Nigeria is on the edge of a dangerous precipice occasioned by a surge in tragic and wanton killings in the land. Killing of innocent persons across the country has become the norm rather than the exception. The most recent is that of a pregnant mother Hariri Jubril and her four little children in Anambra State.
Two weeks before, Deborah Yakubu was set ablaze by some of her College of Education classmates in Sokoto. These incidents left the nation in shock. ‘Shock’ is the wrong word. We are no longer “shocked” at the news of killings. We are merely “troubled” or “disturbed” or, worse, “nonchalant”.
Sadly, we quickly recover from these emotions and carry on with our lives. This may seem trivial. It is not. It is a big tragedy – we are losing our basic humanity or humaneness. And the federal government appears overwhelmed! How did we descend into such barbarity?
How human are we when we shrug our shoulders at the news of a girl being burnt alive by her own classmates? How human are we when we sleep normally at night after seeing a video of a woman and her fiancé having their heads chopped off while still alive? How human are we if we can continue to enjoy our meal after seeing the corpses of a woman and her four little children slain in the street for the crime of being different?
How do gloss over the deaths of scores of people in a Boko Haram attack? Is Mr. President able to sleep with so much blood being shed in the land under his watch?
The deaths of fellow Nigerians, our own brothers, and sisters, have become nothing but numbers – 30 people killed here, 12 people killed there. We have lost our humanity, and we are out of touch with what it means to be human. The English poet Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) believed that there was a beast in every one of us that needed to be tamed if society were to attain civilisation.
Unfortunately, the beast in all of us is threatening to take over the souls of Nigerians. The mark of this beast is not 666. It is lack of empathy, sympathy, fellow feeling, and goodwill. Its mark is a totally anaesthetised attitude towards horror and terror.
This beast looks upon the death of a fellow human being with indifference. It makes the appropriate “noises” such as “oh no!”, “how unfortunate” and, for perhaps a few days, “justice must be served!”. Its “duty” done, the beast goes on as usual. This is what we have become. Beasts.
This is the tragedy of Nigeria. The killers themselves are unusual – they are the greater beasts. They maim and deface or burn the corpses – an indication that the anger levels are too high. It is not only the Nigerian citizen who has become anaesthetised to tragedy.
It is the Nigerian system in its entirety. Nigeria has become a failed state. When systems of government fail, the citizens rebel. It leads to anomie, anarchy, and general lawlessness.
Our politicians carry on with their campaigns as though Nigerians are not dying daily. In fact they use these deaths to promote themselves, promising to end it all if they are elected. In the meantime they have surrounded themselves with police and armed personnel while ordinary Nigerians sleep with only one eye closed.
The government must rise to its obligations and address the dehumanization of Nigerians and the endless killings. The government should seriously consider allow the establishment of State Police.
The federal security forces are overwhelmed and often are not familiar with the terrain to which they are posted. State police would be at home on their turf since they are from the same area.
They will be far more efficient at identifying criminals and perpetrators of violence. They would also have the added advantage of familiarity – local people will feel freer with them and would be more forthcoming with information. The government should call on religious and community leaders to emphasize the sanctity of human life and the importance of peace, unity, brotherhood, and good neighbourliness.
The government should involve traditional and religious leaders in forming vigilante groups that would be responsible for fishing out criminals and handing them over to the authorities. Finally, the judiciary needs to get serious. It must show that it is impartial and will not allow any crime to go unpunished. Extra-judicial killings happen as a consequence of a failed judiciary.
In Nigeria justice is given only to the highest bidder. The judiciary needs to restore the faith of Nigerians in the system. The current situation where everybody is a law unto himself has got to end. Nigeria deserves better.