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.

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