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Tribute: The First Lady of The North

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In the early 50’s, two nagging issues tormented Elizabeth Ivase as Nigeria approached independence: what would be the fate of her minority Tiv ethnic group in the giant Northern Region dominated by the Hausa Fulani?

Secondly, as a woman, what would be her place in a society like the north which restricted women to the kitchen and the other room?

Two prominent national politicians came to her rescue.

One was Joseph Tarka and the other was Gambo Sawaba. Joseph Tarka was the leader of the United Middle Belt Congress (UMBC) which championed the dismemberment of the giant north to give the minority tribes a state of their own. Gambo Sawaba on the other hand led the crusade for the liberation of northern women.

Then, it was clear that the Northern People’s Congress (NPC), a conservative party would take over government when the colonial masters left.

The party was in no hurry to change the status quo as it affected the rights of ethnic minorities or women in the north. Those who challenged the status quo invited the wrath of the colonial masters and the NPC.

Opposition leaders in those days saw hell. They were sometimes killed extra judicially, often beaten in public and dragged to courts where rather grotesque sentences were handed down on them.

Under this climate, it would have been much safer for Elizabeth Ivase to walk the path of least resistance by sticking to her job as a teacher as most of her contemporaries with her level of education did at the time.

Instead, she decided to differ: she crossed the enemy line to join the opposition and by so doing stepped on explosive landmines.

Her leaders – Joseph Tarka and Gambo Sawaba- who should have come to her rescue in times of trouble were themselves always in trouble. Beatings, court appearances and unjust convictions were common to both. Gambo Sawaba a follower of Malam Aminu Kano’s NEPU in Zaria was always at the receiving end of the Native Authority, the Alkari courts and the Jamiyar Mahaukita – association of madmen – the militant wing of the NPC.

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She endured many persecutions in Zaria and when she went to Kano to spread the message of NEPU, she was arrested, imprisoned unjustly and taken to the Emir of Kano who banished her from Kano.

Joseph Tarka was no better off. He was once charged to court for ‘levying war against Her Majesty the Queen of England’- the first and only Nigerian to be so charged. Again he was charged in the treasonable felony case in which Chief Obafemi Awolowo and others were convicted in 1963.

If the big opposition shots could be so roughly handled, one could imagine what their followers like Elizabeth Ivase went through. Many died in the process.To Elizabeth Ivase, there was no going back.

At the Willinks Commission on minorities in 1957, she engaged Abdul Ganiyu Abdul Razaq in a heated argument when the man wanted to block her from making her representation to the commission.

When you consider the fact that her adversary in this confrontation was not only the first northerner to be called to the English Bar but also the legal adviser to the all-powerful NPC that controlled power in the North, you will get an idea of the courage and gumption embodied in Elizabeth Ivase.

Mercifully, the struggle has paid off. Even before independence, society began to recognize the value and tenacity of Elizabeth Ivase. She was made a member of Board of Governors of Women Teachers College in Kabba, (1959 – 61) present day Kogi State.

All through the days of the NPC in the first republic, 1960-1966, she was at war and could not be given a chance to prove her worth.

With the military government, she was given a little chance. She became the first female member of the Gboko Town Council (1971-1973); the first female member of the Benue Plateau Scholarship Board; first and only female member of Benue Plateau Leaders of Thought, the Benue Plateau Thinking Group, (1973-1974); first female member of the Tiv Local Education Authority and first Tiv woman to be elevated to the position of Chief Education Officer.

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But her ultimate dreams became a reality with the coming of the 2nd republic in 1979. For the first time in the history of Nigeria, the Constitution that ushered in that Republic agreed with Gambo Sawaba and Elizabeth Ivase that women in the North should be allowed to vote.

In 1979, northern women voted – much to her relief. A major beneficiary of her struggle for universal adult suffrage for northern women is Senator Khariat Abdulrazaq Gwadabe, daughter to the ultra-conservative NPC lawyer Abdulrazaq who did all he could to stop Elizabeth Ivase from tabling a case for northern women at the Willinks Commission in 1957.

Not only has she got a chance to vote today, she has been elected into the highest legislative body in the country – the Senate.

