On Saturday, the 17th of November, Lloyd Michael, one of the four young men killed by a blood thirsty crowd in the Aluu-Umuokiri local government area of Rivers State was laid to rest in Port Harcourt. Reading about the burial brought back the sadness I felt when the news of these young men broke and it made me ask questions. What happened to those suspects rounded up by the police after the gruesome murder of these young men? Had they been prosecuted? What have we DONE to make sure that such things never happen again?
A few weeks ago, an online petition went viral on the internet. The petition sought signatures for a bill outlawing mob/jungle justice. As usual, since Nigerians love debates, it was not much of a surprise to see dissenting views on the relevance of the specific law being sought by proponents of this petition. Those opposed to the petition told proponents of the petition that it was better to ask for reforms than to ask for more laws. They said we merely had an ineffective policing system that needed government’s attention, and that if the police were equipped, it will be a lot easier to fight off murderous gangs. They said all these and more, and then proceeded to do nothing about all these ‘wonderful’ suggestions.
This experience confirmed what I have always feared about Nigerians. We have groomed ourselves, either consciously or unconsciously to resort to talk where action is required. All we want to do is discuss, debate, disagree and go back to folding our hands. If those who opposed the petition for a specific law against mob justice had gone ahead with their own petition calling for the reforms they suggested, I am sure a lot would have been achieved but sadly, that was not the case. Months after Lloyd, Chidiaka, Tekana and Ugonna were sent to their graves, the media has reported other cases of lynching of suspected robbers by irate mobs. Only a few days ago in Owerri, some young men were beaten and on the verge of being doused with petrol when a team of policemen rescued them. I wonder if these incidences have gone unnoticed by the opponents of the mob justice bill. After all the beautiful speeches we continue to face the ugly reality on ground. Mob justice will continue as long as there is no stringent law put in place to curtail it.
This complacent I-like-debate-hate-action attitude of Nigerians is what has kept us in this cesspool of corruption and stagnation. Nigerian leaders get away with unpopular policies because they know for a fact that after all the hue, cry, articles, tweets, and updates, Nigerians will go back to their shells. We have never run short of activists. From the first republic to this one, we have had our own share of freedom fighters, but actual change is driven by real action. The danger of doing nothing is that we will continue have ineffective laws that will lead to citizens resorting to stone age practices to get justice. The danger of doing nothing is that cases will never be fully prosecuted and criminals will always be left off the hook to walk among us.
The danger of doing nothing is that we will have a country where N100 billion is lost annually to health tourism while our health sector is crumbling. The danger of doing nothing is that we will spend N160 billion annually in countries like Ghana just because the education sector is suffering neglect. The danger of doing nothing is that we will hear rumours of governors giving N600 million to friends and acquaintances just because they can. The danger of doing nothing is that we will lose $5 billion annually to oil theft and nothing will be done. The danger of doing nothing is that we mortgage the future of unborn generation and take away their chances of being born in a country where everything works. The time has come for us to do more than talk. Debates are good but they are not enough. The road to change is built by those who take action.
A real decision is measured by the fact that you have taken a new action. If there’s no action, you haven’t truly decided. – Tony Robbins
Umari Ayim is a lawyer, published author and a thinker devoted to the Nigerian cause.
Her column ‘Revolution Woman’ where she will be dealing on topical issues runs every Monday. Follow her on Twitter – @Umariofficial