OPINION: Because of Five Thousand


By: Muneer Yaqub

Now let’s put this in context. Much as I’m deeply fraustrated over the brutal murder of an innocent man by a Customs officer caught in video, I feel there’s more.

There’s more to the ease of cocking an AK-47, staring a fellow humanbeing in the eye, knowing fully well he’s done nothing wrong, and firing a shot … and still raising his arm to confirm he’s truly dead.

This only points to the demise of humanity in the hearts of men-in-uniform in this country. Though not unexpected, it’s outrageous. Of course, we know they undergo some inhumane trainings, which seek to depict adversaries to them as inhumans. But is there no part of their trainings, that teaches how to recognize a friend from a foe, and to treat an ordinary man different from an armed enemy, or tell apart a commuter from a Boko Haram?

Why should a soldierman hit a Danfo bus with his car, knowing deep in his mind it’s his fault, and hurriedly alight to not only shatter the windscreen of the Danfo, but also throw some slaps at the innocent cheeks of the old man on its wheels? Is that how they’re being taught?

Little wonders a passerby watching the scene from afar would whisper to his friend: “That soldier must be a recruit. Ó’sìngbá lára è. He just arrived, it’s still fresh in him.”

It’s disheartening how much drivers who refuse to ‘drop something’ at the military checkpoints, on the way to Sokoto from Lagos, are tortured. Like frog jumps, at koboko-point. Like passing a knife into the rope that fasten passengers’ luggage to the booth, in the name of ‘check’, leaving them all to free-fall. Like threats to kill you there, ‘without anyone knowing’. And true, no one would know you were killed and buried in the woods, along those highways.

So that sometimes I wonder: What if many of those missing persons, whose posters we see around pasted on street walls and eletric poles, were actually not kidnapped, but somewhere beneath the bushes close to one military checkpoint along Mokwa-Jebba? Who knows? And who would even ask?

The murderer Customs officer could have found it so easy to shoot, because he ‘knew’ no one would question him if he did. Well, no one is questioning him already after all. Instead, the PRO of Customs would notoriously denounce the video as fake, supposedly erasing it from records: One spanner lost, as my people would say.

But then, who’s monitoring the activities of these men-in-uniform on the highways? Who’s ensuring that the Customs man out there is searching vehicles, not pockets? Who’s looking out for that FRSC cop, who would only ask for ‘particulars’ when a driver does not ‘cooperate’?

Who’s watching over that policeman, that soldierman, standing on the highway, just so he’s actually protecting, and not looting, commuters’ wallets— and most importantly, not kill or torture them, when they refuse to bribe?

Besides, the Customs officer in question, as we speak, ought to be on his way to jail, to spend the rest of his life, for brutally killing an innocent man because of five thousand naira. Who’s also seeing to that?

Muneer Yaqub is a journalist tweets @elmunir5


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