The government of Aper Aku appointed Elizabeth Ivase a Commissioner for Special Duties in 1979, the first woman to be made a Commissioner in Benue state. In that position, she conceived the Taraku Soya Oil mill and also the earth dam at Ahungwa that supplies the Industrial water that is used at Dangote cement in Yandev today.

Later when she was transferred to the Ministry of Education, she spearheaded the establishment of Day Secondary Schools in the state to bring education closer to the people.

Now the big one: In February 1982, President Shehu Shagari in appreciation of all her achievements for women in Nigeria, particularly northern women appointed her into his cabinet as a Minister. She thus became the first woman from the North to hold a cabinet position at the Federal Level.\

With the coming of the military in 1984, Mrs Ivase withdrew her participation in partisan politics, devoting most of her life to community, state and national causes.

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She has been a National Commissioner of INEC, a member of the panel that wrote the report for the setting up of the Benue State University – the first state owned university in the north; the first and so far the only Chairman of the Governing Council of the premier higher institution in Benue State, the Katsina Ala College of Education; the first chairman of Board of Trustees of Nigerian Association of Women Entrepreneurs; first and current President of Mzough u Kasev Tiv – Tiv wives Association World-wide.

In recognition of her services to her immediate community, state and nation she has received many awards: The Penda Ityo u Tiv – the heartbeat and Centre of Tiv Nation- an award from the Tiv Traditional Council; recipient of honorable Doctor of letters from Benue State University; a fellow of both the Leadership Institute of Nigeria and the Institute of Governance and Social Research; a recipient of the Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON). To crown it all, the President of Turkey conferred on her the Zubeye Hainum Merit Award and many more.

Elizabeth Ivase is a towering figure in the north and in Nigeria. Yet her humility is disarming. Last year at a time she was in ill health, she still attended the burial of my mother in my rather remote village. “Mama” I screamed in disbelief on seeing her.

She is my mother in every sense of the word. Still when I call her Mama, I have a feeling that I’am debasing her real worth. Any foolish woman can be a mother anyway.Given the chance, I will crown her the ‘First Lady of The North’. No woman alive today has done so much for the benefit of the northern woman.Sadly, Elizabeth Ivase had her last breath on Saturday, July 13th by 4.Pm.

– Emmanuel Yawe.

OPINION

Tinubu’s Blind Ambition Provoking Civil War

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By SKC Ogbonnia 

The blind ambition of Bola Ahmed Tinubu to rule Nigeria at all costs is on course to provoke a civil war. But this war will not be fought between the Yoruba and the Igbo, as Tinubu would wish; it is a civil war between the Nigerian masses and the corrupt oligarchy that he represents.

Keenly aware that he is neither physically fit nor morally sound to mount a presidential campaign, let alone govern Nigeria, Mr Tinubu is already attempting to win by hook or crook.

Barely less than one week after grabbing the presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC), he is already fanning the embers of war. Very glaring is a recent incident in which armed thugs were sent to disrupt the traders of Alaba International Market, Ojo, Lagos State, who went the extra mile to shut their shops in order to obtain their Permanent Voters Cards (PVC).
Any serious inquiry into the mayhem would reveal a page from Tinubu’s patented plot to control the Lagos State electorate by terror.

A sham selling point in Tinubu’s march to the APC nomination is the assumption that he dictates who wins and who loses in the Nigeria’s most populous State of Lagos. But, as an APC chieftain and the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, noted in a recent speech, Tinubu has been able to lord himself over the good people of the State due to low voter turnout. “Here in Lagos, you have over six million registered voters, only about a million voted (in 2019 general elections); five million did not vote.”

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This low voter turnout is rooted in Tinubu’s lack of popularity among the masses. To that end, he has always deployed all manners of terror to suppress the votes of his opponents. Like the attack on the Igbo traders at Alaba International Market, armed thugs were also used to unleash terror on the voters in many parts of Lagos State with heavy Igbo populations during the 2019 elections.

Tinubu’s penchant to incite the Yoruba against the Igbo is well chronicled. Recall the murder of Funke Olakunrin, the daughter of Afenifere leader, Reuben Fasoranti, by Fulani Herdsmen. In attempt to appease the Fulani, whom he believes would crown him president, Tinubu quickly exonerated the herdsmen without any iota of evidence. Instead, he stoked the name of Chukwudi Onuamadike, popularly known as Evans, a notorious kidnapper, to suggest that heinous crimes in Nigeria owe their origin to Igboland.

