Monday, November 10, 2008

In the aftermath of Uzoma Okere's violent assault at the gun butts and horsewhips of Arogundade's men, Nigerians have reacted with outrage that a young woman could be treated like an animal. The internet has proven to be the main forum for young Nigerians to discuss Uzoma's situation and advocate justice for her. I congratulate every Nigerian and non-Nigerian that has taken the time to think about what happened to Uzoma and spoken up in her defense.

We now know that Uzoma is suing for N100 Million and that she is popular enough to even run for political office sometime soon. Yet, the question remains, when this story dies down and fades away from our immediate consciousness, would Nigeria have changed? Yes, the military and its 'ratings' will think twice before they assault any person again. After all, they have no clue who is recording their actions on a cell phone camera. Maybe public officials will think twice about stealing public money because, someone might take photographic evidence and put it on CNN. However, overall, will our collective attitude towards each other have changed? If it doesn't then Uzoma's assault, the resulting outrage and any positive achievements will not have a long term effect.

In the past, I have argued that many Nigerians believe that the poor are to blame for their poverty. I have also posited that the Nigerian psyche is currently in a state of Persistent Psychological Paralysis, thus, creating some difficulty for Nigeria's future. But, one aspect of Nigerian behavior that I am yet to confront on this site is the culture of brutality and injustice that exists in the country. The treatment Uzoma received is simply a drop in the sea of violence that exists in Nigeria. We, as Nigerians, might not want to address this reality, but until we do, no amount of outrage towards Uzoma's situation will prevent another innocent Nigerian from suffering a similar fate.

From my experience, almost anyone in Nigeria can be the victim of a violent assault and their aggressor doesn't even have to wear a uniform. Think about the house maids and house boys you have seen maltreated by their 'oga' (boss). Think about the lowly office employee who might have been at the tail end of a verbal assault because he didn't stand up quickly enough to "greet" someone. Think about the useless area boys who use their numbers and strength to demand payments/bribes from the average citizen just to cross the street. Remember in July 2007, when Lagosian ladies were detained for "dressing indecently" and just think about what would happen to a homosexual in Nigeria. I don't think I need to expand on that.

Abuse is far too common, from the man who hits his wife, even to the teachers who exceed their disciplinary role when they punish some of their students. Violence should never be condoned, whether it happens to the daughter of the Sergeant-At-Arms of the National Assembly or the child of a market woman. How do we, as a people, ensure that all citizens will be treated equally under the law and protected from random acts of violence and brutality?

Take a look at Nairaland, one of the most popular online forums were Nigerians discuss matters, and you will see that the members are openly mocking any idea of a real investigation by the Navy and Senate into Uzoma's assault.Why? Because Nigerians are used to injustice and consider it the norm. Many Nigerians believe that once "brown bags" pass hands, (in)justice will be served. It is a shame that in a democracy, this is Nigeria's reality, far often than not.

In Nigeria, unfortunately, if you are not connected and do not have the luxury of wealth, justice is not a concept that you can understand and/or expect. If there were a modicum of justice in Nigeria, I and those who care, would know where Emeka Asiwe is. Emeka Asiwe is a Nigerian blogger who has been detained by the SSS since November 1st and, as far as I know, he is yet to be heard from and has not returned to his family in Massachusetts.
We, as a people, cannot forget that theoutrage expressed by average citizens is not just about Uzoma. The disappointment I feel is not just about Emeka Asiwe or Jonathan Elendu. This growing and natural reaction must be about the countless, nameless Nigerians whose story we will never know, but who have been the victims of brutality and injustice at the hands of their own countrymen, in uniform or not. Nigeria's attitude towards people, must change. Differences in class, tribe, religion, sexual orientation do not matter and should not affect how we treat each other. No one person is better than another. We have to put a stop to the culture of brutality and injustice and end the silence that fosters such attitudes. Maybe Uzoma's case will be the first step towards a change in the collective attitude. But, no matter what, we can't forget the bigger issue - confronting the culture of brutality and injustice. That is essential for any nation and its people to excel.

