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.
LET US CHANGE THE COLLECTIVE ATTITUDE
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