Follow the above with the callous attempt by Remi, the wife of Tinubu, to instigate hatred against the Igbo living in Lagos. In one instance, she was caught on camera on a campaign trail spewing the following snide: “Igbo, we no dey trust una again!”

One must not forget the case of Tinubu’s close ally, the Lagos State commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, who peddled the false allegation that the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a predominantly Igbo group, was planning to wreak havoc in Lagos. Further, Tinubu cannot feign ignorance of the origin of another false claim by state authorities that the IPOB was behind the burning of the palace of Oba of Lagos and other public infrastructure during the #EndSARS protest in the year 2020.

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In each of these instances, however, the Yoruba masses and their true leaders have been bold to denounce Tinubu’s evil machinations. They have resolved to stand side by side with their Igbo counterparts for the common good.

The Nigerian masses are becoming wiser. They are beginning to recognise that the powerful corrupt cabal, where Ahmed Bola Tinubu is a high chief, has no sympathy for what the ordinary man or woman is going through — be it Igbo, Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba, Ijaw, Tiv, etc. They must resist the temptation to shed each other’s blood, by fighting the Tinubu war. The only war the masses ought to fight, and must fight, is against the corrupt elite. The purpose is to reclaim our country. The year is 2023. The ammunition is the PVC!

SKC Ogbonnia, a 2019 APC Presidential Aspirant, writes from Houston, Texas.

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OPINION

Time to Rethink Nigerian Politics and Party Nomination Processes

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By Dakuku Peterside

After a long voyage, all the political parties have concluded their special conventions and primaries, and they now have presidential flag bearers representing the parties at the polls next year. The past two weeks have been a protracted season of tension, permutations, and intrigues. The dramas that brought the two presidential candidates to victory were captivating and pulsating.

There were no apparent upsets as the two presidential candidates from the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are political heavyweights and they represent the culmination of what Nigerian politics has been in the past two decades.

The symbolisms of both of their candidature are not lost on us – the triumph of the political godfathers, the super rich and high-powered stakeholders in our political firmament. Whether their candidacy is what Nigerians expected or not, whether the process of choosing them was “dollarised” or not, whether their ages would be a factor in their efficiency on the presidential job or not, one of them would likely become the president come May 2023, barring any miracle.

The theatre of presidential politics offers us the rare opportunity to reflect on our politics, our stunted development, and the future of our country. Like most Nigerians, I have conducted a post-mortem on the presidential primaries of the two major political parties in Nigeria, borne out of my critical and sober reflection on all the political theatricals, actions and inactions of significant actors and institutions involved in the primaries. I want to share my five takeaways from the special conventions of the two major political parties.

First, I believe that Nigerians were interested in the primaries because they wanted the parties to choose a candidate who deeply understands the myriad of Nigerian problems and can articulate solutions to them, whilst galvanising all Nigerians to realise our collective aspirations as a people. Most people were disappointed because the primaries did not adequately showcase any candidate, so that Nigerians could start making sense of who he is and what he represents. The profiles, service records, programmes and manifesto speeches of the aspirants did not count for much for the delegates who decided the presidential nominations.

These attributes mattered to the public but not to delegates in their worlds. It was all about schemes, scams, and personal interests. A negligible number of delegates voted on the basis of their conviction about the competence and service record of the aspirants. Throughout the consultation and nomination processes, except for an insignificant number of aspirants, no one spoke about how to solve our most pressing socio-economic problems in Nigeria.

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Second, the primaries were auctions of some sort. What was at stake was who would be the highest bidder for an estate worth more than $411 billion – the size of the Nigerian economy in 2019-2020. The leading aspirants, going by what transpired at both conventions, were ready to offer a paltry $100 million for this piece of estate, making it the cheapest auction ever conducted anywhere in the world. If we go by the stories of some delegates who alleged that some aspirants offered them between $5,000 and $20,000 each, a quick calculation will give you a vivid idea of the bid of leading aspirants in both political parties. Similar things happened on a smaller scale in the fringe parties.

