What Is The Value of Human Life?
The recent news that Muhammad Yusuf the leader of the ‘Boko 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 ‘positive'. 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 ‘cross 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 ‘cross fire' which led to his death? His crime? He was alleged to have been a sympathiser of the ‘Boko 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 ‘boko 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 ‘positive'. 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 ‘positive', 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 ‘unknown 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