Government must ensure that the murderers are brought to justice

Zamfara Governor, Abdulaziz Yari, last week provided gory details of the circumstances that led to the death of eight persons in the state when a mob set ablaze the house of a man who had rescued an undergraduate accused of blasphemy. According to Yari, reports from the security agencies indicated that there was a fight between two students, during which one accused the other (said to be a Yoruba from Kogi State) of abusing Prophet Mohammed. The attracted mob pummeled the “blasphemous” student until they thought he was dead, but some security personnel who later arrived the scene requested help from a shop owner who took the victim to the hospital in his car.

“When the students heard that the victim was still alive, they went to the hospital, but soldiers intervened,” said Governor Yari. “Then the students returned to the polytechnic and burnt the shop of the man who helped the victim. Unfortunately, the police in the division didn’t have enough men to contain the riot. Before reinforcement came, the crowd also burnt the man’s house. Everyone in the house was killed, all of them Muslims.”

That a man who tried to help save the life of an innocent person would be visited with such bestiality is a national tragedy. In another country, such a man would be declared a hero. But this is Nigeria where those in authorities cannot appreciate such things. However, we call on the security agencies to find the killers and bring them to book. It should not be difficult to do if the police and other security agencies can apply themselves to the more serious job instead of chasing a man who named his dog “Buhari”.

Unfortunately, the governor said that there was no arrest yet. That, more than anything, explains the brazen manner in which human lives are being taken, especially by sundry terror wolves, or groups brandishing sectarian credentials in our country. They have been made to believe that they are above the law.

To the extent that crime is inherent in every society, what deters perpetrators is the certainty of consequences and penalties. But we are not aware of any serious measures to bring these murderers to justice. Yet, as we have repeatedly argued on this page, 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 beheading by global terror merchants, of perceived adversaries, began this way.

In a nation swarming with all manner of militant and religious groups, we might be headed for that day when some crackbrained fundamentalist 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. It is all the more disturbing that the government of the day has remained helpless in the face of a clear erosion of its sovereign legitimacy with anarchy now a 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 the entrepreneurs of violence who already have chips on their shoulders. The authorities must do everything to put them out of business.