What Is The Value of Human Life?

The recent news that Muhammad Yusuf the leader of the ÔÇśBoko Haram' sect was killed while in police custody does not bode well for Nigeria. How can we hope to join the league of developed countires when we still practice extra judicial killings? Now the sad aspect of it is that the federal government through the minister of information praised his death as ÔÇśpositive'. Now the BBC has a tape where the Commander of the forces who attacked the sect, a certain Col. Ahanotu, is quoted as saying that he personally captured Muhammad Yusuf and that he was unarmed and submitted himself willingly. He further said he handed over a living, breathing man who was cooperative to the police. Now for the police to maintain that he was shot while engaging in a cross fire with them seems incredulous giving the testimony of Col. Ahanotu.

Now there is a pattern in Nigeria where our security forces in a passive connivance with the government have cheapened human life. I say in connivance with the government because there is never any serious consequences where security forces take a life extra judiciously and as we know, where there are no sanctions, the pattern will continue. You see when we cheapen human lives, it has a multiplier effect and that effect is to reduce the actual value of every human life in Nigeria. 

In addition to Muhammad's death, we were also told of the death in a ÔÇścross fire' with security forces of  the former elected LG chairman and commissioner in Borno state,Ustaz Buji Fai. According to reliable reports, this man was arrested in his farm, taken to his former boss governor Ali Modu Sherrif, then taken to the state police head quarters where he was soon announced dead. The question is at what stage did he engage in the ÔÇścross fire' which led to his death? His crime? He was alleged to have been a sympathiser of the ÔÇśBoko Haram' sect. Now we will never know if this was true. Even if this was true, we will never know the true extent of his involvement.

Now if a former commissioner who was twice elected as a Local Government Chairman was killed thus, what hope is there for the common man?

The other day, we watched on youtube as our forces in the JTF stationed in the Niger Delta shot two unarmed brothers in cold blood. The last brother to be shot actually begged for his life, explained that he was not a militant, and revealed his identity and place of origin, and then he was shot all on Camera. What has been the consequence of that action on the soldiers who perpetuated the act? Your guess is as good as mine.

 We really have to pause and think about what we are doing in Nigeria. The continuous pattern of our security forces of extra judicial killings desensitizes us to death and does not make us safer and in actual practice is counter productive. It makes death of no consequence and we begin to see this in the daily incidences of insecurity in Nigeria, with youths taking to armed robbery and indiscriminate killings. We must understand that our security forces are modelling behavour for our youths when they behave like this. 

Take for instance the ÔÇśboko haram' killings. Perhaps there were not many who sympathized with this sect. But in a highly religious country as Nigeria, why would we want to martyr Muhammad Yusuf? When youths heart hat he gave himself up to Col. Ahanotu and was unarmed and killed by the security forces, many of them may be inclined to sympathize with him and his group and the result may be that in death he may become larger than he was when alive.

Even if this turns out not to be the case, what happens to the credibility of our security forces? Their credibility is bad enough right now, but with this incidence it will take a further dip.

Now what about the implication for Nigeria? Already the international media is calling to question government's description of the death of Muhammad Yusuf as ÔÇśpositive'. Well the implication is this- we might as well kiss the billions we spent recently on rebranding Nigeria good bye. Essentially of what effect has our rebranding been when we are still showing the world through instances like these that we do not yet have a mature law enforcement mechanism that works according to the rule of law? What is the primary role of government? It is to uphold law and order as enshrined by the rule of law. Now when a government praises an extra judicial killing as ÔÇśpositive', what message is it passing accros to first its own citizens and then the world? As I have said before, true rebranding should be a projection of good things that are already happening, not a whitewash of bad things that are happening with the aim of making them appear good. In this age of instant communication via the Internet, we can not fool anybody. Youths all over the world have access to free tools on the Internet like Youtube by which they can share video footage and images, facebook by which they can interact socially and google earth satellite by which they can actually see ANY place on earth and verify with their own eyes. The world is now truly the global village talked about in the late '90s and we in Nigeria can not white wash our sins anymore.

And what do we do? What is the solution? How do we make progress?

If the government is serious about rolling back the harm done by this extra judicial killing, the president must convene a genuine judicial inquiry, headed by a courageous and capable justice with the integrity required to separate politics from this issue, to investigate the death of Muhammad Yusuf and Ustaz Buji Fai, and more importantly must respect the findings of the panel. It should not be like the Justice Uwais panel which has been discarded (or so the president thinks), but it must be a panel whose findings are made known and must lead to the unmasking of those behind this greusome act. There must be no findings of ÔÇśunknown police'. The culprits of this act must be brought to justice.

Also we as citizens have to play our part. We can not be like a herd of buffalo who when attacked by a pack of wolves will scatter in different directions until the wolves select one from the herd of ten thousand for slaughter. We must combine our voices and resist such actions and insist that there must be a premium on human lives in Nigeria.

