? And somewhere in our minds, we don’t consider these acts ‘abnormal’ even though they are one and the same thing. 

So what fuels this brand of justice? I think it is the ‘high’ we get from it; a ‘high’ that in a strange kind of way, affirms the adage that "every day is for the thief and one day for the owner". It is the rush for that ‘high’ that ignites the whole atmosphere and make a moment participating in this barbaric act, somewhat relishing

At the root of mob justice lies a feeling that there are breed of people above the law…a feeling of injustice. Addressing that feeling is what reforms…not just a Legal Bill.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A sluggish Revolution

January 2012 started on a sour note with the sudden increase in pump price from N65 to N141 Nigeria. That act gave birth of the Occupy Nigeria movement, a name coined up in 2011 on the streets of New York as the "99%" moved against the "1%" by "occupying" the financial centre of the United States, Wall Street. The energy generated from the Occupy Nigeria movement morphed in the social media activism mentality that has taken over the minds of middle class Nigerians. The platform to share and articulate our inability as a nation to rise up to what is expected of us. Every week we are prompted with stories of misfortunes and tales of woes. Everyone is commenting, topics are trending on Twitter/facebook. Intellectuals are debating and condemning the acts, our celebrities and Nigerians in the diaspora are organising walks and marches against "all that is bad", tee-shirts are getting printed saying "NO", but the question remains to what ends?
Just after the subsidy protests failed, the movement changed focus to the mess made of the subsidy probe. In the same breath, the Lawan and Otedola bribery scandal became the burning issue of that moment.

The bombings by Boko Haram's in the Northern cities that resulted in the death of over a thousand people (and counting) "trended" at some point in time. GEJ's response (or lack of one) failed to inspire the right vote of confidence from the movement that an appropriate course of action will be taken by the executive to this unfamiliar behaviour.

Then there was the Pension Fund scandals, Oteh and S.E.C. showdown, Nigeria Vs South African over deportation of Nigerians with "fake" yellow fever card (that raised questions on how Nigerians are treated all over the world). Our compliance with fundamental human rights was brought under scrutiny as citizens of Makoko were forcefully evicted from their homes to make way for what is most likely (at least according to twittersphere)a new housing project.

The bickering shifted to other sectors. Poor state of the planes and absence of adequate emergency planning crashed a Dana Air flight from Abuja to Lagos. Lokoja got flooded (despite warning from weather agencies) raising concerns about our government's disaster response strategy. There was the ABSU rape, the Mubi and Aluu killings raising concerns safety of people in higher institutions and also the quality churned out of university.

None of these event are new in our national space. What is new is the social media and its ability to consume the interest of Nigeria's middle class. Our combined sensationalization through un-edited comment/assessment and analysis of each event has turned these overlooked aspect of our reality into shocking and very disturbing episodes. But the question remains, after all the media activism and awareness, after performing our civic duty by highlighting flaws in the way we organize ourselves, beyond the fire-fighting template adopted by our successive government (setup committees, panels and invite foreign experts), what concrete step has been taken to address ANY of the issues raised?
In the absence of any credible response by the government, is there a brewing plan rumbling within us to disrupt the status quo and change the state of things? I am talking about a revolution.

If this "collective anger" does not eventually ignite the audacity to demand and change all that is wrong with our society, then all social media might have achieved is to provide us with a platform for sharing our opinions, entertaining one another and escaping the reality of our miserable way of living. #Nothing_is_as_powerful_as_an_idea_that_its_time_has_come.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mob killings and the way we live

Images from the clip showing the jungle justice dished out on the ALUU 4 still haunts me. The evil men that men do!! But face it, the victims are not those that died, but those that live to witness such. The deceased have encountered the worse of all human experiences; death. But those that live, still have life to contend with and even worse, the unnecessary exposure of their minds to such disturbing methods of execution which might lead them to wonder "will I go like this?" (at least on a subconscious level). When a mind is unleashed to conjour up such thoughts, things change; people become jittery and weary of one another.

To protect from that which they fear, they change patterns of behaviour, become more smothering of their children, and after a long enough timeline, their lifestyle becomes a shadow of its original frame as every element of trust for the next man disappears leaving a dent within the fabric that holds the society together.

Maybe that is the only way I can understand how a nation of cashcrop farmers, with rich traditions and healthy appreciation of life, can morph into assassins, lynch mobs, rapists, and armed robbers.

Whether the boys are criminals or they are cultist is not what's most worrying. What's most worries me is that as a result of the complete lack of trust and continuous oppression within the society,there are very few Nigerians that could have been in that gathering of mob and stood against their act as the voice of reason.

Maybe Chinua Achebe had a point in his recent boy 'There was a Country'; maybe Nigeria does need to appease the Spirit of Biafra.

