By Donu Kogbara
Last week, 4 University of Port Harcourt students were brutally murdered in broad daylight by a baying mob in Aluu, a community in Rivers State.
Photos and videos depicting this horrifying incident that is a stain on the reputation of my home state are available on the internet. Anyone who has access to a smartphone or computer (ironically, the students lost their lives because they allegedly stole such items) can easily view them.
These still and moving images of the students’ bloodied corpses have sent shock waves around the country; and the Senate has quite rightly pointed out that the witnesses (Aluu Elders included) who watched and recorded the killings should bear some of the responsibility for not preventing the wanton carnage.
Senator, Ayogu Eze (PDP, Enugu), spoke for many when he expressed outrage about the fact that “these 4 persons were stripped naked…[and] battered into a stupor…in the most horrifying display of callousness ever captured on celluloid…[and then] set ablaze in full glare of cheering and enthusiastic spectators and traducers.”
Meanwhile, Senator Olubunmi Adetumbi (ACN, Ekiti) mirrored the Aluu killings as an expression of an angry nation that is becoming disconnected from humanity, as a result of accumulated years of disappointment and neglect by government.
”This,” said Adetumbi, “has resulted in anger and disregard for institutions of state…People have become so angry that they are ready to draw blood and celebrate death…This is not an Aluu problem but a Nigerian problem.”
Summing up, David Mark, the PDP Senate President, said: “I was against [the idea of creating] state police [forces] before, but I have since changed my mind because of the frequency with which crimes happen in this country and the difficulty the current police have in carrying out their investigations…There are real security challenges that we need to address…The benefits of state police [forces] outweigh any disadvantages at the moment.”
I agree with all of the above. Mark and Eze are both spot-on; and PDP devotees will probably accuse Adetumbi of being a disgruntled Opposition man who is desperate to score cheap political points at the expense of the ruling party. But similar thoughts crossed my mind when I heard the sad news from Aluu.
This may sound fanciful – and like an unfair attempt to blame our leaders for everything that goes wrong in every nook and cranny of our society.
But while I don’t always subscribe to the essentially foreign notion that people who do terrible things have psychological problems and would not necessarily be evil if they were under less pressure, I DO regard Nigeria as a hellishly tough environment in which surviving and thriving is far too difficult.
And I couldn’t help feeling that the villagers only behaved like animals because they have been pushed to the brink of madness by multiple frustrations.
But, but, but…There is never any excuse for this kind of frenzied, primitive vigilante action. Even if the students weren’t saints, the jungle justice that was meted out to them can never be morally justified; and I pray that the Aluu perpetrators – and their active and silent accomplices – are severely punished.
Aluu is not the only disaster that has recently befallen Rivers State. We have also suffered alarming floods in the past few days; and several communities have been almost totally submerged.
Last weekend, I flew over some of the affected areas in a helicopter with my Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, Nyema Weli, his Commissioner for Environment and Honourable Asita, a House of Representatives legislator; and I must say that I was touched by their genuine concern for victims who have lost their homes and worldly possessions…and by their determination to assist and reassure them.
The white helicopter pilots told the Governor that it would be extremely unsafe for him to land in certain locations. But he kept pushing them to allow him to take the risk and was very dejected when they refused to indulge him. Fingers crossed that Amaechi’s administration successfully overcomes this crisis.