Related Articles of Interest:
- Uzoma Okere Won N100mn
- A Window Into (In)Justice: Uzoma Okere Updates
- When Nigeria's Military Attack Citizens
- Chinyere Igwe: Reflective Of A Bigger Nigerian Issue
- Turning Away from Democracy
- "Free Jonathan Elendu Now!"
- Suppression In A Democratic Regime

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NneomaMD said...

"After all, they have no clue who is recording their actions on a cell phone camera. Maybe public officials will think twice about stealing public money because, someone might take photographic evidence and put it on CNN. However, overall, will our collective attitude towards each other have changed?"

No, our collective attitudes will not have changed. However, I feel that such abuses are prevented (to some extent) in the developed world because of (1) the ability document (record) these things and the fact that there are laws in place to prosecute these injustices, given that such can be proven...and (2) vulnerable groups in conjunction have successfully petitioned their government to imprint on the national consciousness that such acts cannot be tolerated.

Point 2 is especially important because if the vulnerable do not speak up consistently, no one else will effectively champion their cause. As unfortunate as the Okere incident was, we cannot forget the fact that she is a member of piece of Nigerian society that does indeed have a voice - the wealthy, well-connected, etc. The resulting demonstrations resulting from her case has prevented other members of her social group to be abused, but it has not done much for those other vulnerable groups you mentioned - househelps, the poor, and a particular issue that Naijablogs has been advocating thru his blog - the "witch children" of Akwa Ibom. If one looks at the history of successful human rights movements, they have always started with those at the grassroots - those immediately affected by the abuse.

Okay, this comment is getting a bit long-winded....though I could go on and on, i will stop.

Anonymous said...

From my experience, almost anyone in Nigeria can be the victim of a violent assault and their aggressor doesn't even have to wear a uniform is a great take home point from this excellent awareness. One of the current and recurrent stories that should be keeping Nigerian VIPs awake is that of the Child-witches' of Nigeria. Mary is a pretty five-year-old girl with big brown eyes and a father who kicked her out onto the streets in one of the most dangerous parts of the world. Her crime: the local priest had denounced her as a witch and blamed her "evil powers" for causing her mother's death. No doubt some people would dismiss this a white people propaganda but see the video here and weep for our beloved country.

On the one hand people blame backward colonial education on most ills of our society but they forgot that now matters. What are you doing right now that is not humane? Never mind the Christian church since most Nigerian Pastors haven't a clue where the bible came from. Another flavor in the form of Dr Peter Akinola, leader of the Anglican Church whose views on gays and homosexuality (such as gays are not fit to live) is divisive and not justice. There are no perfect societies but ignorance and bad education does not have to be our ruin.

Zoe Believer said...

Honestly Solomonsydelle, on the internet, in the news, in the papers it's one horrible story or the other, people being detained, people being beaten up, children being abused or trafficked. Have we changed? I don't know but I'm just wondering what I believer can do to make a difference, what is my own role in this quest for change...hmmm?

Dojaa said...

When change comes to Nigeria it ill be because we welcomed it.

Anonymous said...

I think, as we all probably do, that Nigeria still has a looong way to go...BUT in the Okere case, with the mere fact that there is video footage of the crime, it will serve as a reminder for Arogundade's fellow officers that if they try anything like that, they don't know who is watching/recording...I think with that in the back of their minds, they will learn to do less damage to civilians. I have been really impressed with the internet buzz around this case and I think everyone championing Uzoma's cause will definitely be looking to read/hear that justice has been served...whether or not Yardie cares enough to ensure that these animals are dealt with it is another issue in itself as it is not enough for individuals and groups alone to clamor for justice...whilst the animals sleep, the world watches and waits...

webround said...

According to Punch Newspapers, Lagos state guv has banned the use of sirens by visiting guvs and top govt officials in lagos. See article here

Anonymous said...

First time here -- inetresting read -- def coming back.. Have actually been having a long running discussion with a chap on what the way forward for Nigeria is... Good write up...

N.I.M.M.O said...

Solomonsydelle, I had actually looked forward to your answers to the questions you posed in your last post. I don't know the answers.

