JUNGLE JUSTICE: humans as irate barbarians

“There are many things worth living for, a few things worth dying for, and nothing worth killing for” – Tom Robbins

“Murder is an inherently evil act, no matter what the circumstances, no matter how convincing the rationalizations” – Bentley Little

“When I hear about people murdering, I wonder: What has to go through your brain to say, I don’t want him breathing anymore? What makes you get that angry? How can you take someone’s breath away? That just blows my mind” – Gilbert Arenas

 

A couple of years ago, I went to Ogbomosho to hustle. There was a lucrative business booming in that small western town so I decided I wanted in on the business. I left for Ogbomosho a few days after my grandmother’s birthday. I lied to her that I was going to evangelize to some lost souls at Otukpo. I guess she knew I was lying but hey, c’mon…what could she do?

On the 5th day of October 2012, I arrived at Ogbomosho and promptly proceeded to the compound where I would be staying. The compound was beside a Celestial Church and on this day, there were a bunch of kids dancing to the tune of the gospel songs sung by the faithful members in the church. An elderly woman was sitting on the verandah, encouraging the kids to dance and give praises to Oluwa. When I approached the elderly woman, I genuflected as I greeted her and introduced myself.

Ok, you are the person Tunde said would come?” she asked in Yoruba.

Beeni, Ma…I am the one”, I replied with my head bowed down.

Ok, welcome. Fola, Fola…bring the key to the room for our visitor”, she shouted as she called out to a young lady.

Fola came running with her hips swaying from side to side and breasts dangling like a medieval pendulum. The nipples were visible through the loose blouse she wore. No bra outline, no bra silhouette, no nothing…it was obvious she had no brassieres on. She greeted me and handed over a bunch of keys to me. Iya Fola introduced me to her daughter and told me to ask for anything when I needed. As she turned to leave, I beheld the ‘equator’ she was carrying behind her. No panty lines, no panty silhouette, no nothing…it was obvious she had no panties on. Gracious Lord, have mercy on your dear son!

At about 6 p.m., I asked Fola for the direction to any beer parlour around where I could relax. She told me of a place that wasn’t far from the house. It was run by a retired policeman. I thanked her and asked if she could join me in my evening soiree. She smiled and politely turned down my offer. She said she was watching her weight.

Which kain weight? Even if you dey watch your weight, no allow that weight wey dey your waist to reduce o…because na better selling point be that”, I said sarcastically, smiled and left for the beer parlour.

Upon arrival, I sat down and placed my orders. Fela’s Gentleman was blaring loudly from a stereo in the bar and a group of young guys drinking at the other end were singing along. One of them stood up, weed in hand and a green bottle in the other, poured some of the liquid on the floor in Fela’s memory and proceeded to proclaim Fela the Che Guevera of Nigeria. I nodded in approval.

Almost immediately, my phone beeped. It was a Facebook notification. I clicked on the link and my browser opened to reveal a disheartening video. It was a video of four young boys brutally murdered in Aluu, a town in Rivers State. I clicked on the video link and watched in horror as the four boys agonizingly faced their death. TRAGIC!

Jungle Justice! Let me state categorically: Any man that can comfortably take another life is capable of committing worse crimes. The Good Book says: He who is without a sin should be the first to cast a stone. I know some folks would shoot back at me: “see this crazy mudafuka…it is easy for you to come online and post shit because you’ve never been a victim of the evil crimes these hoodlums commit”. Ok, fair enough! But it is these same members of a lynch mob that would gladly swindle an unsuspecting customer while embarking on a business deal. It is these same people that would sing the praises of politicians that have milked their respective communities dry by stealing with the pen. Hypocrisy!

I’ve witnessed a few cases of jungle justice; one at Onitsha and two at Aba.          My landlord told me an interesting story some years ago. In the early 90s, he was hustling and shuttling between Nnewi and Abakaliki. On one occasion, he went to Abakaliki and couldn’t make it back to Nnewi that same day. So he decided to spend the night at a friend’s house. Unknown to him, a robber had robbed and shot dead an elderly woman and ran away. When he entered the neighborhood, a lynch mob descended on him and claimed he was the robber. Before one could say Jack, two tyres were brought from nowhere with a can of gasoline. One of the tyres was quickly put around his neck and as the gasoline was poured on him, he heard a familiar voice screaming from amongst the lynch mob. It was his friend CJ, whom he was visiting. He was shouting that the person they were about to murder wasn’t the robber but his friend. And that was how my landlord was saved on that day. He could have been murdered because a group of people decided to make a quick conclusion without getting their facts right.

If we take the life of a person for a single crime he/she commits, then there would be nothing left of us in this world; we all should have died a thousand times or more for the evils we have done respectively. I understand the plight of a neighborhood that has been robbed countless times without mercy. It used to be common place in Onitsha. I also understand the trauma of a young girl who has had an ordeal in the hands of rapists. I’ve seen such victims at the clinic and I must confess, it is heart wrenching hearing them tell their stories. In such cases, it is so easy to get a can of petrol and a matchstick, and set the culprit on fire without waiting for the cops. Because if peradventure these hoodlums are handed over to the cops, they would be out in no time to wreck more havoc. But before we set these wrongdoers on fire, we have to realize that it could have been any of us.

According to the Good Book, Jesus sat down as he drew on the ground. A mob brought a woman accused of adultery to him, calling for blood and the death of the godless lady. Jesus didn’t speak but simply continued drawing on the sand. Eventually, he looked up and told the mob that if any of them was without sin, then he should be the first to cast a stone. And what happened? The mob gradually left one after the other and Jesus proceeded to forgive the woman and asked her not to sin anymore.

In these contemporary times, we should do away with jungle justice. White America has a history of lynching minorities to death. In the middle ages, people were accused of witchcraft in Europe and burnt at the stake. But these heinous and barbaric crimes are in the past and as Africans, we should do away with them also. It is time to take a stand against jungle justice, no matter our creed, religion and other factors that differentiate us.

Jungle justice would not end until law enforcement agencies show a dedicated approach towards eliminating corruption. In a society where a criminal is caught and after a couple of weeks pays for his freedom with bribes, it would be a tough act for a mob to hand over a criminal for prosecution. They would fear that due process would be bypassed and the criminal would be free again to unleash more terror.

So there I was, sitting in the bar at Ogbomosho, phone in hand, eyes fixed on my table, still perturbed after watching the sickening video of the murder of the Aluu 4. It could have been me, it could have been you…it could have been any one of us. I looked in the direction of the boisterous young men drinking and singing along to the tune of Fela’s Gentleman. They’ve never seen my face in this town before. I quickly made a decision; I had to put on my cloak of good behavior, drink my beer in peace, pay up and leave the bar as quickly as possible. And throughout my stay in the town, hope that I don’t get myself into any trouble lest they come up with trumped-up charges against me and lynch me to death. Even Fola’s hips would not succeed in getting me into trouble in the town. I’d have to get out of the town in one piece…Insha Allah!

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