There is a war out there, and no Nigerian youngster may be safe from it: a secret experiment to drive the Nigerian youth into extinction. More students and young Nigerians have been killed or imperiled this year than I have ever known since I was old enough to know my government name or since I learnt to do a number 2 by myself in the toilet.
From the Mubi 40 to the Aluu 4, and running through a thread of sad instances (the Sosoliso air crash), then the incidents involving NYSC corpers in the Boko Haram North to the recent Dana Air mishaps, we have mourned enough members of Generation Y-Not (those born after the oil boom years of 1977 and beyond) to declare a genocide watch in Nigeria.
My heart is heavy, especially after the recent Mubi and Aluu deaths, and before I speak on it, I would enjoin every one of my readers to heed this: Try and preserve yourself as much as you can while we gang-plank walk this contraption that is the Nigerian experiment.
Every Musa, Mezie and Moyo with access to social media has heard and given their opinion about the sad deaths which occurred at Aluu community, where 4 UNIPORT students were tortured and murdered in cold blood by an irate mob bent on dispersing their own warped version of street justice. Per chance you have not heard because you have been residing in Bagco super-sack in a remote Zamfara outpost, or if you are hustling in the diaspora doing a menial per hour job, you may catch up by visiting Linda Ikeji’s blog or any gossip/news site in blogosphere.
With all the curses, abuses, accusations that have been leveled against Loco Haram (the Aluu mob), the saddest thing in all this is that people in the mob stood by and did not intervene in any form to stop the horrible act. Members of the community stood with folded arms, or seemed to wash their hands off it like Pilate, and a MOPOL soldier even stood passively even though he was armed with a rifle. To serve, protect and collect 20 naira from bus drivers.
This gruesome act took place in a country where the average person does not mind their business. It is weird that we Nigerians do a lot of olofofo but do not know when to intervene. The same amebo neighbor that would count the number of cars you have parked in your compound, as well as memorize all the license plate numbers by heart and even know that you used Sacklus paint on the building, all from looking over his wall and listening to neighborhood gossip, even though he has never spoken a word to you, should not cower in silence and switch off all the lights in house, when Anini’s disciples pay you a visit in the dead of the night. Every good neighbors owes you a 911 call (or whatever Operation Sweep’s number is) to the police if you are being robbed. The grass is not always greener on the other side.
Nigerians must know when to intervene and when to be passive. I mean this is a country where if you were driving a vehicle with a flat or limp tire on a public road, passer-bys or other road users riding on okadas would not hesitate to bang on your car boot or bonnet as they overtook your car to alert you about the tire. Some would even honk their horns loudly. At this point, we are ready to drink Panadol for another person’s sickness.
Nigerian is a country where a ‘good Samaritan’ will help a female driver change a flat tire if she is struggling with it. Or help a driver jump start a faulty car by helping to push it. But no one may assist the same female to the hospital if she had been hit by a stray bullet because robbers were operating nearby. Or if a stolen article mistakenly fell into her purse at the market, and attention was drawn to it by town-criers.
Are Nigerians now aloof and more interested in self or ‘tribalistic’ preservation? Could not one on-looker in Aluu speak up or tell that stick wielding moron to fall back, and leave the students be, before it was too late? So amebo people in Nigeria would rather comment or offer unsolicited advise on another person’s weight, or inquire why you and your spouse have not had children 3 years after marriage (as if you the couple married to just stare at each other), or prod you about why you are still a spinster or a bachelor. But they would not intervene or call the police if they see you being lynched by an irate mob. They may however break out their mobile phones and take a picture with the grainy one mega pixel camera.
Many people have blamed the Blackberry phone (why, I would never understand) and the Brazilian/Peruvian/Mongolian/Guatemalan hair weave for the spike in materialism, narcissism and every manner of social ill in this country. I know that this joke is old, as I cracked it in my previous piece on Blackberrys (look for it on this blog if you have not read it) : The Blackberry is not to blame for Nigeria’s social problems – don’t shoot the, err, Blackberry messenger.
