– By The Dream Daily Team
The spate of daily killings in the country, and government institutions’ poor records in bringing the perpetrators to book, is capable of blurring citizens’ perception of these incidents as crimes, thereby creating the dangerous situation where many Nigerians, in their psyche, accept them as the norm, with some taking to murder without any qualms, behavioural scientists in the country have warned.
Many Nigerians, and indeed the global audience, would agree with the assertion that at no point in the country’s history, since the end of the Nigerian Civil War more than 40 years ago, has our nation witnessed the killing spree blighting the nation on a daily basis since the return to civil rule, especially in recent times.
While Africa’s first Nobel Laureate in Literature, Nigeria’s Prof. Wole Soyinka, has observed and alerted the world to the “climate of fear” that these killings have spurn in Nigeria, psychologists and other behavioural scientists tell The Dream Daily of the very real danger these ugly developments can have on the psyche of citizens in the short term and in future.
In summation, these experts raise the fear that the psyche of individual citizen and that of the nation as a whole are in the real danger of being “conditioned to accept bloodshed as the norm, which does not bode well for us as a nation either now or for the future. It can only mean that violence will become more and more acceptable in the psyche of the people, leading to a broad acceptance of bloodshed as a normal course of behaviour. It is a situation we must not just allow to happen.”
While the country might not have a reliable data on crime, behavioural scientists are of the view that “the obvious increase in violent crimes today, which the media appears glad to feast on, might be an indication that years of all sorts of killings either by criminal elements like assassins, robbers, kidnappers or, more recently, terrorists and even well reported but unsolved extrajudicial killings by government agencies, are taking their toll on society, such that many violent crimes are now being committed by a segment of the population among which these were unheard of in the past.”
Equally dangerous, the experts say, “is the deepening erosion of the natural sense of shock and recoil in the normal human mind that Nigerians, like others humans, should have when confronted with the news of bloodletting. As it is, it appears that the spate of violent killings in the land that have become everyday occurrences continues to steel citizens’ mind. And so instead of being repulsed by, say the news that terrorists have bombed a motor park, Nigerians now appear more curious to access the gory details at the scene or in the media and spread it on the Internet, sometimes making sickening parody of an otherwise tragic terror attack. This dying sense of dread of mass murder or bloodletting is obvious in the anomalous reaction of rushing to the epicentre of a bomb blast immediately after it occurs, which the media have reported Nigerians doing today, as against running far away from harm’s way in the event of a terrorist attack or other dangerous situation.”
According to the experts, “another manifestation of the ‘climate of fear’ caused by insecurity is the increasing quest for anonymity by many Nigerians today. It is common today to find that many people who are very reluctant to give you something as simple as their correct names, even if you meant no harm in asking. Nigerians are increasingly hiding their identity in real life and in cyberspace or even in the media like live radio or television programme and speaking with newspapers like yours. It is a function of fear; fear that someone is listening or reading this and they might come and kill me if they don’t like what I said about them. That is one of the reasons many sources who speak with the media like I’m doing with you now pleads for anonymity.”
What is the way out?
To mitigate “this subtle but obvious degradation of the psyche in the Nigerian, traceable to so many killings going on in the country,” a professor of psychology who does not want his name in print says “government needs to find a means to switch off the sources of these errant stimuli. It should help if government can somehow stop all terror attacks in the country and make a well-publicised examples of many violent criminals with swift trials and appropriate punishment in our courts.”
A sociologist who also pleads anonymity tells The Dream Daily: “The government, through the National Orientation Agency (NAO) should also initiate a massive public re-orientation of the masses in the country aimed at re-sensitising all citizens to the despicable notion of crime in general and unlawful killings in particular. This campaign should make good use of the country’s rich cultural heritage, especially the moral codes used by our forefathers in pre-colonial times to keep society on the right path and hold potential deviants of old in check.”
She adds: “You journalists, the media also have a big role to play in this. The penchant for the sensational in the media today, I think, is unprecedented in our history. The public turns to you journalists for a lot of information, which tends to be the basis of their decisions or reactions. It is a great, even grave, responsibility and I want to appeal to the media do this with a high sense of responsibility. You will do well, for instance, to reach for the mind of the public with the message that these killings are abnormal and that all hands must be on deck to stop them. The Nigerian media must be ready to make big calls on this, and put government under pressure to really treat many of these killings as what they are – murder and extrajudicial killings – for which all efforts must be made to bring perpetrators to book. It is even in order for you to revisit some unresolved murder cases of the past, especially high-profile cases burned deep into the public psyche.”
Whodunit: Nigeria’s Murderous Milieu…In Retrospect
Here, The Dream Daily revisits some of the infamous, unresolved murder cases Nigeria has seen:
Mr. Dele Giwa
Who: Mr. Giwa was the Editor-in-Chief of the trailblazing, seminal Newswatch Magazine.
When: Sunday, October 19, 1986
How: Mr. Giwa was murdered through a letter bomb delivered to his Lagos home by two men reportedly riding on a motorcycle.Mr. Giwa’s young son, Billy, received the letter from the men and took it to his father, who was having his breakfast with the London Bureau Chief of Newswatch at the time, Mr. Kayode Soyinka. The letter bomb blasted the two journalists and the living room. Miraculously, Mr. Soyinka survived but Mr. Giwa died of his injuries same day at a Lagos hospital.
Who was in charge: Gen. Ibrahim Babangida was military president at the time.