We should not say because we are not from a section of the country or of a particular religion we will not act. No! Nigeria is one. The death of one Nigerian should matter. If a Hausa, Yourba, Igbo or other distinct grouping should refuse to speak now because of primordial interest, we will ALL be the losers. If you fail to talk because he is not from your tribe, they will strike again. If you fail to speak up then because they are not of your state, they will strike again. If you still fail to speak up then because they are not from your town, they will strike again. If you fail to speak up because they are not from your village, they will strike again. If they now come for you, no one will speak up because EVERYONE has been struck.

This is not a fairy tale! We should remember that the President himself has been a victim of an extra judicial killing when his brother was injected with stupefying substances while at Abakaliki prisons which ultimately resulted in his death. Perhaps if we had acted properly as a nation we could have prevented the death of that great man.

Sometime ago, six youths were killed in Abuja and in death were framed as armed robbers, until it was revealed that they were actually innocent youths engaged in the spare parts business who had gone to enjoy themselves after a hard day's work with a female friend who had caught the fancy of a senior police officer who approached her. When she scorned his advances because she was with her boy friend, the man left the venue and ordered cops on a road block to oepn fire on them. Where it not for the outcry that this incidence raised these youths would have been unjustly tagged as robbers. Former president Obasanjo did order an inquiry and one was done and if memory serves me correctly the senior police officer was charged for murder.

You see, things happen when we as citizens speak up. We should not think we are powerless otherwise we will act as if we are powerless when we are not. We have our voices and the authorities know that the voice of the people is the voice of God.

Let's remember that Nigeria is a sum total of Nigerians and is what we make of it. Every last one of us has a role to play and we should play that role. Remember, we do not know if we will become a victim or not tomorrow, but we know of one certainty and that is that one day we will die and give an account of our lfie to God.

Once again, God bless Nigeria


Pat Utomi blogs at Patito's post


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Re: What Is The Value Of Human Life?
Gladiator posted on 08-04-2009, 13:04:31 PM
The slavish, indifferent, passive, and desensitised attitudes of Nigerians to the value of their compatriots lives that this piece attempts to target are a sum result of decades of systematic psychological abuse, poverty-induced dehumanisation and ignorance occasioned by the accumulated effects of the corrosive but persistent misuse of coercive power by the state against the citizenry. To top it all, the operators and beneficiaries of the system are protected by unfettered impunity which they guard jealously.

In a country where coercion, violence, or brutality whether threatened or actual is the main currency used in virtually all spheres and endeavours in the average daily life of a Nigerian, what else could possibly be the resultant attitudes of the people? Just examine/observe an average Nigerian dialogue or discussion be it in public or private and even the language deployed more often than not contains violent undertones and/or threats. This is a symptom of a brutalised people. Where a President of our country tells the people that soldiers who are supposed be their protectors are "trained to kill...don't blame them" if they kill innocent civilians.

I suggest that the attitudes as bemoaned about in this piece are completely consistent with the social, formal, and political environment as presently constituted in the Nigerian space. It is no accident that corporal punishment has long been banished from most Western societies. This is because they have long recognised that the long-term cause and effect cycle that it has on the wider society is to breed more violence not less.

The effect of the damage that needs to be undone took decades to inflict and it would take no less a period to repair. Until we can get to a stage where individually and collectively as society violence is utterly abhorred, Nigeria will not value human life. A good start would be to outlaw gratuitous violence inflicted under the guise of discipline in both homes and schools by guardians and teachers.
Re: What Is The Value Of Human Life?
Eace posted on 08-04-2009, 13:10:17 PM
The explanations of the IGP on the actions of the police, and the intention of the Attorney General in respect of prosecutions over the killings will be very interesting on this matter. As will the pronouncements of northern religious leaders on Boko Haram and how affected communities should react to the events in the north of the country.
Re: What Is The Value Of Human Life?
Bejim posted on 08-04-2009, 13:26:25 PM
Again, well written and yet nothing new. Nigeria is more than ripe for an overhaul. Yet revolutions don't happen without a leader. Prof, will you just step up and lead so that the people may follow? I think you know what it takes. Many people do. But it is not just enough.
Re: What Is The Value Of Human Life?
S. Njokede posted on 08-04-2009, 13:33:34 PM
The value of human life lies in the equaliterian value of all to the law in a given society or say, earth-wide. In prototypical situation like Nigeria where all men aren't equal before the laws, you don't talk about the value of human life because there's none howsoever. In a society where there is high-born of the upper class doing all the crime and getting away with it: with an army of government-sponsored security men to protect them from harm's ways of untimely death and crime - while on the other side, the lower-born of underclass people are slammed inside jail/killed for minuscule offences or nothing at all; with no police or law to protect them - the question of the value of life is a nonstarter.

