“Madam, please give me 10 tins of tomatoes, one Grand groundnut oil, a pack of Royco…”
As I listed my items and she selected them, I couldn’t help but look around the market; people busy moving around and doing their business. I looked into the next stall and saw him; a young man in a nice orange tee shirt, standing and looking serious as he called out the food items he wanted to buy as well. I chuckled at that.
A few minutes thereafter I heard “thief, thief, catch him!”
Afraid not to be pushed, I ran entirely into the store where I was purchasing my items as a crowd of people ran after a young man in an orange shirt. Then I hear the mob beating someone and stepped out of the store to see the boy who was shopping in the next shop being harassed and beaten. They had mistaken him for the guy they had been originally chasing.
All attempts by the boy to defend himself fell on deaf ears, the owner of the shop where I was buying my items and the owner of the next door shop where the young man had been shopping also tried to convince the mob that the boy had been standing there all the while, not running.
But their pleas did not get through to the ears of the attackers.
By the time our voices became louder than the attackers’, they realised their mistake and let go. They started walking away to avoid being linked to the case, the young man had already been stripped and inflicted deep cuts, the police arrived and escorted him to the hospital.
This is another tragic case of mistaken identity and jungle justice that regularly occurs in this country.
I left the market shaken; I was just 15 years old.
Hearing about the Aluu case saddened me because it reminds us that we have a long way to go in Nigeria. There are many questions that we have about the incident surrounding the Aluu Four, but which will remain unanswered.
We can go ahead and make all the Aluu jokes that we can conceive but the truth remains that this is a deeply disturbing situation, and not the first of its kind.
A day after the story broke I had an argument with my neighbours if the boys deserved what they got, they tried to reason with me by saying that if armed robbers had dealt with me in the past then I won’t feel any remorse for Ugo and his friends. But I still argued; what if they were innocent? The story wasn’t just adding up.
When the true story finally broke I was happy and sad. Happy that I was right, sad that it was in the past; the boys were already dead.
For days I imagined how they must have tried to defend themselves but were not given the opportunity to do so. How Tekena’s sister watched her brother cry from beatings and stabbings. Then imagined watching my own brother go through that, it would traumatize me for life. That the people who should supposedly be protecting us gave a go ahead to the mob is scary as well. All Tekena’s sister was left to do was to call her family. Sad!!
Cases of jungle justice in Nigeria and mistaken identity often interlink. I sit down and wonder how the parents and family members of victims cope, because after all is said and done, even after people say their rubbish, it could be anyone of us, a family member or even a friend. And after the deed is done the police will show up with your body and we will hear about it and then the issue is forgotten.
But let’s not just sit back and blame the security forces for incompetence, we should try to help make their jobs easier. The corrupt ones are bigger than the good ones if not I don’t see why you will just walk out of a lynching or even encourage, afterwards to give the public a lousy excuse.
The Nigerian situation needs all hands to be on deck. What happened to the legal term ‘innocent till proven guilty’? Please let’s all jointly work towards making Nigeria more livable, more peaceful and more lawful because it could be me or you or someone you know, and all you are left with is shock and trauma like the families of these four boys.
For those that participated or ever been quick to lift a stick or tyre before allowing a person to defend themselves, question is, how do you sleep at night and hope that your dreams come to fruition or are productive in life?
Rest in peace Ugonna, Tekena, Lloyd, Chidika and other victims of mistaken identity.