Over the last week, I have stood bewildered watching from the frontlines as numerous gruesome developments unfolded on Nigeria’s heavily disturbing news headlines. And, as is customary, just days after a global social media audience witnessed the lynching of a student, I have again watched haplessly as Nigerians allow the discourse on the matter to be swept to yonder seas.
I hate to be a prophet of doom. But I also love to embrace reality. Especially when such realities are so glaring and there is nothing meaningful to show that the situation might change quickly. This is why I have concluded that more Deborah Yakubus will be killed in this lawless land. And they are not going to die because they don’t know how to keep their mouths shut or because they cross the redlines as some would have us believe; they are going to die because the states where these killings occur, don’t mind overseeing their gruesome murders.
The Sokoto State Government has again given us a clear example of how such cases are and should be handled. Deborah, a 200 Level home economics student of Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto was killed by her fellow students for an alleged blasphemy on Thursday, 13 May 2022. Deborah was stoned to death in broad daylight and her body was subsequently burnt with her killers publicly showing off their exploits in a viral video. With glee, one of them displayed the match box used in setting her ablaze.
Many Nigerians including Muslims have condemned the act and rightly so too, but usually that is how such matters end in this country. And if the current charges against Deborah’s killers are anything to go by, the suspects are as good as free. Fortunately for Nigerian leaders, the citizens don’t bother to stay long on a story, they move on too quickly. You can’t blame them. There is a deluge of uninspiring stories everywhere. Nobody wants to remain in a position of despondency. Some have even concluded that Nigeria and good reports are enemies, so they don’t expect anything good from their country. Already, we are witnessing another ugly show of corruption from the office of the Accountant-General of the federation, with the AGF himself, Ahmed Idris, being the chief actor in the infamy drama.
By the way, the accountant-general has been a major factor in the current crisis in Nigeria’s federal universities with his insistence on the adoption of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel information system (IPPIS) for payment of salaries, a method the university lecturers have rejected in its totality. While Idris, reappointed by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 to serve a second and final term as Nigeria’s chief accountant, had convinced the Federal Government that IPPIS was a way of saving funds and checking corruption, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has always said the payment method was fraudulent.
Now that the accountant-general himself has been accused of committing a fraud to the tune of N80bn by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, people can draw their own conclusions about the IPPIS. The EFCC said it traced at least 17 properties to the AGF. The houses are said to be located in London, Lagos, Kano, Abuja, and Dubai. Meanwhile, the N80bn fraud according to the agency, are funds stolen through bogus consultancies and other illegal activities using proxies, family members, and close associates. We don’t know what would be discovered if the IPPIS is subjected to proper scrutiny.
ASUU for example is convinced that the payment platform is just a fraud used by the accountant-general to siphon funds. Its President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, said IPPIS is being used to relocate all the fraud activities to one centre, which is the Accountant-General’s Office. “This IPPIS, I can tell you as we speak, that many of our members have not been paid for 13 months, 8 months, 9 pmonths, but they’re telling the government that they are using it to control corruption,” ASUU president had told a national daily while reacting to Idris suspension.
Again, some people will argue that the EFCC is giving Nigerians stale stories as Idris has been known to be in real estate business years before now. As far back as 2020, an article allegedly penned by Aliyu Barau, an associate professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Bayero University, Kano, had accused the accountant-general of owning one of the biggest supermarkets in Kano and other properties in the state and other parts of the country. He has also been accused of paying the dead and the retired via the IPPIS. Personally, I won’t be surprised if fresh facts of corruption emerge from the suspended AGF’s office.
Back to Deborah, as bad as the actions of her murderers are, they become mild when compared with that of the Sokoto State Government which has openly displayed its complicity and endorsement of their criminality. The state is charged with the responsibility of providing security and safety for the people. But it has not only failed to protect Deborah, it has shown that it does not value the deceased, even in death. Deborah attended a government-owned college where the state is supposed to be fully responsible for her security, yet she was murdered in cold blood under the state government’s watch. The government has not only refused to take responsibility for her death, it has yet to officially commiserate with her family – no visit to her parents, no letter of condolence and the height of it all was that her father had to pay a sum of N120,000 to recover her body for burial. What a life!