I believe the camera phone has changed Nigeria forever. Just as the “happy slapping” phenomena enveloped England some years back, the average Nigerian has become a camera phone – olofofo. Many would rather take a picture of an accident/incident victim than help. I wonder why we don’t have more war correspondents or people willing to infiltrate Boko Haram with a secret camera to get us breaking insider information. There are 2 sides to the kobo. Social media has helped bring the Aluu and Mubi incidents exposure and may well bring about a reaction from our siddon-look government. However, if the camera phone kpakparazzi had tried to help the victims instead, rather than play Christiana Amanpour or Picasso, the brave four may still be with us today.
How did we get to this stage in Nigeria where people have imbibed the cold-bloodedness and unrepentant independence of Western culture but still kept the barbaric, repugnant customs of yester year? Marry the willingness of unsophisticated people to implement wicked customs, to a selfishness and unwillingness to speak up for others, and that becomes the makings of a society that is failing.
I remember when I was a child, we as a family would go to our village for Xmas, and I felt safe even as a 7 year old hanging out in the village square till late in the evening. I could go stroll into any home, from the poshest village villa to the most rudimentary mud hut, and be offered a bottle of Mirinda or Green Sandy (albeit a very hot one) and some Cabin biscuits (usually soft, but not that I cared much – biscuit was biscuit). Okin was a class above though but I digress. Nigeria, with rural life at its core was much more innocent then. Kidnappings could never occur in my village. Every adult was an uncle or aunt, and material possessions were not worshipped as they are now because the community practiced a form of socialism. If you killed a goat, I was sure of one the hind legs and maybe the intestines to make miri-oku ji or ngwo ngwo. (Refer to Igbo Language for Senior Secondary School Book One for the meanings).
There was no fear that a jealous villager would jazz me so that a ritualist could make away with my big head, or that I would be kidnapped so that the criminal could demand a prince’s ransom from my old man. The only men of the night I ever saw back then were masquerades. The village was such a huge family, that I once went to an old woman’s hut to greet her (you had to go and greet most elders once you arrived in the village). She was thrilled, and offered me some refreshment: meat. I knew not to accept cooked food, but I accepted so not to be rude. Besides I had seen a fresh grasscutter slowing roasting over a coal fired grill, so I fancied a bit of that, right? Wrong. The mama reached into her oha soup pot with her fingers, pulled out a wet piece of goat meat, then she sucked off all the soup with her mouth so that the pepper would not make the beef too spicy for me, then she handed it to me.
That was the ultimate gesture of love and sacrifice as many Igbo readers can attest that villagers, especially the older ones, see meat as a precious commodity. But meat featuring saliva and drool? I left her house thankful, and moments later I left the meat buried deep in the sand some meters away from the woman’s sight, as there was no way I would have eaten it. But that is beside the point.
As a child, I received love from all over the planet. Back then, apart from the occasional gbomo gbomo incident/story, children and youngsters were not subjected to crime. Students and youth corpers also enjoyed a protected status as government property. It was like adults could kill themselves if they wanted to – but children were left out of the mayhem.
Then the 90s rolled in, and that innocence was taken away from Nigeria down to grass-root level. People became occupied to making a quick buck, and coming back to the village to floss. As social ills like yahoo yahoo, 419, ogwu-ego, kidnapping, one chance and armed robbery increased, the government seemed too slow and cumbersome to tackle them. The law of the jungle has now taken over since the system has now become overwhelmed.
Every ill in Nigeria is now done excessively today when compared to the past. Sometime circa 1992, a chap aged 21 was caught stealing in a shop somewhere in Aba called Eziama. A thick crowd quickly surrounded the thief, and they were welding various weapons of destruction – planks, iron rod, boiling ring, fluorescent tube, koboko etc. They started raining blows on the thief and they stripped him naked.