A lot has been said and written about the “dollarisation” of the presidential nomination processes. It beggers belief that the presidency is for sale to the highest bidder at this stage of our political development. We discussed within and outside the venue of the primaries (on social media, traditional media, and the public sphere) about offering dollars as inducement to delegates to vote for a candidate, as if it is a normal thing to do.

This action is a crime and, if proven, should have severe consequences for both the givers and the receivers. But not in Nigeria, where anything goes. Where is our collective conscience and morality? How do we want to be taken seriously as a country by other nations when the most important political office in the country is bought or sold to the highest bidder? How do we expect good leadership from a foundation of corruption and crass hedonism? Why must we be mercantile about our national leadership and development?

Third, these primaries showcased elitism and elite dominance of the political system and structures. Major stakeholders, including the delegates, are of the elite class or their cronies, and they were there to do the bidding of the privileged class. It was a gathering of the political elite to struggle to control state power. We noticed different factions jostling for control. The gang of the governors was prominent in both the PDP and APC primaries. Governors who control fiefdoms were directly or indirectly in control of delegates from their states, barring a few renegades who refused to be directed by the governors and voted either on the basis of personal conviction or the dictates of the candidates that had paid in dollars.

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In these primaries, we saw the political elite’s insensitivity, manipulation and greed displayed in gargantuan proportions, and even state governors were not exempted. The level of personal greed was embarrassing, and there was no room for principles or conviction. Only a handful in the elite political class could restrain their greed, even for money they do not need.

Fourth, loyalty, morality and friendship are meaningless in Nigerian politics. The only thing that matters is shifting interests. We saw politicians who had been long-time allies work at cross-purposes and those who had conversely been at each other’s throats for ages collaborate for personal gains and unfounded promises. Alliances and counter-alliances were formed and broken. Politicians slaughtered personal relationships at the altar of political expediencies. Primordial sentiments and attachments led to friends and counterparts betraying each other.

At long last, we saw ethnic feelings dictating the choices made by some without considering what is best for Nigeria and the public that the delegates were representing. Advocates of zoning felt hard done and cried wolf in both primaries, although the Northern Governors Forum of the APC, in a heroic act, displayed unusual patriotism when the group insisted on the presidential ticket of the party going South. It may take time for the wounds created during these primaries to heal, and it may take time to rebuild trust and harmony among party members who felt betrayed and used by the system.

Fifth, delegates did not vote for aspirants based on the issues of interest to the people they were supposed to represent. The welfare, interest and progress of the ordinary persons did not matter. Everything was purely a transactional enterprise. Most Nigerians watching the primaries from home felt betrayed by the lack of sincerity of some aspirants who, at the last minute and when it mattered the most for them to sell their presidential aspirations to Nigerians, jettisoned the aspiration altogether and “en mass”, in some instances, engaged in the endorsement of other aspirants, thereby changing the equation of the selection process.

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These primaries illustrate the dire state of our politics and the need for a review of the whole democratic process. The monetisation and dollarisation of our politics leave a sour taste in the mouth of every democratic person. Although we have faulted the process, only time will tell whether the products of these processes will deliver Nigeria from this state of quagmire, and raise the hopes and aspirations of many hopeless Nigerians who have given up on the country. The candidates of the two major political parties, who are wealthy political juggernauts, have been part of the orthodoxy, have planned for the presidency for many years, and have fought hard to clinch the tickets of their parties. We sincerely hope they have the elixir to Nigeria’s problems.

At the end of my review, these past conventions or presidential nomination processes revealed everything wrong with our politics – the weak ideological foundation of the parties, the attitude of our people to a democratic culture, the influence of poverty or the lack of economic empowerment on political choices, the absence of citizenship rights and responsibilities in our politics, the vanishing moral values and desperation of the elite to hang on to power as the only means of survival and wealth in an economy that is very hard to create wealth privately within.

The whole charade and shenanigans of the political class and their desperation to grab power at all costs are linked to poverty and hopelessness in the land, as poor people pay little or no attention to issues. Most ordinary Nigerians suffer from physical and material deprivation, whilst our political elites are afflicted by moral and mental poverty, as seen in their attitudes and behaviours in the presidential nomination of the two major parties.

