The Iynch mob and failure of state institutions
By Paul John
THE Fund for Peace, a Washington D.C. based non-profit, non-governmental research and educational institution, in its 12th annual Fragile States Index (FSI) released on June 29, 2016 ranked Nigeria as one of the world’s most unstable countries. Nigeria was ranked alongside war-torn Afghanistan, Haiti, Iraqi, Guinea, Pakistan, Burundi and Zimbabwe. The organisation went ahead to classify Nigeria as “high alert” meaning that the situation in Nigeria had worsened compared to the previous year and the classification is one level shy of the “very high alert” which comprises countries like Syria, Somalia, Central Africa Republic, Congo Democratic Republic, Yemen, Chad, Sudan and South Sudan where peace had totally collapsed. It has to be noted that the exercise is an annual ranking of 178 nations based on their levels of stability and the pressures they face.
In the book, There Was a Country, Chinua Achebe defined a failed state in two ways. First, as one that is “unable to perform its duties on several levels when violence cascades into an all-out internal war, when standards of living massively deteriorate, when the infrastructure of ordinary life decays, and when the greed of rulers overwhelms their responsibilities to better their people and their surroundings”. Second, one in which “central state authority collapses for several years”. There were two different accounts concerning the boy’s death. The first account was that he stole some quantity of Garri and that was very pathetic because I see no reason anybody should lose his life for stealing a cup of Garri. The account maintained that the boy that was lynched was 7 years. This ‘garri’ story shows the hunger and anger in the land due to the harsh economic policies of the present APC government. The second account which started trending on the social media 24 hours after the incident narrated how the boy was a member of a gang that terrorised that area. The gang was said to have thrown a lady from a bridge for her courage to drag her purse with the members of the gang and the account went on to reveal how the gang had stabbed their victims in the course of their nefarious operations in that area of Lagos. It maintained that the boy was more that 7 years and that some members of the gang were once arrested and handed over to the police but were later released after allegedly bribing the police. Whether the first or the second account is correct, all I know is that the boy I watched on YouTube being lynched was far less than 18 years.
There are intriguing questions seeking answers about the incident. First, one would wonder how the incident passed without police officers coming to disperse the crowd and to rescue the poor boy. Perhaps, the police officers posted to that area of Lagos were busy collecting their ‘roger’ from commercial drivers; hence, there was no need leaving the juicy part of their job for dispersion of the crowd. But assuming that the second account is true, it shows that the people have lost confidence in the police. In saner climes, people call the police when there is any need and the confidentiality of such call is maintained. However, in the Nigerian situation, we have read in the news how kidnappers would call the relatives of their victims to tell them every detail about the report such relatives made to the police even when it was supposed to be confidential. Thus, the second account said that some of the members of the gang were once arrested and handed over to the police but they were allegedly released after bribing their way through hence the people who had been victims of the gang’s operations did not want to take chances again with the poor boy’s case.
The above allegation calls for the re-evaluation of our Police Force. The divisional police officer manning that area must explain to Nigerians why his men were never seen until the deed was done. This is because the Nigerian Police Force is known by their usual questions like wey dem in such incidents. For instance, armed robbers could be robbing in a particular area and if someone summoned the courage to call the police, they would never get to the venue until after several hours. When the robbers had left, the police would come shouting wey dem, wey dem and at the same time making life uncomfortable for the citizenry by blocking all major roads as if the robbers either told them they were coming back or were still in the neighbourhood. The most unfortunate thing is that sometimes hours after the robbers had left the police would begin to arrest passers-by to boost their “revenue.” Of course, Nigerians are aware that I no follow is N5, 000.
Interestingly, police in Lagos State have recently issued a statement on the matter that the age of the late boy must be between 20 and 25. I again ask, how did the police arrive at that, did they use any dating device or did they see the late boy’s birth certificate? The recent news has it that the police have just exhumed the boy’s decomposing body for further investigations, I ask again where were the police when the poor boy was being lynched? That is still the same ‘Wey dem’ pattern of our police services.
The lynching of the lad also showed another case of failed parental responsibilities. Many couples are busy producing children they do not know how to take care of. Imagine a child of that age not being in school by that time of the day or worst still be in a place he was learning trade/skill. It has to be noted that due to the present economic recession in the country, many parents have mandated their children to go out and hustle in order to contribute to the welfare of the family. The girls go into prostitution early in life and the boys are left on the streets where they can easily be recruited to one gang or the other. As I watched that poor boy being lynched on YouTube, the question that flickered through my mind was if there was joy the day the boy was born and if the mother carried him in the womb for nine months? Life in indeed is worth nothing in this part of the globe.
I still maintain that Africa should have been a better place if not for the imported religions that bedevil the continent. Today, the government and our religious houses are issuing conflicting pieces of advice concerning childbirths. The government tells her citizens to give birth to the number of children they can take care of whereas our religious leaders quote the different parts of our holy books on how children are blessings from God hence the holy books mandate all couples to go into the world and multiply.
John writes from Port Harcourt
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