By Owei Lakemfa
IN the last eight days, there have been horrific murders in New York, United States; Sokoto, Nigeria and the Palestine in the Middle East by private individuals and state agents.
The victims in America were eleven Blacks and two Whites; that in Nigeria was a young student, while that in the Palestine was a lady journalist whose professional work was repugnant to the Israeli authorities. The murderers believe they are superior to their victims and can justifiably take their lives without any form of trial.
The murder in Nigeria was on Thursday, May 12, 2022 following discussions in a class WhatsApp group at the Shehu Shagari College of Education. A young lady had ascribed her success in the examinations to Jesus Christ. Some of her school mates who felt her arguments were blasphemous, went to the city to recruit other young men who invaded the school, seized Miss Deborah Samuel Yakubu, flogged and stoned her and then set her corpse on fire.
The perpetrators believe their faith justifies their actions, but are not ready to proclaim that justification in a law court. What men of faith and courage do is to stand by their beliefs and actions and face the consequences, not hide behind street riots demanding they be freed without trial. In almost all cases, a criminal flees the crime scene aware of his crime and try running away from justice. Those macho men who took upon a defenceless young lady would have waited, rather than flee. There are even diversionary debates whether the perpetrators are justified or not. That is not the issue. Nigeria, despite pretentions at religiosity, is not a theocracy; it is a secular state based on law and order and this is a straight forward case of crime and punishment.
No such ambiguity can be associated with the Biden administration in the case of the New York murders. Payton S. Gendron, an 18-year-old White Supremacist, wrote an anti-Black manifesto in which he claimed the White population is dwindling in size and being replaced by non-Whites. He then travelled about 200 miles to an area with a 78 per cent Black population. He made some reconnaissance at the Tops Friendly Markets store, Jefferson Avenue, the previous day. Then returned to shoot the victims and live-streaming the attack. It was a racist crime. Nobody spoke up for him even when there are racists like him in the political establishment.
He was apprehended. Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia briefed the press to say: “The evidence that we have uncovered so far makes no mistake that this is an absolute racist hate crime. It will be prosecuted as a hate crime. This is someone who has hate in their heart, soul and mind.” That same evening, according to Buffalo City Court Chief Judge Craig Hannah, Gendron was charged with first-degree murder.
Presidents Biden and Buhari made immediate reactions to the hate crimes, strongly condemning them and sympathising with the victims. But there the similarities end. Where Biden was categorical that there is no justification for the hate crime, Buhari tried to explain why the murder in Sokoto took place. He said: “… Muslims all over the world demand respect for the Holy Prophets, including Isah (Alaihissalaam, Jesus Christ) and Muhammad (SAW) but where transgressions occur, as alleged to be the case in this instance, the law does not allow anyone to take matters into their hands.” This sounds like begging the issue or making a mitigation plea.
He then launched into preachments: “No person has the right to take the law in his or her own hands in this country. Violence has and never will solve any problem.” Where Americans are free to discuss the hate crime, including its origins, Buhari, in contrast, directed the Ministries of Information and Culture, Police Affairs and that of Communications and Digital Economy to work with GSM providers and Tech companies to “help contain the spread of false and inflammatory information through social media.”
President Buhari also said he was calling for “tempered comments by the media and calm among the general population while investigation is on-going to find out the remote and immediate causes of the incident.” Contrast these with the clear, unambigious and categorical statement by the American Commander-in-Chief in which he stated: “We still need to learn more about the motivation for today’s shooting as law enforcement does its work, but we don’t need anything else to state a clear moral truth: A racially-motivated hate crime is abhorrent to the very fabric of this nation. Any act of domestic terrorism, including an act perpetrated in the name of a repugnant White nationalist ideology, is antithetical to everything we stand for in America. Hate must have no safe harbour. We must do everything in our power to end hate-fueled domestic terrorism.”
The third infamous murder was that of Al Jazeera journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh. She was wearing a protective vest with PRESS emblazoned on it, a mark that was visible from an helicopter or low flying aircraft when she was shot by Israeli forces on May 11 in Jenin, in the occupied West Bank. The 51-year-old Palestinian-American journalist was not among a crowd, so it was not a question of a stray bullet. In fact, she was standing with other journalists who were also wearing similar press vests, when she was shot dead, obviously by a marksman. Another Palestinian journalist, Ali al-Samoudi, shot in the back by the Israeli forces, survived and is in a stable condition.
In May 2021, an Israeli air raid targeted the home of Voice of Al-Aqsa radio station journalist, Yusef Abu Hussein, killing him. On May 15, 2021, the Israeli racists gave media organisations a short notice before bombing the 12-storey building housing their offices, including those of Al Jazeera and the Associated Press. The Israelis justified their brazen attack on media offices on the excuse that the Hamas uses high rise buildings for military purposes.
The Israeli authorities are infamous for eliminating whoever they think constitutes a security risk to their state. As infamous as this crime is, Akleh is to them, just one of over 45 journalists Israeli forces have murdered since 2000. Targeting her, four days before Palestinians marked the 74th Nakbah, the day 750,000 indigenious Palestinians were evicted from their homes by the occupying Israeli forces, was the racists in Tel Aviv making a statement that nobody is considered sacred, not the least a conscientious journalist like Akleh who exposed their genocide to the outside world. To the Israeli racists, God gave them the Palestine as his Chosen People, so like the racist Gendron in New York and the religious bigots in Sokoto, they have a sense of justification to take lives.