We cannot continue this way as a nation, and I hope subsequent primaries will see significant improvements in the identified areas. It is time to rethink our politics, party nomination process, the basis of our choices as individuals and the future of our country. Still, I congratulate the presidential candidates of all the parties for winning the slot of their parties.

I look forward to an issue-based campaign devoid of sleaze, mudslinging, ethnic and religious chauvinism, and campaign monetisation. We must get it right this time because we cannot afford to gamble with our collective destiny.

Dakuku Peterside is a policy and leadership expert. 

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FEATURES

The Spread of Mob Justice in Nigeria

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By Dakuku Peterside

There is an epidemic of mob justice in Nigeria today, and the frequency at which they occur shocks our shared sensibilities. The ubiquitous nature of jungle justice across all parts of Nigeria leaves any discerning mind to wonder how low we are falling as a nation. Every week, we are served on social media with images and videos of an angry mob killing and desecrating the bodies of citizens who are victims of this madness sweeping through our society.

It enrages any civilised mind that people will pull out their phones to record such atrocities and man’s inhumanity to man with glee and the effrontery of a witch in a horror movie scene.


Often, the images of the mob of young people excited and jubilant in the atrocity of lynching an innocent person hunts us and makes us wonder what the future of Nigeria will become with these types of young people in our midst.

Life almost has little or no value on our streets, and it seems no one is exempt from the cold hands of jungle justice if you are at the wrong place and at the wrong time. A mere accusation of blasphemy or a shout of “ole, ole, ole” may mark the end of the life of a Nigerian. Recent examples will demonstrate the prevalence and spread of mob justice in Nigeria.


Commercial motorcyclists lynched a sound engineer identified as David Imoh in the Lekki axis of Lagos state a few days ago. David and his friends were attacked by a mob of okada riders over a misunderstanding concerning a N100 balance. Some motorcyclists present at the scene joined their colleague to beat up David and two of his friends resulting in David’s demise and his two friends in hospital fighting for their lives. The mob of motorcyclists who, at the slightest provocation or altercation with any of their colleagues, meting out jungle justice is becoming a common phenomenon in our big cities.


In a similar incident, at least eight persons were killed during a clash between traders and commercial motorcyclists in the Dei-Dei market area of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). A trailer killed the passenger of an “okada rider” due to reckless driving, and the traders in that area of Abuja set ablaze the motorcycle. The other okada riders formed a mob, killed and maimed many people, and burnt down houses and stores of many traders.
Nigerians recently woke up to the news of the gruesome killing and burning of a student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Deborah, by a mob of her fellow students because they accused her of blasphemy. The whole scene was a wild orgy that negated any form of civilisation.

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The satisfaction derived from taking a life that was known to some of them could only come from psychopaths. The ensuing rioting and public disorder because of the arrest of the perpetrators of the act demonstrates the depth of the rot of acceptance of jungle justice in Sokoto and is worrisome because youths were the vanguards. The riots led to more killings, burning of houses and destruction of religious buildings.
Furthermore, a pastor was injured, and many houses were burnt by irate youths who went on the rampage over alleged blasphemy in the Katangan area of Warji Local Government Area of Bauchi State. Trouble started when some people circulated a message on social media that a Christian girl in the town allegedly engaged in the blasphemy of Islam.


Nigerians are disturbed about these incidents and are rightly so. The fundamental element of a democracy is to protect the life, property and liberty of the people, but today, in the most populous black nation of the world, the life and freedom of the people are almost worthless. Citizens take laws into their own hands, which results in the death of other citizens with no consequences. This resort to jungle justice by people is symptomatic of broader issues that plague our society. What are some of these issues?
First, there is a growing malaise of social angst, frustration and discontent with society and social systems in our country. People are losing faith in society and are easily provoked and resort to self- help even in criminal and social justice issues.

The reason for this may be the constant and ongoing degradation of most Nigerians’ quality of life which leads to frustration, and they are ready to unleash their anger on anyone or anything that causes slight irritation to them. We have a huge youth population that is unemployed, or completely unproductive. These angry youths are the catalysts of such mob actions and enjoy the frenzy of destroying lives, property, and social institutions as if they have no stake in society. We have a generation of young people that we must be quick to make productive and help channel their energy to improving society rather than destroying it.


