Just few days after we celebrated – or seemed to celebrate – Nigeria’s 52nd birthday, the most unthinkable and horrific thing happens to draw us backwards again, as a nation. How can? Really, how can persons, citizens, fellow human beings think to just take the law into their hands and forcefully end the lives of fellow humans? Sometimes, I want to believe it’s a nightmare; someone’s nightmare. Someone persons like the parents of the children. Sometimes I want to believe they will soon awake from the horror. But no, it’s real. How can? Brothers like themselves. Sometimes, I’m ashamed to associate myself with the country; maybe because of an act of this grave, unpleasant (understatement!) magnitude.
On the 5th of October, 2012, four students: Lloyd (19; Civil Engineering, 200Level), Ugonna (Geology, 200Level), Tekena (19; Computer Science, 200Level) and Chidiaka (Theatre Arts, 200Level) of the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria were murdered; no this is the word, mercilessly beaten to death. And their offense? Theft. Phones and laptop computers. These students were marched on the streets, stripped naked, with an angry mob following them and raining down curses. In the midst of the crowd were confused people who couldn’t understand the offense of the supposed culprits and then out of that crowd, were sober reactions from persons too afraid to speak against the evil lest they be catch up in the dreadful drama.
Could the sins – if there even were any – of these youngsters have been so grievous that they hit them with heavy rocks and planks till they bled so much that they were too weak to cry out any longer? How could you do that to human beings – fellow beings as though you were killing rats? Did their offense merit the burning of their bodies too? Phones and laptops. ‘Mere’ technological devices. Do they equal human lives? Lives that held so much potential. Did the killers think about what was going through the minds of their victims? Did they stop to think about how they felt? That in that moment of excruciating pain they would have wished they were citizens of some other country – any other, what other; just not this one?
If youths are the future of our nation, then why were those students subject to violence of that kind – or violence at all? Why were Lloyd, Ugonna, Tekena and Chidiaka not given a chance to at least try to proof themselves right? Because of course, they cried out. They did protest the best they could. Why on earth would you not listen to the pleas before making your conclusions? Is there a Nigerian dream? An active one? Do the people know about it? Do they uphold it and in their hearts? I have strong doubts about that. If the youth are the future of the nation then why do you insist on ending your future so brutally? How are you able to do that – or even think it?
The victims of the Port Harcourt massacre ‘cannot’ be brought back but we can bring one thing back into existence: justice. Where is the justice system? How effectively functional is it? Are the leaders in authority going to do anything and everything about this or is this going to be yet another ignored issue? Is it going to be slightly attended to, too? Can we see the authority take steps and make plans in ensuring this doesn’t happen again? Can we follow-up the progress of their plans? Can we at least see that they can be transparent about this?
Now the four are heroes and only after their death. Heroes of a people that sent them too early to their graves. Heroes of a nation that trembles in shock at the gruesome act. A nation that wishes she could have been there on the scene to save, to stop the inhuman act.
Some of them were aspiring music artists. Listen to this track, Heart of the City by Lloyd (Big L) and Tipsy
With heavy hearts, we say, may their souls rest in perfect peace.
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