Government must get tough with sectarian crimes – which are actually getting worse

Following a motion by Senator Oluremi Tinubu (Lagos West), the Senate last Wednesday condemned the brutal killing of a Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) pastor, Mrs. Eunice Olawale Elisha, in Kubwa, Abuja.

Coming not long after the equally brutal murder of another woman in Kano, on grounds of alleged blasphemy, the latest tragedy is pointer to a worrying tendency that does not augur well for the unity of a nation in which all should have equal protection under the law.

While we commiserate with the family of Mrs. Elisha, we call on the security agencies to find her killers and bring them to book. However, the silence from the federal government on the issue is rather disturbing. Yes, Mrs Dolapo Osinbajo, wife of the Vice-President, has paid the bereaved family a visit and signed the condolence register.

But that was a private gesture that cannot substitute for a clear message from the highest authority in the country that the brazen manner in which human lives were being taken, especially by sundry terror lone wolves, is unacceptable. This is against the background that a good number of these casual killings were carried out by persons or groups brandishing sectarian credentials.
First, there is a basic issue of protection of lives by law enforcement agencies. Tragically, this vital requirement of any civilised democracy is lacking in our country today.

From the hundreds that were mowed down in Zaria by the military last December, to the recent executions in Onitsha and Aba of citizens whose only crime was that they dared to remember a sad aspect of our past, to the more isolated killings of individuals in Kano and now Abuja, there would seem to be a contest about who can take more lives between agents of state and the growing army of casual fundamentalist executioners.

Second, these killings have so far not attracted any consequences for their perpetrators. To the extent that crime is inherent in every society, what deters perpetrators is the certainty of consequences and penalties. We are not aware of any serious measures to bring these murderers to justice. Nor has there been any inquiry into the conduct of policemen and soldiers detailed to control crowds but who resorted to killing innocent citizens. Just on Wednesday, an operative of the Directorate of State Security (DSS) was reported to have killed a mother of five on the Kaduna-Abuja road.

Third, and perhaps more seriously, the casual execution of fellow citizens for the simple reason that they believe differently is the beginning of something more frightening. We must all remember that televised public beheadings by global terror merchants, of perceived adversaries, began this way. In a nation swarming with all manner of militant groups, we might be headed for that day when some fundamentalist crack heads could just round up people of a different faith and routinely execute them in utter defiance of the state which has repeatedly proved ineffectual in protecting lives and basic freedoms.

Unfortunately, while the bloodletting raged, the government of the day remained inexplicably silent and helpless in the face of a clear erosion of its sovereign legitimacy. This aspect is quite worrisome because the state, even with all its imperfections, remains the ultimate guarantor of our individual and collective freedoms. If, by act of omission or commission, it fails to act as that guarantor, then anarchy is the clear and present danger.

At a time like this therefore, we need to emphasise the point that one Nigerian life unjustly lost in the manner of these recent incidents diminishes all of us and corrodes the fabric of our society. That is the only way we can reaffirm and reinforce faith in our suddenly fragile unity. To do otherwise is to provide additional ammunition to agitators and militants who already have chips on their shoulder. To paraphrase Martin Luther King, injustice committed against one Nigerian should be recognised as injustice to all Nigerians.
Therein lies the essence of equality under the law.

Quote: The casual execution of fellow citizens for the simple reason that they believe differently is the beginning of something more frightening. We must all remember that televised public beheadings by global terror merchants, of perceived adversaries, began this way