I read of the killing of Deborah Yakubu, the girl that was set ablaze by her classmates at the Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto on Thursday the 12th day of May, 2022 and saw the image of her dead body which accompanied the story and I was distraught, repulsed by the image I saw and the fact that in the year 2022, a person could be killed by her peers in cold blood in public. I was still musing over her death, when my attention was drawn to a newspaper report of the killing of two men who were also set ablaze by a mob in the early hours of Wednesday the 11th of May, 2022 in the Cele area of Lagos State, for allegedly stealing mobile phones.
Deborah is the latest in the long line of victims of mob killings and she will certainly not be the last. Let me state clearly now that I am not interested in the reasons why she was killed nor the ideologies of those that killed her, I don’t care if she offended their sensibilities or their religion. It doesn’t really concern me if her killers are her classmates or outsiders. Also, I don’t care about whether or not the two men stole the 18 phones that were alleged to have been found on them, or that the area where they were killed had been besieged by thieves in the recent past and whether or not justice would have been served if they had been handed over to the security forces.
What concerns me is the fact that they were killed without any judicial intervention and the manner in which they were killed. Their killings tell in so many ways of the lack of value of the human life, the non sacredness of life and the fact that a lot of us have lost or are are loosing our humanity. Humanity is something we all share , every single one of us born of a woman into this planet called earth. We are all the same, irrespective of our color, tribe, language and culture. We all bleed red, have emotions, have the same need for food, water, shelter and relationships. The Vocabulary .com defines humanity as the qualities that make us human such as the ability to love, to have compassion, be creative and not be a robot or an alien
The major similarity the killings in Sokoto and Lagos states have is that they were carried out by a mob and were done in the public domain. I stand to be corrected but in my opinion the coloration of religion (though a very strong factor and influence in a majority of the killings up north ) in Deborah’s killing is but a convenient excuse bandied by those who killed her. Have you witnessed where a motor cyclist and a car driver have a collision and how dozens of cyclists will stop and crowd around the car driver in a bid to mob him? I have, it was not a pretty sight. The car driver in the instance I witnessed was saved only by the appearance and quick intervention of a uniform wearing convoy who drove off the cyclists.
Mobs are a spontaneous creation formed by people who find themselves in the same place and with the same ideology even if the ideology may not be one that they subscribe to individually. The main strength of a mob is the ability to make the individuals who form and are part of it unidentifiable and unrecognizable. It also gives those who join it a sense of belonging, purpose and the air of invincibility.
There is no doubt an increase in the activities of people who constitute themselves into a mob and participate in criminal and nefarious acts but more frightening is the reaction of the public to the killings . In cases where they feel the killings are justified, people have made excuses for the murderers ranging from the duty to defend their religion to their right to safe guard their properties. In a lot of cases, people have silently applauded the perpetrators of the evil as doing well and would gladly have taken their place if it could be ascertained that they would remain anonymous.
I accept the argument that most mob killings are as a result of fanaticism, ignorance, injustice, frustration, anger/ hunger, lack of trust in the security forces and the judicial system and the rhetoric we have allowed in the past but I find it hard to accept the fact that some people in our midst who look like we do, act like us and are to all purposes and intents normal are murderers.
I find it difficult to comprehend how someone can look another human in the eye and stone them till they die and not being satisfied with that, proceed to burn their bodies. How they can justify their actions. How they can sleep and go about their normal activities without loosing their marbles. I wonder if they suffer in anyway emotionally and mentally or are they so used to murder that they actually enjoy the act.
I wonder if their actions would have been different if they knew the stories behind the people they kill, if they acknowledge that but for some slight differences they are the same with their victims in all areas of life in particular their pursuit of love, acceptance and piety. I wonder if they understand that all of humanity is connected and that whatever we do to others affects us in ways we may not even understand.
These people that kill, are they still human or have they become unfeeling zombies who hasten to carry out the dictates of the mob without question?
These people that kill they include those who could influence them not to do the acts that they do but who stand silently because they are outnumbered and because they do not want to turn the anger of the mob against them. These people that kill believe that their morality is better than those of us that do not and that the people that they kill are less human than they for it is said that “when people feel that their attitude reflect strong moral convictions, it gives them permission to dehumanize those who oppose them, and it doesn’t take a lot for the shift into perceptions of good and evil “ – Linda Skitka, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago who is researching ideological divides.
We can only imagine what Deborah and those two men could have felt at the point they were tied to the tyres. Did their lives flash before their eyes, did they plead for help or had they resigned themselves to their fate. Did they cry for justice in their hearts or think about the circumstances of their lives that brought them to such an end.
They are gone but we remain and we can ensure that no one ever again dies in the hands of a mob if we have the courage to (a) declare each and every mob killing a crime notwithstanding the area of the country it occurs . The killing of someone in cold blood because they desecrated a religion or stole another’s belongings is murder and it should be so described. ( b) Punish all those complicit either directly or indirectly in these actions or either by commission or omission. ( c) educate the public by telling the stories of the short and long term effect of the mobs actions on the public, community and society at large and also make them understand how such actions may be visited on them or their loved ones in the future if not addressed ( d) Decry the actions of the mob, name/ shame the perpetrators and disown or expel them from the society in which they belong and find self accomplishment and acceptance.
We may not have been able to save Deborah and others before her but we can ensure justice for them and retribution for their killers. Maybe then, we may regain some of what makes us human.