More Deborah Yakubus would die in Nigeria because their lives mean nothing to the governments in states where these murders occur. The governments are also not interested in making the perpetrators pay for their crimes. They are more interested in being politically correct and allowing the sleeping dog to just lie down.
Two things have emerged from Deborah’s case. Neither the government, nor the police are interested in pursuing the case. Otherwise, why would the Nigeria Police, Sokoto State Command, declare wanted the four principal suspects in the murder. These are people with known identities. They appeared in the viral video of the killing, and boasted about their action. Now the police want us to help them look for the killers?
Similarly, the two suspects allegedly involved in the incident who appeared at a Sokoto Chief Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday have also been charged with “Criminal Conspiracy and Inciting Public Disturbance.” Can you beat that? Deborah was stoned to death, her body was burnt and her murderers showed Nigerians the matches used to light the fire before she was burnt, yet they were not charged with murder. All that the Sokoto State government could do was to press charges of public disturbance of peace and act of criminality.
How do you check an evil when perpetrators are treated with kid gloves? Nigerian leaders have mastered the act of using religion to bamboozle the citizens. Some of them know what is right but they allow their followers to wallow in ignorance because of what they (the leaders) stand to gain. They will encourage their followers to beg for food in the name of Almajiri, justifying it as a cultural thing but will never allow their own children to be part of that begging culture. They will sanction kid marriage in the name of religion but send their own daughters abroad in pursuit of good education. They will allow murders in the name of religion because they need the perpetrators to keep voting for them in elections. The Sokoto government’s action has only confirmed the selfishness and the wickedness of the Nigerian political elite.
I have sought the permission of my colleague, Lasisi Olagunju, to use some of the past instances of killings in the name of God in his last article on Monday Lines titled, ‘The North’s tadpoles and Deborah Yakubu’. The article had quite a few examples of people that were killed in the north for blasphemy.
There was a teacher, Christianah Oluwatoyin Oluwasesin, at Government Day Secondary School, Gandu, Gombe State, who was killed by her own students on Wednesday, March 21, 2007. She was accused of blasphemy. Like Deborah, she was flogged, stoned and her body set on fire-by her students. And up till now, nobody has been punished for her murder. Her husband, Michael, later in an interview, was to reveal that their 10-month-old baby would have been killed also but for the kind act of a Samaritan that smuggled him away while disguising in “Jelbab.” The house where the baby was being kept, was already surrounded by the mob that killed his mother who thought he didn’t deserve to live also.
A 24-year-old Adie Grace Ushang, graduate of Education Administration from the University of Calabar was killed in Borno State for wearing khaki trousers. She was from Obudu, Cross River State and was in Borno for her one-year compulsory national youth service in July 2009. By August 4, 2009, she was dead. Her killers “took offence because she was wearing her Khaki trousers – the official uniform of the youth service.”
I can relate to this very well. I was stoned in Gusau, Sokoto State for wearing an overall -jumpers. But for the swift action of my host that quickly took me back home, probably something worse could have happened. I never knew that I could be attacked for wearing something that covered all the parts of my body!
In June 2016, a plastics seller, Mrs Bridget Agbahwe, was also beheaded by a mob in Kano’s Wambai market. She was also accused of blasphemy. Her husband reportedly witnessed the mob slitting her throat. Unfortunately, in these cases, there are no records of anyone being punished for their actions.
From all indications, the murderers of Deborah will escape justice. Already 34 lawyers are representing just two suspects in court. And if they ever get punished, they are likely to get light sentences. The charges in court have shown us the likely outcome of this case. So, why won’t the killings continue?
Olabisi Deji-Folutile (PhD) is the editor-in-chief of Franktalknow.com and a member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors. Email: [email protected]