The Aftermath: The manner of Mr. Giwa’s murder was the stuff Nigerians only associated with foreign Mob, Cold War espionage and Hollywood movies. The killing made local and global headlines even at that time, with so many conspiracy theories. According to reports, Mr. Giwa was questioned by the State Security Service (SSS) two days before his assassination. And because it was widely reported that Mr. Giwa, upon receiving the mail bomb, allegedly said “it is from the president” or “it must be from the president,” or “it is from the presidency” – there is still no agreement on whether the late journalist used any of these statements or even made them at all – the late legal icon, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, accused the government of the day of masterminding the murder. Chief Fawehinmi, unsuccessfully, sued the government over the homicide, insisting in the courts that Lt. Col. A.K Togun, then a Deputy Director of at the SSS, and Col. Haliru Akilu of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) either knew about the plot or even masterminded it. Both men denied any wrongdoing and robustly contended with Chief Gani Fawehinmi in court and were never indicted for any crime.
Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf
Who: Acclaimed founder and first spiritual leader of the “Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad,” which in Arabic means “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad,” otherwise and widely known as Boko Haram.
When: July 30, 2009.
How: According to media reports, Yusuf was arrested by soldiers, a fact recorded on film, and later handed over to the police who allegedly murdered him in their custody.
Who was in charge: Late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua led the nation at the time and Senator Ali Modu Sherrif was governor of Borno State when this extra-judicial killing occurred.
The Aftermath: “The country is reeling from this unlawful killing of the Boko Haram leader, Mohammed Yusuf,” a lawyer who pleaded anonymity tells The Dream Daily. He adds: “I have no personal knowledge of who Mohammed Yusuf was, but those who knew him have said that Boko Haram would not have become the monster we have on our hands today in this country under him. There are those who insist that Mohammed Yusuf was a calming influence on the sect and that he reined in the younger, violence-inclined elements under him when he was alive and in control of the group. Although many Nigerians may not have any sympathy for Mohammed Yusuf today because of the atrocities Boko Haram have committed and claimed in the country till date, from the point of law, what happened to Mohammed Yusuf in government custody is capital murder, and there is no other legalistic term to tag it. No great nation or country aspiring to greatness kills its citizens without a trial in court like this man was killed. Before their demands got lost in the mass murder they have carried out and claimed, the prosecution of those who killed Mohammed Yusuf was one of the conditions the media said Boko Haram wanted. To me, that remains a legitimate demand. Justice is a condition for peace and if we don’t want Nigeria to become Banana Republic, the system must expose those who gave the order to kill Mohammed Yusuf and put everyone involved in his murder in custody on trial before a competent court of law in this country.”
Chief Bola Ige
Who: Chief Bola Ige, sitting minister of justice and attorney-general of the federation.
When: December 23, 2001.
How: Murdered in his bedroom at his Bodija Estate, Ibadan Oyo State home. Strangely, all the security operatives attached to Chief Ige, according to reports then, allegedly went to eat at the same time, during which the murderers came in and killed the minister.
Who was in charge: Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was the President while late Chief Lam Adesina was governor of Oyo State.
The Aftermath: Although various people were arrested and tried for alleged involvement in the murder, including Senator Iyiola Omisore, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate in the recently held Osun State gubernatorial election, all were acquitted. To this day, the killers have not been found.
Chief Marshal Sokari Harry
Who: Formernational vice chairman of defunct All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP)
When: March 5, 2003.
How: Chief Harry was killed in his Abuja home.
The Aftermath: Nobody is serving any jail term for this crime.
Other unresolved killings:
Alhaja Suliat Adedeji, businesswoman, politician; shot in Ibadan, Oyo State on November 14, 1996. Late Gen. Sani Abacha was head of state at the time.
Chief and Mrs. Barnabas Igwe: Onitsha branch chairman of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA). Felled by suspected assassins’ bullets in September 2002, alongside his wife, Mrs. Abigail Amaka Barnabas.Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was the President while Dr. Chimaroke Mbadinuju was governor.
Mr. Funsho Williams: Lagos PDP governorship aspirant. He was killed in 2006 at his Dolphin Estate, Ikoyi, Lagos home. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was President and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was the state governor at the time.
Mr. Ayo Daramola: Former World Bank consultant and PDP governorship aspirant in Ekiti State. He was murdered in 2006. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was President and Mr. Ayo Fayose, who was recently re-elected as governor, was at the helms of affairs in Ekiti at the time.
Mr. Bayo Ohu: Assistant News Editor of The Guardian newspaper. He was assassinated in his Egbeda Lagos home.
Mr. Abayomi Ogundeji: ThisDay journalist murdered on August 17, 2008.
Mr.Bagauda Kalto: Journalist with The News magazine was abducted from his room in Durbar Hotel and murdered during the Abacha dictatorship.
Mr. Gabriel Agaba: A teenager arrested for allegedly breaking into a shop in Wuse and handed over to the police earlier this year. One policeman who goes by the alias “Bullet” was recorded on tape and broadcast on Radio Nigeria Network News to have said “we don waste that boy o.” Gabriel Agaba’s family are still seeking justice for this young boy slain in cold blood in government custody. President Goodluck Jonathan is leading the nation and Malam Bala Mohammed is the Federal Capital Territory minister at the time of Agaba’s extra-judicial murder.
The list is by no means exhaustive!
Do you know more? Post it on the comment page below, and demand for justice today.