A notorious thief once stole a goat from a distant village, kept it his home and after three days instructed his wife to take the goat to a distant market and have it sold off. At the market, the wife tied the goat to a pole and left to cut fresh leaves to feed it. On returning, she observed unusual movements around the area by persons she suspected to be owners of the goats. Appraising the looming danger, she abandoned the goat and fled. At home the husband asked her how much she sold the goat. The wife replied: “we sold it off at the buying price. No loss, no gain.” How would one explain the rising ritual killings among Nigerian teenagers against our exaltation of wealth?
On January 29, 2022, the Ogun State Police acting on a tip-off arrested three teenage boys- 17-year-old Wariz Oladeinde from Kugba, 19-year-old Abdulgafar Lukman from Kugba and Mustakeem Balogun from Bode Olude- in Oke Aregba in Abeokuta, Ogun-Nigeria for burning the head of a girl identified as Rofiat. A security guard identified as Segun Adewusi had seen four boys burning something suspected to be a human head in a local pot and alerted the police. However, before the police could arrive, one suspect identified as Soliu had fled. Soliu is said to be the boyfriend of the deceased and had lured the girl to his room where he held her down and asked one of his friends to slaughter her with a knife.
On interrogation, the arrested suspects confessed to the crime and revealed that the victim’s head was burnt in a pot and her body dismembered, packed in a sack and dumped in an old building where the police recovered it. The suspects could be heard in a video clip saying: “We wanted to use just her head alone for money ritual. Soliu strangled her and he told me to assist him and we cut off her head.”
That teenagers would engage in ritual killings did not come to me as a surprise. At their age, I did not know what it means to have a girlfriend even when becoming a priest was not in my mind. Our understanding of ambition was having a few naira notes to buy provisions, CD players, latest novels of James Hadley Chase, and private balls for exercising the body. Those days when teenagers sold sweets and chewing gums during festivities in the villages to make money are all gone together with the family values and work ethics that sustained them. Today, ambition has set in.
In the same week of Abeokuta story, another three teenage boys caught in Edo were heard in a viral video clip saying they want to pursue their career as Yahoo boys. To begin the year 2022, Jennifer Anthony, a 300 level female student of University of Jos, Uni-Jos was murdered for ritual purposes by a 20-year old Michael Oko, who was said to be the boyfriend of the deceased. In 2021, there were at least 6 killings that involved teenagers, as adults seem to have normalised theirs. As cases of ritual killings keep dominating the media space, the female folks and children have become endangered groups.
These incidents highlight a collapse family and societal values that once priced hard work, decency, and respect to the sanctity of life above all else. Where today’s parents prefer smart to upright kids, love their wayward children who own mansions, ride exotic cars with no visible businesses, and despise their children struggling with life while making decent livings. In such a desperate system, children have lost patience with growing rich, they rush to become rich.
This desperation to make it at all cost has starved the social space of safety and cost us our peace. Where siblings prey on one another to become rich, parents enjoy their children’s wealth with their mouth while bearing in their hearts the pain of their children’s death. In recent cases, some parents are targeted for rituals by the same children they allowed to grow wild.
Our society is caught up in a culture of hypocrisy. On one hand, Yahoo boys enjoy an overwhelming support and sympathy of the media space whenever they get arrested by the security operatives. On the other hand, the security operatives are cyberbullied each time they arrest Yahoo boys. Who are those killing and duping people? Who are being killed and duped? Who are defending the killers and fraudsters? Just read the comment threads of any reported arrest of criminals on social media and you will be surprise how we exalt evil and defend criminals and still want a just society.
It is self-defeating to defend criminals, attack the moral sector and at the same time bemoan a high rate of killings. While the #EndSars protest was a call to reform our policing system, most Nigerians understood it as an avenue to disband policing. The protest failed and we got messier.
Today, we are all in an attacking mood. We attack the family, parents, government, traditions and culture, our religion, our schools, and even people’s businesses, but we want peace. How? Apart from agreeing that we have a failed leadership, there is still a need to have a consensus on what we actually want?
© Felix Uche Akam: The Dragnet. 06.02.2022.