Second, our ethnic and religious fault lines are sharp and edgy. Increasingly, issues are dichotomised on ethnic or religious lines and based on the side of the divide one falls, one interprets and acts towards social and religious matters. Little wonder why when a case that demands complete condemnation of all Nigerians of various hues and cues arises, some shamelessly defend or even condone it based on their narrow ethnic or religious sentiments.

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No civilised society will allow, tolerate or accept jungle justice and mob action. Our “Nigerianness” needs to be worked on and improved. The Nigerian project since 1914 has seen a battle to create national cohesion and blur our ethnic and religious lines. Institutions like the National Orientation Agency (NOA), the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), and Federal Character Commission, among others, have been working hard to make us Nigerians, to no avail.
The real danger of rising incidents of lynch mob is in the proven power of spontaneity. When the sudden eruption of mob violence feeds into existing ethnic and political divisions, they could engulf a wider spectrum and become a national security concern.


Third, Nigerians increasingly are losing trust in our law enforcement and criminal justice system, and are resorting to self-help to deal with what they perceive as a crime against society. Our law enforcement system is almost in shambles, and many are not relying on it any more, to enforce law and order.

The corruption in the system is palpable, and everyone knows that. Some Nigerians believe, albeit rightly or wrongly, that cases that go to the law enforcement agents may not receive proper prosecutorial attention or be bought or sold to the highest bidder. Until law enforcement officers pursue a zero-tolerance attitude in dealing with mob justice, this will continue to show an upward trend.
Our judicial system is slow, clumsy, and sometimes ineffective. Justice delayed is almost the same as justice denied. The time it takes to conclude cases is so long that sometimes the victims have forgotten about their ordeal before the court punishes offenders. Sometimes, the victims are unaware of when the offenders are punished.


Fourth, normalization of violence in our society has become a cultural resort. There is a growing insensitivity to acts of violence because of too much exposure to violent acts in our society. Terrorism, banditry, secessionism, “unknown gunmenism”, riots and social unrests, and high- and low-level criminality abound and are bombarded to our senses through social media, digital images, and traditional media that we are “unshockable”. The number of videos of gruesome killings, burning and destructions I have seen lately leaves me traumatised. Some are so disturbing that they hunt me for days after watching them. Most Nigerians are the same.
The unintended consequence of exposure to such gruesome authentic images of an orgy of mutilation and death is that society becomes narcotised to them, which lowers our sense of decency, humanity, and value of life. As a society, we must shun all images that cheapen the value of life, regardless of the intention of recording or sharing such images. We must not allow ourselves to continue to be inured by these images.

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It behoves us to improve the situation and reduce mob justice in our country. It is an anomaly that people provide tacit legitimacy to such “mob justice” under all sorts of excuses, and it reflects the larger malaise of loss of faith in law enforcement and the judicial systems. It is the truth that we have barely functional and fractured law enforcement and judicial system, where it takes years before one can hope to get justice. But does it mean we should encourage sidestepping of the system?

We must realise the gravity of the danger it poses to us as individuals and society. In some cases, innocent people may be targeted based on rumour, misinformation, or suspicion. Mob justice may spark an ethnoreligious conflict capable of inflicting indelible damage on our society if we do not curb it now.

As a people, we must remove the inertia in our judicial process and make the system practical for delivering justice as quickly as possible to restore public trust in the criminal justice system. This will eradicate the excuse of people’s impatience that leads to extra-judicial killings, which are illegal and a violation of the fundamental human rights of Nigerians. We need a complete police reform to gain people’s trust in the law enforcement system in Nigeria. People who engage in mob justice must be arrested and prosecuted and punished by the law to serve as a deterrent to others. If people know that such actions may have no consequences and there are few records of perpetrators receiving due punishment for their actions, they are encouraged to carry on with impunity.


The rioting in Sokoto shows that some people do not see anything wrong in mob justice and do not see why any person should be punished for it. Our public enlightenment agencies must find ways of limiting the spread of gruesome images in all media, and our national orientation agency must educate the masses on the dangers of engaging in mob justice and the consequences of such actions. We must “save ourselves from ourselves” on this road to perdition.


Dakuku Peterside is a policy and leadership expert.

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