We can only deceive ourselves so far. We must learn to tell ourselves the truth more often.

It is what it is.

What we are witnessing is probably the last vestiges of the dehumanizing war we called WAI. Some said it was a good thing, but then there can be too much of a good thing.

Even good medicine after the expiry date becomes bad. Maybe we need Dora Akunyili's NAFDAC to establish that WAI had long expired.

@Webround: Fashola didn't make any new laws, it has been in the constitution all along. Even himself as the Governor, who though allowed to use the siren constitutionally, he does not use it, so why should any General or Police Orderly do so?

I think the only people who should be allowed to use sirens in Lagos are the Police and Ambulances (LASAMBUS) and even then only in emergencies.

The worst culprits are the military officers and other states Governors who come to Lagos often - including their houseboys, girlfriends etc. They just blare the sirens endlessly in traffic even when there is absolutely no need to.

N.I.M.M.O said...

Wow! I just saw this from January 8th, 2005. Read it and wonder.

Karma is a bitch but then an eye for an eye will leave us all blind.

IB's Tot said...


Anonymous said...

Emeka Asiwe has been detained since November... What is the SSS's issue with bloggers? There has to be more to the story of his detention...

In regards to the Nigerian attitude, we are just products of our environment... However that is no excuse for the brutality.

I am also laughing in my mind that she is suing for N100 million... as one of my friends would say 'O je Belief'... My hope is that one day Nigeria becomes a land where the law is enforced equally. No one should be above the law or its enforcement.

SSD just in case I never told you before, I love the value you provide on your blog. Keep up the consistency and the high hopes you have for naija.


@ Nneoma: "if the vulnerable do not speak up consistently, no one else will effectively champion their cause"

And that is the problem. Is there a history of the voiceless unifying to speak up on issues that are relevant to them? In Nigeria, I think there have been some attempts, but, I wonder if any have been truly successful and based on what i see in Nigeria, i would dare say that any possible success has been limited. I guess, I'll blame Persistent Psychological Paralysis for that.

Thanks for starting this discussion and raising seriously pertinent points.

@ Beauty: Thanks so much for your points. And, thank you for not only mentioning but linking to the story on Child witches. Indeed, we must weep for our beloved country.

"There are no perfect societies but ignorance and bad education does not have to be our ruin"

Nigeria does not have to be perfect, it just has to aspire to be better. And by that, I mean at every level - individually, economically, morally, socially...

By aspiring to improve, we will hopefully be a lot more open minded so that we can learn about others and be a more inclusive society that defends the rights of all regardless of gender, tribe, religion, sexual orientation. These seem like lofty goals, but all it takes is for us as individuals to think differently and challenge our fears.

Thanks for sparking some thoughts.

@ Zoe Believer: "what is my own role in this quest for change...hmmm?"

You note something that we all have to acknowledge - life does not necessarily allow us to engage in all the issues we are surrounded by. For instance, right now, the Congo is in a quagmire, Darfur continues to be a hot mess, Nigerians living around Lake Chad continue to see less and less fish in the Lake and the desert continues to encroach on their land and livelihood.

How can any person focus on all these and many more issues? How can any person make a difference?

The reality is that I cannot necessarily make a difference that will be recognized on a larger scale. But, being knowledgeable about these and other problems make it easier for me to make decisions that will hopefully not make those problems worse. Furthermore, I can, when the situation presents itself, educate others and become a positive force, no matter how small, in making things better.

It's like Beauty said, its all about education. When you are aware, you can make those closest to you aware as well.

The key is not to become overwhelmed. Personally, I pick my issues, I chase them as far as i can and hope that in the end, I will leave a legacy, no matter how small, for those that follow to build upon. Make it easier for them to make things better.

We are on the right path, my sista. Nothing do you. lol!

@ Doja: My sista, indeed. And, may i add "Amen". No one can force anyone to change. For change to be effective and long lasting, it must be welcomed.