A man was passing by the scene on his way back from work, and waded through the crowd out of curiousity to see what the din was. He soon screamed with hysteria: A nwuona m o! (Mi o gbe o!) (I am dead o!). The thief was his nephew – his brother’s son. He had to think fast.
The uncle quickly approached the leader of the mob who was wielding a huge akpu pestle, and who looked like he was about to break the thief’s head with it. The following conversation ensued in perfect Abia Igbo:
Uncle: “Biko, nne gi a nwu na (Please, may it be well with your mother). What did this boy do?”
Chief lyncher: “O zuru ohi (he stole) (or he robbed) (or he converted another’s possessions)”
The Uncle looked at his nephew who was now quite scarred and bloodied, and sitting in a heap on the ground. True to word, next to the thief were the items he had tried to fap. Apparently, he had broken into a video/ electronics store, and nabbed a video cassette player and 3 films – Steve Seagal’s “Out for Justice”, Jungle Fever and some Nollywood movie featuring Tony Umez and Sonny McDon. Luck ran out when he was trying to make away, as someone spotted him and yelled “TIF!!”
The Uncle hissed, and shouted as he gave his nephew a thunderous slap: “E wu ezigbo onye-oshi” (You are a super -duper crook).
The slap the Uncle gave the nephew made him writhe on the floor in pain as he clutched his face. It hurt worse than being smashed with a pestle. Even the crowd was stunned, and looked at the Uncle in surprise. Enyi ele ihe o wu biko?
The Uncle then turned to the Chief Lyncher and explained: “This anumanu (animal) is my younger brother’s son. I will make sure his father deals with him at home. The father is a principal at a seminary school. He has learnt his lesson, so allow me take him to his father for additional VIP treatment”
The Chief Lyncher seemed satisfied, and as he looked to the mob, most of them grunted their approvals . The logic was that since someone who was a close family friend and a member of the community had vouched for the thief, and he had already been humiliated enough anyway, the rogue could be released. Bail was set there and then by the street jury and the crowd dispersed. An Uncle’s slap had saved his nephew from a certain death.
In Nigeria of 2012, people are killed for committing crimes rather than being handed to security agencies. The general populace is full of mistrust for the justice system and some now opt street justice. If Nigerian justice in the judiciary is represented by a white effigy of a blind-folded lass with scales and a sword, Jungle Justice her unruly and infamous cousin would be a Kunkuru puppet figurine wielding a cutlass, a jerry can of petrol and a mosquito net looking for who to devour. Unfortunately the young and innocent do get caught in the cross-fire.
Ever since I heard about the Aluu incident, I have not been myself as it has hurt me to the bone marrow. That incident is a shame to every single Nigerian as we have failed our sons, brothers and colleagues.
To our brethren who lost their lives in Mubi. I pray God keeps you and comforts your families. And to the brave Aluu 4, who I understand had a music artist among them, rest in peace my brothers – you are now our Nigerian Marvin Gayes.
We cross driven, cornered into a life that’s hellish/
Paying our dues with bloodshed, ain’t nothing you all could tell us/
Fellas – mount up, it’s time for battle, it is on now/
Two worlds, colliding armies, riding soldiers, gone wild/
Sometimes I think my glory days was back in my youth/
2pac featuring The Outlaws (As The World Turns Around, 1999)
Most of us only care about money making/
Selfishness got us following our wrong direction/
Wrong information always shown by the media/
Negative images is the main criteria/
Infecting the young minds faster than bacteria/
Kids want to act like what they see in the cinema/
Whatever happened to the values of humanity/
Whatever happened to the fairness in equality/
Instead of spreading love we’re spreading animosity/
Lack of understanding, leading us away from unity/
That’s the reason why sometimes I’m feeling under/
That’s the reason why sometimes I’m feeling down/
There’s no wonder why sometimes I’m feeling under/
Got to keep my faith alive till love is found/
Black Eyed Peas (Where Is The Love, 2003)