By Anote Ajeluorou
Loved ones of students of University of Port Harcourt (otherwise known as the Aluu 4) that were murdered by a mindless mob in Aluu community, Rivers State, victims of 2011 election violence in parts of the North and other similar victims of mob attacks all over the country may now find a platform to take action. While efforts are ongoing to redress these brutal murders, a lot more could still be done to prevent future occurrences by concerned citizens through a campaign just launched in Lagos.
Known as Don’t Walk Away, which is also the title of a short docu-film on a similar brutal mob attack on a 12-year old boy eight years ago in Lagos, the campaigners seek to galvanise action amongst citizenry on the need to take action in a mob situation to avert the needless death of innocent Nigerians. The campaign is built around the Abimbola Ogunsanya-made docu-film, a former NTA staff, who has gone on to make other sterling documentaries.
Importantly, ‘Don’t walk Away’ campaign is predicated on the famous saying, ‘Evil triumphs when good people do nothing’ to redeem social malaise. Those averse to such evil are urged to make a pledge to do something positive when they see evil on rampage, such as the horror of the Aluu 4!
And at Unity Centre, Isaac John Street, Ikeja GRA, last week, organisers unveiled the docu-film Don’t Walk Away and launched the campaign to raise awareness given the disturbing trend that condemns a section of society to the bestial age when man’s inhumanity to man assumes a frightening dimension.
Eight years ago, Ogunsanya ran into a mob baying for the blood of 12-year Samuel while returning from work. Samuel, a street beggar, had been accused of stealing a baby and the angry mob wanted his blood even when it could not trust the source of the alarm that said he stole a baby. That an accusation had been made was enough for the mob to have Samuel’s head on a platter. This is in spite of Samuel’s eloquent protestations to the contrary; no one was ready to listen to his story of innocence.
Ogunsanya went to work and interviewed Samuel while he was in the mercy of the mob. A man in the mob crying for the boy’s blood didn’t know who raised the baby-stealing alarm; all he, and the others, wanted was to have Samuel pay for his crime! Fearful for her own life and her other children, even Samuel’s mother denied ever knowing him; Samuel was from a broken home. A motor tyre was strung around Samuel’s slim body, doused with petrol and set alight. Samuel writhed and convulsed just as the mob cheered on until he succumbed to death.
According to the organisers of the campaign, “What has made an impression on ‘Don’t Walk Away’ supporters such as Afrobeat maestro, Femi Kuti is not so much the horror of Samuel’s ghastly death, as the extraordinary dignity of the little boy who managed to tell his life story in a two-minute interview while surrounded by a mob baying for his blood. His articulate account of how he found himself begging on the streets of Lagos shows him to have been both intelligent and almost certainly innocent of the crime of ‘baby-stealing’ for which he was killed.
“When members of the mob were interviewed before the murder, they were unable to give specifics of what Samuel was accused of. One commented that “They said he wanted to kidnap a child at a school” and was unable to say exactly where. The fact that he knew nothing about the accusation did not stop him being a main perpetrator of the crime, pouring petrol onto Samuel before he was ignited.
“Samuel’s story is a vivid example of the gross injustice and horrific cruelty of mob killing. ‘Don’t Walk Away’ campaigners hope it will touch the hearts of millions when it is released on the Internet. The campaign leaders believe this will launch a national debate on mob violence – or ‘jungle justice’ – and how people can be motivated to intervene and prevent future lynching”.
In the discussion the disquieting docu-film generated in shocked audience, Senator Oluremi Tinubu in her keynote address commended ‘Don’t walk Away’ campaigners for bringing the vexed issue of mob justice to national discourse, saying she identified with it and would make efforts to highlight in the upper legislature. She noted, “I heard about the utterly despicable violence that caused the untimely death of Aluu 4 in Port Harcourt last year when a petition was brought to the Senate by a parent of one of the victims. Such despicable acts of violence is a reflection of the deep rot in society…
“It’s equally grievous that spectacles of mob action or jungle justice have provided a source of entertainment to many who stand by and sometimes record such atrocities without attempting to rescue the victims. We all have critical roles to play in sensitising the populace towards effecting a change of attitude to mob action”.
Tinubu called on individuals in such situations to promptly report mob actions to the police before they escalate so as to save lives.
Maker of the docu-film, Ogunsanya said he didn’t savour the experience of watching a poor die in the hands of a mob, but that he was one man against a mob, and very little he could have done to save Samuel. He added that he could have been joined with the boy for the stakes. He also noted that Samuel’s mother denied him by her instinct for survival because she could also have been killed as well as part of a baby-stealing ring.
While local TV stations and film festivals refused to accept the film, Ogunsanya said it was adjudged the Most Compassionate film by Qatar Film Festival, just as Al Jazeera cable TV was ready to offer him huge sums to have unfettered right to it. But Ogunsanya said he refused to sell it, noting that he made the film to bring about a change in attitude. He noted that selling the film would have pitch Nigeria against the world, as he was sure Al Jazeera would have presented Nigeria as a nation of bestial beings from the film’s expose, adding, “The film is about making a change, not about the bestiality of Nigeria, as against the world”.
Secretary to Surulere Local Government Area, Rev. Funmi Braithwaite, who represented Tinubu, said she had averted a similar mob action in Badagry years ago when she created a scene that eventually attracted the police a few metres away. She noted, “So, don’t walk away from such mob justice. If you walk away, your conscience will condemn you for life for not preserving the life of a fellow man”.
Publisher of Brand IQ, Mr. Ntia Nsukuma described Ogunsanya as a hero for having the courage to film Samuel’s pathetic story for posterity, pointing out that Samuel did not die in vain. Nsukuma said the story of child witches in parts of Nigeria was another example of mob action, which he noted stemmed from a culture of impunity and a threat to security in society, which he said must be curtailed.
Nsukuma queried, “Do we have laws against mob action? How can we get government to compensate victims? Let’s continue to push to rid the nation of mob action; it’s a threat to security. It’s a culture of impunity that the perpetrators can get away with their act each time it happens”.
Organisers of ‘Don’t walk Away’ campaign are looking to get Nigerians sign up against mob action by visiting the website www.dontwalkaway.org.ng first to view Samuel’s video and sign up. They aim to get legislation against the barbaric act and redirect such mob into civilized conduct.