By Chris Anyokwu
Any school student would tell you that there are three fundamental and inalienable human rights. These rights enshrined in the Universal Bill of Rights as well as in Nigeria’s constitution include: (1) right to life, (2) right to personal liberty and (3) the right to the pursuit of happiness. What this implies is that, no one, under any circumstances, is supposed to deny you any of these three fundamental and inalienable rights. They are your RIGHTS, not privileges!
Government is not doing you a favor allowing you to enjoy these rights. It is part of your source of self-concept; it is what sets you apart from animals and plants. And come to think of it, in more advanced climes, there are laws protecting animal rights and there are law enforcement agencies charged with the responsibility of solely looking after animals and catering to their welfare. If that is the case, how come in Nigeria you routinely hear people boast: “I will kill you and nothing will happen”?
Well, let’s get one thing straight. There are situations in which human life can be taken. For instance, people might take life in self-defense, say when some rapist wants to abuse you, and you reach for a weapon and kill him. Or, armed robbers visit your apartment, and you are able to out-fox them and kill all or some of them. You may accidentally also kill someone, usually through carelessness or ignorance or both. Lawyers call such accidental killings culpable homicide. But if you take life during a physical scuffle, a fight, or deliberate killing of a person, it is called murder. And the penalty for murder is capital punishment.
In simpler terms, it’s death either by hanging, execution by firing squad, lethal injection or electric chair. It’s life for life. Even under a war situation, the soldier must adhere strictly to the international convention governing war and conflict. It is called the rules of engagement. You may Google Geneva Convention and allied treaties for in-depth elaboration on that. Thus, given the sanctity of human life, the question to ask is: should human life be taken with such levity? With such Olympian insouciance? Can even our law enforcement agents take life without recourse to the letter and the spirit of the law? Again we ask: how come in Nigeria today, you hear everywhere you turn people casually boast: “I will kill you and nothing will happen”?
Why don’t people fear the laws of the land any longer? How come when you invoke the police, people laugh you out of court, telling you in Pidgin English: no be who first go police station dey win case (meaning; the aggrieved does not necessarily win a case). Also, these cock-sure “true” Nigerians would cite the age-old, idiosyncratic monumental corruption which the police have become or the innumerable malfeasance in which the force is swamped through the years. You are reminded of Fela’s song in which he famously intones: “I.G. na bank manager, etc, etc.”. But then, you begin to take yourself to task, cudgeling your brain, asking why our men in black have lost the fear factor and why the lawless, the crime-prone among us disdain our police force as though they were a pack of toothless terriers that wag their tails only for the well-heeled burglar?
Surely, there are reasons for this utter disregard of our police. There are reasons why people simply commit blue murder in broad daylight and brag: “I will kill you and nothing will happen”. One of the reasons for this criminal disdain for the law is what is popularly referred to as the Nigerian Factor. The Nigerian Factor, simply put, designates a habit or lifestyle informed in the main by a deliberate habit of cutting of corners, the circumvention of the law, punishing merit and rewarding mediocrity, attempting futilely to square the hole, among other ethical susceptibilities.
In brief, therefore, the Nigerian Factor underwrites criminality and criminalizes propriety. The godly and the law-abiding are dispatched to the stocks of public obloquy to be roundly verbally flagellated and profiled for life as moral weeping willows and spineless wimps while the devil-may-care criminal types are heroized and lionized as strong men. True Naija guys! Hence, the saying goes: Nigeria is good for bad people and bad for good people. Have you, dear reader, seen or witnessed anything truer than this in present-day Nigeria? Moreover, we do not ask or inquire about the source(s) of people’s wealth. It matters little whether the wealthy person has raped, maimed or killed a human being to come by his or her wealth. The important thing is that s/he is rich. Filthy rich.
Thus, people have thrown overboard moral values of honesty, hard work, transparency, integrity, accountability, self-respect, the fear of God, and they have instead actively cultivated such vices as perfidy, treachery and dishonesty. They have embraced the culture of the-end-justifies-the-means. It’s all about the vogue mentality of Get-rich-by-any-means-necessary-or-die-trying! Small wonder, our land teems and crawls with recidivist misfits such as Yahoo-Yahoo con-men, ritual killers, armed robbers, killer bandits, armed insurgents, petty thieves, traffic pick-pockets and bag-snatchers, rapists, etc. What’s worse, some members of our Police Force act as personal security detail to these enemy nationals. Don’t take my word for it. Just try and attend any public function such as burial obsequies, nuptials, house-warming, political hustling, chieftain title installation ceremony, New Yam Festival or even birthday party.
The criminally-rich “Big Boy” all draped in gold and garish get-up with a gold tooth to boot, is usually surrounded by heavy, armed-to-the-teeth security made up of both policemen and private bouncers.
Part of the Nigerian Factor is that you can buy just about anything that tickles your fancy, be it a corpse or a virgin for ritual purposes. Of course, you can equally purchase judgement in court or swindle justice by cashing out consciences. Yes, in Nigeria, cash is king and money talks! Dear reader, that’s exactly where the rain started beating us as a people. The mass worship of Mammon. The lure of lucre. Filthy lucre, that is. How about the homestead? Marriage, for all intents and purposes, is now a convenient compromise for extra-marital sexual negotiations entered into in order to pay the ever-mounting bills.
Thus, whilst the man goes out at crack of dawn to hustle, mostly illegally, to make ends meet, indulging in sharp practices and brisk business, the wife is busy hitting multiple climaxes in illicit liaisons in order to make her own contribution to the family purse. Even so, early on their kids, true to type, learn to follow in the footsteps of their reprobate and degenerate parents. The fruit does not fall too far from the tree, does it? Sadly, again, the nation’s last hope, the Church, has become a business plaza where the “Man of God” compete with the politician in my-Mercedes-is-bigger-than-yours crass materialism and primitive accumulation.
Now, daily, we hear of the brazen an audacious escapade of killer bandits, killer herdsmen, and armed robbers murdering innocent citizens, particularly inter-state travelers plying our roads. Goodness knows how many of our unfortunate citizens have been butchered and are rotting away in bush and forests across the country, especially the southern part. Daily school children are abducted and later released after huge and humongous ransoms have been paid for each one of the abductees.
However, the amounts of money paid in ransom always remain classified information. Clearly, Nigeria is at war, a low-intensity war which is bound to spiral out of control if the government continues to treat insecurity with kid-gloves.
Barking is not nearly enough. Government must be seen to BITE. It’s been alleged that almost always when the bad guys are apprehended and handed over to the police for prosecution, these criminals are set free within minutes after a phone call ordering their release! Who are these faceless Lords of the Manor who determine whether Nigeria bleeds to death or barely skirts the rim of extinction? Are they too of this earth? Are they human? What cause are they prosecuting and to what end? Shouldn’t we make an example of ALL identified criminals, regardless of ethnicity, class or connections?
The statement: “I will kill you and nothing will happen” must be criminalized and anybody who as much as utter it must face the music. Human life is sacred and must be treated with utmost respect. I Corinthians 6: 19 says: “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” Therefore, you have no right to take human life. Even if you do and get away with it, you shall face God’s judgement. And it’s a fearful thing to fall into the Hands of an angry God. Whether you believe it or not, Nigerians and Nigeria are too dear and precious to God to allow enemies of life have the final say. Time shall tell.
Chris Anyokwu, PhD.Associate Professor of English,
University of Lagos.