The writer argues against mob justice and calls for relevant authorities to take action against it.
On that day, about two months ago, there was absolutely nothing suggesting that Ikeja would soon enter into a killer mood.
Only about an hour earlier, a stern Mother Nature had pulled the entire city by its restless ears, dragged it into shelters and whipped its buttocks with a torrential rainfall.
Just as the city scurried timidly out of hiding, suddenly, around Underbridge, it happened!
A scuffle, a cry, and then it began.
A pick pocket had snatched a Blackberry phone from another young man, apparently about boarding a bus to work. But today was not his lucky day as the other held him and raised an alarm. He tried to duck when he realised it was game over, slipping away like an eel (so fast, so dexterously that I wondered why he was squandering his sprinting talents on pick-pocketing rather than sweeping gold on the Olympic tracks).
The mob, mobilized by raw instinct in a few seconds, caught up with the phone thief.
Sticks, iron rods, hands, legs did the instant mob justice. Gbam…! Gbam…! Gimm..! Gimm…! He begged fervently for mercy but the mob was already charged beyond grace.
Then a policeman emerged. Relief? No! The uniformed man rather held him securely down on the road divider, much like one baby-sitting, and the beating continued in all intensity!
But our vehicle drifted through the massive floods fast gathering on Awolowo Way, and I didn’t know what ultimately became of the Blackberry thief in the hands of the tempestuous pack.
Almost daily we are greeted with pictures of an angry crowd pelting a supposed thief or a ‘violator’ with all available hard objects, intent on a kill.
A wife caught red-handed in adultery; a girl caught stealing phone at Alaba International Market, Lagos and stripped to her birthday suit, the video going viral on BB (after which she reportedly commits suicide for shame); a ‘Mama Put’ woman in Port Harcourt stripped bare, beaten to a pulp after she reportedly confessed to using ‘juju’ to hypnotise customers to patronise her culinary offerings.
Only recently, a brother, Okenyi Onu, also stumbled on something similar, a traumatised trio being beaten into pulps for allegedly stealing phones, also somewhere close to Underbridge.
Only a few weeks ago, Soni Akoji, a facebook friend told the pathetic story of his uncle virtually mauled to death on a Makurdi street some years ago by a mob after a young man raised an alarm (which later turned out false), that the uncle had ‘snatched’ his manhood through diabolical means! Akoji got there by sheer coincidence and he and a few friends rescued the man who had already been stripped naked, heavily pummelled and at the verge of dying.
And, can we forget the horrendous death that met the ‘Aluu Four’ last year, the case of four young students of the University of Port Harcourt who were mindlessly hacked to their untimely death over, of course, phones? How true, after all, was the accusation?
And we upload all these lurid photos and videos on our facebook pages or on YouTube for the world to see, having been gleefully taken by persons who should have helped and who should have tried to stop the insanity.
Sadly, this remains the trend in major cities such as Lagos and Port Harcourt – a large part of the populace turned literal walking tinderboxes waiting to be triggered into a conflagration at the slightest scream or ‘suspicious’ wink!
Imagine how many have fallen victims of false alarms, false accusations. Who knows how many more cases have gone unreported.
After the ‘Aluu Four’ case last year, writer and motivational speaker, Okechukwu Ofili, started a campaign for an anti-mob law. We need to support such moves in order to stop this madness.
No matter the offence and no matter our system-induced anger, it is wrong to take the laws into our hands.
You may be surprised to know that some members of these knife-stick-and-bottle-mobile-mobs may have seen the four walls of a modern-day classroom. But did they ever have the patience to read or at least watch the case of the Boston Bomber and even that of the recent, shameful Woolwich attack suspects who were not only arrested without much incidents but were also treated in hospitals?
Apparently, the idea of a Blackberry thief being assumed ‘innocent until proven guilty by a competent court of law’ is not only a lazy but ‘laid-back’ one for our mobile mob court seething with raw energy, raw barbarism and baying for instant blood. Whatever happened to our humanity? How do our leaders, with all the resources to instil sanity, continue to turn a blind eye, continue to look the world in the face and continue to claim loudly that we are the giant of Africa when back home our citizens are fast receding into the craggy Stone Age?
In this age, these acts simply degrade our humanity. Desecrate the idea of the sanctity of the human life. Insult our claim to civilization as a nation. Diminish us all.
But for one sane second, don’t we wonder why a misguided teenager would be lynched for stealing a N5, 000 phone or a N10, 000 goat when a civil servant steals hundreds of billions of Naira of pensioners’ funds (leading to the impoverishment and deaths of many), liberates himself with a ‘chicken change’ and continues to paint Abuja amber red in readiness perhaps for the next grand presidential pardon, national award or perhaps a shot at the senatorial race? Fellow Nigerians, excuse me, we’ve got a problem!
Yet I would have thought that it is within the purview of the National Orientation Agency to stop this madness via aggressive public awareness programmes, added to that, adequate training for our police force.
Wouldn’t the National Human Rights Commission under the leadership of eminent human rights activist, Chidi Odinkalu, come up with concrete steps to arrest this menace?
And, can’t the ‘mob-prone’ states step in to stop this show of shame?
Plus, can we see justice done in the ‘Aluu Four’ case to serve as a deterrent to others and to prop us up from further degeneration to savagery in 21st Century Nigeria?
How long will the mob remain on this shameful and murderous rampage?
Who, who will stop these blood-baying mobs?
Abah is a Lagos based journalist and environmental activist.