Even as those four young men were being bludgeoned to death and burnt, elsewhere in Port Harcourt, the rains had started. Gently at first; then it started pouring. Then as twitter was on fire on Sunday the 7th of October, 2012 with campaigns for justice for the murdered boys, the skies over Port Harcourt caved in again and the rains poured. All through Sunday, as sirens wailed all over Aluu, it rained heavily crossing over into Monday.
The gory video; the scary pictures and stories about what really happened that day were circulated. Many people were horrified. Personally I could not sleep as I battled nightmares and checked back tears. By Monday morning, I could hold it back no longer. I joined Mother Nigeria in weeping. It is tortuous watching what happened and knowing that those guys could have been any of us. A slight miscalculation and wrong positioning, and you would have had your young life snatched away from you in such a brutal manner. It does not matter what wrong they did. In the twenty-first century, there should be an effective system of justice that would make people not engage in jungle justice. Perhaps it was because of this disregard of the judicial system that made Nigeria weep hopelessly through this period. Perhaps it was because she realised that her government has continued to fail in the simple task of protecting the lives of her children. Or more importantly, she wept because of that descent to barbaric means by the Aluu people.
No matter how difficult it is, this is the time for us to really take up this issue and use it to address other trends that have become common place amongst the Ikwerrres of Rivers State. Every reader of my works would know that I do not toe the ethnic line. But at this point in time, I have to without any apologies state that the Ikwerres are barbaric, tribalistic and bad hosts. Every student who went to the University of Port Harcourt for instance, or had sojourned among the Ikwerres would attest to one thing: their penchant for violence and discrimination. It is such that even when you have issues with one of them, the entire village will gang up against you and treat you like an animal. So the best way to always stay safe is to allow them victories even when you are in the right. What I am trying to say is that in Ikwerre land, there is no justice for the stranger other than jungle justice.
During my undergraduate days, there was this incident between two of my female friends and their Ikwerre landlord. The man had issued them with quit notices and they obliged and packed out of the house. But because they packed into a house nearby, after about three months, the man came to serve them letters requesting that they have to come and pay three-month old NEPA bills. Absurd as it sounded, and against my friends’ insistence that they had paid their bills earlier and will not pay again, I asked them to pay. I had lived there for years and I knew how they operate. But my friends refused and preferred to see justice done. Two days later, the man came with his mob, and true to type even other Ikwerre men there supported that the girls pay or be beaten. Luckily I was informed in time, and I rushed down and saved the day. How did I save the day? I had to sign a document promising to pay the bills by myself within a week.
The incident above is one of so many! If anybody reading this could lay hold of any student that had lived among these people, he/she will definitely hear other stories. Is it their barbaric burial rituals where they beat up innocent people who somehow impede their burial motorcade? Or the gang beating up of students who in one way or the other offended any of their indigenes? In one way or the other, when they feel you have wronged them, they do not go to the police. Machetes are easily conjured up and used on you. I was nearly a victim once. They were engaged in their usual burial rituals (along state roads of course), and not knowing that one of their vehicles had taken the wrong lane, I negotiated a little opening to pass the car in front of me that I thought had broken down and nearly came face to face with their own car speeding down at ridiculous speed from a wrong lane. Four or more of them descended from the car wielding bottles and machetes and made for me. Because I knew the drill, I came down from my car and started apologizing but that was before they had hit my car a few times and the one who made for me with his machete had to order me to take my car back! Talk of breaking traffic laws and wanting to beat me up for being right! If I had claimed to be right that Saturday morning, alcohol-fuelled as they were, they would have taught me a perfect lesson on how not to mess with the Ikwerres.
Yet the murders of the Aluu four does not only throw more light on the barbaric and animalistic traits of the Ikwerres. It also reveals a fundamental flaw in our security system. A country with an organised security system would have had the police on the scene long before the boys were killed. But of course, even the police stationed at Aluu could not respond.
Now the non-response of the Police to the situation also links up with my earlier assertion about the jungle justice nature of Ikwerre communities. There seemed to be a silent understanding between the Police force and the communities that the Police can only come in when invited in by the village heads. A pact that is tragically flawed and would continue to lead to fatalities until it is addressed.
But jungle justice is not the exclusive preserve of the Ikwerres. Some of the worse perpetrators of this are the Nigerian military(especially the Police).How many young people have been shot or beaten to death over unconfirmed cases of crime? How many more would share this fate? Indeed, we are all endangered and the earlier we start taking serious and concerted action towards enthroning the judicial system in this country, the safer we would all be. I am begging that we should not let the wave of “other news” wipe off the death of the Aluu Four. We should hold on strongly to this tragedy as a starting point in addressing much larger issues such as the nature of our security apparatus; the barbaric nature of some sections of Nigeria; the weakness of/lack of respect and trust in our judicial system. If we let this go, the danger will re-enforce and perhaps the next time, the impact will be earth shattering.
As I end this essay, Nigeria is still weeping and somehow in my weakened and tear filled heart, I am finally finding the strength to say Rest In Peace Tipsy, Big L, Tekana and Chidiaka