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July 21, 2011 | Feature Article

Jungle Justice On Creators Of Poverty Not On Poor People

This story has to be repeated here of a man that was being chased by a crowd shouting: Ole, Barawo, Oyi oshi, Ewee etc. He suddenly disappeared into the crowd pushing one of the chasers in front and shouting in rhythm with the crowd. Needless to say, an innocent man was lynched while the real looter got away. Not in China, they know who stole the beef, so they do not have to ask. They execute politicians for corruption. If we are so sure that we can identify the real thief, why are we killing one another over pittance while looters get away with the beef with billions in Abuja and state capitals?

Well, thieves start from somewhere. So if you can steal a cow and get away, you will be stupid to steal a cat for dinner out of hunger pains, risking probability of lynching. The police use jungle justice against us for trying to run without giving them twenty naira, the soldiers use jungle justice against police and us if they cannot mount road blocks and we use jungle justice against one another out of these frustrations. In each of the instances, innocent lives are lost either from stray bullets or that of some good Samaritans getting caught in the fracas of trying to appeal to cooler heads.

These days the cunning embezzlers are so good at their greed, they have made criminals out of honest or petty thieves to confuse us. The burden is on us to dare support petty thieves. We all know there are still conscientious people around that go into business, politics or government but cannot make a quorum. Like amorphous ghosts in the state treasury, we can hardly distinguish between the sheep and the lions. Ghost busters have been influenced into corruption and we are left wondering who amongst them is clean. If you are a saint from heaven, once you touch down in Nigeria we will turn you to devil.

Obiageli Ezekwesili cannot be remembered for being one of the first in the government to echo our voices that governors were diverting local government funds into pockets. She raised the ire of governors threatening jungle justice, to sue her and asking OBJ to call her to order. She was lucky, her boss stood by her but they almost gave her a wound to nurse. Habiba Garba sent to hospital, got jungle justice for daring to compete with men for their lifeline. So was Ma Ayoka Adebayo that displayed unexpected courage for a woman her age calling election the way she saw it in Ekiti against PDP in the middle of a rigging spree right in the face of jungle justice. Each was defiant right there and then.

Africans generally abhor greed but many people cannot tell by the way Nigerians brag about billions while most of the masses suffer and struggle to feed their families. Greed is limited to a few; yet, we cannot deny it infects many people. Petty thieves risk severe punishment than grand theft masters. Their arms and legs are cut off for stealing a goat or yam. If they are caught stealing valuables to sell so that they can feed their families, they can expect tire ring around their collars with petrol and light to match. Hunger in the land of agriculture where the poor are taking it out mercilessly on one another.

We are so feed up with crime, dishonesty and treachery in our communities that we take out the anger and frustration on poor people like ourselves within reach instead of the cause and perpetrators of poverty on us. We cannot get our hands on them so we punish those we can get and disproportionally make examples out of them. It may be so easy for those without loss to vagabonds on the street to preach restrain. Who pays back what has been stolen and lost to crime?

This is why people are mad as hell and ready to burn anyone alive that wants to deprive them of their hard earned meager property. They shun police because they are the supplier of their arms and are easily released back into the communities. Jungle justice sends a stern warning that we have zero tolerance for stealing. Unfortunately, a hungry belly will always be driven to eat or die looking. On the other hand we can curb greed if we administer the same dose of punishment to our aggrandized culprits.

There were instances in Owerri, Kano and Sagamu when there was relief from thieves in the communities as a result of jungle justice. Not even the parents of these rogues, no matter who they are could help them in the frenzy of chasing, beating, lacing with tire, and pouring petrol on the a thief. Those of us that have watched some got some satisfaction when the crime is child theft or gbomogbomo, witchcraft demands for body parts and known night or day marauder. But when we lace a man stealing jewelry with tire, petrol and a match, totally out of proportionality to the crime, we look like beasts.

Animal behaviorists like to think that they know the cause. So they put two rats in a pen and feed them well. As the rats get bigger and multiply the pen or cage becomes smaller and the food is fought over. Sooner than later, as the food decreases because supplier kept more to themselves in Abuja or state capitals, rats become vicious to one another and some actually to eat the weaklings. If the size of the cage is increased and food supply is increased, animal behaviorists see a change in rats' behavior. We are waiting to see who will bell the cat and cut off the salaries of politicians and unscrupulous business men that lay off and exploited the youths; so that more can get to us.

It is easier to discourage or repress greed than it is to repress hunger. Hunger is a basic drive that must be satisfied, no matter what. Imagine our billion dollars looters laced with tire around their necks; arms and legs cut off. The magnetism to display ill-gotten wealth will be reduced because nobody wants to be in the company of lepers ostracized to a colony of their own. But the attraction for looting is enormous and the chance of getting caught in Nigeria is minimal. Are we morally better than China death sentence?

It is convenient to administer jungle justice, Sharia and customary court judgments to the poor without a team of defense lawyers shielding them. Even the powerful head of gang of thieves get treated like humans until they step on the toes of the suppliers of their arms mostly police, soldiers and international extremists. Some of them used the same notoriety to get into politics and demand the attention of Any Party In Power. Those that did everything required of them like staying in school come out without a job and may even be sponsored by the same people they thought were outcastes.

Nobody should get satisfaction for lynching a man that steal food to feed a hungry belly and sometimes bellies of his family. It gets complicated when a man steal valuables from poor and ordinary folks to feed his family. If he is that concerned about his family, he should either get any job, start environmental clean up or carry loads for people. If he is too old, let him beg on the streets rather than steal food. Does anyone think a man deserves to lose an arm, leg or be laced with tire and burnt to death for stealing food?

We are losing sense of proportionality to mete out punishment so easily. It has got to a stage where we go from killing those that steal food instead of buying them food to making victims out of those that have very little while those with much are guided by police and surrounded by barbwires, totally out of our reach.

Farouk Martins Aresa
Farouk Martins Aresa

The author has authored 466 publications on Modern Ghana.
Author's column: FaroukMartinsAresa

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Farouk Martins Aresa and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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