The value of life, begins when all in given community are equal before the law of that place.

It's laughable that president Yar'Adua who gave his okay for the Hitleristic killings in the past days, would be the one to set up a committee to investigate himself.

They say, 'the dead don't bite.' I strongly don't think we have a date with God in accounting for our stewardship in the hereafter - hence, I'm of the mindset that we should all give that account here and now on earth. Bringing Sky-God into the business of earthly leadership make it too easy for our leaders to get away with man's inhumanity to man. If leaders err, they should either resign now or go to jail as the case may be. It's too simplistic to anticipate heavenly judgement and accountability that's in all cases, figments of imagination.

To change anything in Nigeria, we need an ace ringleader like Pat Utomi, Buhari, Ebitu Ukiwe IBB's 2i/C and a Gani Fawehemi. Suchlike, should organise the crowd for civil disobedience of mass scale. In any protest for a change in all histories, you have a Mandela, a Gandhi, a Martin Luther King Jr. etc from the movers and shakers community in the forefront of weaker people mobilising them.

Re: What Is The Value Of Human Life?
Machiavelli posted on 08-04-2009, 14:30:11 PM
Human life has no value in Nigeria; it is simply worthless. And one does not need to be Nostradamus to predict that it will remain so for sometime to come.

No civil disobedience is going to happen any soon either. Nigerians have found themselves in a terrible cul-de-sac and are completely helpless. The people who control the instrument of power today are in absolute control and there's nothing anybody can do. Pat Utomi can write from today till the end of time and the ruling elite will not budge. But there's good news!

The good news is: somebody somewhere is watching; he is bitter about the way things are but the bitterness is not strong enough. He is also ambitious; but the ambition is still controlled. When he is able to feel the bitterness like bile in his mouth and his revulsion becomes unbearable; his ambition will become uncontrollable. Him, and his group of comrades, will step out from the darkness they have been lurking for years.

The difference between these people and the cyberwarriors is that Providence has actually placed them in position where they have instrument of coercion, but not power. They have also been trained to kill without displaying any emotions. They are gentlemen, but they are also officers.

At the appropriate time, when thing gets completely out of hand they will strike; it will be a lethal strike. The bodies of the likes of Ibori, Obj, YarAdua, David Mark, and Dimeji Bankole will be riddled with bullets and their bodies will be on display on You-Tube like that of Boko Haram leader, Yussuf and his financier Alhaji Boi.

Then Nigeria will begin another journey into an unknown destination. These group of opportunists will start another round of exploitation. At least there will be a a little reprieve. There will be light for a while, there will be some discipline and the current bunch of rogues will be no more.

That will open another chapter in the history of Nigeria. The journey to greatness is tortuous and dangerous. It will take many years; and many lives will be lost. But we will eventually get there.
Re: What Is The Value Of Human Life?
Gbolly posted on 08-04-2009, 19:20:42 PM
Again, well written and yet nothing new. Nigeria is more than ripe for an overhaul. Yet revolutions don't happen without a leader. Prof, will you just step up and lead so that the people may follow? I think you know what it takes. Many people do. But it is not just enough.

I concur! Revolutions... Prof, may God enrich you and others willing to lead us out of this mess with might. Amen.
Re: What Is The Value Of Human Life?
Gbengaismail posted on 08-04-2009, 20:39:45 PM
Commissions of Inquiry?
I'm very surprised.
We know what happens to the reports of such commissions.
No police officer will dare kill these two sect leaders without getting orders from above.
The Inspector General of Police and whichever top political office holders who gave the killing order should resign.
These politicians like our former military rulers have no value for human lives.
Re: What Is The Value Of Human Life?
Docokwy posted on 08-04-2009, 20:53:04 PM
Human life's value should be viewed from both sides: the Boko Haram (and all such who kill others) and the police who kill Boko Haram and all such. I recognize that the police kill innocent people sometimes; but this particular case is different. Let us let the guy stay dead. he deserves it.
Re: What Is The Value Of Human Life?
Boko-Haram posted on 08-04-2009, 21:07:49 PM
In a civilised country Onovo will go down in history as the shortest serving Inspector General of Police.

But I am sure he is celebrating the death of Boko-Haram M. Yusuf.

What a failed country!
Re: What Is The Value Of Human Life?
Na lie posted on 08-04-2009, 23:04:05 PM
What is the value of human life? unlawful killing? unnecessary killing? uuuhhmm,Nigerians, very mischievious set of people the big question l need to ask is, Are those boko haram people human beings, even calling them animals is just insulting the animals. l need somebody to help me with a name l can give to them. They are not suppose to be given any privilege enjoy by a normal human being, period.
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