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Are we losing our humanity?


Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens

“I was a witness of the execution at Horsemonger-lane this morning. … I believe that a sight so inconceivably awful as the wickedness and levity of the immense crowd collected at that execution this morning could be imagined by no man, and could be presented in no heathen land under the sun. The horrors of the gibbet and of the crime which brought the wretched murderers to it, faded in my mind before the atrocious bearing, looks and language, of the assembled spectators … when the two miserable creatures who attracted all this ghastly sight about them were turned quivering into the air, there was no more emotion, no more pity, no more thought that two immortal souls had gone to judgment, no more restraint in any of the previous obscenities, than if the name of Christ had never been heard in this world, and there were no belief among men but that they perished like beasts.”

These effusive outbursts of the famous British author Charles Dickens totally captured my angst, the level of man’s inhumanity to man and the ways sacred lives are wasted in Nigeria. Dickens was amongst the 30,000 crowd that witnessed what was referred to as the “Hanging of the Century,” of Mr. and Mrs. Manning on November 13, 1849, at the Horsemonger Lane Gaol in Southwark, United Kingdom. The Mannings had murdered their friend, took his money and buried him under the kitchen floor. That execution dealt an emotional blow on the psyche of the famous writer; he was upset by the unbridled delight of humanity at the execution of the husband and wife execution.

The glee and ostensible bliss at the deaths of others by humanity is not restricted to the 1849 United Kingdom, but has taken a frightening dimension in our country. On 16 November, 2016 in Badagry area: a suburb of Lagos State, a 7 year old boy was lynched for allegedly ‘trying’ to steal garri from a trader’s shop. The online video and pictures of the heartless lynching, spellbinding killing of this minor are horrid, heart rending, insensitive, incredulous and sadistic. We have suddenly slithered into a nation that derives malicious pleasure at the pains of others.

From history, the epidemic of unguarded epicaricacy is a symptom of many veiled ailments, which are festering under inherent psychological and economic disorders. The resurgence of such maladies always lead to calamitous revolts, riotous capers, intemperate communal conflicts, genocidal overtures, lack of respect for sacred human lives and obliterating compassionate hearts. The gloating of citizens at the death of a minor, who might have been forced by hunger, to take some cupful of garri from the trader, is the abysmal height of this malaise.

Citizens would capture these heartbreaking pictures with their smartphones, join in the unholy umbrage and upload those offensive materials on the internet, instead of calling the police or anyone that could stop the seething cruelty. In February this year, a young boy of about 15 years, fainted at a bank ATM queue off Awolowo road, Ikeja Lagos, everyone ran off as if the young guy had leprosy, I immediately held him and applied some rudimentary medical resuscitation measures, he looked dehydrated, malnourished and fatigued.

I instantly requested my chauffeur to get water; I poured some on his head others on his dry and sticky mouth. He gasped for breath and let out a shrilling tearless scream, the bystanders and quick-to-criticize interrupters, who did not help said several negative things that could not dissuade me from displaying Godly virtues, which distinguished humanity from animals, some warned me that the police would arrest me if anything happens to the boy, I was bemused at how our experiences typified how we should treat others and behave.

I ignored the naysayers and took the young boy to a restaurant where I got him food and water. He ate elatedly and muttered, that he trekked a long distance to cash the littlemoney his parents sent to him to buy books and foods. He was a student at a nearby secondary school. I handed him some naira notes, hugged him, flurry of emotions ran through my head and I felt the cold sting of tears streaming down my face, I shed tears for a country that used to live the values of our forebears, where we were ‘our brothers keepers,’ where a whole community raises a child, that was when anyone could flog you and take you to your parents, where you will receive additionaldose of the cane, for a display of ‘public affronts that blotched our good family name,’ every child was your child, we looked out for our brothers, cousins, friends and gave shelter to strangers, we respected, gave gifts and physical supports to theelderly, not raping the older women as recently experienced in one States of the federation recently.

We are so religious as a nation, yet hatred and atrocious acts compete with our sanctimonious avowals. We cannot give palliative measures to a deep-seated disorder such as morose delectation, that spilled the innocent bloods of 4 undergraduates of the University of Port Harcourt at Aluu Rivers State, on 5 October 2012, it sent innumerable citizens to their early graves, it has snuffed out lives of guiltless infants in Akwa Ibom State who were branded ‘child witches’, until Anja Ringgren Loven, the Danish aid worker rescued a little child, Hope from the claws of death, today Hope has become the poster child to educate the global community that this barbaric fairy-tale of ‘Child Witch” is anachronistic, retrogressive and foolish like the propagators of the archaic mythology.

It would take the collective efforts by family, community, hamlet, village, Local Council, State and the Federal government to have a moral rebirth, we must begin to elevate good ethical conducts and archetypical endearing values that made us one nation, we must hand over culprits tothe law enforcement officers, we cannot take laws into our own hands through dastard acts of savagery.

The hapless NGOs and government agencies with self-serving objectives would only make this a utopian project. To live in a nation where everyone is empathetic and assuredly ready to protect their neighbours from danger, we must jettison hatred, psychopathic behaviours and tribal sentiments that had thrown our communities and cities into killing fields.

Hatred, jungle justice perpetrators and total indifference to barbarism are co-equals in atrocities, indifference fuels complicity and tacit endorsement of criminality, indifference whether innate or choice driven is a destructive anathema that allows evil to thrive in our society. If you cannot confront the evil as a survivalist tendency, to save your own life, you must report or invest your mental, intellectual, spiritual and physical energies to stop crimes.

If we claim we love God that we do not see, yet we cannot show concern for humanity, then we are paying lip service to the essence of love. Our collective inaction and lack of concern continued to make easily preventable deaths of the innocent possible. The time to stop senseless killings is now; take action say no to jungle justice in your homes, in your offices and communities. Civilised coexistence happens only when we deride negative influences and societal stimuli, which spawn individual proclivity towards crimes and irrepressible sadism.
Dr. Osahenye is a creative writer.

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Charles Dickens
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