Honestly, Nigerians don’t celebrate Halloween. Not officially at least. It is not in our culture to do so and it is widely perceived to be alien and “Western-in-origin” which of course, it is. Even at that, this particular mindset is for Nigerians that are even aware of the so called celebrations of the All Hallows’ Eve.

Back in the day, when I was little and eager to know about everything I saw and heard, Halloween was surely one of the things I made a mental note of on my wish list. I wondered why we did not join the rest of the world (as I reasoned then) to celebrate the All Hallows’ Eve, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah.

The desire to dress up in fancy costumes and go about trick or treating ended when I realized (with the help of my parents, being the staunch Christians that they are) that the celebration was somewhat what I’d call demonic. I definitely wanted no part in it. What with the story about the wandering spirits of the dead lurking around every corner waiting to cause havoc for the living, I thought I’d pass and be content with the typical Nigerian Sunday-Sunday Thanksgivings we had at church.

So many years have rolled by and I’ve grown into a young woman who is ambitious and has tall dreams. And of course, has no time for Halloween-not even a tad, little bit. Far away from home with so many things begging for attention and such limited time to do them in, it is no wonder that it has been relegated to the far and almost extinct recesses of my mind where it remained forgotten. A few sad incidents that occurred recently were able to bring it back to the forefront and this is where my story begins.

October 5th, 2012: Halloween came a little early this year.

A couple months ago, I logged on to Twitter to see the horrid pictures of four boys (Lloyd, Tekena, Chidiaka and Ugonna) who were beaten to a pulp and then set ablaze for allegedly stealing a laptop and a phone. The pictures went viral on the internet as every Nigerian blog had them. Then the video of the killings came out. It showed the gruesome murder of four vibrant, young men. It had to be the most degrading and inhuman treatment ever on the face of the Earth.

The video can be described by people who were able to watch it, horrendous as it was, as the worst nightmare there could be. It depicted the four young men stripped to their bare skin and then beaten with heavy planks of wood. Some of them were already unconscious but it didn’t hinder their exterminators from bringing down the planks any slower. They went on till it had cracked their skulls and some body parts were missing. As if that wasn’t enough, they placed some tires over the already dead boys (as it seemed), poured petrol and then struck the match. And with one last sudden jolt and sad yelps, they gave up.

It might surprise anyone reading this to know that all this happened in broad day light with a mob consisting of women and children even all witnessing the tragedy. The story then at the time, was that they were thieves who had been terrorizing the Aluu community of Rivers State, Nigeria for a while. Then rumors began making the rounds claiming that they were cultists who might have been “blended” (Nigerian slang for the term initiated) into a secret cult the night before. Yet another version alleging they were actual armed robbers resurfaced but sadly in the end, they were declared innocent.

The police have declared the late boys innocent of any of the earlier made assertions that led them to their brutal and tragic deaths. As a matter of fact, the boys who were students of the University of Port-Harcourt were set up by another young man who is still at large. The man in question owed one of the boys a tidy sum of money. On the morning of October 5th, they set out to his house first starting with Ugonna and a contracted guy who had promised to help retrieve the money and along the way; the train grew longer as the other 3 boys went along. It was a known fact that the four boys were good friends who were fond of each other and were quite inseparable.

However things took an ugly turn when the debtor couldn’t pay up and the boys decided to take his laptop and phone as collateral till the time he could. The debtor then raised a false alarm, shouting at the top of his lungs labeling them robbers. It was at that instance, members of the vigilante group assigned to curb the incessant rise of armed robbers that had been terrorizing the Aluu community during that period showed up. Sadly, the boys were not allowed to defend themselves and thus died for a crime they did not commit.

The Problems

Tears, anger and outrage have been sparked by the killings but then one has to wonder. We have seen this all before. Yes, then in the year 2007 when two suspected “one-chance” ring leaders were caught and then burnt alive in Surulere, a suburb of Lagos State. Even a young child who was suspected of kidnapping a little baby was not spared the mob’s fury that sent him to a much-too-early grave. Sure, it hurts to see my country’s image in the negative spotlight again and again but bizarre things such as this have occurred in the past and generated the exact same response. Nigerians have been described as people who live to fight another day.

I feel, and this is a matter of pure opinion that the greatest problem with Nigeria and Nigerians as a whole is that we love to cry after the milk has been spilled and not before. We love when it comes downright to the treatment of it (even when most often than not, it is never effective as it’s never done right) rather than taking the cheaper precautionary measures.

For good measure, we keep seeing this play out every day in our normal daily routines;

Surely you know of the housewife who dumps kitchen rubbish into the street’s gutter and thus blocks the neighborhood drainage system. Then when the rain comes, and we know that the rain will pour, she emerges on national television wailing about the damage the flood brought and hurling insults on the government.

Or the neighbors who keep mute and turn a blind eye to the man beating his wife but later on talk to journalists describing his animalistic behavior when he finally murders her in cold blood.

This is what grinds my tires. Just like the mob did while the four innocent young boys were being roasted to death, everyone seems to look the other way while these things happen or keep hush thinking they are minding their business. It is the Nigerian mentality, if it is of no concern to you then pay it no attention. That is probably what went through the minds of the hordes of people who watched the gory atrocities play out before their very eyes.

