Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Sometimes Nigerians can be so down on themselves, when what we should be down on is humanity itself. This feeling is hardly surprising, given the things that happen. For example, some friends visited us the other day - they run a community for the mentally destitute way out East in Abia State. They told of a witch-hunt that is going on at present in the neighbourhood. It all began when some children alleged that they saw naked people dancing in the forest at night. The next thing that happened is that some people were accused of being witches. A witch-doctor was hired from Cross River State to come and sort out the problem. The first thing he did was ask the Local Government whether he could come - warning the officials that those that are witches would die when they drank his potion, and those that survived would then be found to be clean of all evil forces. He was allowed in (for a fee of N200,000), and since that time, many people have died of his poison, being forced to unceremoneously dumped in the ground in unattended funerals of shame, rather than buried.

Then again, the story that a young boy was lynched and set alight in broad daylight in Lagos yesterday by a gleeful crowd (he was suspected of kidnapping another boy) shocks but should not surprise. Nigeria is similar to medieval Europe in terms of its current social structure - a feudal system with no functioning justice system, creating a Big Man/baying masses syndrome (the exact equivalent of the Lord vs the braying Tyburn Mob salivating in front of the Gallows near modern day Marble Arch).

These depressing stories (there are many more) do not reveal anything specific about the nature of Nigerian humanity; rather, they reveal what can happen to any human society given a certain context in which to operate. Power-without-reason and justice-without-law can have awful consequences on any human context. While humans have created pyramids and cathedrals and the loveliest music in times of cultural rebirth, there is a daemon within the human spirit that unleashes madness and destruction given the opportunity. Only reason-based structures and processes, creating a sustainable infrastructure and accountable legal system can rid the country of these acts of senseless violence. The sad thing about we humans is that even when a society does have these mechanisms in place, barbarism still exists (witness the lad whose was beaten to death in a gay-bashing attack on Clapham Common last weekend).


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