Monday, October 1, 2012


January 20, 2009
Minutes before his madien address, no one observed that he was lost in thought....
 “Is this really all I have worked hard to achieve? Am I prepared for this? Is this all there is to it? So every minute I will be in the spotlight!! Naa.. this isn't really what I want… Stay focused. This is your moment to shine…Just repeat this to yourself “I cannot fail. I cannot fail ”. Besides, you have a lot to offer... A lot to offer? Everyone knows this is all there is to me. I am all mouth.. ok I am lanky with big ears and I have a smoking problem. Talk about an exciting life… You forgot to mention " and I adore my wife" Oh yeah that too. But seriously, how does that count? If we go by my father's origin alone, I am not fit for this because..... Is this what you choose to believe? Things have changed and you better get used to it. Every minute of the last 47 years has been spent preparing for this moment. This goes beyond your ego; this is destiny boy… Destiny…hmm..so am I destined. I might be the 1st, but what does that count for? Being the 1st, I might stammer and make a fool of myself. Somebody might ask a question I am not prepared for. Or they might throw eggs at me with the whole world watching. Did you rehearse for this speech? Well…yeah. I have done that over 20 times, every day for the past three weeks… Then why are you worried? Remember it was the same you that brought the Jeremiah incident under control...... This is a lot more complex than that… We all know that. But that was preparation for the type of challenges you will encounter. Really, there is nothing to be jittery about ..... I can't help but be afraid. This is major. Does that mean I can no longer do something as simple and regular as work on a blackberry? I can’t even wish Genevieve a happy birthday without causing a stir. What if I become like Bill and find my secretary attractive? That will be a disaster for my ladies... Calm down. Here they come…You are about to speak. stay in character. OK. I cannot fail. I cannot fail”

His heartbeat raced faster as he was introduced…….. 
“To give his inaugural speech, I will like to introduce the President Elect of the United State of America. Mr Barack Obama.....”

Matthew, Clement & Justin

About Matthew
‎"It was 12pm mid-day on Falomo bridge. I walked up to his car, a golden Toyota Camry. 
The reflection of the sunlight almost prevented me from seeing his face. But I saw it; he looked well-fed and humane; probably 35 years old cladded in white native. It looked like he was on the phone. That was my cue. I emptied my eva bottle of water and soap on his windscreen before he could turn on his wiper in defence; I earned N100 for that act. 
My name is Matthew. I run a traffic mobile cash-wash!!

About Clement
OK. I am checking out the man as he walks up to the swing door and entrance to the eatery where I am. He is with wife and their son. He is wearing white linen pants with a blue teeshirt. He is holding a blackberry phone (Chei- Bold5, bigz boi- I think to myself). 

His wife has this expensive weave-on and is looking chic in her long flowing Ankara dress with flowery patterns. Their son seems lost in his ipad viewed through thick almost binoculars-like eye glasses. 
“What are you having Tomiwa” says the man, as he opens the door.

“I am ok. I think it is noteworthy to state that I am really concerned about your cholesterol level, dad. Your choice of food these day is, for the lack of a better word, unbecoming” replied the 11 year old Tomiwa.
(“Butter” I thought “that is N1million a term plus bi-annual tour round Europe speaking”). 
Good afternoon”.
“Don’t worry son. Daddy will have a six-pack, soon”.
“It is not about looking healthy; it is about feeling healthy. There is a discipline to everything. And knowing this is the secret to longevity” he continues.
“Tomiwa, this internet has started turning your head again. Bimbo, listen to your son”. She wasn’t interested in their conversation. She chatted away on her phone slowly moving from their company. 
“Can I be excused? David, just get me a bottle of water” replied Bimbo.
“ Can I have two meat pies, one fanta and a donut . Oh and for Bimbo, a bottle of water, please”. 
120+120 that is N240. N240+N100+N100+N70 that is emmm N510” I thought to myself looking towards his hand as he pulled out a N1000 note.
“Sir for change,do you have N10 so I can give you N500”said the server. 
“Ah! And I just used it” he exclaimed. 
The server gave him the change in the denominations:
* 1 two hundred naira note, 
*2 one hundred naira notes, 
*1 fifty naira note, 
* and 2 twenty naira notes. 

I lit up, knowing I might still have a chance. As he walked to the where I was, I gladly opened the door. 

My response wasn’t with my initial tone; there wasn’t that blandness of the “Good afternoon” I had welcomed them with. 
Instead, my response had a glow to it and an expression of my desire-
“Oga, Happy Weekend, sir” I said with a salute and a smile.

My name is Clement. I am the security officer at the new MasterBiggs restaurant in Akute.

About Monday
Today the streets are clear. With this, I can’t help but wonder, how will I pay my rent, which is due today? The Easter holidays made this Monday quite uneventful. We sat for hours and waited for a miracle; for something. I remember yesterday’s inspirational message: I remember the pastor speak about hope because “our God works in mysterious ways”. 
Just then, Rasidi's call came through my mobile ph


“E don happen” was the 1st thing he said.
A tanker had collided with a luxurious bus along the narrow Akute Road. The luxurious bus was carrying passengers on their way to Benin from the just concluded Israelites in Nigeria Mission’s Church annual convention titled “Condemn all your enemies to God’s judgment” which, according to reliable sources, attracted over 20,000 people from across the globe. Nobody was hurt; but the accidents caused a serious gridlock around the area.

I approached an Okada to take me to the scene. Imagine the okada man tried to charge me N80 instead of N50; the guy was trying to make money over what just happened, because of what I do. I showed him, that I myself, sabi Lagos. As I hopped on the okada towards the scene, I couldn't help but feel a little less tensed about my rent:
-Rasidi had settled the area boys for the three of us (to include Tolu) to operate freely around the Water Corporation side of the road;
-And what made it even better for Rasidi and I was Tolu was opting out as he was chatting up a girl from his village called Bisi …. and things were looking really “positive” for him; “going down tonight” positive.

“MY GUY the hammer of today no go get part 2. All of the people never break dem fast”-was Rasidi last statement before I headed off to meet him.
Truly our God works in mysterious ways- I thought.

My name is Justin. I sell pure water along the Pen Cinema traffic in Agege, Lagos State.