We ignore it for as long as we can and when it snowballs in our faces or later comes back to haunt us, we rave and rant blaming the government for everything right down to not patronizing its citizens or kissing our asses. Now, I for one know the Nigerian government is not exactly a model government. And of course, the world is quite aware but you would think that Nigerians would incorporate that fact into their lives and quit with the somewhat gnawing exchange of blame.

And while some Nigerians are doing pretty well for themselves, creating a decent lifestyle for their selves and families with or without the government, another section of the populace is looking at it from a whole other perspective. True, the poverty level for quite a number of people is quite grim, most being below the poverty line with some families earning less than a miserly American dollar which roughly is about one hundred and sixty naira. With the excuse of no money circulating the economy, it only encourages vices such as prostitution, armed robbery, fraud and ritual killing which thrive in such an environment. No justice in the supreme courts and legislature encourages jungle justice. This is indeed very disheartening but is also sadly true. For most Nigerians, there is simply no Nigerian Police Force anymore and whatever is left of it cannot be trusted to handle the prevailing crisis and state of insecurity and chaos in the country. They are despicable and incompetent to say the very least, even though of course, there will be a few exceptions. A sister to one of the deceased boys spoke of her ordeal watching uniformed men of the police force encourage the mob to go ahead with the burning of the slain boys amongst which was her only brother and there was nothing she did that could stop it.

The Prognosis

At the risk of sounding like the devil’s advocate, the Aluu people felt that by killing those boys, the menace of armed robbery would be solved, right? Wrong. By their actions, they snuffed out the lives of four young men who in their short lifetimes were sons to mothers and fathers, brothers to sisters and love interests to special girls somewhere, someplace. The same goes for the robbers in Lagos (and countless others) who lost their lives to a quite similar fate. Mobs descending heavily on erring and-not-so erring members of the public in such a gruesome manner and don’t stop until they reach a place of no return, where they cannot retrace their steps.

Jungle justice, they figured was what will be the end to all their suffering and doom but how beclouded and deluded their reasoning was. It is for this cause that many have taken justice into their hands and committed atrocities even worse than the crime they punish for. The problem with jungle justice as is always the case with all the stories I have heard of is the same thing. The punishment far outweighs the crime by far and always!

So with the acknowledgment of a problem, we can look at our options before we are then able to solve it.

The question then is, What Are Our Options?

So far, a tremendous outburst of emotions has followed the killings. People have expressed their deep shock in a variety of ways. Family, loved ones and friends have mourned and are still grieving for their irreparable loss. The media has had a field day dishing out the stories that accrue to such a headline. Nigerians have cursed Aluu, wept for the mothers of the boys and prayed that such calamity never befalls them ever.

Tribute songs have been made in their honor (note that Lloyd was an aspiring musician and had already recorded his first single) with that of M.I giving us food for thought in his. Columnists have come down strongly on a government that failed us once again by not even addressing the bestiality that was displayed in Aluu. The students of the University of Port-Harcourt went on various protests denouncing the actions of Aluu (host community to the University) burning cars and houses, threatening to deal a much worse blow on its ill-fated town.

On-air personalities asked listeners to voice their opinion. A tweet-a-thon was organized to see that the hash tags #NeverAgainNg and #RIPAluu4 and others would trend to bring awareness to the harsh realities of jungle justice.

It did trend but not without the foolishness of some Nigerians being displayed, making a joke of matters as sensitive as this.

As with the other unfortunate incidents of this magnitude in the past, this tragedy generated the same outcome of emotions at its aftermath. We wailed and felt overwhelmed with the level of wickedness carried out in the world and terrified that it was so close to us, almost right next door. The social media was agog with people expressing their own different perspectives concerning the issue ultimately blaming the corrupt government. Unfortunately, almost as immediately as it began, it ended with everyone going back to their lives and stuck up routine.

My only problem with this is that perhaps, emotions are released to make us feel better thereby justifying the fact that we did nothing? I do not know but then a lasting remedy is never achieved and it is only a matter of time before the same cycle repeats itself over again.

The Obvious Solution

“Every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria.” ‒ Nigerian Constitution: Chapter IV Section 33 Fundamental Rights.

Life cannot be created by any man; therefore it should not be taken indiscriminately as witnessed by the massacre of the Aluu4. Up until now, Jungle Justice has not been treated or viewed as a criminal offense. However, with the advent of a consensus for a petition supporting a Mob Justice Prohibition Bill to be named after the Aluu4, there is indeed hope that this ugly trend which hitherto will not go away now has thousands of Nigerians on its heels that will continue to fight against it till they have prevailed. The initiative which is being propagated by Okechukwu Ofili of ofilispeaks.com follows a simple process where anyone against the October 5 killings can sign the petition. This petition needs ten thousand people to sign and upon completion will be forwarded to the personal email addresses of all Nigerian senators and members of House of Representatives. Hopefully with that done, the bill will be passed thereby making mob justice a punishable crime by the law. Never again will any individual be subject to such beastiality and no person will be allowed to take the law into his or her own hands. That will be a job for the institutionalized authorities alone.

Lloyd, Tekena, Chidiaka and Ugonna cannot come back to us and would be sorely missed. It is only befitting that we put an end to the madness. That way, they will be able to rest knowing that they found justice.

As for me, I will continue to view Halloween with a suspicious eye. For I believe it is evil and even though we Nigerians don’t celebrate it-officially, we have been celebrating it unknowingly for years and people actually die.