So, when will Nigerians welcome 'change'? And, what conditions are necessary for that time to materialize? What are the conditions necessary? Can we conceptualize those conditions and create them in an effort to bring change? Or, will we just have to sit back, and cross our fingers, waiting for God to send us a savior?

These are the issues I ponder constantly. Got any answers? Your are really smart, so I know you have some opinion on this, so spill...

@ Avarsty: I found your comment to be very powerful.

"it is not enough for individuals and groups alone to clamor for justice...whilst the animals sleep, the world watches and waits..."

Could you expand on this point further? If I understand it correctly, there needs to be other forces/individuals.groups that join in with us small people as we campaign against the injustice we see.

Don't want to assume, so, do come back and expand. We are all sharing our ideas in order to eventually create working solutions that can be applied to make Nigeria better. Or better yet, write a post about your ideas on your blog so I can link to it.


@ Webround: Thanks for always keeping us updated on this issue. I used to live 4 blocks from the White House and i cannot tell you of one time where I was stopped from moving around Washington, D.C. because President Bush was in a convoy.

Don't get me wrong. When foreign emissaries come to DC, the streets get shut down to ensure their safe passage. However, no one gets treated like an animal because some 'Big Boy' is moving around town.

Consequently, it is a relief to see that fashola has implemented this ban. Unfortunately, it will be left to other independent entities to 'police' themselves so as to respect the ban. That would prove difficult. Will fashola be able to punish the Governor of Ogun state if his convoy needs to get to the State guest house in Victoria Island without us petty peons being in their way and uses sirens? Well, we shall see. At least fashola is politically savvy enough to get on the right side of this issue. I just love politics!

@ Danny: Thank you so much for taking the time to read and even comment. i appreciate it greatly!

Well, I like to think there are many ways forward in Nigeria. So, share your thoughts with us. Write them down and post them at your blog or send them to e so i can post them on your behalf over here.

take care!

@ N.I.M.M.O.: You really didn't expect me to answer the questions from the last post, did you? Why would I do that? I asked those questions because i wanted readers to think about the issues those questions raised. I know how I feel about them, but I wouldn't want to interfere with anyone's opinion and/or thought process.

So, you say you don't know the answers? Is that the case, or you just don't want to share your opinions? I think in general, we all have an answer. We might differ in our opinion, but we have some idea on how to respond to those questions.

I just read the post you provided. lol! I could not ignore the irony of it all, assuming the write up was accurate in its description of events.

Nevertheless, what might have happened then still does not change, in my opinion, what happened to Uzoma and happens to numerous Nigerians on a frequent basis. We are all equal and have rights that should be respected. I don't tolerate bullies, its just so unnecessary, you know? thanks for providing that article. I truly appreciate it. It adds to the discussion for sure.

@ dating Now: Thanks for the kind comment and for stopping by Nigerian Curiosity. Don't be a stranger!

@ Notjustok: My broda, I agree. Most rational human beings will assume that there is something else going on. However, considering the fact that humans are not always rational, particularly the case when it comes to the powerful in Nigeria, I have dispelled the notion that something else is going on. Furthermore, Nigerian law requires that those detained be charged within 48 hours. Asiwe has been in detention for weeks, so...

But, as we Nigerians always say "God dey", shebi? lol!

"O je belief"...hahahaha. I am cracking up at that one. I might have to start using it, in fact.

Aww, shucks! Thanks for the compliment. But, in reality, nobody can follow Nigerian issues in this format without good blog friends who take the time to share their thoughts and knowledge.

For that, I thank you, and everyone else!

Geebee said...

Nigeria remains in a quagmire of injustice and it's going to take much more than capturing such events on cellphones or internet for such trend to stop. The evil mindset is so ingrained in the hearts of our leaders and the only thing that might be able to stop this is a revolution. In this case, it might be a violent revolution (even though i don't believe in violence).

Anthony Arojojoye said...

Nice post.
I felt the pinch when I got the news.

Thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

@gbengasile. All lot of people share your sentiments but be careful what you wish for. Nigeria remains in a quagmire of injustice and it's going to take much more than capturing such events on cellphones or internet for such trend to stop. is not sound analysis of our situation. Revolution is a HUGE word and even though you say you do not believe in violence, an omelette is a preparation of beaten eggs cooked with butter or oil in a frying pan. A case in point is the smoldering Niger-Delta. Think Congo and you will see that war is ugly.

Knowledge is all there is and doing things without knowledge is the contributory factor to our current messy scenario, hence an enabler of knowledge, The Web via Internet.
People journalism is taking over from those that had a monopoly to publish. By commenting here, you have joined the revolution, it is evolving and quality information is the result as we confront a culture of brutality & injustice.

The Activist said...

Thanks for sharing those links SSD. I do believe that Uzoma's case has started a revolution to minimize (if not to end) the uniform men brutality in Nigeria. They now know that the world is watching them. They are now aware of all the unseen global village watchers.

This has really made an impact.

guerreiranigeriana said...

...i haven't finished reading, but intend to...i just had to come and express my discomfort with the use of the terms culture, brutality and injustice together when speaking of maybe you clear this up in the rest of the blog, but it strikes me as problematic and lightweight colonialist in insinuating that we (nigerians) are inherently brutal and unjust daniel jordan smith's (anthropologist at brown university) book titled 'culture of corruption' in reference to nigeria...*jumping off my soap box*...let me finish reading before i completely misstep here...

guerreiranigeriana said...

@nneoma: regarding point one, are you sure its prevented in the "developed world"...rodney king's taping and ensuing case didn't and hasn't stop fact the cops were acquitted until people took to the streets...should i list countless cases of nyc brutality or oakland police brutality?...(the police usually get off too!)...or even the brutality of neglect, if you will, allowing gang violence to destroy and kill people?....and these are just the ones we hear about...

@ssd: allow me if you will, to trouble the water a little referred to the local area boys as 'useless"...what do you think such a thought about another human being does to the psyche of that human being?...i don't know how one becomes an area boy, but if you knew that everyone was treating and thinking of you as useless, may that then influence you to behave in such a manner? do our thoughts about others (mine included) contribute to the way we treat them and in turn the way they treat us?...i went to lunch with my cousin and his friends in calabar last december...they were complaining about how poor the customer service was...but when i watched how they interacted with the waitresses, i could understand why they were so bad...(not justifying their poor customer service)...God forbid if the girl had mistakenly poured something on their clothes, we may have seen serious violence...

...all that to say, i really think it starts with the small things and daily interactions...and a good understanding of how things really work...we keep screaming about this so-called must understand the role the armed forces within such a society plays...especially when you consider that they are not paid nearly as much as they deserve for the role they play (assuming they actually did their role...they are risking their lives...and i begin to ask 'who' they are truly protecting?)...this issue of brutality, excessive force, violence and injustice is not inherent to nigeria nor a problem experienced only in nigeria...maybe in different forms and different degrees...we must study what causes men to hit their wives (what are our beliefs about women, men, marriage and the roles within those that encourage and facilitate such abuses?)...what are the social, economic, political, historical, etc factors that produce such responses in people?...i'll stop:)...hope that made some sense....great post as usual!...


@ gnaija: forgive me, but this is going to be a long one and if you manage to read it I thank you in advance for your time.

Now, try not to have a knee jerk reaction to the term "useless" as it is used to qualify the general attitude and activities of area boys. I'm not sure if you are a Lagosian, but I can assure you that many of us consider them to be mostly useless as they use their brute force to get their way. I understand the social, economic and political factors that have led to their existence and hold over life in Lagos, but this will not be a venue to discuss those issues.

As to the 'uselessness' of area boys, if you don't believe me, visit Just Toluwa's blog and read about how one area boy slapped her aunty because she publicly refused to hand over her jewelry to him when he demanded it from her at the market.

Additionally, if you are going to take offense to my use of the term "useless" when I refer to boys who in many cases are thugs and even criminals, I can't imagine how you would react to the language I would use if you or a family member were the subject of an area boys wahala.

Let's not lose focus of the general gist of this article. When I argue that there is a culture of brutality and injustice, you seem to take offense to this opinion. That is fine. If you have a better way for us to classify the behavior and attitude I am referring to, then by all means share it. You know I am one to learn, so if there is a more 'PC' way to discuss these issues, please share. Also, if you can tell me how area boys are useful, I am all ears.

However, my goal was not to be PC, my goal was to be brutally (forgive the pun) honest. Nigerians are not the only people who can be cruel, it would be incredibly naive to take that away from my post. Nonetheless, the fact remains that on some cultural level, we as a people have to learn how to treat each other better so that those of us "wey don shine our eyes" will actually be shocked when we see footage similar to what we saw with regards to Uzoma. Or where you really shocked when you saw that clip? Besides, notice the people in the video? Did you see their reaction? People weren't quite shocked. They apparently tried to beg on her behalf and dissuade the military ratings from continuing in their assault, but those people are true Lagosians, we see things like that on a daily basis, and much worse. As such, can I not argue that such is part of the culture?

As to your comment on how little the military is paid, I'm not sure how that factors into the way some military officers use force on civilians. Some of them (Idiagbon, I think and from many, many years ago) would literally have members of their entourage whip people on the side of the road as they drove by. No matter what you are paid, or not paid, there is no reason for such.

Anyway, I appreciate you taking the time to read this and share your concerns, especially as I know you are very busy with school. My goal is not to give the country I love a bad name. My goal, always, is to force myself and readers to think critically and confront what is the reality of Nigeria. That might not be your reality or the reality of those you know, but trust me, the majority of Nigerians do not have anything close to our lives, and until those of us who are fortunate can begin to see the world through their eyes, we cannot truly think and create the solutions that will make Nigeria better for all of us. In this case, I simply want us to discourage the brutality and injustice that is rampant in our society. And, if you disagree, I respect your opinion.

guerreiranigeriana said..., no, no...i by all means am not one for 'pc'ness and believe in calling a spade a spade...i moreso was troubling the notion of believing this sort of behavior to be part of our culture...if we do, then i feel it makes it more difficult to change it as people will just say, 'na our culture be dat o'...

...i also agree that whether you are paid 6 figure salaries or 2 dollars a year, you are not entitled to mistreat people...i merely wanted us to also look at some of the underlying factors driving such behavior...soldiers rape and pillage; police officers misuse power; un peace officers rape and sexually abuse those they are sent to protect; peace corpers do the same...i could go on...why is it that the people that are supposed to be protecting or upholding some standards of life, once endowed with some power have a tendency to misuse it?...

...with the useless thing, just getting us to think about language and our use of it...i'm not from lagos but have heard of such boys and seen our own version in uyo, etinan, biakpan and calabar, to name a few...useless is probably a very nice term compared to some of the things i have heard used on them...but i still think we can challenge ourselves around our use of words, was all i was getting at...

...and fortunately or unfortunately, i am one of those people that can still be shocked by such continues to shock and disgust me and i refuse to allow it to be normal for me lest i become, no, i don't disagree with you, which is why i prefaced my comment by saying i wanted to 'trouble' some issues-raise some questions...thank you for taking the time to respond to me!...

Anonymous said...

Violence and injustice is indeed deep seated and while we can blame poverty among other social calamities, a part of the question is also our inherent and innate abilities to discern what is right and wrong.

1. The one that gets me every time is the abuse of children. The use of young children as house boy and house girl, what amounts to slavery, still sends chills down my spine.
2. The high value we place on dependency of a woman on man. Our women need to be empowered.

While I could go on and one, I am always about finding solutions to problems. How do we FIX the problems? One key place it starts is through entertainment. I truly believe this is where the power of Cinema comes in. Since the 90s when Nollywood emerged, it has done a good job of painting the reality on the grond, a big part being the human atrocities committed against women and children. Today, there is a new generation, I'd like to think, of progressive young Nigerians. Naija's generation X and Y's. They are heavily influenced by Western cultures whether they live in Naija or outside. Their stories must begin to be told on Nollywood's big screen and that story does not include violence and abuse against children and women. I think that is one step in the right direction.

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